According to research reported in Forbes, 95 percent of people claim to have a bucket list. Travel is on 77 percent of them. Australia, Italy and Ireland are the three countries most fantasized about. Skydiving, an African safari, and seeing the northern lights are three of the top 10 most desirable activities.
There are so many fantastic trips in our Trip Guide, you’ll have trouble deciding which ones to bookmark. But choose something. According to the same researchers, the average adventure traveler takes a self-described “big trip” only once every five years. No matter your definition of big—a three-week Grand Canyon float or basecamping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area—it still means the average adventure traveler takes only a dozen or so big trips over a lifetime.
Quantifying the number of life list trips reminds me of a favorite blog post from 2014. Yes, I remember a blog post from seven years ago. Here’s why.
Wait But Why uses poorly drawn stick figures to dispense musings on everything from choosing a life partner to being insufferable on Facebook. Its creator, Tim Urban, popularized a calendar he calls, Your Life In Weeks.
Your Life in Weeks is a simple concept. Imagine 90 rows of 52 small boxes lined up. That’s 4,680 boxes, each box representing a week in a 90-year human lifespan. Even a person lucky enough to live nine decades will have no problem fitting every week of her life on one sheet of paper—or a smartphone screen. You can even purchase Urban’s calendar for the refrigerator door if a side of existential angst with breakfast is your sort of thing.
“It feels like our lives are made up of a countless number of weeks. But there they are—fully countable—staring you in the face,” Urban writes. “There are trillions upon trillions of weeks in eternity, and these are your tiny handful.” The only word for them is precious.
Urban wants his readers to reflect on how we spend our finite number of weeks. For example, we know the average American and Canadian will spend 2,000 of those weeks between the ages of 25 and 65 working, with 120 weeks of vacation spread thinly throughout. Hopefully, you like your job.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), we also know the average American canoeist—there are 9.1 million of you—will paddle just six days a year, or 240 days during the same 40-year period, which doesn’t seem like very much.
OIA research also reports the average American camper goes on three camping trips a year for an average of 2.7 nights each. With this in mind, an average 35-year-old camper would be looking forward to another 165 camping trips and another 445 nights under the stars if she kept camping at the same rate until the age of 90. If you’re already 55 and only camp until you’re 70… I’ll let you do the math.
Of course, more important than all the things we do are the people we do them with.
As a kid, I went camping with my parents a few times each summer. Now, thanks to busy schedules, family camping trips happen every other year, maybe. At this rate, with my folks in their 60s, we’ll be fortunate to have a dozen more camping trips together.
Recognizing our limited remaining time together makes going on these trips feel more important and urgent—especially following a year where we spent so much time apart.
I think we should make a point of going every year.
Which is, of course, the point of Urban’s silly stick figure charts. How do we make the best use of what remains of our 4,680 weeks? Urban’s takeaway: How you spend your time and who you spend it with should be set by your priorities—not unconscious inertia and routine, he says.
After 16 months of stay-close-to-home orders, many of us are dreaming of farther-away, if not far-away, destinations. And spending more time with the people we love. So, here’s my takeaway: Whatever bucket list adventure you’ve been idly fantasizing about, plan it. Invite your important people. Repeat as often as possible, while there is still time.
This article was first published in Paddling Magazine Issue 64. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or download the Paddling Magazine app and browse the digital archives here.
Not your typical safari. Caribou along the Lestage River in northern Quebec. | Photo: Francois Leger-Savard