Adventure Travel Family Travel

Why I’m Ditching My Bucket List

The term “bucket list” may be firmly rooted in popular culture, but we think it’s time to pioneer a better term.

Now that the term “bucket list”—dream vacations to take before you kick the bucket—has firmly rooted itself in popular culture, it’s time to pioneer a better term.

Yes, the drive to see places in the face of looming mortality lights a certain fire under the seats of armchair travelers, but the whole “live like you’re going to die tomorrow” idea has never worked for me. If that were the case, I would be spending the day updating my will and saying my goodbyes—and that’s depressing, not life affirming. When I travel, I’m pulled by curiosity, beauty, and the sweet promise of adventure. And I suspect I’m not the only one.

I started thinking about this recently after my three-year-old son approached me on a Thursday with a great, but logistically challenging idea. “Can we go to Australia this weekend?”

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When a kid is asking you to hop a long-haul flight on two days’ notice, it’s a sure sign he’s ready for a bucket list. But as he’s the type to ask a lot of questions, I knew I wouldn’t be able to introduce the concept of a “bucket list” without veering wildly off course.

So instead, we started an adventure book.

When I imagine a bucket list, it’s a hodgepodge of travel aspirations. But the visual I get with an adventure book is a story that I’m writing with my travels, chapters I’m planning ahead to, and memories that I will bring back and carry with me for a lifetime.

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And unlike bucket lists, which seem geared to the individuals who lug them around, adventure books can be a shared work of a family—a place that holds the travel aspirations of everyone. Best of all, an adventure book can be a physical object to be looked through, passed around, and added to as a group of travelers-in-the-making.

That’s why I’m dumping out my bucket list and opening the first page of my adventure book.

Now I just need to choose the journal (right now, the list is on a single slip of paper). I’m thinking something leather and vaguely Indiana Jones-ish. Here are my top three:

Goodbye bucket list. Hello adventure book.

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis loves a good adventure list. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)


By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at