The Reverse Bucket List (A Grateful Backward Glance)

by gigigriffis

A few posts ago, I shared my current bucket list—the always-shifting list of things I want to see and do. Like learning to tango in Argentina and riding the Glacier Express through the Swiss Alps.

But while it’s really exhilarating to look forward, I think it’s also really important to look back. To celebrate our lives, our successes, the breathtaking moments we’ve already lived. To pause and be grateful.

So today I’m going to share a reverse bucket list. A collection of wild, wonderful memories gone by. Things I’ve already done. Things I’m grateful for.

The list got a little long, so I’ll be sharing it in two installments.

But enough introduction. Onto the main event.

The reverse bucket list (things I’ve accomplished):

Visit every continent except Antarctica

Walking in Morocco

The skinny: I hit my last continent (Europe) for the first time right before I moved to Denver in 2007. It was a long-time goal of mine to visit each truly habitable continent and it was exhilarating to book that last ticket.

Hold a baby kangaroo

Baby kangarooPhoto by John.
The skinny: Australia was my first-ever international destination and I chose it primarily for its wildlife. Unexpectedly and wonderfully, when I was there I had the opportunity to hold a rescued baby kangaroo named Kara who had been found by the side of the highway, still in her mother (who had been hit by a car)’s pouch.

Chase a giraffe

GiraffePhoto by Adam Foster.
The skinny: My second-ever international trip was a volunteer trip to southern Africa. I spent two months there and it completely changed my life. And, bonus, we took a walking safari, ran after a giraffe, and spooked it into doing its slow run for us. Spectacular.

Go on safari in Africa. (Thrice.)

Safari photoSafari photo by Doug Wheller.
The skinny: In addition to my walking safari, I was also lucky enough to go out twice for a safari via jeep. My favorite moment (aside from the giraffe)? Seeing elephants walking single-file toward the water in the distance. They’ve got such beautiful silhouettes.

Visit Macchu Picchu and climb Winu Picchu

Macchu PichuPhoto by Monty Vanderbilt.
The skinny: In 2003, I spent my summer volunteering in Lima, Peru. In between our volunteer gigs, we took two short vacations to Cuzco and nearby Macchu Picchu.

See the stars with no light pollution (Africa)

starsPhoto by William Connolly.
The skinny: In the middle of the Okavongo Delta in Botswana, we found ourselves staring up at the breathtaking night sky with no electric lights for what I assume was hundreds of miles.

Visit a refugee camp

refugees
Photo by United Nations.
The skinny: Volunteering in Africa was one of the most perspective-changing experiences of my life. And visiting a refugee camp was one of the experiences that made it so.

Start a business

sticky notes
The skinny: In 2010, I started Content for Do-Gooders. Three years later, I’m so glad I did.

Publish a book

book
The skinny: 2012 was a big year for me. Not only did I give up my address and start this round-the-world adventure, but I also published my first book.

Visit Victoria Falls and eat kudu, crocodile, ostrich, and warthog

Victoria Falls

The skinny: Once a month during my stay in Africa, we splurged on a fancy hotel in Victoria Falls, where we ate at a stunning and unique buffet and took walks around the falls themselves.

Climb to a remote village in the Thai mountains

Thai village

The skinny: In 2001, I spent my summer volunteering in northern Thailand. We mostly stayed in Chiang Mai, teaching English to university students, but we did get to take one short trip into the mountains, where we slept on the floor of an old wooden church and dodged jumping spiders.

Windsurf

WindsurfingPhoto by Jesper Hauge.
The skinny: In Thailand, between English classes, we took a short vacation to the beach where I learned to (sort of) windsurf.

Go spelunking

CavingPhoto by Paul Bica.
The skinny: In college in Pennsylvania, several of my more outdoorsy friends took me spelunking and rock climbing.

Go rock climbing

rock climbingPhoto by South African Tourism.

