Why You Should Have a Local Bucket List

Whether you call it a bucket list, a life list, a to-do list, or something else entirely, we all keep track of things we want to see and do at some point in our lives—even if it’s only in our heads. Although our specific items will vary widely, it’s safe to say many of these lists include faraway destinations or activities, such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or witnessing an arribada (two of the top items on my personal to-do list!).

But not all worthwhile pursuits or dreams have to be far from home. I definitely value the lessons learned from international travel, but there is also a lot to be said for playing tourist in your own city. If you still need to be convinced, here are four reasons you should make having a local bucket list a priority.

It encourages you to stop making excuses.

Source: Portland Japanese Garden

It is much too easy to say, “Oh, I’ll do that later,” if you live near a particular attraction, but this kind of mindset also means you might never do it. I spent half my life within a two-hour drive of San Francisco before I finally “got around” to riding a cable car in 2014. Similarly, I lived in Missouri for nearly four years and never rode to the top of the Arch; now I might never get that experience unless I travel back to St. Louis and make a point to journey to the top.

On the other hand, I made a local bucket list when I moved to Santa Fe for a temporary internship, and I had a great time visiting coffee shops, hiking trails, and exploring museums before I moved again. Knowing that my time was limited encouraged me to be more adventurous. Creating a local bucket list requires you to get out on the ground in your own city, even if you’re living there indefinitely. Eventually, if you do decide to move, that list will help you savor your final weeks in your city instead of scrambling to visit all the places you put off for so long.

It keeps things fresh.

Source: Austin, Texas Foodie

As humans, we fall into the habit of frequenting a favorite restaurant or bar and neglecting other great places in the area. Sure, you might think you have found your favorite taco shop, but what if your actual favorite taco shop is on the other side of town and you just haven’t tried it yet? Same goes for bookstores, parks, bars, and other venues.

It is definitely okay to support your local favorites, but consider making it a priority to try one new place per month, or however often fits your schedule. If you have a daily latte habit, try a new coffee shop at least once per week. If you treat yourself less often, feel free to adjust accordingly.

It reminds you to be grateful.

Source: Madalyn Nguyen

This world is a big, beautiful place, and witnessing a sunset halfway around the world or enjoying a culture or climate that is nothing like your own are certainly valuable and irreplaceable experiences. However, as travelers, we often spend so much time dreaming of our next destination that we forget to appreciate the beauty around us. Creating (and completing!) a local bucket list is an easy and fun way to practice gratitude for all the great things in our lives—without having to board a plane.

It makes you a great hostess.

Source: Liz Wible

Finally, having a local bucket list gives you amazing ideas of what to do when friends and family visit you. Although it is fun to show visitors your local favorites, you can also use out-of-town visitors as an excuse to try something new. And if someone visits you often, he or she might also appreciate a little novelty now and then!

Do you enjoy exploring locally? Share your hometown and the top item on your local bucket list in the comments!

  • This is great advice. It’s strange how we somehow always think that the best places to visit have to be far away. Makes me want to travel locally this summer. Thanks!

  • This is a great reminder of beauty is in front of our eyes, local! Wonderful advice and some I look forward to using moving forward!

  • Amazing post! I didn’t realize how much there was to do in my city till I went to a local college and all the out of state students were exploring.
    I missed a lot in my teens.

  • jen7jack

    This was a great post. I just moved, so I’ve been inspired to not put off the sight-seeing.

  • Saima Huq

    I have had a few hometowns now: In Ewing, NJ — the Princeton University art museum. In DC, the Titanic memorial (in the SW quadrant). In Boston, the Harvard Bookstore. In NYC, the tram to Roosevelt Island, the Staten Island ferry, the Gandhi statue in Union Square, the Queens Zoo.

  • Martha Jordan

    I never thought of it quite this way. What a great piece. Thanks so much.

  • Mary

    I had a local bucket list but it fell to the wayside of things like “Easter Island” “Parasailing” and “Patagonia”
    I live in Maryland. My Local Bucket List is: Go to Ocean City, eat Smith Island Cake on Smith Island. Climb Blackbone Mountain (the highest peak in MD), go camping in new places, visit Edgar Allen Poe’s grave, visit the US Naval Academy, and buy a bottle of JO Spice.

    A good lesson I learned this year during a 3.5month road trip across the US is that you don’t need a bucket list, the best things to see aren’t on them. Arriving at Grand Canyon without campground reservations and having to stay 20mins away at the abandoned Flintstones Bedrock City theme park, what a hoot! Looking for a spot for the night and finding yourself in Bodega Bay where The Birds was filmed– selfies with Alfred Hitchcock and stopping the car to walk out high on the seaside cliffs. Winding your way through ghost Georgia plantation towns and walking through woods, following here-say instructions to find your abandoned family cemeteries overgrown with thorns and wildflowers. So many things you find and realize are so amazing but were never on your list. That’s the magic IMO.