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Why you shouldn’t make a list of things to do before you die

Why you shouldn’t make a list of things to do before you die

You’re probably thinking I’m some sort of nutcase. What kind of insane person would say you shouldn’t make a list of things to do before you die?

I’m not saying that making a list of places we want to see and experiences we want to have is a bad idea, far from it – having a list is a great way to keep inspired about things we might want to do in the future.

I have a lot (I mean, A LOT) of these types of lists. I’ve made online maps of every continent where I’ve pinned all the places I want to visit, created numerous Pinterest boards of pretty destinations to see one day, and subscribed to a bucket-load of blogs that continuously inform me of locations that I absolutely have to go to.

I reel in travel inspiration like there’s no tomorrow, but instead of calling these lists Bucket lists, Wishlists, or Things to do before I die, I call them to-do lists. Many of us tick off daily tasks with a to-do list, but not many of us use them for ticking off travel experiences.

Ashlea the backpacker

So excited after having just packed my bag for my first backpacking trip!

Backpacking through Europe had been on my list for a long while. I thought that backpacking would be something that I should experience while I was still young, and if I didn’t get around to it I’d probably regret it forever. So when I decided to finally go ahead and do it, I ditched the wishlist and made a plan.

I created an itinerary and budget for the three-month trip and figured that I needed to work full-time for at least 1 year to save up enough money. I went through my calendar and organised the travel dates to fit in between Robert finishing a semester of uni and a wedding we needed to return for.

10 months before the date I had set for our departure, I walked into a travel agent and booked our flights that very day.

It was an incredibly scary decision – we didn’t have the money yet and would both have to quit our jobs and move out of our apartment to make it work. We’d be missing out on Christmas with our families, travelling to cities without having much booked, and venturing into countries with reputations of being unsafe, but I went ahead and booked our flights. There was no backing out.

After a year and a half of planning, we finally arrived in Europe. As I stepped off the plane in Moscow, I felt a huge sense of achievement for turning my dream into reality.

Bruges 14

I made it happen! Bruges, 2014, after 2.5 months of backpacking.

I believe we shouldn’t make Things to do before I die lists because we place those items into the basket of distant future plans that in all likelihood will never happen. Instead, we should learn how to make lists of actions to get us to where we want to go.

Using the term ‘before I die’ is negative – it reminds us that we are afraid of death, when in fact we should be thinking about living. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to consider the things you could achieve over the next few years, than the things that you’re wondering if you’ll get done before you kick the bucket?

We’re limiting ourselves – why think about our time as something that limits us, when we could be thinking of the endless possibilities we have?

We’re encouraging ourselves to make a wishlist, rather than take action. 

I know way too many people who’ve said they wish they could go on a trip to so-and-so. They’ve seen a photo that a friend posted from a trip and so they and add it to their list of  Places to see before I die. But a wishlist isn’t something that just happens, it’s something you put aside for later and probably never get done.

Think about what you would really like to do, and make a plan to do it.

I encourage us all to change our way of thinking. Instead of making a Things to do before I die or Bucket list – make a Things I will do in the next 5 years list and see how much further it takes you.

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