Kicking the Bucket List: In Praise of Serendipity

Many blogs and websites now showcase bucket lists. They’re as important to the modern traveler as his smartphone. But is this a good thing? Last week, Farwell weighed up the bucket list’s destructive potential. And this week? With a little help from the princes of Serendip, he’s digging deeper.

by Farwell Forrest | February 2, 2018
Originally published in somewhat different form on July 18, 2017

Bucket lists are all the rage these days, touted by legions of bloggers and countless chambers of commerce. The former are probably in the game for the notoriety: “Hey, guys, I just got back from checking out the seals on Elephant Island. That was Number 125 on my list. Awesome!” The chambers of commerce aren’t into bragging rights, however. As you’d expect, they have their eyes fixed firmly on the bottom line, and any list of must‑see attractions is tailor‑made to lure ever larger flocks of sheep to the shearing pen.

What’s not to like? Bucket lists bring clicks to bloggers who’d otherwise have nothing to say and tourist dollars to rural communities with little left to sell but scenery. So why am I not a fan? Well, there’s more to my antipathy than simple curmudgeonly contrariness. Bucket lists have several downsides. As I pointed out last week, they’re inherently destructive. A bucket list is a token to be shared, a way of adding to your Web cred. But publishing a bucket list is a little like chumming for sharks. It can easily trigger a feeding frenzy. And at a time when crowds of enthusiasts are already laying siege to many wild rivers and remote peaks, this is a very bad thing indeed. Finish reading this article…