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Dump Your Bucket (List)

ANDREA KITAY curates the cliché out of travel.

Low tide on Holland’s north coast exposes a muddy wonderland for the intrepid traveler.

 

ucket list got you down? If that dearly held compilation of the top things you want to do in your lifetime is starting to read like something your eighth-grade history teacher wrote, you aren’t alone. What began as a curious concept several years ago, bucket lists seem to have morphed into an exercise in the banal. Whitewashed like the media’s spin on a celebrity’s midnight behavior, today’s lists reward the splashy while failing to consider the real goal: authenticity.

Take, for example, the bucket list of an old friend who grumbled to me about it “not feeling right.” Sure enough, her first three to-dos included visiting Mexico’s pyramids, taking a trip to Hana on the Hawaiian island of Maui, and strolling the Great Wall of China.

I rest my case. This isn’t her list; it’s Everyman’s list, doomed to fail in even a cursory test of personal meaningfulness.

So what to do? Curate it, of course. Add levity. Consider campy. Think daft and ditch the dull. Throw in a dose of adversity, even, which by definition provides the possibility of personal growth. But by all means, eliminate the cliché.

My own bucket list is in constant transition, but laughter—preferably uncontrolled and shared with someone near and dear—is an unwavering theme. As a result, it’s filled with absurd and, yes, socially worthless activities.

Here, a trio of my top picks, one of which I recently checked off that ever-evolving list.

They may have lost traction on the catwalks of Paris, but high-top shoes are all the rage in Holland.

DIRTY DUTCH If you didn’t get the opportunity to sling enough mud in your youth, this is your chance. Mud walking, or wadlopen, in Dutch, is a venerable past time in the Waddensea, the shallows stretching between the mainland and the Frisian Islands on Holland’s north coast where twice a day, at low tide, both sand and mudflats are exposed. This makes the area ripe for tromping around, and those inventive Dutch have parlayed it into a wet, sloppy day trip.

Forget that that this is basically idiotic, an exercise in futility, as at every step you drag your way through thick mud just for the pleasure of doing it again. Instead, think of it as pure genius, kid-style.

But do keep your expectations in check. Outfitters may bill wadlopen as an eco-tour-style adventure, using phrases like “intertidal guided tour” and “wildlife walk,” but don’t be fooled. Sure, you may see a few crabs or the occasional sea bird. But the truth is, you’ll spend the day mucking about in sand and mud with no goal greater than perhaps reaching some distant island.

Truth is, you’re never too old to play in the mud.

And then comes the moment when any sane traveler questions just why he decided to do this in the first place. Fait accompli! If that realization doesn’t make you roll with laughter, grab a fistful of mud and pitch it at whoever’s closest to you.

There’s no better way to see the spectacular scenery of New Zealand from all angles.

HAMSTER STYLE Ever seen one of those round, hamster-sized balls that give critters a chance to enjoy cage-free exercise without becoming the family feline’s snack? Supersize that. Now add water, a human, and a shallow slope, and you have zorbing.

The first zorbs were created by a couple of wacky New Zealanders, Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers. Akers has since joined forces with his brother David and their business partner, Chris Roberts, to retool—and rename—that simple inflatable ball. Now called Outdoor Gravity Orbs, or OGOs (theogo.com), the balls come equipped with harnesses and can be ridden alone (IGO) or with a friend (WEGO). Then there’s the water-oriented H2OGO, which has a dual hull with six-foot inner sphere. In its New Zealand home of Rotorua, the H2OGO follows an 820-foot course downhill in a slippery, splashing environment. Riders say it feels like being in a gently moving waterfall. What’s not to love?

Modern zorbs have harnesses and myriad safety features, none of which help you forget you’re a human in a hamster ball.

The original-style ride, complete with newer harness concept, is more of a commitment to physics—think the whirling teacups of Disneyland. As the ball rolls 655 feet down a shallow incline, you move like the Mad Hatter surveying the world from a hamster’s-eye view. Makes flying halfway across the world to stare at the Taj Mahal’s four equal sides seem hardly worth the effort.

The Vodka is always chilled and the glasses are made of ice.

ON THE ROCKS If you think a stay at a hotel where the temperature hovers below freezing wouldn’t make a traveler’s bucket list, consider my experience. At the tail end of a recent trip to Finnmark County, Norway, I spent a night in the 24-room Kirkenes Snowhotel (kirkenessnowhotel.com), just a few miles from the Russian border. This wasn’t your typical bricks and mortar construction—not even a traditional Sami lavuu tent—it was made of snow, the walls festooned with hand-carved trolls and lobby chairs chipped from blocks of ice by Chinese artisans flown in for a two-week power-carving job.

As you’d find at most good Norwegian hotels, the focal point of the lobby was a bar—this one a bulletproof number made of ice. Here, a svelte bartender in a black beanie served up crowberry glogg shots to guests sporting ski masks, or balaclavas, reindeer-leather gloves, and heavy down parkas. In this oversized igloo-inspired structure illuminated by pink, purple, and blue LED lights, guests were handed down-filled mummy bags rated to negative 31 and cheerfully reminded that their bedding was also a “survival suit.”

Chinese artisans are flown in to carve whimsical sculptures at Kirkenes Snowhotel in Norway.

Thankfully, the room temperature stayed around 25 degrees, warmer than outside. Still, I opted for a balaclava and a woolen hat with earflaps and pom-poms. My bed’s headboard and footboard were carved in ice, but the mattresses were real.

This little adventure smacks of survival and wackiness all in one. I still get a kick remembering the German couple who surprised everyone when they emerged from the sauna, glowing red from the heat, and bolted buck-naked into the powdery Norwegian snow. I was later informed it’s a snow hotel challenge of sorts, news to me. It was a hilarious end to a perfect night’s sleep, and one that still gives me a giggle.

05-01-2013

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