5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

Building Your Travel Bucket List

A travel bucket list is a list of all the goals and life experiences you want to achieve before you pass away.

Most travellers I have met keep a bucket list of activities either written down or memorised for a later date.

Like them, I decided it would be a good idea to create a travel bucket list. What started at as few rough scribbles on a piece of paper, later on, turned out into quite a substantial list.

Due to our responsibilities and obligations, it’s almost inevitable that most of our waking hours revolve around day to day activities. Sometimes it’s easy to feel your days are passing you by without anything to show for them.

Having a travel bucket list is an important reminder of what’s important to you without including the usual material pressures.

Quite simply a travel bucket list is just like planning all the future highlights you want from travel and life.

Consider this question:

If tomorrow was the last day on the planet, what would you wished you could have done?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

There’s no right or wrong answer here- only you know deep down what is important for you.

However, I have found there are five key elements to any great travel bucket list:

1. Explore

Ever since a trip to Indonesia in 2005 ignited my passion for travelling more, I’ve been a big believer of integrating travel into my life.

Travelling, in my opinion, is one of the best activities available to broaden your mind. Travelling doesn’t require any particular skill set, university degree, family or professional connections. As long as you own a passport, have no past criminal convictions and are not bankrupt, there’s no reason not to expand your horizons.

Finding yourself walking a new land forces you to embrace new cultures, new people and even new way of thinking – just about everything you can think of that takes you out of your comfort zone.

5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

Lost in thought: Travelling is one of the best activities available to broaden your mind

It doesn’t matter if you’re eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, are down the shops, or at the beach, it’s easy to get talking. From other travellers interested in having a chat, to curious locals who want to know where you’re from and what your travel plans are.

While I’m certainly a long way off visiting every county, I’ve managed to visit many that were on my travel bucket list and even lived in a couple.

In the last year alone I’ve visited Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysian Borneo, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, The United Kingdom, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany.

Some were for the first time; others were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th visits.

What countries would you visit if taking time off wasn't an issue?

2. Experience

Travelling is not limited to simply arriving and crossing a country off the list. There’s also plenty of experiences to be had.

Consider how many attractions, historical sites, festivals and natural wonders are in your city or town. Well, now we’ve removed borders that list just got a lot bigger.

Being a motor racing fan for most of my life one experience on my list was watching the Formula One race cars speed down the streets of Monaco. Sure I’ve seen it many times live on TV. However I wanted to see what it was like in person, breath in the sea air, hear the engine sounds and most of all walk along the same track that I watched Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell battle it out as a kid.

5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

Christmas day off-roading on Fraser Island

Sounds expensive right?

Sure it was – but how much are your dreams worth?

It’s one thing to read about a place or event, but its total different experience to see it in person.

Some other experiences I’ve had chance cross off my bucket list are:

What experiences would you have if money wasn't an obstacle?

3. Learn

Learning is the art of acquiring new or improving on existing knowledge, skills and habits. Sadly many of us believe learning stops once we finish school or university.

Travelling opens the door to an array of customs and traditions that you may not even know existed.

Have you ever wanted to know if Pad Thai tasted better at your local takeaway or in Bangkok, Thailand? Well, it’s time to find out.

5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

Me with my Laoshi while learning to speak Mandarin in Taiwan

Learning to cook local food or a language are two great ways to connect with local people while you travel in their country. It’s never easy to learn a new language, but it can be very satisfying to ask the local lady how much the fruit is and understand her response – even if it’s only a few words.

Learning can take the form of something simple like spending the afternoon at the local museum familiarising yourself with a country’s past, to something more extreme like putting your life on hold by spending 12 months at a Martial Arts school learning Wing Chun daily.

I have enjoyed both.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a 21-year-old graduate or a 61-year-old professor, you will always be a student of life. There’s always something new to learn.

If you had no social pressures restricting you what would you learn?

4. Push

Some of the greatest accomplishments throughout the history of humanity have been achieved by those who harnessed the ability to push through incredible amounts of physical and mental pain.

In some ways, I see myself as one of the laziest people that I know.

I can sleep for 12 hours straight and comfortably sit behind a laptop for the other 12. Still, somehow, I’ve managed to push myself physically and mentally well beyond what I thought my limitations were, and continue to do so whenever possible.

Finishing a race or sporting event is a common goal that often gets included on a travel bucket list. Taking part in a race isn’t an easy task, and many of us know that it requires countless hours training and hard work that goes above and beyond the actual event.

5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

Expressing my joy while bungee jumping Thailand

Training and completing not only develop you in your physical strength and endurance, but also your mental mindset, will, and attitude.

Pushing yourself to and beyond your limit will give you a hit of one of the greatest natural drugs available.

There’s plenty of ways to push yourself while travelling and I have:

  • Finishing the gruelling Spartan obstacle race during the 34-degree heat
  • Trained for 24 hours straight with an Ex Military instructor
  • Roughed it without a tent in Australia learning valuable bush-craft skills
  • Tried to overcome my fears of heights by bungee jumping Thailand
  • Gone from never having a motorbike licence to battling it out on a scooter in Asia’s most chaotic cities

Pushing yourself can mean something entirely different for each of us.

Going out of your comfort zone could mean eating chickens feet in Hong Kong, or travelling to a scary place such as Chernobyl.

If there was no possibility of failing what would you do?

5. Return

No real travel bucket list would be complete without giving something back in return.

Helping others in whatever way we can is one of the most rewarding things a person can do.

Communities are always on the lookout for volunteers and choosing to volunteer as a way to see the world offers a lifestyle that not everyone can handle, but is incredibly fulfilling to those that crave travel and want to make a difference every day.

