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The Bucket List

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As promised, here is what I plan to do before I die. It will be kept current.

If you want to make your own list, here is the comprehensive guide to making one that you will honor.


Cities to tour

To tour a city means to spend at least a few days there exploring.



Montreal – DONE but I will be back



Vancouver – DONE 11/2014 – Lovely city. I could live there.



Hong Kong

New York – DONE2/17/2012 – I spent most of four weeks here and had the time of my life. I heart NY.





Washington, D.C.

San Francisco


Long-term trips to take

Being away for months gives you an entirely experience than being away for a week or two. You start to normalize to the new place and the “on the road” feeling. These trips could last anywhere from a month to a year.

Finally tour Eastern Canada — Visit Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland

Take a road trip through many of the western US national Parks, including Yellowstone, Death Valley, Zion, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Crater Lake and Glacier National Park

Take a Rocky Mountain snowboarding tour, spending a whole winter visiting different ski resorts in the Canadian and American West

Spend 4-12 months in a cosmopolitan city working on a writing project (NYC, Montreal, Seattle, etc)

Spend 3-6 months living in a beach town where I can surf all the time

Do a homestay in a French city, to learn French in an immersive environment (either in Quebec or France)

Countries/regions to explore

To “explore” means to spend at least a few weeks traveling overland in these areas.

Thailand – DONE – 11/20/09 – Had a blast, will be back one day.

New Zealand – DONESpent six months exploring this wonderful country from Nov ’09 to May ’10. I visited so many beautiful places and am determined to return one day.


England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales

Nepal and India


Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia

Skills and knowledge

Learn French to fluency

Learn conversational Spanish

Understand the implications of Plato’s Cave

Learn photography – DONE – 1/2012 – I am proficient with the operation of a DSLR camera, the basics of composition and exposure. I can take pictures that make people go wow. There is an endless amount to learn and I want to learn more, but I’ve achieved enough to impress myself, which is all I ever wanted.

Learn a comprehensive history of the land known today as Canada

Learn to boost a car without worrying I might zap myself DONE – 12/13/10

Learn to surf – DONE Took a four-day surf camp in May 2010. Learned to stand up and surf right away, and now I am in love with surfing. I want to surf all over the world.

Learn first aid and CPR – DONE 5/12/11 – This had been on my conscience for a long time. I am now certified in level C first aid and CPR.

Learn to dance comfortably – DONE  2012 – I do dance now — I was afraid to for years. I’m not good at it but I do have fun and that’s enough.

Learn to throw a tight spiral with a football

Learn to swim properly – after all these years I really don’t know what I’m doing

Master a workflow system, like GTD

Learn to swing a golf club properly

Develop a nice, consistent signature (I’m 34 and haven’t done this yet)


Become self-employed – DONE – 10/14/13

Become financially independent – This means I am living off the returns of my assets and do not have to work. 

Play guitar in a working band

Own a house

Speak in front of a large audience (500+)

Become debt-free – DONE

Try a vegan diet for 30 days – DONE – 3/24/11 – This became Experiment No. 10 and it changed my dietary habits forever. 

Become a millionaire

Have my own website – DONE – 3/15/09

Own a suit I feel great in

Make my living doing work I love – DONE7/31/14 – “Work I love” income in 2014 will exceed living expenses for the first time.

Get into physical shape I would describe as “outstanding”

Go 21 without complaining once (as per A Complaint Free World) – DONE – 4/3/10 – Had to restart a few times, but I made it. I learned a lot — the final report is here.

Achieve a “location independent” full-time income – PROGRESS – Essentially I’m here now, but I’m not going to check this off until I take my first major “non-vacation” trip, where I do self-employed work and earn while I’m abroad.

Get my Gmail inbox to zero – DONE – 4/16/10 – This is actually super easy, because of Gmail’s brilliant “Archive” function. I just selected them all and archived them. You should do it.

Write my will – PROGRESS 

Earn a university degree – PROGRESS – Begun classes as of 6/2015. 

Books/films to read/see

NOTE: I don’t believe in finishing books I’m not enjoying. So if I end up not liking it and quitting, it’s still “done” in my mind. Of course I hope I like them all.

