No, this isn’t a religious post concerning those unholy things that have been left unblessed by a lack of Hail Mary’s and crossings-of-thyself. Imma instead be talking about checklists, of the travel sort. And as this is my 200th post, I thought I’d do a longer and more philosoraptor-y piece as I did for my 100th.
I started writing this a long time ago – back when I came back from Australia and was ruminating on all those things I’d had as a list of to-do’s. My checklist for Oz followed as thus:
– Get hair dyed
– Eat bread
– Eat cheese
– Eat chicken pot pie
– Go to North Gong beach
– Get a picture with cockatoos in Sydney
– Try surfing
– Have steak (MMM BEEF)
– Hang out in Sydney
– Go on dolphin kayak trip
– Trampoline park
– Nan Tien Temple
I also had a list of four people that I wanted to see, apart from C who I’d be staying with.
But, no matter what the trip, it’s impossible to get everything done that you wanted to. Your checklist – physical, mental, or vaguely lodged in the back of your brain – will always have a few things left uncrossed.
I used to feel thwarted by life if I didn’t get to accomplish everything in one go. This could be attributed to a Virgo-esque need for organization, but was mostly likely a dash of good old OCD and the highest of expectations caused by my fanciful daydreaming nature.
When I was really young, as in eight-and-under, an outing checklist could be something like spotting all the different animals in the Montreal Biodome, which we visited a lot.
Inevitably either the otters weren’t sliding down their waterfalls, the beavers were hiding, or the sloth was lost in the canopy of the rainforest room. As such, I never managed to have, what was in my mind, the “perfect” Biodome visit.
When I was older and went to New York, my goal was seeing all the touristy stuff – Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, and every single art museum from top to bottom.
I’ve been to New York five times and never been to the Empire State Building or the Guggenheim (the last one still breaks my heart though).
I started to realize the flaw of the completed checklist a few years ago while at the Brome County Fair. For all those who haven’t been, it’s literally what it sounds like: a county fair in Brome, Quebec.
I’ve been going since I was a tiny tot wearing overalls, flannel, and rocking wheat coloured curls. And what happens when you go to something every year since wobbling on your first pair of light-up sneakers?
In my case, it was having all my favourite foods – of which, there are a lot there.
But what happens when you try to eat three people’s daily food intake in a few hours and enjoy the rides and not show the rest of the fairgoers the contents of your stomach?
Well one of those things has got to give, and I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
What I finally started to understand was that you can’t have your cake and eat it too – almost quite literally in this case. You can no more pack in every single checklist item into a trip – no matter the length of its duration – than I could eat all the food at the Brome County Fair in an afternoon. Sometimes just being in a place is enough and you really can’t have it all go your way.
Result? Cherry-picking what you really want most out of the experience.
Though this certainly isn’t what the kid in all of us wants, it’s what the grown-up we become has to learn to compromise with.
Just one of the many aggravating things about growing up.
That said, it certainly makes those things you do choose to do a lot more special.
When Andrea and I started planning our Montreal exodus, there were heaps of things we wanted to do to say goodbye to our country: go camping, see Niagara Falls, perhaps drop by the Maritimes, take a spontaneous drive down to the states…but we didn’t accomplish any of that. Instead, we unconsciously agreed (on the frequency level of our psychic brain-twinnery connection) that what we really wanted to do was two simple things:
1) Spend time with family and friends incessantly until our presence disgusted them.
2) Eat as much Montreal-specific food as could possibly be consumed.
We left Canada none-the-wiser as to how majestic Niagara appears, but with great memories of friends to last us until our next visit home. (Also we looked marginally like bloated belugas from all the poutine, steamés (steamy hot dogs), maple bacon, and bagels we’d stuffed ourselves with for #2, but that’s besides the point).
So while checklists are great for keeping focused, making sure time doesn’t get squandered if it’s in short supply, they usually work better as a general guideline.
In attempting to follow this line of thought, I try and keep one or two main important things in mind for a trip – the things that, should I not accomplish them, I’d be truly disappointed in myself for failing at life so thoroughly.
For my first trip to Australia, it was to dive the Great Barrier Reef.
For this trip, that happened to be visiting the list of people I wanted to see, all but C of whom I hadn’t seen in almost three years.
This was accomplished with flying colours (a feat all the more impressive for the fact that I had no phone or internet connection for like 98% of the time to coordinate meetups).
As for the other checklist items, I threw in stuff like “try surfing” (on my list since last visit as well) knowing almost full-well I wouldn’t do it. But it was there as incentive, should opportunity arise.
Getting my hair done was a semi-important one that was accomplished, since Caucasian hair bewilders the majority of Asian hairdressers, but most of the other stuff was very simple to knock off, such as my many food goals. (Laugh all you want at those, but damn does having no real bread or cheese take its toll a few months in).
And steak! Red, juicy, rare-as steak!
I compromised by cutting the dolphin kayak trip, trampoline park, and a return to the Nan Tien Temple, partly because I was terribly sun sick but mostly because time just ran out.
So, though I did not accomplish everything I set out to do this trip, I wouldn’t say it was a failure, nor would I say I was thwarted by cruel, cruel life’s attempt to cheat me out of a good vacation. Because when I set out, I wanted it to be just that: a vacation. Therefore relaxing and taking a break from Korea was my main intention, and in this way I couldn’t have succeeded better.
Anyway, the good thing about never having a completed list is always having something to look forward to, to always have a reason to go back.
So here’s to all the future plans to keep us going.
And, dear readers, I ask you: what are some of the uncrossed checklist items that are burning a hole on your bucketlist?
P.S. I’ve also been crafting up a new page for your entertainment (and my own sense of life organization!) which will map out my bucket list which is expanding at roughly the same rate as the universe. I’m hoping that this blog will be around long enough (if I can get my act together and start posting consistently again!) to see me cross a bunch of those off over the years.