I'm not sure how the bucket list became a commonplace point of reference for travel and other things, but it has. We're in a cultural moment in which people are thinking about the things they absolutely want to do before they die.
But what about the travel we feel we have to embark on before we die, the places we travel to unwillingly and unenthusiastically?
I've started to place the more unappealing of these mandatory items on a new list, an Obligation List. While a bucket list includes things that one absolutely wants to do before dying, an Obligation List includes things that one feels he or she can't not do. I think about these destinations and activities below as a travel writer, mostly—these are places I need to go and things I need to do to gain a well-rounded sense of how the industry works and/or how certain markets experience travel.
Welcome to my Obligation List, my Bottom Five.
1. Go on a cruise. In the abstract, no problem. I mean, not exactly—I've got sewage concerns, naturally. But these aside, whenever I look at an actual cruise itinerary I get bored out of my skull. I don't want to queue for meals and I don't want to feel trapped. There are themed cruises that strike me as interesting for a minute but then I realize that the theme at hand is better suited to land. The only cruises that seem personally interesting are those fascinating round-the-world itineraries with stops in crazy ports, but who has 120 days to spare? Basically, every travel writer needs to go on a cruise once if only to test his or her disdain. Ugh.
2. Orlando. Um. no. I love amusement parks but I find Disney culture to be monumentally unappealing. A place that swallows up as much as a quarter of US domestic vacations, however, is simply part of the culture. Have to do it.
3. Learn how to dive. Being limited to snorkeling is lame. But the claustrophobia! The bends! Help!
4. Dubai. It remains a struggle to summon up much interest. I'm budging on this one, however; recently I've heard some things about Dubai that make me think that there are far more interesting dimensions to the place than I'd previously thought. And Abu Dhabi isn't far away either.
5. Return to Las Vegas. I have visited Las Vegas twice. In 1995, overnighting on a road trip, I became possessed by a slot machine. I lost $40 in about five minutes, breaking the skin on my knuckles against the slot machine lever. I felt no pain. When I looked down and saw blood smeared across the back of my hand it seemed as if a personal line had been crossed. Gambling is not my thing. And then in 1998 I flew to Las Vegas to spend a long weekend with my grandmother. We stayed in a motel, ate at cheap hotel buffets, and drove out to Red Rock Canyon. It was a really nice weekend, though this had little to do with the fact that we were in Vegas. Here it is. I don't like to play cards. I don't find Las Vegas beautiful. The idea of attending a pool party like one of those depicted on the reality show American Casino at Green Valley Ranch strikes me as the purest form of hell. I hate the idea of celebrity chefs setting up restaurants in the middle of the desert and flying their delicacies in from distant agricultural zones.
Screw it. Thanks to the therapy of writing, I'm striking Las Vegas off the Obligation List. I'm never going back.