Schindler’s ListDONE9/13/09

Dr. Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) – DONE – 3/19/13 – I appreciate the political significance of this film but I found it really boring after the beginning. The same joke went on for hours. I wanted to like it, and I’m not saying it wasn’t good. But I didn’t like it. Felt the same way about Catch-22 when I read it. Everyone else seemed to really like both, and they are certainly classics.

Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad – DONE – 11/16/09 – Finished it on the beach in Ko Phi Phi. Fantastic book, everyone who loves the English language should read it.

WaldenHenry David Thoreau

Vagabonding – Rolf Potts DONE7/2011

Roughing It – Mark Twain- DONE – 12/2011

Dune Frank Hebert

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig – DONE – 3/19/13 – Did not finish. I expected a novel, with background themes of zen and living in the present moment. But it came off like a diatribe. There was no subtlety at all to the philosophical lessons. Philosophy can be incredibly boring when it’s discussed in the abstract, and it doesn’t take long to discover that that’s what the author really wants to do. Was turned off very quickly, but I think it’s because my expectations were so different from what it was. 

The Hierarchy of Heaven and EarthDouglas Harding

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Count of Monte CristoAlexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Les Misérables – Victor Hugo DONE – 5/2015 – Loved it. 

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

Experiences to have

Plant and harvest a vegetable garden

Walk the Milford TrackDONE – 2/1/10 – Unforgettable hike. Some of the most dramatic landscapes I’ve ever seen. Had perfect weather. Pictures here.

Hike the Tongariro CrossingDONE – 12/8/09 – Incredible experience. 

Have an article published in The New Yorker

Go to an NFL game – DONE – Saw the Vikings and Packers in Minnesota on October 27/2013

Visit the Sagrada Familia

See the Statue of Liberty – DONE1/23/2012 – I was exhausted from a day of walking around lower Manhattan, and suddenly felt a bit crowded out by the busy streets. So I went walking down by the water around Battery Park City. It was drizzly and suddenly quiet, and then I saw her still figure in the distance. Heart almost stopped. Just like the Sydney Opera House — the best way to see world-famous landmarks is by accident. 

Visit the Museum of Modern Art, New York – DONE – 1/?/12 – Wandered the galleries for a few hours and had a transcendent meeting with my favorite painting, Des Moiselles d’Avignon. I didn’t know it lived there.

Orbit the earth in a spaceship

Look at the heavens through a huge telescope – DONE – 4/1/11 – I visited the huge observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii and looked at several nebulae and planets with a 11″ reflecting telescope. Now, that’s not quite “huge” — I did not get to view the heavens through the enormous (some 20m-plus) telescopes in the observatories for two very good reasons: a) they are extremely exclusive and you have to have a lot of academic clout to even have a chance of using them, and b) modern telescopes do not have eyepieces — you can’t look through them. They are operated remotely and the heavens are viewed as high-res digital images. They are basically big cameras, and the images are freely available online.

See the Northern Lights in person – DONE (twice now) but I want to do it again! 

See Radiohead live DONE3/9/12 – Saw them in St. Louis. Beautiful, beautiful show. “Reckoner” and “Lucky” were transcendent moments for me.

Travel by train through the mountains – DONE – 2/4/10 – Took the TranzScenic across the New Zealand Southern Alps from Greymouth to Christchurch.

Walk the Abel Tasman Coastal Track – DONEI had planned to walk the entire length of the track on December 23-27, 2009. When I got to the first hut, I found myself to be the only solo traveler at a beach full of vacationing families. I had left friends behind at the beginning of the track, and decided I’d rather spend Christmas with them than do the rest of the track with all of these couples and families. So I went back the next day. I did not walk the whole track as I intended, but I’m calling it done. I saw everything I wanted to see. It was beautiful, I just didn’t need five days of it at that particular time.

Take a round-the-world trip

Dine at a ridiculously fancy restaurant

Stay at a ridiculously fancy hotel

Share a ridiculously fancy bottle of wine with someone

Go to a movie by myself – DONE – 6/2015 – Done twice now. Saw Jurassic World, which was terrible, and Mad Max: Fury Road, which is amazing.

