Most people have heard of a Bucket List, the things you want to do or see before you die. We have been truly blessed to experience a lot of wonderful places within and beyond the US, yet I’ve come to realize that a “bucket” is not nearly large enough to hold all of the places I still want to see before crossing over.
I heard a quote once that has become one of my favorites: “If travel were free, you’d never see me again.” I have no idea who said this, but whoever they are they’re my soulmate. The world is full of so many amazing places that I’m already running out of time to see all the ones I want to see.
Some people dwell on their mortality because they don’t want to die. They want more time with family and friends, more time to share and be and do. I’m right there with them. But I also feel like I’m racing time to experience the places I want to see. Racing time and my aging body’s capabilities. (I can go on a cruise when I’m 80, but Machu Picchu is likely out.) That’s a sobering thought to an avid traveler.
There are a lot of forums (fora?) and blogs out there with great deals on travel, info on maximizing the use of miles/points for travel, scoring upgrades on flights, and more. What you’ll rarely see, however, are sites exploring the emotional and psychological aspects of traveling and how it changes you as person.
The more we travel – experiencing places both exotic and everyday, meeting people from all over the world, and learning about different countries – the more global our outlook and the more tolerant and open-minded we become. It’s really hard to maintain an us-vs-them attitude of isolationism and national superiority when you’re having dinner with a group of delightful people from China, Italy, and Chile and learning about them as individuals. (Not that I’m big on either isolationism or national superiority anyway.) Despite what you may have heard, people all over the world really do all care about the same things – health, happiness, security, our environment, and a great future for our kids.
If I could go back and whisper in my younger-self’s ear, one of the things I’d tell her is to travel early and often and far afield. While we did travel quite a bit when we were first married, it would have been a perfect time to travel more internationally and to places that are more physically challenging. When we were in Patagonia earlier this year, it became clear pretty quickly that we weren’t up to hiking The W in Torres del Paine National Park or doing multi-day hikes at El Chalten. But my 20-something self could have. My 20-something self could also have backpacked through Europe for three months like a coworker did after his wife finished grad school. (Good on ya, Kevin, for having the guts to take a leave of absence from your corporate job for that trip-of-a-lifetime.)
I’d whisper to my younger self that money isn’t everything, but time is.
It’s not like I have one foot in the grave or anything. I mean, I’m not that old. But I am old enough to know that time is soon going to be against me as we attack our bucket list (or front-end loader, in my case). My goal for the next several years is to hit those physically challenging places we want to experience, then move on to the rest of the list. I can’t wait to enjoy them all!
Machu Picchu, anyone?