Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, art and the occasional rant!

Bucket Lists


I’ve always had a mental list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see.  I never wrote it down.  Now, of course, it seems to be something people are doing – the first time I heard the term “bucket list” was the movie.

I’ve been pretty lucky that a lot of the things that I wanted to do and see I have done and seen – whether it was travel, a career goal, a personal quest, etc.

Or maybe instead of “lucky” I should say, hard work, determination and working together as a family made them happen.

Now there are some that didn’t happen – either discovered a complete lack of ability, not suitable for me personally, tastes changed as I grew up, lost interest, etc.  Like wanting to be an astronaut when I was five, or a brain surgeon when I was seven… science and math were not my strong points so those ideas fell by the wayside.

I also wanted to be an archeologist, still do really, but my knees have been bad since I was a child (diagnosed with Osgoode Schlatter’s Disease when I was 10) that kneeling on the ground to dig up stuff wasn’t going to be possible.  I liked the Earth Sciences – anything to do with the planet and what lived/lives on it.  I have audited courses on paleontology at the local college.  Anything to do with the past is right up my alley.

I loved horses and used to draw them incessantly.  I got my first horse, Velvet, when I was 13.  Within 10 years we were breeding, training and showing pure spotted American Saddlebreds and Pintos and won several National Championships with our horses.

I always loved art but it didn’t get considered as a career choice – maybe the era I grew up in or something.  Even though I was very much into costuming and make-up at Halloween, it never came up as something to pursue. I am pretty pragmatic and as I went through high school I was looking for something that was considered responsible and a long-term career choice.

I actually was very interested in law enforcement and military – when I was 14 they first allowed women in the RCMP, I sent a letter off to them and got back a huge recruitment package.  At high school careers days we usually got to choose three sessions to attend: I went to the RCMP, Canadian Armed Forces and local Delta Police Department’s sessions.  I joined the Army  in 1978 in a program they offered for students, and then stayed in for a couple of years while doing other things.

I was always an excellent cook so right after high school I did one year in a pre-apprenticeship Chef program.  I competed too and won a Gold Medal at in international Grande Salon du Culinaire in Gateau (it was a food sculpture made of baker’s clay, sugar, gelatin and whole lobsters.)  However,  it was a male dominated profession and very political – if you know anything about me, I am not prone to ass-kissing nor putting men on pedestals, so…

I switched gears and went to college for Office Administration as I had always loved stationery and paperwork.  While taking my courses I said my goal was to be the assistant to a top executive… 10 years later I was Executive Assistant to the Chief Credit Office of HSBC Bank Canada (the most senior woman in Banking in the country.)  So that was ticked off my list.

When “my” Executive started talking about taking early retirement I was getting very much into make-up doing special effects make-up in a Star Trek fan club my brother and I joined.  I had always been interested in make-up and costuming – right back to pre-school, so I enrolled in the Blanche Macdonald Institute’s  diploma program which was part-time (weekends and evenings) while still working at the bank.  I graduated top of my class and started taking jobs doing theatre and other make-up, but still maintained the day-job (still do.)

There were other things I wanted to do too, like… publish a book (done, published in 2007), learn to sculpt (took a week-long “arts camp” in 2004 and sculpted a bust of Mr. Spock), act in a play (several times now – typecast as cranky fairy godmothers and storybook queens…); if I want to do something I just get busy and figure out how to make it happen.


Since I wasn’t going to BE an archaeologist the next best thing is visiting places where they have been, or are, working or where stuff they found is on display.  And also all the historic and significant places that are considered must-sees to most tourists!  We love to visit old places… I remember standing in the Coliseum and starting to cry: it was either the sense of history or, the ghosts of those who died there, who knows, eh?