Participate in the making of a documentary

Fire a pistol

Get a massage from a professional – DONE 10/14/09 – (There will be many more.)

Hike in a rainforest – DONE 1/24/10 – Hiked through the rainforest at Franz Josef, NZ, up to the top of 1300m Alex Knob. I am so sore. Pictures here.

Do a ten-day vipassana retreat

Go on a multi-day hike (with a few other people) and sleep rough

Get a quality barrel while surfing

See Cirque du Soleil – DONE 7/24/10 – Saw “Allegria” at the MTS Centre. Incredible show, exceeded my expectations. Want to see more Cirque shows.

Attend South by Southwest

Live in New York City (for a little while)

Watch a sports game from a luxury box

Try training in boxing – DONE – 9/23/2014 – Went to my first boxing class last night, so officially I have “tried” it. I really liked it and will continue.

Float in a sensory deprivation tank – DONE – 1/2015

“Lift for the cycle” (Reach 1, 2, 3, and 4 plate weights for the overhead press, bench press, squat and deadlift  respectively [135 lbs, 225 lbs, 315 lbs, 405 lbs])

Reach the “1000 pounds” club (Bench press, squat and deadlift totaling 1000 lbs.)

Total goals: 114

Total complete: 40

Last updated: July 12, 2015


Photo by Dudu Viana

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Danny November 4, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Hi David,

I really really enjoy reading your blog! huge fan now, just started reading about a month ago now. I’ve found myself clicking onto the link to “the list”

which tool me here for a quick read.

just looking at an item there”

“Go rock climbing, on actual rocks” …..

don’t know if you have done this already David?

I run an university outdoors club in Sydney, Austraila.

if you’re ever in town this way and interested to tick this one off flick me an email!,

would be happy to take you out climbing as a thank you for discovering your excellent blog.



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Robyn bunting January 5, 2014 at 4:56 am

I am reading the unabridged version of harding’s hierarchy this winter.
Met him a year before he passed.

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David Cain January 5, 2014 at 10:52 am

I own it but haven’t read it yet. Richard Lang is doing a course on it very soon I think, where you read a few chapters every week and there’s a discussion group. I would do it but the pace is too fast for me right now.

I wish I could have met Mr Harding.

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A March 8, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Hi David, your list and your spirit is wonderful and simply admirable :) Some of my ‘To Do’s’ are similar to yours but when I think of my age (nearing 30) I sometimes feel that I would never be able to do them as it is too late. But your list gave me the courage to add more and that I could do. At least I can try rather than striking them off. Thanks and Good luck :)

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Anna June 9, 2014 at 2:02 am

I wrote a ‘list of things to do before i was 21yrs old. ‘I had to cross that out and put …things to do before I die. It had taking acid on it (I never actually did this one) and going to a fetish party(I did this one) my little brother read it out when my family were in my student digs and I ripped it off the wall and threw it in the bin. I wish I had kept it . I have changed so much since my student days. I feel really inspired to make a new one but I think I might add pictures to it and make it like a piece of art if I’m going to hang it on my wall. A sort of vision board. Thanks for the article. Anna xx

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Klarita June 9, 2014 at 6:22 am

Interesting. I have so many that are the same, including books and places to go, and I’m gradually checking them off. My boyfriend and I have a joint list now, divided into watching/reading, eating (we are serious foodies), travelling and just random things to do (pedal boating on the river with prosseco)… Most of them are pleasant, some are wise. Good luck on yours!

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Edward June 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Great list! Reminds me a lot of mine. A few I completed that turned out much better than I’d ever expected were:

– Stay at a ranch in the desert and learn how to horseback ride. (Done at White Stallion Ranch, Tucson, Arizona. TWICE! Just the best experience ever!)
– Go on a swamp boat and do a tour of a swamp. (Done at Big Toho, Kissimmee, Florida. I had *no idea* the swamp was as beautiful as it is. And damn, the air boats are a blast to ride in!)
– A gondola ride in Venice. (OK, it wasn’t on my list but would have been if I knew how amazing it was going to be. The perspective of the Grand Canal and the buildings from water level was just… sublime? And it’s so tranquil in the canals–a great getaway from the hoards of tourists in the alleys. Some people may call this a “tourist trap” and never try it, but trust me–worth every single Euro!)

