Inspiration for Your Bucket List

Everyone is different, but most of us at some point in our lives will have a ‘bucket list’ of things we want to achieve before we die.  As morbid as that sounds in itself, it is actually a nice little checklist of inspiration if you’re ever feeling that your life is lacking something. Also at the end of the day, its something you can look back on and be grateful for: ‘Achievement Unlocked!’ or ‘YOLO’ as they say.

After Editing Umbrella Street Antayla

I’ve compiled a primer for your bucket list if you’re unsure where to start.  We don’t all have to have become leaders in our chosen profession in life, or have had our two point four children by the time we’re forty years old.  If you’re a late bloomer like me, your list will be modest in itself, but there will be aspirational goals as well as goals we may have already achieved and taken for granted.

Here are some ideas for your list, should you need them, but feel free to comment with ideas of your own, as I’m always interested to hear what you think makes a good life goal.  I’ve gone for leisure activities here for bucket list inspiration.

Climb a Mountain, Any Mountain

I’ve said it before, one of the best feelings you can get on holiday is that feeling of accomplishment that comes with finding an epic view under your own steam.  It really makes you feel like you’ve earned it, and it’s something always better in the flesh than in a photo.  You don’t have to climb Everest or Kilimanjaro, but set yourself an achievable target, and you won’t regret it.

Swim, Snorkel or Scuba in a Warm Sea or Ocean

There is something about the waves and the taste of the salt in the air, but actually the feel of the water once you’re in it is an unforgettable experience.  I’m quite lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to swim at some amazing places.  The Belizean Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Pacific Ocean and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam to name a few.  Sometimes you see colourful fish, and sometimes the water is so clear you can see clearly the bottom of the sea bed.  Not just that, but you feel at one with the primordial earth in some way, and it leaves a mark on you.

Ankor Wat 2

Visit at Least Three Wonders of the World

As a common goal for many is to see the wonders of the world, but with many different lists for the wonders of the world, you’re spoilt for choice.  That’s the good news, and some of closer than you’d think.  You could start off by visiting your nation’s capital city and view it as a tourist would.

Here is the Lonely Planet’s Top Twenty:

  • Temples of Angkor, Cambodia
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Great Wall of China, China
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • Grand Canyon National Park, USA
  • Colosseum, Italy
  • Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
  • Alhambra, Spain
  • Aya Sofya, Turkey
  • Fez Medina, Morocco
  • Twelve Apostles, Australia
  • Petra, Jordan
  • Tikal, Guatemala
  • British Museum, England
  • Sagrada Familia, Spain
  • Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Museum of Old & New Art, Australia


Take a Road Trip, by Car, Motorbike or Bus

The road trip is the ultimate expression of freedom in the world of travel.  A set of wheels, an open road and a map, (or at the very least, a direction), and you’re set for a good time.  You must have heard once or twice; it’s not the destination, it’s the journey, and to a large extent, that is true.  The magic of the road trip lies in ensuring the pit stops are full of character, and the scenery, diverse.

One of the best road trips I’ve undertaken was a week-long tour of the western states of the USA, during which the backdrops ranged from coasts to forests to desert and canyon, and the weather was temperate, but warm throughout.  I also really enjoyed a five moped convoy from Hoi An to the My Son ruins in Vietnam.  However, I can honestly say, I’ve also had some great road trips in the UK, down to Glastonbury Tor and Cheddar Gorge, and the frequent trips I’ve taken down to Weston-Super-Mare.

off road

Take a ride on an overnight train

I know it doesn’t sound like an epic experience, but trust me when I say, it is an experience.  If you’re with a group of people it can be a fun way to bond with your group, and it’s a nice way to get to different places, if you don’t want to spend a lot of your day time in transit.

I’ve done this in both Vietnam and China, and it’s been an experience, but the ultimate is the Trans-Siberian Express that runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, although most travelers opt for the route that terminates in Beijing.  This is the extreme in terms of overnight train travel and it isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly an option for you if you’re feeling adventurous.

Camp out under the stars

Camping outdoors is a great way to feel one with nature.   If possible, try and do this without a tent.  An insulated sleeping bag or bedroll will be fine if it’s a clear, warm and dry night.  It’s usually too cold to do this in the UK, but I have done this on a boat in the Mediterranean, and many have done this on some overland tour of USA or Australia.

