1000 places …before you die

It sounds a bit stark doesn’t it? The title of a very good book by Patricia Shultz has been around for a while and it does work to spike the imagination and get you thinking about places you have never thought about. The first edition was published in 2003 – but what a morbid thought? You know these days 50 is the new 30 and 70 is the new 50 – so who the hell has got one foot in the grave?

I think that is why the term bucket list is supposed to be going out of fashion.

“An archaic use of bucket was a beam from which a pig is hung by its feet prior to being slaughtered, and to kick the bucket originally signified the pig’s death throes.” according to wiki. This explanation doesn’t quite sound the same as this one –

What is nowadays considered a folk etymology may well be the true origin: to kick the bucket quite possibly refers to suicide by hanging after standing on an upturned bucket. For example, the following was published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 27th September 1788:

Last Week John Marshfield, a labouring Man, hanged himself in an Out-House in Avon Street.—He had very deliberately just before bought a Piece of Cord, which he put round his Neck, and by standing on a Bucket, fixed it to the Beam—he then kicked the Bucket to a considerable Distance from under him, and was found soon after with his Head almost severed from his Body, owing to the smallness of the Cord.—The Jury having brought in their Verdict, Felo de se, he was buried in the Cross Road leading to Charlcombe.

Oh my! Becomes even more grim doesn’t it? So how can we link something so scary as dying with travelling the world and seeing some of the most amazing sites? As Michael Goldstein from Forbes says so eloquently “But does a sense of obligation—or guilt– actually motivate people to make reservations, buy tickets and fly to these distant spots, just to check them off a bucket list?”

There should be no guilt or obligation when it comes to travel. It is one of the most exciting, unpredictable, frustrating, amazing, awe-inspiring experiences you can ever have. Even when you think you know a place inside out you should still be prepared to be amazed. But wow – when you go somewhere completely new, especially a culture that you have not experienced before, well then the wonder just doesn’t stop. I have had to remind myself sometimes not to look like a complete idiot tourist when I come across something remarkable.

Take India for example – I was prepared for the chaos, the crowds, the muck, the scooters – after all I had seen Slumdog Millionaire. But wow when you get there it is all just THERE…. and the people are amazing. I remember touring one of the palaces and I was wearing an Indian-style dress that I had bought locally. Most of the tourists at the palace were from India and a lovely young lady came up and asked to give me a hug because I was honouring her culture by wearing a local dress style. Wow – that was so nice to hear in a time of cultural appropriation. I like to call it cultural appreciation. India was on my bucket list and I was able to tick it off – but the experience was so incredible that I would definitely go again. You can only see a minute part of a country or culture in a two-week trip.

My bucket list is quite long – considering the many places I have been fortunate enough to visit. But up until now it has not had Antarctica up there. I don’t like winter and I don’t like snow. But …. you have to always be open to changing your mind. And I did change mine last week when I was onboard the Scenic Eclipse, an expedition vessel that does North Pole and South Pole. I managed to hitch a ride on part of its repositioning along the Western coast of the US and after touring the ship and talking to the Captain I thought “you know – this might be quite amazing”. So now Antarctica is nudging the Amazon River, and Rio de Janeiro …. not to mention Colombia. Hmmm.

An item on my bucket list that I have not managed to experience, despite travelling all the way up to Yellowknife – the Northern Lights. I did see some faint ones in Calgary a while back but I wanted that OMG experience of the whole sky lighting up. So in freezing (and I mean freezing) Yellowknife we suited up with boots and snow suits and the whole 9 yards and went down to the viewing platform at about 11 pm. They have loungers that you can lie on so you can take in the whole performance – and they are heated. Not sure how they do that but it was an added benefit. So we lay, and we lay and we lay. And we stared and stared and stared. And nary a light did we see. Finally, my fingers and toes were completely numb so by 1 am I said to my husband “bugger this, I am going back to the hotel”. We went to get on the bus together with a few other disheartened souls and the driver started backing out of the parking lot to take us to the hotel. Suddenly someone shouted – Oh look – the lights!

We all turned around in our seats desperately scrubbing at the windows which had become completely frosted over while calling to the driver – it’s the lights, it’s the lights. I think he was deaf (or tired). He just kept on driving so those damn Northern Lights are still there on the bucket list – unchecked!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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