Kicking the Bucket

Bucket lists are all wrong. Dwelling on places you haven’t been is a one-way ticket to regret and dissatisfaction. Except…

(Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama crosses Stonehenge off his bucket list

Have you got a bucket list? If so, you’re far from alone. We all have crazy, ridiculous dreams, whether it’s running a marathon, taking the plunge and moving abroad, or just driving across Doha without getting either mown down or marooned in traffic. We can all dream, right?

Even President Obama has one, as he cheerfully admitted when taking time off from the NATO summit in Cardiff last month to pop over the border into England and cross Stonehenge off his.

Living a life of potentially-unfulfilled hopes is no life at all. But having floated in the Dead Sea last month, I’ve been thinking about my list again – specifically, a waterfall.

It is happening again

Snoqualmie Falls are in Washington State, just outside Seattle. They’re not very high, nor do they seem especially beautiful or breathtaking.

Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls, WA by Tim Regan / Flickr [used under Creative Commons]
But they mean an enormous amount to me, because they featured in the opening credits of Twin Peaks, a show I loved from the first moment I saw it.

It was quirky, funny, creepy, scary and utterly unlike anything else I’d seen before. I was a fanboy before they were called fanboys.

And far from fading into the mists of history, the recent announcement that the show will coming back in 2016 has basically given the seal of approval to my behaviour.

Patience does pay off, sometimes.

Faraway, so close

A bucket list is usually comprised of things you’ll probably only ever get the opportunity to do once. But the galling part is just how many chances I’ve already had to visit Snoqualmie.

I used to work for a company that would regularly send me to the Pacific Northwest for a week at a time. But the cost of the trip and pressures of the job meant that my schedules were always rammed.

Add in transatlantic travel time at either end and it’s hard to justify being away an extra day just to go and see some waterfall off a TV show. As with so much in life, the first 5,000 miles are easy; it’s the final 30 that are hard.

(Put another way, it’s like a massive Downton Abbey fan coming from Seattle to the company’s Reading office and not making it the extra 30 miles to Highclere Castle, where that show is filmed.)

Let me give you some context as to why that waterfall means so much to me: there’s only one TV show I’ve ever paid to watch in full, back-to-back at a 24 hour marathon screening, and it’s not Ally McBeal.

Twin Peaks
Board game, cassette tapes not shown

I bought it all. The TV series on VHS, import DVD and DVD again. (The only reason I haven’t yet bought the now-prematurely-named ‘Entire Mystery’ Blu-Ray set is because I’d also need to buy a Blu-Ray player to play it on.)

Multiple tickets to see prequel/sequel Fire Walk With Me at the cinema, then again on VHS and again on DVD. Spin off books, diaries, the ultra-rare board game, soundtracks on cassette, and again on CD…

Anyway, you get the gist. I could go on, but two things would happen: I’d hit 10,000 words without pausing for breath, and you’d never come back here again.

Oh, the places you’ve already been!

Enjoying life in the moment has a lot going for it – which is why I think the bucket list approach to life (Snoqualmie Falls excepted) is wrong. You’ll never be satisfied, because however far you’ve leapt from space, someone else has leapt further.

My fellow expat blogger Amanda van Mulligen has a solution to this arms race: the reverse bucket list. She’s of the opinion that we should stop beating ourselves up about all the sights and places we’ll most likely never see, and instead celebrate all the amazing things we’ve already done.

So I’m ok with the fact that I haven’t seen Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat or swum with dolphins. I might do one day and in the meantime, I’ve got a headful of memories and experiences to be thankful for.

Huddled masses

Taking advantages of opportunities when they arise – seizing the day, if you will – is critical. Even stroppy teenagers, like the one I was when I visited the Statue of Liberty, know this.

Mona Lisa
It pays to be morning people: these early bird American tourists were lucky enough to see the Mona Lisa close up

I was on holiday with my parents (my siblings being old enough to do something else with their summers) and we had arrived on Liberty Island.

My dad can’t wait to get going. My mum, who is not a fan of enclosed spaces, will wait for him on terra firma. That left me.

Was I in the mood to marvel at one of the most famous monuments in the world, a bucket list classic? No, because I was having some kind of petty strop.

Which was when my dad pointed out that he was going up regardless, so even if I didn’t go with him, I wouldn’t get off the island any quicker. I snarkily pointed out that I could do it “another time.” Maybe, he said, but who knows when, or if, that will be?

Ugh. Much as I hated to admit it, I knew he was right, so me and my first world problems grudgingly trudged off to climb Liberty.

Of course, once I was inside I was blown away by the sense and scale of where I was and the achievement of its creation. I took some pictures which are probably still in a box in my parents’ loft (along with my Twin Peaks board game), came down and took the ferry back.

I haven’t returned to New York since. Tick.

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4 thoughts on “Kicking the Bucket

  1. Amanda van Mulligen October 27, 2014 / 7:53 pm

    Thank you for the mention and so nice to read that a post of mine was inspiration for another. Your post makes me think of my husband and I going to New York and deciding not to go up the WTC because it was so unbelievably cloudy. My brother lives in New York so we figured there’d always be another chance. I’d been up to the top before but my husband hadn’t. Something that will never get crossed off his bucket list. Take chances whilst you can!

  2. Roy B October 28, 2014 / 10:09 am

    So I spent a month in Thailand back in Febuary and saw nothing more than the inside of the hotel room, the poolside and the office, and received more than one “I don;t belive you ” on my return to Sydney both from guys and girls in the office and socially, and looking back I could have at least gone to the floating markets, so your post came just in time, I have a month in New Dehli from next month, better get the trip advisor out !

    • littlecity October 28, 2014 / 11:51 am

      I’m very pleased to hear someone’s learning from my mistakes, Roy. Enjoy all that Delhi has to offer!

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