Bucket List

When I was a child I had a bucket list. I didn’t know it was one back then, not sure the term existed. I had a wish list, places I dreamed of going, things I dreamed of doing and, they were dreams too.

I was in awe the very first time I saw Disneyland on the television, probably in black & white …. that means it was like, a really old TV because that’s how old I am.

I knew I had to go see that place. I had no idea how I could or when but it was fixed hard in my heart, it had to be done. Of course, the Isle of Wight was the furthest I’d travelled which by any description would I have considered ‘abroad’ and I didn’t even know anyone I was aware of who travelled to other countries for pleasure.

As I grew older I added New York to my list of places I wanted to see. All those amazing tall buildings, the yellow cabs, the park, wow. At 18 I got the opportunity to apply for a job there but was pipped to the post by a work colleague. By now I had at least been to France for the day! That’s me though, give me a mile and I’ll take a thousand!

All around this time I’d added Spain and Italy to my list of places I wanted to see. Germany had been on the list for a while but that was more to do with the lack of speed limits there … for some reason. Italy had to be, in this order, Pompeii, Venice and Rome. With Spain it was anywhere with a beach and a bar as long as it was hot.

I was 18 before I actually travelled genuinely abroad on holiday having my 19th birthday in Ibiza with mum, dad, aunt and uncle. As it was my first experience of another country I instantly fell in love with Ibiza and decided I wanted to live there which was an idea which changed the more I realised it was a whole huge world out there!

By the end of the 1980’s I’d done Majorca as well with my first boyfriend and also trips to Ibiza and Majorca with my young family. In 1985 I had a holiday in Gran Canaria with a friend who is also gay yet, somehow, neither of us realised just how gay friendly the place was.

It would be the 1990’s when my travelling took off although that is a poor choice of terminology seeing as I didn’t fly but drove. Did a whole host of countries around Europe. This would also be the trips where several bucket list locations got completed! Sods law dictated that my car lost it’s turbo charger just before doing Germany so I experienced the Autobahn at a maximum speed of 50mph. Added to the list of completed locations would be Venice, Pompeii and Rome. The order was slightly wrong but, who’s complaining? Venice was more than I expected and and remains one of my all time favourites. Pompeii was far more emotional for me than I could have ever imagined as child and Rome? Well, I was expecting it to live up to my own hype as the centre of the civilised world, the city which made my own country what it is and which held the balance of power on the planet for centuries. I had clearly raised it beyond reality and found it to be a huge disappointment to me. Many of the iconic buildings were clearly not looked after. The Italians had allowed it to disintegrate considerably. A subsequent visit, with more realistic expectations had me see the place in a much better light. The Vatican, however, cemented my feeling that organised religion was too concerned with power and wealth to be of use to anyone. I couldn’t believe it when they refused entry because I was wearing shorts and plain shirt when it was 45°C. Their reasoning was that it would offend God because, clearly, they would know this despite it never once being mentioned in the Bible as something God would be shocked by.

The 1990’s was also the year when I probably did the most theme parks, yes, as a family we might be a little theme park obsessed. Europa Park in Germany, De Efteling in Netherlands, Port Aventura in Spain and, the first of the Disney parks for me, what was then ‘EuroDisney’ not forgetting our own Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures.

The 00’s had me do a very first family visit to Florida and, of course, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. This was not the Disney I had seen on TV, that was the California one but wow, Florida lived up to everything I had hoped a holiday in the US would be … OK, not the first time. I imagined it was always hot hence packing only summer clothes. Somewhat shocked to discover 6°C temperatures in the evening because this is, the brochure forgot to tell me, normal for December! Midway through the decade I got to experience a more honest aspect to the US by visiting Georgia quickly nipping over into South Carolina.

Only in the following decade did I get to go elsewhere in the US as a destination. Even though I had done Georgia the previous decade I had a very personal reason for going there. I needed a friend and that friend needed me, the location was almost not part of the equation. No, it was this decade, the 10’s that I did New York city (and State) twice along with New Jersey and also completed yet another bucket list location, the very first one with the eventual visit to the original Disneyland Park in Los Angeles. Being me, even LA and California wasn’t enough as I took the opportunity to do Las Vegas (Nevada) as well on the same trip which also included a journey to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. Ironically, I have probably done more US States than many Americans! That said, I’ve not done Scotland and Ireland yet whereas many Americans have!

It was Disney parks which also added locations to my bucket list, these being Japan for Tokyo Disney, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China. Asia was a continent I’d been interested in but never so much as to want to travel there until Disney opened theme parks and then, of course, on the bucket list they went.

In early 2012 I started chatting to a guy in the Philippines. It never amounted to anything but it was the first time I’d ever considered the country as a destination. Before that I knew it existed and nothing else about it. It would be 2014 before I finally travelled there for the first time and spent 4 weeks there. I’d go there again in 2015 & 2016 to meet the man who shall become my husband. It really is amazing what you pick up on your travels.

This is me, up to date and, I have to be honest and say I consider myself very privileged to have done all this. Some might see it as fair compensation for the life I have lived, the heartache I have had along the way and, there is an argument there. For me, sure, it’s been saving, good budgeting and, in some cases, just good fortune that has got me around. Research probably made it all possible, always finding a way to do it on a shoestring. Much might sound exotic and expensive but for many of the journeys this was not the case at all. When I have discussed the costs with people they have been amazed how cheaply some places can be done.

Of course, I have to mention ‘that sort of person’, the type who believe that anyone on benefits should have a terribly life of poverty and deprivation, who doesn’t think that they deserve nice experiences. These people have made my life quite unpleasant at times. I’ve never broken any benefit rules, never claimed anything which wasn’t an entitlement and given far back than I ever took. Unpaid Caring is horrible as a career choice. The hours totally suck, the responsibility is huge, the disrespect as a human being appalling. If anyone asked me whether they should do it or not I’d say, find another option if there is one. For me there wasn’t really one, it was the hand dealt to me and the one which continues to be dealt to me. Next year, that’s 2017 for the record, I am hoping to once again join the ranks of the acceptable and get a paid job. I don’t mind which paid job but I do need to be able to live a more sedate, regulated life before I retire …. and travel more too of course!

Tokyo & Shanghai Disney are still on my list. More of the USA and now Australia too. I think I would also enjoy more of Asia, perhaps Thailand. For return trip then, all the Disney Parks of course plus I’d like to stay longer in Austria, most certainly do Venice and Rome. Do a relaxed trip to Paris rather than just a day trip. The Philippines not so much a holiday, more ‘going home’ so that will be in there but, somehow not stopping going to other places so we do have to find cheap ways to visit!

Were it not for being in a scary amount of debt, my entire future looks brilliant, I’d be full of excitement. As it is, I am a little scared as so much of it isn’t within my ability to control or that of Dennis of course, we’ve a whole host of procedures yet to go through, expensive ones at that so, an even greater debt and, let’s be perfectly realistic here, no one is going to come to our rescue so we need to keep working away and buy lottery tickets!

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