Beyond Bucket Lists and Ticking Boxes

I feel compelled to write about motivations for travel and “obligatory sightseeing” after coming across several scathing TripAdvisor reviews of the statue of Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) in Copenhagen. The majority of reviews expressed disappointment, and some even anger, at their expectations not being met by such a “famous” sight.


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As you can see, opinions range from feeling cheated to mere apathy. Others were disappointed, but pleased nonetheless that they had “finally ticked that box” or “could now cross that off the list”. This really made me wonder – what drives some tourists or travellers to see certain sights? I’m baffled that people would feel compelled to visit a landmark just because it’s expected, or “a must see” listed in travel guides. How much thought does the average traveller or tourist give to their bucket list? Do they adopt the “standard” bucket list of cliched sightseeing and experiences, or do their items have meaning?

In my opinion, having a bucket list is perfectly fine, and in some cases, motivates one to take action and fulfill dreams. I can easily think of 10 items to add to my current travel bucket list:


However, the notion that travelling is like some sort of expensive and exotic scavenger hunt truly baffles me. Unless, of course, that is exactly what you want from your trip! The way I see it, you should travel your way, be it a touristy sightseeing trip, backpacking on a budget, partying and socializing, cultural exploration, or a unique and exciting combination of all of these things. Essentially, I believe that your interests, dreams, and personality should be the driving force behind your trip.

So, I have a few tips for having a fulfilling trip whilst still ticking off a few boxes:

  • Prioritize the sights you want to see. Work out how much time you have, and then rank them in terms of importance and proximity to one another. For example, you might have 5 absolute must-sees, several other points of interest, and then some general “hot spots” that have been recommended. Chances are one or two of the less important ones might be nearby your top 5, so plan ahead of time to make the most of your sightseeing days.
  • Do your research! TripAdvisor is a great resource, so use it (and other online travel review sites) to see what people are saying about certain sights. If you’re visiting a city for the first time, you can use search filters to get results suited to your particular interests – museums, restaurants, bars, landmarks, etc.
  • Follow your dreams and ideas, and you can’t go wrong. It’s easy to get sucked into a preconceived idea of what you “have to” see and do in a new place, so start with your own wish list or list of interests (e.g., adventure sports, history, cuisine, etc) and work from there. If you’re keen on exploring absolutely everything yourself, skipping major tourist sights and seeking out authentic back street cafes where you can meet locals, then do that. Travel is what you make it.

So, what’s your travel strategy? How much importance do you put on sightseeing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! 🙂










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  1. I like to do the ‘tourist’ must sees and then I set aside a few days where I put a local map in my back pocket and wander. I wander the streets and get lost! Some of my best ever travel experiences have been when I have just been cruising through the back streets, having a bit of a poke around. At the end of the day, I pull out the map and find my way home. Sometimes this proves to be quite challenging, but always fun and memorable 🙂

    1. I like to do that too 🙂 It’s nice to “get lost” every once in a while! That happened to me in Venice – everyone always recommends getting lost on purpose there, but I got lost be accident! And I found some beautiful canals free of tourists, it was magical.

  2. Love the post! I’m planning a backpacking trip around Europe for this summer and that is EXACTLY my philosophy! I have a list of personally important sites to see and then I plan to just wander and be flexible-I want to experience what the locals experience on a day to day basis-not just the contrived tourist experience. So cool you get that too! Keep up the good work!

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