Wanderlust Is More Than Just A Bucket List

David Adam Kess

Do you have a bucket list?

We do.

Some of the things on there include scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, hiking the Trek to Petra in Jordan and going on a safari in Botswana.

Up until recently, we had ‘exploring the Galapagos’ on there too, but now we’ve crossed that off and we couldn’t be happier.


more than just a bucket list beach galapagos
The beautiful white sandy beaches of the Galapagos

As I mentally put a tick next to that activity, I can’t help but think that bucket lists might be missing the point.

After living for a full year as nomads, my husband Dave and I are beginning to realise that it’s not the places you visit but the people whom you share your experiences that make them all the more memorable.

Looking back on the past year we find ourselves smiling at the thought of all the strangers who have gone out of their way to be kind to us.

Recently in Ecuador, the owners of the apartment we were renting decided to take us out on a day trip to explore neighbouring lakes and volcanoes and wouldn’t let us pay for a thing – not even lunch!

more than just a bucket list
The peaceful Redwood Forest

Another lady we met in California last year took us on a personal tour of the Redwood Forest, having spent the past decade living close to it and learning all there was to know of the place. She didn’t expect us to give anything in return, she just wanted to share it with us.

And then in Guadeloupe in January we couch surfed with two lovely people who took us round the island and showed us their favourite places, with the only payment being our company.

Reflecting back on our past year of travel, it’s these special moments shared with caring and generous strangers, rather than the fact I ticked ‘See Ecuadorian volcano, explore Redwoods, visit Guadeloupe’ off my bucket list.


Friends in Guadeloupe more than just a bucket list
Meeting a stranger who quickly became a friend in Guadeloupe

Visiting the Galapagos Islands was epic. There’s no doubt about it.

There’s no other place in the world that has such a diverse selection of unique animals. Getting in the ocean there gives you close encounters with species you could only dream of, like penguins, hammerhead sharks and sea lions.

But once again, it was the people we shared these discoveries with us that made it such a special adventure. We began our trip on a luxurious yacht, the Seaman Journey, and spent four days with a small group of guests from all over the world. Our guide, Geoff, taught us about the animals, landscapes and evolution as we sailed to a new island each day and discovered it with a happy heart.

At the end of the tour, Geoff asked us what we were up to next and when we explained we weren’t sure, he suggested we visit San Cristobal for a few days – his home island – and he offered to put us up.

Unique wildlife on San Cristobal - frigatebird more than just a bucket list
Unique wildlife on San Cristobal – frigatebird

Now, ask yourself this. If you knew someone for a few days, would you offer them your home while you went back on a boat to work for another week? Geoff seemed to propose this suggestion without a second thought.

“It’ll be great for our little island,” he said. “So many tourists just do a cruise but it’s really beneficial for the locals if you spend time exploring the islands on your own because this boosts the whole economy, helping more than just the nine workers’ families who are on board the cruise.”

So we went.

He had a small, two bed apartment above his home and we stayed there for four nights, not paying a cent for accommodation but eating out each day and spending our money all over the island as much as we could, injecting our cash into the livelihoods of the locals.


more than just a bucket list
Its not just about the destination – its about who get there with you

I will probably continue to keep a bucket list of all the places I desire to visit. But after these 12 months of travel, I’ll approach them with a more open mind.

I’ll be thinking more about the people who live in these places and the promise a chance encounter can bring. I’ll be thinking of ways to give back to local communities, rather than rushing through towns and destinations at high speed, stopping only for a quick photograph.

Because if there’s anything this year has taught me is that the kindness of strangers can have a lasting effect. And next time, I want to be the stranger that’s kind to someone on the road.

It’s the least I can do for the sake of the memories I have of all the strangers who have been beautifully kind to us.

✈ ✈ ✈

Have you created a bucket list only to realise it’s the experiences, not the destinations that you love?

