We know what you really should do this summer: dream high, climb low, go for a fast sled ride … The following “bucket list” is meant as inspiration only. Nobody’s forcing you to do a thing!
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are to blame. Ever since the famous Hollywood stars portrayed two chronically ill old men in Rob Reiner’s heartwarming tearjerker of a melodrama The Bucket List , the world has been bandying the expression about. A bucket list is a list detailing what a person wants to see, say or do before… well, before what, exactly? If you look closely at the origin of the expression “kick the bucket” (the same one as in the list), you find that it refers to the bucket that’s kicked out from beneath the poor soul hanging by his or her neck above it and who is, due to this predicament, already short of breath and unable to look forward to being able to see, say or do anything before the lights go out. Nevertheless, we will stick to the term for want of a better one.
As I was saying, Nicholson and Freeman set off on their sentimental journey: They go parachuting, visit the Taj Mahal, drive a Shelby Mustang … until Death stops them in their tracks.
Lists, by the way, are hardly a cinematic phenomenon, they are something you cannot seem to get away from in regular life. In the olden days, the Germans felt it was enough for a man to build a house, father a son and plant a tree. (For women, it was raising children, tending the stove, attending church and baking cheesecake). Those days are over. According to the endless (but gender-neutral) sources of information mushrooming all over the place, we are expected to achieve heroics that include visiting 111 places around the world, sampling 111 different kinds of craft beer, climbing every eight-thousand-meter peak, learning ten foreign languages, eating at every three-star restaurant or staging every single one of Shakespeare’s history plays. The lists are long or short and the items on them range from prohibitively expensive to practically impossible, depending on your geographic, meteorological or culinary preferences. The boundaries are never fixed between megalomania and the urge to explore, between banality and emotion. And anyway, who wants to be chased across continents, commanded to do this or go there on the whim of some know-it-all?
If you’re clear about what you want, it’s best to make your own list. We modern humans, feeling more helpless and lost in this world than ever, long for a framework in which to live our lives. We don’t want to wander without a goal. So, since our time on earth is not necessarily imminently over but certainly limited – to a week, a holiday, a year, a relationship, a lifetime – we need a plan. But it’s important to remember that this plan should reflect our own personal wishes and not just be a check list or a silly attempt to break every known record. Because if you’re the kind of person who makes lists only to be able to cross things off or if you just want to show off about where you’ve been and what you’ve done, then you will be in for all kinds of disappointments and you’ll be eaten up by fear – fear of not managing everything on your list despite your most zealous attempts or fear of achieving your goals and then falling into a pit of listlessness and uselessness afterwards. Been there, done that, felt nothing? Ah, how much happier I would have been, you sigh, if I had just allowed myself to drift. And here’s another cruel question for you (if you’re the unhappy soul I’ve just been describing): Is it enough to have “been there” or must the experience be gained with as much effort as possible – against all odds – in order for you to feel that you have achieved something real?
But don’t let me stop you from writing a list, looking forward with anticipation to what’s on it, doing it – and enjoying yourself! Whether it’s swimming in every infinity pool in Southeast Asia, watching every second-league soccer match in Romania, sampling all the street food in Nigeria or visiting all 20 Molière festivals in Provence, France , it’s entirely up to you. But remember, don’t be hard on yourself. Make sure you have fun doing whatever it is. And just in case you need a couple of extra ideas, perhaps something crazy or downright silly for your list, we might have something for you here. Just don’t kick the bucket as you check off your list!
Pander to a panda
Roll, eat, fall: That’s pretty much what China’s national animal, the giant panda, does all day. If you’d like to get closer to these phlegmatic balls of fur than the usual zoo visitor, you can feed and care for these lazy lovelies as a volunteer keeper.
A refreshing dip is all part of summer, but if the waters you pick happen to surround an island in the Antarctic, your dip will be a real adventure. Steam issues from the ground in many places on Deception Island, an active volcano, but the water temperature is never more than roughly 1°C. This doesn’t bother the penguins waddling cheerfully across the black beach toward the water, so don’t let it put you off, either. Follow them down and risk a toe before you freeze to the spot.
Ride a basket
Go for a summer sleigh ride! For over a century, wicker basket sleds have been a mode of public transportation on Madeira. The carreiros do monte, the men who steer them, wear white shirts and flat straw hats known as “circular saws.” First they push off, then they hop onto the wooden runners and steer the basket sled and its passengers all the way from Monte to Livramento in a wonderful, two-kilometer downhill whoosh.
Dream in a park
No pristine wilderness this, but a rollicking good time. From early August, Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, England, becomes a glittering dreamscape. Naked frogs bathe in hot tubs, hotheads cool off in the nearby river, chill in yoga classes or power up at the Champagne tasting. The Wilderness Festival even features big-name acts such as Justice and Nile Rodgers in supporting roles.
Take a tasty degree
Pizza, pasta, gelato: Italy has given humankind an array of culinary treasures. Luckily for us, the country is happy to share its knowledge and recipes with the rest of the world. In Anzola dell’Emilia near Bologna, the Gelato University teaches the high art of ice-cream making. At its week-long foundation course, students learn all about what goes into ice cream and how to prepare and refine it. Satisfy the maestros and you get to take home your very own ice-cream diploma.
Ride the train like royalty
Back in the day, the maharajas would have loved this: The Palace on Wheels is an amazing luxury train with a spa, bars and restaurants on board. Starting out in New Delhi, it takes passengers to the sights of Rajasthan: You visit the Taj Mahal and the Pink Palace of Jaipur, come within close range of the tigers of Ranthambore National Park and experience the “White City” of Udaipur. Between stops, you slumber like royalty in the comfort of a double bed.
Party with the king
The people of Bhutan travel for days to get to Laya – at 4000 meters one of the most elevated settlements in the country – and there’s no real road. In 2016, the king created the Royal Highlander Festival so that even people in this remote area would have something to celebrate. On two days in October, the focus is on nomadic culture, and visitors to the green high plateau compete at archery, attend the contest for the finest yak and take part in horseback races.
Yoga with goats
When its “mountain” shakes with laughter, the Nigerian dwarf goat jumps down. Its pasture is full of yoga mats and people on all fours, stretching and contorting themselves in all kinds of positions. In between are the goats, black and white spotted ones, blond ones, and ones with brown floppy ears. The goat yoga courses in the U.S. state of Oregon are lots of fun for everyone. In fact, they seem so therapeutic for two-legged participants that other places are following suit …
Their bed dangles from a rope high above the Allgäu region. No sooner is it attached than the climbers follow on up and insert themselves snugly into their bivouac between the mountain and the sky. This rope course through the woods in Pfronten, Bavaria, is not something for nature skeptics or anyone with a fear of heights. But if you take the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with the most amazing sunrise and sunset. Plus, it’s great to crawl into bed after such a strenuous climb!
Deep within iceland
The Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland has been dormant for 4000 years, so you needn’t be afraid to venture inside and explore. Visitors descend by open elevator into a crater so deep that the Statue of Liberty would easily fit inside. Down below, there’s a large cave more than 3000 square meters in area with shimmering, colored walls. To this day, nobody knows why the crater isn’t filled with cold magma like other volcanoes are.