It’s Time To Tackle The Bucket List

A couple of days ago I got an interesting question on Instagram, of all places. The question was:

With three planes gone missing just this year, how has your perception of flying changed?

And that’s complicated to answer, at least for me.

It’s a miracle how safe flying is, but the past week has just been heartbreaking.

Between Malaysia 17, Transasia 222, and Air Algeria 5017, you almost have to wonder what’s going on. And perhaps equally heartbreaking is the story of the 17 year old boy that loved aviation and was on a round the world flight, when he crashed just after takeoff from American Samoa. Just horrible.

But what can we really take away from this? What do these things teach us?

As far as I’m concerned, a few things:

A reminder of how incredibly safe flying is

More so than the bad things that have happened the past few days, I’m reminded of how safe flying is in general. Flying has become so safe the past decade that you’re almost safer in the air than in your living room. It really is nothing short of a miracle.

There are over 100,000 commercial flights every day carrying more than three million people all over the world. Every day.

Earlier this month, Amelia Rose Earheart became the youngest woman to fly a single-engine aircraft around the world. That’s amazing on so many levels.

The fact is that it would be irrational not to fly as a result of what has happened the past few days. It’s devastating, but it doesn’t change just how safe flying is across the board.

How horrible the world is

Pardon me for being grim, because this isn’t specific to the crashes we’ve seen the past few days, but in general. When you turn on the news you realize just what a crummy place the world is right now.

I’ve gotten to the point where I just can’t turn on the news anymore, because it just makes me want to cry and crawl into a human sized bubble and never come out.

How awesome the world is

With the horrible things we’ve seen, we’ve also seen some amazing things.

Like the Dutch showing respect when the bodies from MH17 arrived, which gave me goosebumps. I try to do most of my work from hotel club lounges since I have a tendency to fall asleep when I’m in my room, and just seeing the ceremony in passing had a hard time holding back tears.

Or the image of the Malaysia Airlines flight attendants holding hands. Human beings are incredibly resilient, and the responses to these tragedies have been amazing.

But as far as I’m concerned, the two most important lessons are:

Spend as much time with your family and friends as you can

Whether or not my Royal Jordanian flight last year actually had me in danger or not (and it probably didn’t), it did change my approach towards life.

Not just in terms of always keeping my family in the loop of where I am so they’re not worried, but also in terms of just generally appreciating family and friends. They’re more important than anything.

Get stuff off your bucket list!

As crazy as it might sound, what I’ve taken away from the past week more than anything is to get stuff off your bucket list.

There are two things that I’m convinced of in life:

  • We’re all going to die
  • For the most part, we don’t have any control over when we die

The last part is key, and I want to clarify that we should of course be smart. I’m not someone that believes “God knows when I’ll die, so I can do whatever I want and it won’t matter,” because I don’t think that’s true. I think we have the obligation to do the right things and take care of ourselves. So we can’t jump off a building and say “oh, it’s God’s will.”

But what we don’t have control over is when some horrible act happens, when something totally takes us by surprise. And that’s why I think the thing we should take away from this more than anything is to just do the stuff we’ve been wanting to do in life, and hopefully with the people we’ve been wanting to do it with.

Amankila_Bali_Resort01
My trip to Bali with my mom for her birthday last year was worth every penny.

Life is too short and unpredictable not to do what makes you happiest.

I’m beyond fortunate to be able to do what I love every day thanks to you guys, but despite that I’ve kind of been “complacent” about my travel aspirations. People always ask me “have you been to _____?” or “have you flown _____?” or “have you stayed at _____?” And I often respond, “no, but it’s at the top of my list.”

And the truth is that it is, I just haven’t been doing much to tackle that list. And that’s going to change.

For example, I really want to go to Stockholm, Iceland, and Longyearbyen, and I’ve been finding excuses for why not to go there. There’s never much in the way of “interesting” award options to where I can justify flying there for the sake of a review, they’re tough to get to, etc. I’ve had thousands of excuses.

Conversely, this week I flew (last-minute) all the way to Brussels just for the 45 minute Brussels Airlines Tomorrowland flight from Frankfurt to Brussels.

It was completely inconvenient and it was totally worth it.

It was one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed in my life. Of course I’ll have a full trip report, but in the meantime here’s a video I took:

More so than how cool the flight itself was, it was equally fun to watch just how happy people on the flight were (even if the concept of a music festival is somewhat lost on me).

Bottom line

I’m not trying to be preachy, and certainly don’t have all the answers to life, but I feel very strongly that life is too short not to live it to the fullest.

To a large extent the bad things that could happen to us are out of our control, but the good and fun things we can do with life aren’t.

I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to have such flexibility, but even if you only have two weeks a year of vacation, make that next trip one that checks a few things off your bucket list, in my opinion.

