real life

The reverse bucket list





Many people have a bucket list of things they’d like to see and do before they die. But I just can’t get enthused about the concept, especially now when I’m still grieving for my dad.

Dad was an energetic, noisy, vibrant, “young” 64-year-old who expected to live for at least another 30 years. He played tennis every week, led cycle tours around the Sunshine Coast, was active in his local Rotary club, ran his own business and was on the board of the local taxi co-op.

In September he completed an 800-kilometre charity bicycle ride from Goondiwindi to Brisbane. In October, he jumped on a plane to the Solomon Islands as part of a Rotary International mission to install water tanks at remote schools. After his first day at work while waiting for his Rotary buddies to gather for dinner, Dad’s heart stopped.

My Mum, my sisters and I had to organise the return of his body and his luggage to Australia. We had to organise an autopsy and embalming. We had to select a coffin, clothes for him to be cremated in, flowers… We had to decide whether we wanted to see his body. We didn’t.

When his suitcase finally arrived we hid it in the laundry. I sat at his desk to write his eulogy, trying hard to ignore the scraps of paper covered in Dad’s spiky writing. Mum and my sisters and I had our own lists which we just put on top of all his papers – bills, invoices, tennis tournament schedules, rosters, deposit books and brochures. It was a few weeks before Mum could bring herself to start clearing his papers away.


Finding a half-finished bucket list, when the pain of loss is so raw, would have been another punch in the heart.  I decided then and there No, I don’t want to make a bucket list for anyone to find when I die.

I want to make sure that I celebrate my life while I can. Not everything has gone according to plan. Not everything has been planned and not everything has been positive. But, overall, it has been a wonderful life. I have been lucky in many areas – family, love, career and travel.

So I’ve decided to turn the idea of a bucket list idea upside down and create a “reverse bucket list” of all the amazing things I’ve already done. It has involved many wistful smiles and bouts of laughter.  Focusing on the good times really is a great way to lift the spirits.

My reverse bucket list includes:

– the time I found myself at a Czech bar in Melbourne, listening to bluegrass and drinking cherry liqueur and absinthe and realising I’d found some amazing new friends.

– the time I found myself at another Czech bar, this time in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, eating saukraut with chopsticks and being the only one at the table who thought this was strange.


– the rather messy occasion of having a baby,

– seeing my daughter jump for the first time … in a temple in Malaysia. Possibly not the most appropriate place, but definitely a suitably memorable place.

– the amazing baby cuddles I get,

– the first time my daughter said “I love you”.

– sleeping under the stars when I was a kid,

– bathing in the Ganges,

– finishing the Pier to Pub ocean swimming race in Lorne

– cycling across Vietnam with my dad.

I feel uplifted every time I read my list. And from time to time I add things to it, things that might not be special to anyone else, only to me.

If I ever do see the pyramids, they will probably make it onto my list. Unless I have a totally crappy day there, then the pyramids just won’t make the cut. Because only wonderful experiences make my list.

In 2007, Barbara decided to swap the rat race for a life of adventure. She lives in northern Thailand with her little Vietnamese-Australian family. You can follow her blog here

What is on your reverse bucket list? What are the things that you are most proud of having achieved?