On my second morning in Bangkok, I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming quite good friends with a fellow solo traveler who was staying in my hostel.
After exchanging the obligatory "Where are you coming from and going to?" conversation, I invited him along with me to explore a nearby coffee shop.Upon ordering our espressos and finding a spot to sit, we quickly found ourselves deep in conversation.
We began by sharing each of our stories for why and how we ended up in this corner of the globe. I shared my rather unique life story over the past few years, which includes two study abroad exchanges, an early graduation, working in Copenhagen, my traveling plans for the next few months, and a brief history of all the up's and down's that happened in between.
Needless to say, my new friend was quite shocked by how much I had seen and done. Relative to the majority of his friends from back home in Belgium who have seen little more than their home cities, he was surprised by all that I have been able to squeeze into my short 22 years of life.
After I had finished my story, he asked me:
"What's on your bucket list?"
And thought some more.
To my surprise, I couldn't think of a single thing...
For someone who has been consistently fulfilling his childhood dream(s) of living, working, studying, and traveling around the world, I became pleasantly aware of how satisfied I am with where life has taken me and the direction in which I am headed. And believe me when I say, this was a newfound realization that only struck me in this exact moment.
After this brief pause, I responded:
"To be honest, I don't have a 'bucket list.' But I definitely have a 'to-do list.'"
As I explained to my friend, although it may be true that a "bucket" and "to-do" list are virtually identical in practice, in principle they couldn't be farther from one another.
The idea behind a bucket list is inherently self-deprecating. As its name implies, the items on a bucket list are meant to be far fetched and near impossible to achieve.
A bucket list is meant to take a lifetime to accomplish.
A to-do list, on the other hand, is a set of tasks or goals that one will achieve within a particular time frame.
The psychological basis behind to-do's make them much more optimal for the creator to prevail in crossing them off. This small, often overlooked cognitive minutiae is the difference between setting oneself up for success versus taking "failure" as an expected and acceptable outcome. Needless to say, failure should never be taken as given when one's hopes, dreams, desires, and life-missions are at stake.
Wake up. Hustle hard. Cross those items off your list. Treasure the achievement. Then rinse, wash, and repeat.
This small interaction in a random coffee shop in Bangkok with someone who was a stranger not one hour earlier is one of many experiences over my travels that has left me with a life-long, perspective changing memory. (It's also part of the reason "Why I Travel" and "Why coffee is my passion," but those are topics for another time 😉)
So dear reader, what items are on your personal "To-do" list?
I know it will - and should - be changing constantly as you check off, but try to come up with something you want to achieve this year, this month, and this week.
I'd love to hear what you come up with too!
This post was originally hand-written in my travel journal "in a bus somewhere outside of Bangkok" while traveling to Koh Chang on March 28, 2016.