Friday, March 01, 2024

How A Bucket List Can Bring An Amazing Difference

Do you have a bucket list?

A few flowers and a diary that read “My Bucket List” placed on a denim jacket.
Photo by Tobi Law on Unsplash

I was nine years old when I first read about the ‘Great Wall of China’ in my history textbook. I was immediately intrigued. The textbook had no picture and that was the era before the internet. So I only had to use my mind’s imagination to conjure the image of such a great wall. I wanted to visit this place and decided, one day I would.

I started keeping a journal and jotting down all those things and places that fascinate me. I made elaborate plans. I was naive. I was just a child. I lived in my own make-believe world. What did I know about life?

Sometimes, as children, or even later in our lives, we find something fascinating and wonder if we can ever make that come true, but when reality presses hard, we forget about those dreams and aspirations. We have responsibilities, we have rents and bills to pay, mouth to feed, children to raise, bullies to fight against, bosses to please, battles to win, and it goes on.

In the process, we forget we also have a life to live. We are so involved in the nitty-gritty of life that we forget the bigger picture.

“The purpose of this glorious life is not simply to endure it, but to soar, stumble and flourish as you learn to fall in love with existence. We were born to live my dear, not to merely exist.” — Becca Lee

Last week I watched a video on Headspace that asked this question: “If You Only Had This Day, What Would You Do First?” What a meaningful question.

It made me pause and think about all my dreams and aspirations that were on hold ever since. If I were to die now, I would have merely existed on this planet.

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well .” — Diane Ackerman

Now I am not saying we should live in constant fear and agony that anytime our lives may come to an end. That would be too depressing and there wouldn’t be any purpose in life.

But at the same time, if we were aware that our time is really limited, we could stop so much negativity around us, and instead, we could focus on our priorities.

I thought about my childhood journal and that made me smile. I don’t know where my dear diary is now, but I made a new one. I made a bucket list for myself. And you know what, just making the list made me feel so better.

So here goes my bucket list:

Visit one of the Blue Zones

Ever since I came to know about the five Blue Zones in the world on the Netflix show Restaurants on the Edge, I was just fascinated. There are 5 places in the world, coined as Blue Zones, where people live the longest and healthiest.

In the show, I watched about life in Costa Rica and their ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle. Pura Vida is a way of life that celebrates simple and stress-free living. I, so desperately wanted to be there.

Shortly, I read a book on the Okinawan Island (another Blue zone)in Japan and their philosophy of Ikigai, a concept that means — your reason for being.

After reading so much about the Blue Zones, I started daydreaming. I even wondered if I can move to one of these places. The closest to me is the Ikarian island in Greece. While relocating wouldn’t be feasible right now, a visit is quite likely a possibility.

So Ikaria, here I come.

Photo by Eugene Chan on Unsplash

Take the spiritual walk to Camino de Santiago

Two years ago, in December 2019, after my father passed away, I suddenly felt a loss of purpose. I had regrets, I had fear, I felt depressed. I needed a direction — a spiritual direction. I wanted to run away somewhere. I wanted to be somewhere peaceful.

I don’t remember how but I stumbled upon this amazing journey that people had been taking for thousands of years —walking the Camino de Santiago.

The Camino de Santiago (the way of St. James) is an ancient pilgrimage route (actually several routes) that leads to and ends in Santiago de Compostella. This is a Christian religious walk, but this is so much more (and I am not even a Christian).

This is a few thousand-kilometer-long spiritual walk that people had been taking for centuries for healing, for finding a purpose, for adventure, for their mental health and well-being, and for the purpose of reconnecting with their lives.

Shortly after, I stumbled upon the book The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho — “a recollection of Paulo’s experiences as he made his way across northern Spain on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.”

Now I have this burning desire, to go on a similar journey and experience it myself — what is so special about this is that millions of people had been taking this hardship of walking thousands of kilometers, especially now that you can reach Santiago de Compostella by a direct flight.

Photo by Jorge Luis Ojeda Flota on Unsplash

Spend a few days in a monastery, especially if possible in Tibet

A few years ago, I read a book named ‘Finding yourself in the Kitchen’ by Dana Velden. That’s an amazing book if you are interested in reading about mindfulness in our daily and mundane lives.

In that book Dana writes how she spent around 15 years in a Zen monastery and how even wiping each plate away with a dishcloth could be a mindful activity. I found the book very calming because I am anything but mindful.

