Kicking the Bucket List

Ever since the film “The Bucket List” came out in 2007, the phrase has become a part of the American vernacular. Whether or not the term pre-dates the movie, I have no idea, but it seems that now just about everyone has made some type of bucket list. It might be a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket” or it could be a list of places to visit or goals to achieve before a specific end time (going off to college or getting married, for instance).


When I first heard the term I thought it was a clever, light-hearted way to describe a list of experiences to be had and dreams to fulfill. I’ve used the phrase many times myself but, lately, what used to sound clever now strikes me as trite. In many cases, “Bucket List” trivializes the passion, desire, and curiosity that helped to create the collection of destinations and dreams I would like to pursue while I am still able to do so. These are not merely items on a to-do list to be checked off as I flit from one to the next, but real experiences to be lived and savored.

Recently, I was able to fulfill a dream I have had for as long as I can remember: travel to Cuba. I’m not sure what planted the seed of desire in me, but I have fed and nurtured it for many years. I’ve collected articles, accumulated books, and closely charted the political winds as they have raged, then calmed, then raged again, carrying my hopes with them. As close as Cuba is – just 90 miles from the tip of Florida – it might as well have been on another planet because of the travel restrictions placed on U.S. citizens.

Then, last fall, the right opportunity presented itself and we immediately said “yes”! The person putting the trip together had experience, passion, and a great sense of fun and adventure. We’ve never been interested in traveling with tour group before, but this one promised just the right combination of group time and free time. It would give us the opportunity to see parts of the country, learn about its culture and history, and have experiences that we would find very difficult to realize on our own.

All of the arrangements were made before President Obama’s December 17 announcement of the beginning of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States. When we heard of the impending thaw, we were so grateful that we would see Cuba before the travel restrictions were lifted. We wanted to see Cuba before it is irreversibly altered by the deluge of American tourists that are sure to come once diplomatic relations are reestablished.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I flew to Miami to begin what would feel like a journey on a time machine, back to the late 1950s, before the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on this tiny island nation.


Key West: Separated from Cuba by 90 miles and 50 years

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

16 thoughts on “Kicking the Bucket List”

    1. Cuba is a photographer’s paradise! In fact, I met a group of photographers from the U.S. who were on a tour dedicated to just that! I took well over 1,000 pictures (thank goodness for digital cameras) and could have taken many, many more had I more time.

  1. Global Volunteers has been going to Cuba for several years. I haven’t gone, but know several people who have.
    I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip.

    1. There is a lot to do there and I’m sure Global Volunteers is doing great work. On the other hand, citizens of Cuba receive free healthcare and education through college (their literacy rate is higher than ours) so we could learn a thing or two from them also. I don’t see too many downsides from opening up relations.

      1. I agree. I have found that we can learn a lot from just about every place I have been. I’m in Mexico now and am loving interacting with the students here.

  2. I’m looking reading and seeing through your eyes! I know little of Cuba but what I know of the country and people is very favorable (not so much the gov’t!).

    I agree a Bucket List carries more importance and meaning, and I reserve my list for once-in-a-lifetime dreams. Some I didn’t know should be on there until I’d experienced them so I see my Bucket List as a time travel back as well as forward. It encompasses the highlights lived and yet to be.

  3. I am looking forward to hearing about your trip – it must have been fascinating! I hope you share suggestions for groups to travel with as I only am familiar with the Road Scholar programs.

    1. Although traveling to Cuba with the Road Scholars or National Geographic’s travel group would be wonderful, I’m sure, I was looking for an opportunity that would give me more flexibility. I learned of a photography tour while I was there and I would imagine there are others.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with your dislike of bucket-list mentality. It does indeed feel like one more thing to do; something to endure to earn a line through an item. Ditch the list and enjoy your trip!

  5. Looking forward to hearing all the stories. All of your planning, research and preparation no doubt made your trip just that much more rich and memorable!

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