The millennial bucket list

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Traveling woman with backpack and straw hat looking at tropical river at sunny day

Image: Shutterstock/Mooshny

In 2007, movie director Rob Reiner unveiled his masterpiece to the world, titled The Bucket List. Never before had a Hollywood film so efficiently codified popular clichés and about regret and desire in the face of impending death. A bucket list, after all, is a list of fantasies one imagines making a reality before dying. While bucket list items more often than not remain in a state of pure fantasy, the movie The Bucket List tells the story of two old men who decide to accomplish a number of extravagant and adventurous activities before they kick bucket. They go skydiving, drive fast cars, go on a safari, ride motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, and visit other iconic (and predictable) places like Mount Everest and the Taj Mahal. The movie is a representation of older men’s fantasies. What story would the movie tell if it were to realistically represent a much younger population’s fantasies, like those of millennials?

According to a certain public imaginary of millennials, i.e. people around 15-30 years old, they are narcissistic, socially liberal, unreligious, economically damned, and addicted to technology and social media. Two recent studies show that despite their apparently marked difference from older generations, their desires and fantasies don’t diverge on all points from those of their forebears.

Two surveys from the last two years conducted by InSites Consulting and by Topdeck Travel reveal that young people want to travel. No surprise, since everyone for all time likes traveling (except Claude Levi-Strauss, who opens his Triste Tropiques with “I hate traveling and explorers”). The survey done by Topdeck Travel, a tour operator, gives more details about the kind of travel young people would like to do. According to the study, millennials are overall less interested in seeking party-animal atmospheres (think Cancun and Ibiza) than in immersing themselves in local culture and cuisine. It also shows that, contrary to the stereotype, “over half of young travelers only update their social media accounts a few times per week.”

However, the Insites Consluting survey demonstrates that millennials’ desire to travel lies behind a number of other bucket list items. The most popular one by far is becoming a parent (39%), followed by getting married (30%). Family, it seems, is on young people’s minds. Their bucket list also includes numerous classic fantasies like saving someone’s life and kissing beautiful people. However, it’s not all routine desire; globally speaking, 11% want to swim naked, and 12% want to have a threesome. Though, personally, those figures seem suspiciously low exceptional to me—doesn’t everyone want to go skinny-dipping and have a threesome?

In any case, the conclusion from these two studies seems to be: in addition to the universal desire to travel, and to the socially conservative one to get married and have kids, they express more desire to get naked and have exotic sex than previous generations.

Marcus Wade loves to surf the Internet, drink coffee and travel. He loves meeting new people and having interesting conversations about art, politics and society.

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