Most of our major trips were family trips – me, mom and my brother Neil (he died in 2006).  We saw a lot of stuff – Neil loved to travel, try new food, museums of any sort, and bears – we must have seen every mounted Grizzly from Vancouver to Glacier Bay!  We started to travel in 1988 – took our first cruise in the Caribbean and then another five, with the last one in 2003.  We went somewhere different each time: 1988 – Eastern Caribbean, 1990 – Inside Passage (Alaska), 1991 – Mexican Riviera, 1993 – Vancouver to Hawaii, 1995 – Mediterranean (Venice to Lisbon), 2003 – South America (Valparaiso, Chile to Miami).  Then we started to take land tours: 2003 – London/Paris, 2008 – “Best of Britain” England, Wales, Scotland plus a week touring Yorkshire with friends, 2011 – Devon and Cornwall with friends.

I also visited several places on my own while attending conferences and conventions – mostly the US, UK and once to Belgium.

Some of the highlights of our trips, to date, include:

The Coliseum in Rome – was there in 1995.

Pompeii – 1995.  Totally amazing and emotional.

Venice – 1995, cruised out the Grand Canal, EPIC!

Michelangelo’s David  – in 1995 we saw all three, the one in the square in Florence, the one at the lookout and the one in the Museum!

The Vatican Museum – 2003 … amazing.  We only saw a small part of the galleries, and the Sistine Chapel.

Edinburgh Castle – 2006 and 2008.


Stonehenge – went there in 2008, saw it again in 2011.


Tower of London – 2003.

Hadrian’s Wall – stood on part of it in 2008.

Machu Picchu – got there in 2003… what an adventure!

Picture 057

The Louvre – Fall of 2003 – amazing and I want to go see the rest!

Picture 197

Eiffel Tower – up to the top in 2003.

Picture 126

Versailles – 2003, loved the Gardens.

Picture 230

Jasper, Banff and the Rocky Mountains – have done several times since 1999.


Visit a live volcano – we’ve been to Mt. Etna, Stromboli, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, we lived near Mt. St. Helen’s, Mt. Ranier and Mt. Baker.

Disneyland – twice.  Flew there once and the other time we took the train from Vancouver to L.A. “The Coast Starlight Express”… in a sleeper cabin!  Not the Orient Express, but still pretty cool.

Most things we decide we want to do, we do.  My mom firmly believes there is no point in waiting because you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  So we don’t put things off if an opportunity presents itself or we make an opportunity if there isn’t one.

But there are still things I haven’t been able to do or see, yet.  Some things still on my unwritten list (oh, guess it is written now, isn’t it!):

The Pyramids of Egypt, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings, Nile Cruise – We had booked trips twice, but war happened in the Gulf and we avoid risk.

Petra, Ephesus, Istanbul –  lumped them together as the Middle East – there is so much there to see.

The Acropolis, Olympus, Santorini – The only place in Greece we’ve been to so far is Corfu.

Xian – We actually booked a tour of China to take in 2000, but we ended up deciding to move here instead so cancelled it and spent the money moving and buying a house.  In retrospect, should have rented and gone on the trip!

The Taj Mahal.

St. Petersburg.

Australia and New Zealand.

A hot air balloon ride.

See polar bears in the wild.

There is more, but I won’t bore you with all the little things.

The point I am trying to make, and I do have one, is that you shouldn’t just make a list.  Take action now to make those things happen as you never know what might happen tomorrow that could make it impossible.  We were able to take my brother a lot of wonderful places and make his last years memorable for him and for us, and after he died mom and I took more trips.  Then mom had her stroke in 2010 which has made it extremely difficult to continue our adventures, difficult and expensive, but not impossible.


You have to work to make things happen so while dreaming about doing things is great, you should do it while you can enjoy and afford it, and can physically cope with it.  Trust me.


4 thoughts on “Bucket Lists

  1. I absolutely agree that not only should you create a bucket list, but you also have to be proactive in making your dreams come true! Such an important lesson.

  2. Awesome, you have been so many places. I’ll remember your sage advice.

    Thank you for sharing. Judy


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