It’s wonderful to catch the stars on a clear night sky, especially if you’re miles away from a heavy population centre, because the light pollution from street lighting will be less, giving you a clearer view.  Staring at the infinite starts and constellations is quite humbling, and it puts into perspective quite how extraordinarily improbable your existence is.  Mind blown!

Walk in the Footsteps of Your Ancestors

This can be anything from visiting an ancient preserved site, a museum or it could be simply studying your genealogy.  If you can visit the actual places, you can really get a feeling for what it must have been like, and further study will give you a greater understanding for the period, the people and their culture.  The sites where war and genocide have occurred are important lessons that we heed well or we are doomed to repeat them, such was the case with Gallipoli and the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge at Choeung Ek.


Eat Like a Native

If you’re a foodie or not, I would always recommend you at least try to eat like a local.  What does that mean?  Not only does it mean try the local dishes and delicacies, but also eat at the kind of places locals eat.  I tried my first bowl of Vietnamese Pho, a noodle soup, on the streets of Hanoi, seated on a miniature plastic patio stool, while mopeds sped by on the street.  By all means be safe though, so if somewhere looks like hygiene isn’t high on their list of priorities, for example if there are flies buzzing around the meat, then perhaps give it a wide berth.

In the USA there is there is the urge to ‘go big or go home’ in a ‘Man versus Food’ style.  Well do it, if you can handle it.  Just remember to earn it.  After a day of hiking Yosemite, I treated myself to a veritable banquet at the diner I went to for dinner, and I have no regrets whatsoever!

Exercise Outdoors or Take Part in an Outdoor Sport

As many people will tell you, the natural endorphins that come with exercise are nature’s anti-depressant, and fresh air is good for your body, mind and soul.  Add in a social element, by including a group activity, whether that’s a team sport or an exercise class.  Exercise doesn’t always have to involve lots of fancy equipment either.  A brisk hike or a run can be as good as anything else, but the key is to make it fun, set yourself a goal and get out there and do it.

There are apps out there if you want to log your progress as well, and people are surprisingly encouraging if you’re seeking to better yourself.  I’m currently using an app called Strava to log my cycling progress.


Enjoy a Live Performance in the Open Air

Festivals are a great example of a place you can enjoy a performance in the open air.  Indoor gigs can be stuffy and claustrophobic, especially if they’re sell out performances with very little room to move.  Festivals and other outdoor performances do leave a mark on you though.  I remember seeing Metallica headline the ‘Big Day Out’ festival in Milton Keynes in 2001, and as the sun was setting they opened their set and it was incredible to watch.

It doesn’t have to be a music festival.  It can be an open air play, or stand-up comedy, or a dog display team.  If it’s enjoyed outdoors, with other people then it’s worth noting you’ve done it.

Defy Gravity: Jump or Fall From a Great (or not so Great) Height

Your inner adrenaline junkie might want to suggest a skydive or a bungee jump over a canyon or a bridge as a thing to do before you die.  There’s a lot to be said about your appreciation of life once you’ve taken the plunge, so to speak, and even if you’re afraid of doing it, it’s nice to have an aim that you can work yourself up to.

I’m not afraid of heights per se, but I am not a fan of falling at terminal velocity either.  There is an inherent fear in falling that I’m unashamed to say I want no part of.  That being said, there is a little bit of fun in the rush you get diving off a pier or boat into the sea or a clear pool.  That will do for me, at least for now.  Just be sure you’ve done a risk assessment before you do anything rash.  At the very least you should look before you leap. 😛

After Editing buddist caverns

Speak to Others About Their Beliefs and Their Culture

The ability to converse with others on matters important to them is a gift that we sometimes take for granted.  It improves our understanding of their points of view and helps us to see things from new perspectives.  There is only so much you can glean from a book, and you can’t ask the book to explain things you don’t fully understand.

When you speak to an individual about their beliefs and their culture, you accept their perspective on the subject and they can debate with you your viewpoint.  I once had the opportunity to speak to an Imam in a Mosque in Turkey, about religious beliefs and I found that there were more similarities than differences in our perceptions of spirituality.

