The Bucket List

Bucket List: a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

I’m soon traveling to Spain to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago. Several people have remarked that it’s on their bucket list.

I’ve also recently announced my 2024 Venture Travel offerings. The term bucket list keeps popping up. As in:

“Guatemala (or swap out with Rwanda, Tanzania, Cambodia) isn’t exactly on my bucket list.”

“Africa has always been on my bucket list.”

I don’t have a personal bucket list. It’s not a term I typically use. Why? Perhaps I fear its misuse.

We might blame Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast and Forbes‘ regular churn of bucket list travel articles.

The bucket list has become synonymous with travel. And travel has become more about place than experiences.

I prefer the latter.

Take my invitations to Venture Travel. Yes, they are journeys to a chosen country. But true to the name, it’s about the experience. With the goal of learning and connection, the curated experiences introduce us to the most creative and impactful people and organizations I know.

They challenge us to think differently. Afterwards, we do differently.

In other words, it’s more about how we travel than where.

Let’s take back the bucket list as it applies to travel—less where, more how. Here are 8 potential travel experiences for your bucket list. Which have you enjoyed?

  • Ancestry Travel. With online sites, records, and DNA testing, it’s simpler than ever to understand your genealogical heritage. Scotland and Ireland are popular destinations for many Americans—heritage is a big reason why. You can self-plan your heritage travel, or engage an ancestry travel company. Having researched my Polish heritage for a decade, several years ago I was hosted by extended family in Poland. There’s nothing like standing on the land farmed by your great-grandparents to connect you to who you are.
  • Travel with a Young Adult. We learn more about the world through travel than school. The late teens to early twenties are a pivotal time for learning and connecting. This summer, I was fascinated hearing about my friend’s camping road trip with her teenage son through LGBTQ+-friendly U.S. states—a trip that he planned. Upon our niece’s high school graduation, we explored Croatia via land and sea. It was her first international travel experience. We seemed to spark a flame—she’s been working and exploring the world as a digital nomad since college graduation.
  • Living & Working Abroad. My aforementioned niece tells me the term digital nomad is passé. But whatever you choose to call it, longer-term living and working abroad offers many advantages—deepened foreign language skills, cultural learning, and easy travel from a new home base. This remains a personal goal for me. In the meantime, I’m grateful to learn from (and join) my niece and other friends’ extended experiences abroad.
  • Solo Travel. You might join a small organized travel group as a single traveler. You might self-plan your own solo adventure. Either way, solo travel is the ultimate freedom. How you define yourself and show up with complete strangers is 100% in your control; so is your decision on what to enjoy for dinner (or if you even want dinner). I’m grateful to have met several lifetime friends on solo travel adventures. They wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
  • Service Travel. In general, I am cautious about volunteer trips. For those of us with specific skills, organizations like Doctors Without Borders are outstanding. I’m wary of mission trips with religious motives; I’m sensitive to anything seeming to further white savorism. But here’s what I know—if you are invited by a cherished organization to volunteer for a specific role, jump at the chance. I’ve taught a business class at a girls’ school in Kenya and interviewed scholarship applicants in Liberia. This is life-changing travel.
  • Immersive Travel. When you forego being a tourist and travel to connect to people and culture, it’s transformational. Start by asking what you want to know more about. Take a writing course (in France). Take a photography workshop (in Alaska). Take a cooking class (in Vietnam). Get yoga teacher certified (in India). Start with the experience and back into place. I curate Venture Travel to connect us with the people changing a dynamic country’s future. It’s less about where, but forming new relationships and thinking differently.
  • Pilgrimage Travel. While the term may imply a journey for religious motives, I use it in the broadest context. A pilgrimage trek can connect us to nature, history, our own personal growth—or all of the above. Walking is an approachable activity for most travelers. The Camino de Santiago through Spain, the Pilgrim’s Way in pastoral southern England, and the Nakasendo Trail in Japan are all known pilgrimage walks. Whether it’s one of these or an Everest trek, climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, or a marathon in Athens or New York, when you travel the same path thousands have traveled, it’s a spiritual journey.
  • Travel with Scientists. Join a university trip that explores an ancient civilization; a National Geographic trip to the Galapagos, African national parks, or the Amazon; a citizen science adventure in Antarctica. All immerse us in the science of our earth and its inhabitants in a way we never could in school. There are even ways to lend a helping hand. Submit your photos of whale tails to the identification tracking database HappyWhale, or log species and measure coral while snorkeling with naturalists on the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve met my favorite teachers outside of school.

Reading these experiences, how many have you done? Which do you still wish to do?

Are there categories of travel experiences you would add to the list? What are sub-categories within the above you’d wish to explore?

It’s much more fun to think about how to achieve the goal of teaching English abroad than “doing Portugal.” Choose experience over place.

Thanks for joining me in taking the bucket list back to its original meaning.

Maybe I’ll even begin using the term.

Join me in upcoming small-group Venture Travel in Guatemala, Tanzania & Rwanda. Space is limited (8 participants). Want to hear from more participants? Don’t miss this video.

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Jodi Morris Written by:

Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!