After my father passed away, I suddenly felt that I needed that calm, that peace, and remembered how Dana’s book had helped me earlier. Suddenly I wanted to be in a monastery. I started reading all I could about the Zen Buddhist philosophy of life.

I have had the opportunity to visit some of the monasteries in India, especially in Sikkim and in remote Arunachal Pradesh (by the way these are two amazing places to visit at least once in your lifetime). But I was younger, in my 20s, so didn’t really understand the real significance of a monastery, meditation, or zen living.

In the meantime, I accidentally found out about the movie ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ and watched it with my daughter. It is based on the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer’s memoir. He became the young Dalai Lama’s friend and tutor. Brad Pitt was awesome in the movie and life in a monastery in Tibet is such a unique experience for us the city dwellers.

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

Deep-sea diving

Let me admit, I am not an adventurous person at all. I don’t even like to watch sports, forget about participating in any adventure sport. But watching an Indian movie based on a road trip in Spain changed my mind about deep-sea diving.

The movie showed some more challenging sports like skydiving in Empuriabrava or running bulls in Pamplona. But deep-sea diving is what I found most soothing (the other two are too nerve-wracking for my taste).

One of the characters in the movie had a fear of water but he learned to overcome his fear and actually enjoy the natural wonder underneath.

Under the water, he was able to live every single moment, just letting them gently come and go, without having to worry about the moments that were yet to come.

I want to experience this, at least once in my lifetime. We had actually, booked a trip to Costa Brava in Spain this summer and I was eagerly waiting for this trip to come true, however, due to Covid-restrictions, we had to cancel. I am hopeful, I will be able to tick this one off my list soon.

Photo by Aviv Perets on Unsplash

Go on a hot air balloon ride

This was my wish ever since I was a child. I have had the opportunity to fly to so many places in the world, but riding on a hot air balloon is an incredible experience that I don’t want to miss. And this is one of the adventures that’s easier and more attainable.

I don’t know if a balloon ride will help me conquer my fear of height, but the feeling of floating among the clouds with a spectacular vista unfolding my eyes —just seems magical.

Photo by Alex Azabache on Unsplash

Walk a marathon

A bucket list doesn’t always have to be related to travel only. It can be the craft that you wanted to learn, or that special but very expensive Michelin star restaurant where you wanted to taste a very unique food or have a tattoo on your back, the list may go on depending on YOUR preferences.

For me, travel has been the essence of my life, so it is no wonder most of the items on my list are related to visiting a place. But incidentally, when I was searching for images of a bucket list on Medium, almost all the images were related to travel in some way. It doesn’t have to be though.

During this entire lockdown, when travel was out of the question, I started going on a daily walk to the nearby heath Every Single Day. The cool breeze touched my skin and the fresh air made me feel better. It became our daily ritual for the next many months of hard lockdown — walking together as a family. It turned out all our neighbors were doing the same too.

I have fibromyalgia and many other chronic illnesses, which means I am in pain most of the time. I am unfit is really an understatement. There are days when I just can’t take it anymore and question the very existence of my life. Walking every day in nature made me not only more fit but also confident in many other ways I never imagined was possible.

I started reading about nordic walking and started training myself to walk even longer. Besides, the prospect of walking the Camino de Santiago in the near future was too alluring. I made myself a promise — I am going to walk a marathon (no running) in near future, whenever it’s possible.

Photo by Frank Holleman on Unsplash

Visit the Great Wall of China

Finally, how can I leave this one out? This was my first dream ever (as much as I can remember). This is what has first set me into thinking and wishing and dreaming. What’s life without our dreams and aspirations?

The Great Wall of China is also one of the seven wonders of the world. I can’t imagine how magnificent the place would be and how incredible would it be to walk on it.

I had been very close to China when I visited the Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh or the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim where you could even shake hands with the Chinese soldiers on the other side.

While I live far away now, in Europe, I am hopeful I will be able to make my childhood dream come true, someday.

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Just making the list has made me feel bright and cheerful and I wonder how it would be to actually experience it.

So have you ever made a bucket list? I would love to know. And don’t panic if your list is too simple or too ambitious, because after all, it’s YOUR life, it’s YOUR list.

Here, my friend Sujona Chatterjee made a wonderfully simple list for December where she calls us to not forget to live.

“Your life can change in an instant. What we must do is try and cherish each moment.”

When Life Is All About the ‘Little Things’
Your one little thing can turn into a life-changing

And just in case, if I knew that doomsday is approaching soon and I had just this one day — no time to make a list, plan for a trip, or no dime to spend either, I would hug my precious daughter tight and laugh out loud one last time.

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