  1. So true. It’s not about how many places you’ve been, it’s all about how you did it, and with whom. I love traveling solo but for the last 2 trips (Australia and Africa), I began to seek companion along the way and enjoyed the life experience as long as I could with those people.

    After all, people you meet on the road are the ones that will share the best moment of your lives together. They became a part of our lives to some extent, so why not let it be nurtured. 🙂

    1. Certainly agree with you on that Pete! Moments feel all the more special when you can turn to someone beside you and say, “Did you see that?!”

  2. You got it right! The bucket list is only the first step to the getting there. From there it is all in the trip and you don’t know what (or who) you will see (or meet) along the way. Happy wanderlusting!!

  3. Carmen, You are so right! For me, as well, it is all about the people. How wonderful that you took the opportunity given to you…many people would not have had the same courage. Love it.

  4. Fulfilling the same bucket list item in two weeks time!! We’re spending 5 days on San Cristobel and absolutely can’t wait!! Thanks for the post 🙂

  5. Great list! I actually have a reverse bucketlist, that is, a list of activities that will probably make me kick the bucket sooner than later!

    Number 1? Take a selfie at Mecca while touching the holy keebab. I hope I won’t get beheaded! 😮

  6. I’m not a huge fan of bucket lists myself. They may make a lovely and ever-growing patchwork of travel ideas, but there’s a certain competitive approach behind it which I’m not too fond of. On the other hand I do like taking a look at other people’s bucket list as you will almost always come across some inspiration and place you maybe haven’t heard of and maybe never really considered visiting.
    Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it!? 🙂

  7. Great blog post Carmen! I totally agree with you, it is the people you meet along the way on your travels that will stay in your mind and heart the longest.

    We don’t keep a bucket list, because where we want to travel changes a lot. We get inspired by other travel blogs or travelers we meet along the way, and often end up going to a totally different place than we first planned :). Would love to go to the Galapagos Island some day!

  8. Great way to look at a bucket list! It’s nice to have a list, but I like thinking of it as more than just checking items off. It sounds like you’ve had some great experiences–the people definitely make a trip special!

  9. The fascinating thing with bucket lists is that no matter what you write on that piece of paper, come back to it a year later and already a fair few will be ticked off. Its just how the brain works and how we set ourselves up to do things.
    Fantastic write up!

  10. Definitely agree with you! While it’s nice to cross something off of that seemingly endless bucket list, my favorite experiences are the unexpected ones, and of course spending time with locals plays a huge role in that. Love your attitude!

  11. I like the post! I, of course, have a bucket list, too. I have noticed though that most people have very specific places/spots on their lists – mine is more about experiences. Sure I want to visit all those wonderful places in the world, but as you say – it´s not about the place. For me, it´s about the feeling that the place and people with you create. If I just have a look to tick another item off, it´s usually not something I will treasure in my memory. But I will for sure remember the people I met!

  12. Awesome post…I always had a bucket list, but it was the experience of seeing how others lived which caused me to get that travel bug back in December 2013, on a weekend trip to London. Since then, I’ve been using every last drop of my vacation days for travel! Excited to make it to Africa this fall to do a Zambian safari and see the Victoria Falls (1st time ever in sub-Saharan Africa). Then in 2016 to visit Southeast Asia (1st time ever in Asia)…can’t wait for that, but also can’t wait for the interaction with people of both areas!

  13. I love this post! I’m all about the people that you meet along the way, that’s (to me) what makes a journey, it’s what I remember when I think back to a place and it’s what drives me to travel. People are so wonderful and kind, especially to others who they don’t know so well, it’s refreshing to see and experience and makes me want to be a better, kinder person in return.

  14. Oh I agree! While I do have a bucket list it isn’t the thing that drives me to travel. Sometimes, as you said, bucket lists limits the people who try to fulfill them because they travel at such a speed that they barely have a chance to stop to take a photograph, let alone experiencing the wonders of the environment and the people who live in it.


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