Comments

  1. Well said. One has to live in the moment and seize every opportunity! One of my bucket list items was to watch the sunset at Angkor Wat, and I booked a ticket to Cambodia leaving this weekend just this morning. Money and miles are no good just growing in numbers on a screen.

  2. Beautifully written, Ben. So are you going to publish you bucket list or just keep us updated each time you check another city/flight/airline/hotel off your list?

  3. So following that line of thinking, I think your readers would be interested in hearing what you would say deserves consideration for everyone’s top ten bucket list…….specific flights, hotels, etc……….as you are constantly on the move your opinion on these items matter and while we may get them in a scattered way throughout the year, it would be a treat to see them organized over a couple of blog posts…….

  4. Stellar post as always Ben! That flight looks amazing by the way.

    One of my best friends in the world died in a tragic accident this past Spring at the young age of 31. He lived his life on the edge and died what he loved doing best. One of his favorite quotes was by Mae West,

    “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

    It chokes me up just thinking about this right now, but there is no better way to live your life! Chase your dreams, spend time with the ones who you love the most, have no regrets and don’t let anyone stand in your way!

    Again, stellar post!

  5. oh good Ben! you are finally going to consider my request for you to try Ariana Afghan Airlines and that ‘once in a lifetime’ trip to Kabul 🙂

  6. Is Fifty Shades of Grey–the movie, on the list? 😉

    But in all seriousness, it is an appropriate week to remind us of this message. Thanks!

  7. Totally agree & thats why my extended family will be in Alaska a month from now. Can’t wait.

  8. Well said and totally agree. What’s on my bucket list?…I want to do a RTW flying as many A380’s first class. Need tons of miles for this one, but in the meantime, I’ll just keep traveling to as many places as I can.

  9. Great post. The question of “Is it safe to fly?” has certainly been asked often of late. Yet one never hears the questions “Is it safe to ride in an automobile?” or “Is it safe to be a pedestrian?” I certainly fear for my life far more when I’m in a cab on the streets of Washington or walking down a sidewalk in Little Rock. But the important point is that I can die at anytime from any of very many causes. Ben’s post struck home for me as it made me ponder the fact that I still haven’t been to Paris. Or Rome. Or Tel Aviv. Or Shanghai.

    I better get moving.

  10. Bingo Ben! I’ve been living this for 15 years now and I’ve been similary fortunate to both spend time with people who mean the most as well as checking off a few bucket list items here and there. The key, however, is that despite the value we place on the currency we all call ‘points’ and ‘miles’, we constantly remember that that currency is meaningless in comparison to spending time with the people who matter most in our lives. Unless, of course we’re using it to accomplish sharing that time.

  11. “fun to watch just how happy people on the flight were”

    Possible they popped a molly on the way to the rave (Tomorrowland)?

  12. Well said. My husband and I booked a trip to Ireland two days ago. We’re flying economy and staying in a Best Western, but we get to see the Cliffs of Moher and explore an amazing place that we’ve never been before. We were through waiting around to have enough money for a luxurious trip. We just wanted to GO. Life is just too short. Like you said – none of us will make it off of this ride alive. At least this trip will earn me enough miles for my one-way reward in biz to Australia!

  13. Do it! I wish I had had your opportunities (and courage) when I was your age. I’m making up for lost time now at age 62, although when I finally get to go RTW, it will be on a cruise ship!

  14. I agree. While flying in first class and staying at Park Hyatt’s can be amazing, so can flying in coach on AA and staying at a Courtyard for the weekend to see your cousin’s wedding. Being one of those constricted by work, we make a point to maximize our time away. Big trip this year to Australia and Japan. Next year, taking advantage of the SW companion pass and a bunch of long weekend trips around the US. Gotta live your life while you can.

  15. Fascinating! I wish my son would that thoughtful. Only it is better not to be a first article (“We’re all going to die…”) for someone I recommended this blog for “How to book award ticket” 🙂

  16. Try any domestic flight going to Sydney on the eve of Mardi Gras, leaving Sydney at 7am on the 011\2000 to PPT arriving at 7pm 31\12\1999 to do it all again! Life is a journey and how you travel sometimes the journey can be best enjoyed not in first class. Did you actually go to Tomorrowland?

  17. great post as always, Lucky! After starting this hobby in early 2013, I will admit it is easy to get hooked. It is even easy to get sidetracked and book an SFO-HND flight on JAL First when the item on the bucket list is flying first on Etihad A380. 😉 Nonetheless, I look forward reading future blog posts of yours checking off items on your bucket list!

  18. Wow, Ben, this is a wonderful article. Not only for what it has to say but for the way you reveal so much about yourself. Points blogs, for the most part, are of the “just the facts” variety, but your opening up to all of us is appreciated. Great job.

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