A few years back, it may have been around the time of turning 60, I decided to create what I called a reverse bucket list and started to write in my journal things that I had accomplished. I decided to annunciate bucket- list type things done versus wallowing or pining for a list that may or may not at this age and stage, be achievable.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things that I have ambition to achieve, to see and experience. I am not throwing in the towel, not at all. In my minds eye I can project sipping Veuve Cliquot with my honey on a nighttime cruise of the Seine. But this is different somehow. For one, it is strangely gratifying to see a list of events, experiences and accomplishments laid out in a succinct list.
It is an exercise in remembering, and like looking at old photographs, it triggers memories that bring back and arouse sensual elements of smell and sound and sight.
In my case the list unfolded over many months. I added to it as I remembered seeing Led Zeppelin perform live or George Harrison, or a song would remind me of seeing Dylan and James Taylor or Bob Marley multiple times in concert. Embedded in the list were eureka moments, “aha moments” and moments of sadness but also elation.
Here is a sample from my journal where I wrote my reverse bucket list:
- Ride a streetcar in San Francisco
- Go on an annual culinary and kayaking ‘boys trip’ almost every year for 27 years
- See orca’s and Grey whales from my house
- Being at my mother’s side as she lay dying of cancer
- Do a road trip with my wife in a convertible
- Fly in to float the Blackwater River and fly fish for trout
- Eat bagels at the Fairmont bakery in the middle of the night
- Take a train from Tashkent to Bukhara
- Crash a motorcycle on the island of Corfu
- Listen to the whales breathing at night from my tent on a beach in Mexico
At times the list comes pouring out in a free association disgorging from the depths of one’s memory banks, and at other times it is one simple experience that comes to mind and gets jotted down and turned over and written about.
I wonder too, whether some of these experiences in the reliving and recounting of them are brighter and more easily recalled because I journalled about them at the time. As if this somehow preserved and enhanced the experience like a poem left in a time capsule. My journaling has been for the most part in travel diary mode as like many of you, travelling seems to be when I allow myself time to write and reflect on the experiences of the day.
So here’s the challenge: park the bucket list and create your own reverse bucket list. Perhaps you could start out approaching it chronologically and think about those awesome teenage years… Or geographically? Or you could generate the memories by using the sense of taste for example or sound as the spark.
So give it a go, it feels good! And maybe you might like to share some of your “reverse bucket list” in the comments below!
And by all means continue to dream about things you would like to do.
Guest Author Bio: Peter Allan is trained as an art historian with studies at McGill University and the University of Victoria. His career path has primarily been in the realm of management and tourism. For many years, Peter owned and operated Salt Spring Kayak and Cycle which found him leading others into the watery corners of British Columbia, Mexico and Italy. Observing the life-changing power of the immersive experience of eco tours was profound for Peter, as were chance encounters with the world’s marine creatures.
Peter is an artist and you can see some of his work here: http://noblesculpturestudio.com/
The Reverse Bucket List was a wonderful prompt. I focused on the sense of hearing, specifically music. I remembered all the occasions in my life when music had been significant. The words just flowed and I found that each memory was a writing prompt in itself. Thank you. This unlocked a treasure chest.
Hi Judith, I’m glad to hear you found inspiration with Peter’s article. I have shared your feedback with him as well. Here’s to discovering even more treasures!
What a wonderful story of Peter’s travel adventures and I love the idea of a group travel journal. As an Aussie I was delighted to hear the expression “flat out like a lizard on a log” again as it was a favourite expression of my father’s. I am also feeling very excited and inspired by Peter’s suggestion of writing a Reverse Bucket List. As an older person I realise there are many things on my Bucket List that I will probably not achieve but they pale into insignificance when so many exciting things come to mind as I plan my Reverse list. Thank you Peter Allan.
Hi Judith, thanks so much for your kind words. I shared your lovely comment with Peter and he wishes you a fun journey as you create your reverse bucket list!
The Reverse Bucket List on the prompts 1-50 in the “how to journal” course really intrigued me as I hadn’t heard of such lists before, but without calling it that, I have in the past made my own. It’s intensely satisfying to see the “wins” or life experiences one has amassed rather than always pushing and striving. Dan Sullivan in “The Gap and the Gain” has a similar exercise, looking back at all your achievements and measuring how far you’ve come rather than always aiming for some distant, nebulous, uncertain unknown that may or may not come true. While I can appreciate goal setting, especially around this time of year, I am also coming to realize that being content right where we are while still embracing growth and change is a mindfulness skill I’m still trying to cultivate. Appreciate the insight, idea, and concept. I may have to use it with my own clients!
Taking a train from Tashkent to Bokhara (and Samarkand) has been on my list for a couple of decades, but it’s getting less and less likely as time passes. I love that you have listed that experience and that you have done it and have the stunning memory of those beautiful tiled buildings and the romance of visiting those faraway Silk Road places!