After Editing Whirling Dervishes

Do Something Tacky, Despite Yourself

There’s something pure in the expression, dance like no one’s watching.  What I take from that is don’t apologize for being yourself if your motives for enjoying yourself are benign.  I like to encourage others to be the same, but I appreciate that some require a bit of encouragement to get there.  If you can step out of your comfort zone and enjoy yourself, then the world is your oyster.  Confidence is a trick, and you are a con artist whose mark is yourself.

So try something daring and tacky, you might like it.  That might be Karaoke on a Chinese river cruise, entering a talent competition, or going to a place or event you’ve never been to before that might be a little different to your usual kind of thing.  You might even make new friends or inspire old ones.


Aim to Read at Least 10 of the Top 100 Novels of All Time (according to Time Magazine)

This is a specific item on the bucket list.  One aimed at myself for sure, but I figure that others may appreciate this as a choice they may want to add.  Reading is something we often do when we have the time, but after I’ve finished a novel, there’s usually another one I’ve got to read that my peers are reading or have read.  I need to brush up on my classics, and I can be doing that while I’m travelling.

Start Writing About Something You Love

Finally, if you find yourself with time and inspiration to share something you love, then write about it.  You’ve just read what I like to write about.  If I can do it, so can you. 😛

A ‘Bucket List’ is certainly something that isn’t set in stone, and I’m sure you’ll keep finding things to add to your list.  Some other things I’m considering adding include; Volunteer for a Conservation Initiative, Learn a Foreign Language to a Conversational Standard and Visit All The Continents.


Photograph Your Journey, then Bring it to Life!

You’ve been on holiday, and you’ve seen some amazing places and taken a thousand photos on your various devices.  When you get them back home and look through them, sometimes, you feel the photos just don’t do justice to the places you remember.  That is partially due to the fact that your eyes are the best lens you’ll ever see through, and you pick up a range of colours and constantly adjust to the levels of light when you focus.  Even the best SLR cameras can’t yet pick up this much detail and reproduce this in a single image.  However we can still enjoy impressive digital photos, with the use of editing software.

After Editing Cmabodian Sunset

I’ve recently begun to teach myself how to use photo-editing after effects in order to get a little more from my photos, and as it turns out, you can get quite a lot out of them if you’re prepared to give it a try.  I am a novice at this, and although I am an IT professional by trade, I still found the process quite daunting to start with.

There are quite a few options, but I went for Adobe Lightroom on a trial basis, as there seems to quite a number of free tutorials on how to use it, both on their site and other video websites.

After Editing The Bridge at Hoi An

So, the main advantage of post-processing is that you can alter the exposure on certain parts of the photograph, making darker areas lighter, allowing you to get the details out of the clouds if you make the top level exposure slightly darker while making the contrast sharper.

You can also change the warmth and the tint on photos, allowing water to look bluer  than it should, or making dry hills look golden, as opposed to beige.  Sunsets get that fiery glow, and whites take on an effervescence like no other.

You can enhance the highlights and the shadows, soften or sharpen the image or add vignettes to apply different effects to parts of the image.  The versatility is overwhelming to start with, but the tutorials definitely help.

After Editing Sultan Ahmed Blue Mosque Istanbul

For illustrative purposes though, its perfect to give your pictures extra oompf, if you’re trying to capture the spirit of the aesthetic.  It may mean that the images take on an out-of-this-world dimension that evoke a reaction, even if its not quite as it appeared, but the truth is that no matter how good your pictures are taken on camera, they can be improved with a little tweaking here and there.

So all of the images on this post have been enhanced in some way using Lightroom, and I’m really happy with the results.  The only thing I’ve not done is use .raw image files, and I’m sure that if I did, the results would be even better.

After Editing Ayvalik Harbour

My only problem now is that I want to be able to go to other places and take more photos, expanding my portfolio.  Its become addictive.

Lightroom allows you to apply the same filters to a group of pictures at once, using the user-defined presets, and it has an edit history so you can undo a change, or go back to the image at any point you manipulated it if you start to lose what you were trying to create.

I am a long way from being an expert, but I’m already happy with the results I’ve seen so far.  I’ll continue to practice with it and no doubt, you’ll see the results in my future posts.


After Editing Usumacinta River

If you have any tips for me, I’ll welcome them in the comments.