What Is A Bucket List?

We all have a bucket list, or at least a hazy outline in our minds, so we should know how to define one right? I thought I could, but then I really thought about it, researched it, shared ideas with friends, thought about it again, and I came to the conclusion that it’s a more complex idea than originally thought. So, obviously, I made a list. Here are the 4 things a bucket list is to me:


This is the easy one. It’s just as simple as it sounds: we create a list of all the amazing, wonderful, seemingly unobtainable things we want to accomplish before we actually kick the bucket. Unobtainable, though, is all in our minds. Fueled with enough desire, there is no goal that can’t be reached.


What’s on our own personal bucket list of things to do before we die? EVERYTHING WE WANT TO DO BEFORE WE DIE! Whether your list is in your head or written down, it’s a compilation of things you want to do, see, experience, achieve. A bucket list is uniquely ours; representative of the things we value in our lives; a statement of our hopes and dreams; and uninfluenced by those around us. In those moments that you question who you are and what you want out of your life, it might not be a bad thing to have such a list to reflect on.


Here is an example of the natural progression of my bucket list:

  • Initial item on the list: Go on a backpacking trip
  • What does Maija do? Goes on a backpacking trip
  • New items on the list: Spend as many weeks as possible camping & hiking; solo camping with the dogs; solo camping with the dogs and actually sleeping instead of staying awake listening to the imaginary bear outside the tent; (perhaps not bucket list worthy but also >> read many books & blogs about hiking, thru-hikes, solo women backpackers & backpacking with dogs)
  • What does Maija do? Camps & hikes a lot; goes on a few solo camping trips with the dogs; becomes less afraid of bears; continues to read & research
  • New item on the list: Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail
  • What does Maija do? Thru-hikes the AT in 2015 (now I’m reading the future, but let’s just go with it)
  • New items on the list: Thru-hike the PCT; this, perhaps: https://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/trips/best-trails/worlds-best-hikes-dream-trails/; and, literally, THE LIST GOES ON!

Will the cycle ever end? I really hope not. I’m not saying the list has to progress in such an organized manner. Maybe the thru-hike will introduce me to some other awesome hiker who likes to do some other awesome thing I’ve never done before. To check one item off of your list means adding a dozen more new items, and rightfully so. We should never stop wanting to learn and grow, and we should discover how to accept change without being fearful of it. As our lives evolve we realize more about ourselves, we find where our passions lie (and alternatively where they don’t), and we become better, happier, people because of it. Instead of seeing a bucket list as an end point (a successfully completed list), we can instead view it as a starting point that allows us endless possibilities.


As we all know, every minute of our lives might not seem awesome. We won’t spend every day off on a big adventure (though the little adventures of every day can be really great too), we wont spend every year in a city or at a job that we love wholeheartedly, we won’t be in a constant cycle of checking things off of our bucket list. And that’s ok. Some items on our list we can do now, some we can do every day, some a week from now, some a month, some are still maybe years away. Whether you choose to share it or not, it’s yours, and because of that you can even choose to ignore everything on it for as long as you want. Though that isn’t my personal recommendation it is certainly your prerogative. Hike your own hike; live your own life, right? Whether you are currently checking things off of your list or if you’ve put it to the back burner for now, let it always continue to be your inspiration for the future.


If you were given a time frame for your life, would you feel apt to doing more and doing it now? Since we don’t know, we can’t know, what are we waiting for? I challenge you to make a bucket list of everything you want to do, see or experience in your lifetime (the tangible and intangible), let it be a true representation of you, let it continue to expand and grow as you do, let your list inspire you when you look ahead at the future. Choose something small to work towards, something you can do now. It’ll feel great to check something off and to feel yourself moving forward. Then, when you’re ready to act on the seemingly unobtainable, venturing out of your comfort zone won’t seem so scary; it’ll actually feel quite amazing.

*Let me reiterate that this is what a bucket list is to ME. I’ve had some insightful debates that have opened my mind to different interpretations on the subject. The biggest discrepancy tends to be in drawing the line between ‘bucket list’ items and major life goals. The line is blurred for me personally, and I knowingly let that be the case, whereas others may prefer having a clear distinction. To each their own!

Happy Hiking!


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