Gone with the Grins

Making a Travel Bucket List

A life list can include things such as ziplining at the Bigsky Resort in Montana

Ziplining at the Big Sky Resort was on our life list

Shortly after we were married and way before the kiddo made his appearance, Rick and I crossed the pond and spent weeks driving around England, including a quick trip through the Chunnel to Paris. We saw London, we saw France. Thankfully, we didn’t see anyone’s underpants, even in Paris. But we did see a fantastic sampling of Mother England: Stonehenge, Land’s End, the Lake District, York.

But what I really remember about that trip was how much Rick wanted to go to Ireland. Mind you, he has nothing against Britain, but something about the Emerald Isle calls to him. Even now, 17 years later, he’s still disappointed that we couldn’t have worked a little Dublin-time into that vacation. And, alas, we still haven’t made it there. Yet. No worries, though. That dream is safe. On the List. Not just any list, like the one in my head that reminds me to buy eggs at the grocery store. It’s on the Travel Bucket List. Or rather, Rick’s Travel Bucket List. Mine has Egyptian pyramids on it. Our son’s includes Mount Everest. But Rick still yearns for the green of Ireland.

A book by Phil Keoghan about living creating a life list

No Opportunity Wasted

Now, although it’s a simple idea, we really can’t take credit for it. The concept of making a Bucket List has been in the popular lexicon for awhile now. We can, however, thank the dreamy and charming Phil Keoghan. (Yes, I’m entitled to my opinion, here.) He’s the host of the television series, The Amazing Race, and author of a book that encourages everyone to live their lives to the fullest, starting with a List for Life to help you stick to your goals and not let the years pass you by. He makes the point that items on your List can be grandiose, like my desire to visit faraway and exotic places like Nepal, Thailand, and Fiji. Or they can be more mundane like ziplining. Sure, you can do that one just about anywhere these days. As it turns out, we knocked it off the List last summer in Big Sky, Montana. And again in the Louisville Mega Cavern. And yet again in Spicewood, Texas. Three different ziplines. Very cool. Very fun. Check.

The great thing about a Bucket List is that it’s never done. If you suddenly decide you want to take a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque, add it. Having second thoughts about swimming with dolphins, now that you know how the poor animals are really captured and treated in captivity, cross it off. But you’ll always have items that seem to stay on there forever.

Like our goal of visiting all 50 U.S. states. Twenty years ago, Rick and I both worked for network television, and we traveled quite a bit for our jobs. Between us, we only have about six states left. Even our son, in his short 12 years, has been to almost half of them. It helps having family scattered all over the place. And we’ve already managed to cover the two hardest ones for most Americans (Hawaii and Alaska). Strangely, although my family are born Wisconsinites, I’ve never made it over to the Dakotas, even though Mount Rushmore is definitely on the List. And we’ve traveled to New England a number of times, but we keep missing some of those little states up there like Rhode Island and Delaware. (No disrespect intended – everything’s little when you live in Texas). We’ll get there, one day.

Fulfilling a Bucket List when you’re entrenched in the daily responsibilities of jobs and school does require some compromise. Take our trip to Hawaii, for instance. That was my dream. For as long as I can remember. Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t have to twist any arms to convince the family that we needed to go to paradise. But when Rick suggested we go back to Yellowstone last summer so our son could hear the gurgling mudpots and smell the sulfur firsthand… how could I say no?


Yellowstone, Upper geyser basin, black and white, erupting geyser, near old faithful, montana, yellowstone national park

Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone

This summer, we’re working off my List, yet again, with a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands. Why, you might ask? Certainly, these countries aren’t as popular as, say, Italy, which is also on our List. I just don’t want to drag a 12-year-old through the Sistine Chapel while he rolls his eyes at the sheer boredom of all that glorious artwork. Truth be told, I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie and her brilliant detective Hercule Poirot. He solved crimes in London, but his handlebar mustache and little gray cells are all Belgian. Is it weird to base an entire vacation on a fictional character? Perhaps. But it doesn’t hurt that I also have a thing for tulips and chocolate. That’s enough for me. Although the flowers will be gone by the time we show up in June, I still expect to be captivated by the old-fashioned windmills, the romantic canals, and the handmade lace. Ah, Belgium.

After we get home (and probably before), we’ll most surely be dreaming of our next summer vacation. Usually, all it takes is a glance at our Lists to figure out where to spin the globe for our next adventure. And even though it may be awhile before we hit southeast Asia or the south Pacific, in the meantime, I’m keeping my eyes open for that next opportunity to spend the night on a majestic old steam train or leap off a cliff attached to a hang glider. Maybe it will be in Ireland. (Update: Well, hallelujah, we can finally cross this one off our bucket list. We took a trip to Ireland in July 2017 and have the pictures to prove it. Click here to read about all the places we visited.)

Do you have a Travel Bucket List? What’s on it? Share your dreams by leaving a comment below.