Lately, I have been visiting friends and family in Saskatoon and Edmonton and doing very little sightseeing or much else of interest. Since Saskatoon’s newest art gallery was recently the subject of a complimentary New York Times article and Edmonton’s West Edmonton Mall is just another oversized shopping center, I will resist discussing either. Rather, I will share one of my most important guides on how and where I travel: my reverse bucket list.
Like most people I have a travel bucket list. It is simple, but extensive. I want to go everywhere I haven’t been and return to every place I have already visited. Which makes choosing where to go next a challenge. For many years now, my first step in picking a destination is not deciding what I want to see, but rather to consult my reverse bucket list to figure out what and where I don’t want to go.
I started it about 15 years ago and have added, but never subtracted, from it. The concept is straightforward. List all the things I will not regret never having done as I lie on my deathbed (hopefully decades away). It is short, but here it is:
- Eat no living food. Do not get me wrong. I am not a vegan and can be quite adventurous in trying different foods, especially animal products. Rattlesnake, kangaroo, ostrich, crocodile, fried caterpillars, grasshoppers, frogs and probably a lot of animals I cannot name have all graced my lips. But they all have one thing in common. They are dead before they hit my mouth. That’s where I draw the line. I am a happy meat eater so long as someone else does the killing.
- Do not fly on Russian built airplanes. They crash a lot. Enough said.
- Avoid going to the top of tall buildings or any other high structure. I have vertigo and looking down from the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building is a guaranteed way for me to get dizzy.
- No overnight accommodation without an attached bathroom. Simply stated, I do not like roughing it. However ignoble or princess-like this characteristic, I accept and travel accordingly. Thus, through hiking the Appalachian Trail (5-7 months of camping without facilities) or wilderness treks in the Borneo rainforest are not adventures I will try until there are nightly options with en suite bathrooms.
- No bungee jumping. Some people may relish the thrill of paying a lot of money to leap off a high perch and, if all goes well, swing upside down on a long rope. I am not one of them. I feel the same way about most roller coasters, zip lines and other endeavors that go from high to low at breakneck speed without an airplane encapsulating me.
- Mountains are for viewing, not climbing. I like mountains and am quite happy to look at them from the ground, or, like Mount Everest, from a plane. But climbing them gives me a combination of potential vertigo and too much vigorous physical exercise. I come by this dislike with practice, having climbed halfway up Mount Sinai in Egypt, halfway up Bird’s Nest Mountain in Bhutan and halfway up Uluru in Australia. Every time, midway up, something inside me says I am not having fun and I quit. Recognizing this tendency, hiking Mount Kilamanjaroo or even Mount Fuji, are not heights I aspire to.
- No changing tires. If I was driving along a deserted highway and blew a tire, I would try a lot of things: call the Automobile Association, hitchhike to the nearest service station, or pull out my fold-up chair and sit and wait for help. But the one thing I would absolutely never, in a million years, contemplate is to change the tire myself. I have many skills – I can make a tasty risotto, navigate through major cities with GPS or maps and calculate my taxes manually. But changing tires is something I have never tried to learn and have no desire to do so. Thus, off-road jaunts or extended drives through sparely populated areas will not figure into my travel plans unless I have a companion who can change tires.
- Avoid war zones. The potential to be shot at or kidnapped is not a lifelong goal, so, sadly, countries like Syria and the Congo are on my no go list.
- Stay away from Rat Temples. I love animals and have happily gone alligator hunting on the Amazon and tracked rhinos in Namibia. But I put my foot down at seeing rats. After a long drive to Bikaner, in Rajasthan, India, our driver and tour guide tried to usher us into the car for another drive to the Karni Mata Temple. We were tired, road weary and all the temples were starting to look the same. “No”, insisted the driver, “this one is very different. It is the rat temple, home to 25,000 rats.” Rats are not particularly bothersome to me, unless they are in my hotel room. I frequently see them by the sewers and think they are kind of cute. But to go out of my way to spend three hours looking at rats is not something I am inclined to do. So I didn’t and have not spent a moment of regret about missing the rat temple.
If I stick to this list, I will be very gruntled. Does anyone else have a reverse travel bucket list?