I have written a fair amount about how I feel about bucket lists. I am not a fan. Or more precisely, I am not a fan of living life or taking trips as if the goal were to check items off a list. What’s on or not on the list isn’t so important as how we relate to it in our lives and trips. I think the best way to illustrate this is to consider the package tour. The particular destinations aren’t really the point. The itinerary can be great. But rushing from one destination to the other is a wasted opportunity. And even if you are not on an actual tour, your travel may resemble one if it is just a series of planned stops tied together by many interludes of rushing about.
When we want to best consider a question without being threatened by our own personal decisions or history, I think we can just go right to Hollywood for instruction. What we like and don’t like in the mythology of the movies can tell us a lot about ourselves, and I say that only partly tongue in check.
Let’s just look at the movie Under a Tuscan Sun starring Diane Lane. I first need to say that there have been very few movies with Diane Lane that I haven’t enjoyed. Or at least enjoyed her. I confess to often seeing myself as the male lead in one of her RomComs. It’s just a random thing I guess.
In this one, in order to get past some lows in her life she impulsively embarked on a tour to Tuscany. She was having a great time. It did indeed look like fun. They were a happy bus, seeing nice things, enjoying their comrades on the tour, and not really engaging so much in the local environment as to threaten the atmosphere on board the bus.
But suddenly on a whim she left the tour to stop in one place and see what would happen. She stopped checking off the list. This is where the movie, and her new life, actually begins. It would be scary, it would mean abandoning security and all those yet to be seen destinations. She would love and lose and love again. Oh dear!
And the unmissable point is that everyone watching the film was happy that she did. You don’t have to bad mouth the tour to see that what came after when she left the list-checking behind was better. It’s what you wanted for her, and by extension, for us, if we can just make that leap.
And that’s how I feel. Tours (and cruises for that matter) and bucket list checking generally get people out into the world usually under circumstances where they are secure, comfortable and able to do things with a limited time available. They are a break from everyday life, and exposure to other cultures and traditions is good for us all. They are not bad things (even considering that they cost about 3 times what I end up paying for trips to those same places). My saying that I am not a fan doesn't indicate that I think they are evil, to be avoided at all costs. I have thoroughly enjoyed some cruises on big boats and small windjammers, especially with my kids. I have been on tours that I would not have, at that time, been comfortable doing on my own.
The tour got Diane out there. It was the intro to the main storyline of the movie. It openned up a new world for someone that didn't know where they were going or how to get there. But you would not want Diane to only settle with just that life eventually. She wasn’t really happy until she left the tour, abandoned the list and let things just happen.
(It was perhaps inevitable that the actual villa where Diane found freedom from the bucket list tour is now a bucket list destination in of itself, it can be rented for your own Tuscan holiday; there you can check off one more thing you want to do.)
There is no question but that some of my travels have more resembled a tour than an amble, but I am learning still. With every trip I take I have been moving towards fewer destinations and longer and longer stays in each one.
So let’s get it right out there, there are plenty of places I still want to see. I have dreams to going to New Zealand for instance and haven’t yet made it. Same for Nepal, Spitsbergen and Romania. In this sense I have a bucket list too. My point is that when I go there, I don’t want it to be merely a list checking exercise.
If at all possible, I want to go and see what happens, at a pace where unplanned things are able to happen. (Read: slow down, see less.) And I am suspicious of the standard list of attractions because I wonder just whose concept of a trip I would be following. Someone’s marketing plan? Someone else’s list? Or worst of all, simply a list of bragging rights.
When I go, however I do plan to hook up with Diane.
©️ 2019 D Abbott