Volunteer programs offer terms as short as a few weeks and as long as a few years.

The places that need volunteers are in areas of the world that don’t have as many amenities and conveniences so volunteers must be prepared to be submerged in a lifestyle where the most important aspects are helping their community and making a difference.

5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

My Couch on the Gold Coast provided a free bed for CouchSurfers from around the world

Even if volunteering is not something that appeals to you, how about giving back to the travel community and open your home to travellers?

Couchsurfing is a global community of 10 million people in more than 200,000 cities who share their life, their world, their journey. Couchsurfing connects travellers with a worldwide network of individuals willing to share in meaningful ways, making travel a genuinely social experience.

It’s by no coincidence that my travel experiences have become richer since I first stayed with and hosted travellers through Couchsurfing.

Some became my best friends.

Will you be remembered as a person that took or someone who gave back?
Barry Sproston

Barry is a traveller and expat who spends most of his time between Asia and Australia. He has spent 12 months training at a Gung Fu school learning Wing Chun. Explored the island of Taiwan by scooter more than once. Been tricked into eating raw horse meat sushi in Japan. Even tried to overcome the fear of heights by bungee jumping in Thailand. One day he plans to open a guesthouse.


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18 thoughts on “5 Key Elements for Creating a Travel Bucket List

  1. Frank

    One thing about “Travel bucket lists” (I hate the term by the way) is that they are always changing and places that maybe wouldn’t have interested us in the past suddenly strike up curiosity. We’re in one way more flexible yet also more constrained than other travellers – we travel full-time but also work full-time digitally. We can’t ever afford to be without internet because we have fixed hours. So that limits time in some of the developing countries that we’d like to spend more time in. Also, some places are great to visit for a few days to a week but don’t make ideal bases for a longer stay (which we usually do).

    Your list resonates though and we definitely enjoy exploring and pushing ourselves more than we used to. I also think culture, people and food are something that make us curious. We’ll be going to Japan in a couple of months for most of these reasons.

    Interesting subject!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Agreed Frank. If the internet going’s to be sketchy or none existent where I’m travelling to next then I have to plan carefully beforehand, especially if I’ve got a full plate. I know you guys like to work hard & play hard – so you probably need to be connected more than me.

      Although the paths are well trodden, there’s still plenty to be explored in the cities as long as you challenge yourself every now and again.

      Enjoy Japan!

  2. Vyjay

    I completely echo your thoughts. Travel is more than physically visiting a place, it is all about experiencing each moment, understanding and assimilating the culture of the place and doing ones mite to return something to the place.

  3. Travel Lexx

    Love this, Barry. I have started a bucket list on numerous occasions but have never quite got around to fleshing it out more. I am more likely to do things if I write them down in a list because of my competitive nature – I will want to tick them off! I love being active and challenging myself on my trips and this is something I need to do more of! I might work on my bucket list this weekend!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Writing things down makes you more accountable for your actions. Missing out on an opportunity is a terrible feeling and what’s even worse is to know it might not come around again. Good luck with your list!

  4. Marcelle Simone Heller

    I certainly don’t want to push through incredible amounts of physical and mental pain! Hiking to the Lost City in Colombia was going that way and I didn’t like it! I’m more the explorer of romantic, beautiful sights where I can sit and stare into nothingness 😉

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Your travel style sounds more similar to my girlfriends. Maybe it’s just that guys are more self-destructive by nature! But I do enjoy beautiful sights too and spending the whole afternoon staring into nothingness can be great.

  5. Lisa

    Hi Barry..loved this post and I agree, when I go someplace I try to get away from the touristy things and go off the beaten path. I have had wonderful experiences doing that and have met some great people!! Thanks for sharing

  6. Garth

    Enjoyed reading this Barry. For years I always had my bucket list in my head, but about 2 years I started writing down my bucket list of key places I wanted to see and why. On my list I prioritise the order the destinations, and apply a budget next to it, so I have an aim to work to. I also write down the best times of the year to visit these places, so I can pick and choose when planning the next year’s itinerary. Your point 4 of pushing yourself I don’t think we’ve met this criteria yet, mentally yes, but physically no, well not me, my partner Phil has jumped out of an airplane! Your last point has definitely given me food for thought. Thanks!

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      You sound like an organised traveller Garth. It’s always a good idea to write things down as I find there’s only so much information I can store in my head before it gets forgotten. You also mentioned a good point – timing of the year is also very important. Some items on the bucket list can only happen on a certain month or date. If you don’t plan around the opportunity will pass by and get put on the backburner for another year.

  7. Angie (FeetDoTravel)Angie (FeetDoTravel)

    This is great – I love bucket lists and my bucket list just seems to keep growing! I tick things off then add twice or three times as many more items – and I find the more I do, the more diverse and simple I want my list to be, for instance, I read a blog on cat cafe’s – now that’s a whole new genre I have added … to visit cat cafe’s around the world and compare and I’m going to my very 1st one on my birthday in a few weeks. I love that bucket list items can be as big and adventurous or as small and personal as you like – I love the feeling of achieving one of my goals! I think I had better update the list I have on my website now …

    1. Barry SprostonBarry Sproston Post author

      Bucket lists are great because they give you some accountability to complete what’s on the list. But like a shopping list, I doubt they will ever be finished. Interesting point about cat cafes and I’m sure you will have a great birthday. I’ve spent a lot of time working out of coffee shops in Asia and have visited a couple from this Lonely Planet article I was reading the other day: The purrrfect cuppa: Taipei’s best cat cafes.

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