Least favourite:
– Went hot air ballooning over Ottawa. (I’m tall and the stupid torch blaster thing was right beside my head! Infernally hot. And it’s insanely loud. And you’re sort of stuck in a basket compartment. It’s sort of relaxing and the stillness up there is unbelievable, but then the blast happens again. Never, ever do this for a romantic activity. Glad I did it, but not due for a repeat anytime soon.)

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Bukky July 24, 2014 at 8:25 am

Fantastic list! Great inspiration! I’ve just started mine and love reading others, we have a couple cross overs! Good Luck!

My bucketlist here: http://thebukkylist.weebly.com

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Alex Enkerli August 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

To this day, Montreal remains an appropriate place for self-employed people. Elsewhere, you mentioned living in “one of Canada’s least expensive cities”. Though things are changing fairly quickly, the cost of living in Montreal is really very low and there’s quite a bit of support available for people with low income.
So… Maybe spending some time in Montreal would work for you, at this point.

(I’m from Montreal and live in “Gattawa”, aka the National Capital Region. Also lived in New Brunswick, Indiana, Massachusetts, Texas, Mali, and Switzerland.)

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David Cain August 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Yes, I have heard that about Montreal and I am really thinking of relocating in the next year or two. Winnipeg is getting more expensive anyway, and I love Montreal. It’s really one of my favorite cities in the world.

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George August 2, 2014 at 2:18 am

How come I didn’t spot this post before? Really good read, inspirational! Something I wish I’d done years ago, instead of coasting for a good few years. “Bored today? What’s on the list? Oh, read Plato.”

(My take: You can either think about what you want and plan things, or you can follow inspiration as it arises, but if the latter then you must regularly ask yourself “What constructive thing can I do now?” and follow every intuition you get, regardless of feeling, mood, logic, and that’s not easy to do. The danger with the former is that you don’t check for your desires changing through time – e.g. you don’t really want to be an astronaut/fireman/train driver anymore – but that’s what reviewing is for.)

So, interesting that you list Plato’s Cave, and I’d be interested in your take on it (given your semi-Budhhist stated or implied take on other things, Douglas Harding, etc) when you get there. You might also want to check out George Berkeley’s Three Dialogues (available for free here at Project Gutenberg).

Doth the reality of sensible things consist in being perceived? Or is it something distinct from their being perceived, and that bears no relation to mind?

– George Berkeley, Three Dialogues Quotes @ SparkNotes

For your dancing, you might find this instructional video useful. ;-)

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George August 3, 2014 at 11:41 am

Oh, and potential film to add if you haven’t seen it already: Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped philosophical lucid-dreaming film, Waking Life.

Man on the Train: Hey, are you a dreamer?

The Dreamer: Yeah.

Man on the Train: Haven’t seen too many of you around lately. Things have been tough lately for dreamers. They say dreaming is dead, no one does it anymore. It’s not dead it’s just that it’s been forgotten, removed from our language. Nobody teaches it so nobody knows it exists. And the dreamer is banished to obscurity. Well, I’m trying to change all that, and I hope you are too. By dreaming, every day. Dreaming with our hands and dreaming with our minds. Our planet is facing the greatest problems it’s ever faced, ever. So whatever you do, don’t be bored. This is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive. And things are just starting.

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Kristian August 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Great list! Love that you have “Orbit the earth in a spaceship” on there. Also on my list.

I’m curious how you would define your three “ridiculously” goals. The restaurant, hotel and wine. How will you determine when these get checked off?

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Branko September 7, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Great text thanks..

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Tim February 27, 2017 at 6:36 am

Cities wise I am a little ahead of you : )))

Definitely the classic triple of London, Paris and Rome – and you should add for historical reasons, Istanbul. The four will not disappoint – having grown up in London, and visited Paris at the age of 11 and never looked back. Geneva, Como, Prague and Siena really should be added along with Singapore, Malacca and Dubai – where I now live

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