Joe Queenan is an American journalist, satirist, and critic. In The Wall Street Journal, July 2018, he opined, “It’s Time to Kick the Bucket List.” Queenan offered a hilarious polemic against bucket lists as a form of obsessive mania and hard work.
His screed is reminiscent of the 1985 movie classic, “National Lampoons European Vacation”, starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Winning a European vacation on a game show, Clark “Sparky” Griswold (Chase) hauled his reluctant family through a madcap itinerary via London, France, Germany, and Italy. In his mania to see everything on a bucket list of sorts, one implausible disaster after another resulted.
Queenan has a point. If pursuits are more work than fun, if one thing blends into another, you may as well stay home. Better yet, head for the beach with a book!
Bucket lists often are associated with travel. Take “50 Things to Do Before You Die” from Rough Guides: “Get lost for words at the Grand Canyon. Walk the Siq to Petra, Jordan. Throw yourself into Liverpool's nightlife, England. Get blown away by the Great Wall of China. Sail the Whitsundays, Australia...” You get the drift.
In my library is “1,000 Places To See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List”, by Patricia Schultz (Workman, 2003). A thousand places? Even if you hit ten a year, it would take 100 years. One should live so long!
A reader of Queenan’s commentary said, “The point of a bucket list is not to replace fear of missing out, with bragging rights. It is a confrontation of mortality, a chance to consider the goals you have in life and the broader values they represent.” Good observation.
Everyone confronts mortality at some point. It may come early in life on a battlefield or when a young friend is lost to illness or accident. It may come every day in hazardous professions such as law enforcement or firefighting. It may come when a parent or grandparent dies. It may come at milestone birthdays in the latter decades of life.
Dan Sullivan, The Strategic Coach®, said, “Always make your future bigger than your past.” I have quoted Dan before, and do so again because his is a powerful and motivational thought. If you reach the point when you believe your best days are behind you, you’re headed for physical and mental decline.
As financial advisors, we see the Dan Sullivan manifesto as going well beyond money into deep discussions about meaning and purpose. Conversations about major life transitions are about engagement, not disengagement. That’s a challenge when contemplating traditional notions about retirement. Retire to what?
In conversations with talented and dedicated professionals like doctors or other successful people in their fields, FOB (Fear Of Boredom) is a major barrier to goal setting and planning for succession or retirement. Closely-held business owners, C-suite executives, share similar anxieties.
“I have built a lifetime of capability, talent, strength, and respect, and I’m just going to walk away?”
Perhaps it isn’t a question of what you are going to do in the next ten years, but more of “who do you want to be?”
This writer and wanderer hasn’t seen all 1,000 places, but I’ve made a dent on all seven continents. I love and applaud travel dreams. When clients ask, “Do you think I (we) can afford to...,” most of the time the answer is, “Go for it!” Get on a plane or a ship and enjoy. Buy or rent a mobile home and hit the road. Spend a month in Paris, London, or French Polynesia. But you must have purpose to come home to! Boredom leads to mental and physical decline and distress for loved ones and family caregivers. That’s not on your bucket list!
Don’t go to Europe like the Griswolds. Take Italy. I love Italy but you should see it at various times over multiple trips where you can truly savor local life and atmosphere. That goes for Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and North America. You can see the two remaining continents in one trip each, if need be. Australia is a big place worthy of 30 to 40 days, if you can spare the time. Antarctica is an experience if you are on the right expedition ship. Check out Ponant if your goal is landings on the peninsula to explore penguin and wildlife colonies. Adventure travel is in vogue, but you better go while in your “go, go” years. “Slow go,” and “no go” years aren’t the times to start on your bucket list.
My daughter gave me a t-shirt that says, “All who wander are not lost.” True!
Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which otherwise is unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA®).