What makes something a ‘bucket list’ adventure? 

In Summer

Photo courtesy of Robin Esrock

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– March 6, 2023 | Words by Robin Esrock –

Editor’s note: Adventurer, travel writer, bucket list connoisseur and Canadian Geographic Ambassador Robin Esrock will be hosting two heli-hiking trips August 2023 at CMH Cariboos as part of a special adventure series with CMH and Canadian Geographic. Below is more about Robin and some thought-provoking advice about building your own bucket list (and travel in general).

What I look for in a ‘bucket list’ experience 

To me, a bucket list experience has to be completely unique, entirely memorable, practically attainable, and make a great story you’d want to share for the rest of your life.

If you tick off these four very subjective boxes, you’ve got yourself a very special destination or activity. Here are a few thoughts about travel and what having a bucket list has meant to my life…

Camping on the ice under the midnight sun in Antarctica.

Adventure Q&A with Robin

Q: Why create a bucket list in the first place?

The catchphrase hasn’t been around very long, but the idea of achieving something special in the short time we have spans generations, interests and cultures. It’s a positive exercise in goal-setting. Not being able to identify what it is we want to achieve (or where we want to go) makes it exponentially harder to actually get there. If you create a list and ground it in reality (no flying to the moon here folks!), do the research and save the money, it definitely helps big dreams become reality. 

Q: How has having a bucket list changed your life?

My pursuit of bucket list experiences has led to a wholly unexpected and incredibly rewarding career as a travel writer, speaker and TV host. Nearly two decades ago, I had a serious bike accident that made me reassess everything I wanted to achieve in life. It also reminded me how quickly everything can change, and that we don’t have nearly as much time as we think we do. 

When I set out on my first global journey, bucket lists weren’t in popular culture yet. But I knew I wanted to hike the Inca Trail, visit the Taj Mahal, see Prague and Sydney and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Having achieved all this, the list just got longer and longer, especially when a TV show opened the door to three more years of jetset international travel. When I took on the Canadian Bucket List, my list was quite modest. Working on a third edition, I now know that list can never end. 

Q: What do you consider when choosing your next adventure?

I want each experience to match my four subjective criteria — unique, memorable, attainable, and a great story.  I’m chasing those goosebumps moments you never forget, and after looking for such experiences in over 100 countries, I’ve become very good at spotting and relishing the opportunity.  Often it’s not at all what I expected, or something adjacent to the main attraction that drew me to the destination in the first place. You know it when you feel it, and I’ve become something of a connoisseur of fine experiences. 

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to find lesser-explored places?

To get off the beaten track, your best bet is to speak to locals. They know better than any guidebook or blog, and often direct you to a hike, restaurant, attraction, or viewpoint few visitors know about. You typically have to go the extra mile, literally, to break out of the tourist bubble, especially in very popular destinations. 

Q: What’s the best travel advice you follow?

I have a toolbox of advice that I share, and constantly need to remind myself to open it, too. 

For starters, it’s all about the people you meet. Those around us have a tremendous impact on how we experience the world. Surround yourself with good people, and you’ll have a good time.

Next, smile, and breathe! Even when things go off the rails, maintaining a positive attitude has a tremendous impact on your travels, and on those around you. 

Listen to your instinct; it’s trying to tell us something all the time, but we often choose to ignore it and blame ourselves for mishaps later. 

The world is not a scary place, and people will rather help you than hurt you.

Lower your expectations and you’ll often be pleasantly surprised. 

Travel anywhere with an open heart and open mind, and you’ll have an inspirational, memorable and transformative experience.  

Learn to travel — travel to learn: Robin Esrock at TEDxVancouver. +1 million views

Meet Robin

A bestselling author, journalist, TV host and public speaker, Robin Esrock has travelled to over 110 countries on 7 continents. His stories and photography have appeared in major publications, including National Geographic Traveler, The Guardian, and Sydney Morning Herald. A former travel columnist, Robin has been profiled as a travel expert by 60 Minutes, The Wall Street Journal, and ABC.

Robin is the author of several hit books, including the smash bestseller The Great Canadian Bucket List, for which Robin spent years scouring every province and territory for Canada’s most unique experiences. His international bestseller The Great Global Bucket List inspired other versions such as The Great Australian Bucket List, and more.

A Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Robin currently writes the national column ‘Bucket Listed’ for Can Geo Travel. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, he lives in Vancouver with his wife and two children.  

Want to travel with Robin this summer?