Go white water rafting

white water raftingPhoto by Abir Anwar.
The skinny: The first time I ever made a bucket list, this was on it. So when the opportunity came up a week later, I headed out to West Virginia with a group of high schoolers, strapped on my lifevest, and enjoyed the ride.

Live and write in Paris

Writing in Paris

The skinny: Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to rent a small studio in charming Montmartre, Paris, where I spent about five weeks writing, exploring the city, and visiting with my lovely expat friends.

Stay tuned next week for the second half of this list and a few thoughts on gratitude.

What’s on your reverse bucket list?

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15 comments

Montecristo Travels (Sonja) August 8, 2013 - 8:10 am

What a wonderful idea!!! Have neither a bucket list nor a reverse one … In fact I like this better than a bucket list. May have to do one soon!! I assume Luna was not in the picture for Africa, Thailand and more… ?

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Gigi August 8, 2013 - 8:16 am

I know – isn’t it a great idea?

And yes, Luna wasn’t born until long after those trips.

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Ali August 8, 2013 - 8:36 am

Love it! I think I like this better than a traditional bucket list. I pretty much refuse to make one because I think I’d have way too much on the list, or at least way too many countries to visit. You’re right, it’s great to look back and remind yourself of all the awesome things you’ve done.

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gigigriffis August 8, 2013 - 11:27 am

Yeah. I had that same problem (too many places), so I limited my bucket list to experiences for the most part.

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Roommate #1 August 8, 2013 - 9:47 am

Thank you for this post!
This is great reminder for people (like me!) who are always planning the next step, the next task, and the next adventure. My “reverse bucket list” just from the last three years gives me SO much to be grateful for! I think I agree with Ali – I like it better than the tradition bucket list too. :)

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gigigriffis August 8, 2013 - 11:20 am

Hear, hear!

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Rhonda August 8, 2013 - 11:09 am

Excellent entries! I, too, have been to Africa three times, although never volunteering. It is, indeed, a life changing experience and can only be matched with India for making me feel truly alive.

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gigigriffis August 8, 2013 - 11:21 am

Absolutely! I love Africa.

I’ve actually only been to Africa twice (though I’ve taken three safaris). Once volunteering and once visiting a friend in the Peace Corps.

Which African countries did you visit?

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Trevor August 9, 2013 - 10:24 am

Great idea. I’ve thought about doing this a number of times but kept coming back to the idea that it would seem boastful. I guess it’s all in how you frame it because yours just makes me want to go do more (and reminds me of my own travel highlights)!

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gigigriffis August 9, 2013 - 10:53 am

I had the same dilemma. But then I thought that perhaps it would give people ideas…and it was a fun exercise to do for myself, so why not publish it. You never know what people will love hearing about. If you end up posting one, send me a link. Perhaps I’ll steal some ideas from your list too.

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A Grateful Backward Glance, Part II | the ramble August 12, 2013 - 2:59 am

[…] week, I spent some time listing out the things I’ve done in my life. The things that take my breath away. The things I’m so grateful […]

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Greg & Molly August 16, 2013 - 7:57 am

Africa changed my life too. Sitting around a campfire in the middle of the Serengeti; listening to the lions roar just outside the circle of light; and watching the Milky Way galaxy float overhead is a powerful, life changing experience. How could it not be? After some reflection, I decided traveling the world and having more of these powerful experiences was more important that my career. So after a year of planning, I quit/retired to travel full-time. I enjoyed the Serengeti so much I also invested in a safari lodge in Tanzania. I expect to return often to that magical part of the world.

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gigigriffis August 16, 2013 - 8:24 am

That’s an amazing story. I, too, look forward to returning to that part of the world someday.

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lee August 24, 2013 - 10:56 am

great approach for any of us who feel we have started too late for our life list to be accomplished, looking at what we HAVE done is a great way to keep encouraged! i would add to my “done” list, have tried to do no harm!

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gigigriffis August 26, 2013 - 8:38 am

:)

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