Posted in Life & Happiness

Ulysses Bucket List

The following is an abridged story from a user on the internet site Reddit. It details the background of what he came to call the Ulysses Bucket List.

At the age of 15, the user ran away from home with no money or plan. He hopped on a train and decided to ride it as far as it would go. To his surprise, the line only lasted less than an hour and he decided to ride it all the way back again, to give himself more time to think about where to go from here. Just as the train was about to leave – back to where the user first got on – a girl came on the train and sat behind him. A short while later, she got up and sat down next to him, asking why he was writing on a napkin. 

The user told her his story and that he was trying to plan how he wanted to live his life on the napkin. She laughed and they ended up getting to know each other. The 17-year old girl was riding to the end of the line, so he decided to stay on the train to keep talking to her. But the train ride was short and they soon had to say goodbye at the train station.

Before saying goodbye, she turned to him and asked a question that would become a wonderful part of the boy’s life. She asked: 

“Tell me something you have done, or want to do, that you think I should do? It can be anything, as challenging as you want it to be, or as easy. As long as you give me the rest of my life to complete it, I promise I will do it.“

He was confused but agreed, and told her: ”Sing a song acapella in a room full of strangers.” She said that’s perfect and asked him if he would like a challenge as well, to which he agreed. Her challenge was: “Read, from start to finish, Ulysses by James Joyce.” After that strange exchange, the boy and the girl went their own ways, not knowing if they would ever see each other again.

For 12 years, the user tried and tried to read the book from cover to cover, but failed to finish the 780-page book. But even so, each time he picked up Ulysses, he would think back to that day and of her. Soon after parting ways with her, he’d realised something important. He decided to keep it going – with as many strangers as possible. Whenever he would leave someone whom he shared an experience with, he would add them to his “Ulysses Bucket List – he would ask them to give him a challenge, as difficult or as easy as they want it to be, regardless of the fact that they have done it or not; simply something their heart had always wanted to do.

Through his travels, he received and completed challenges such as jumping into a body of water on a cold day without checking the temperature, buying twice as much food he intended on eating in a week and giving half to a stranger, and telling five people he hated the most that he loved and respected them. Some were simple but challenging, such as skydiving, while some were life-changing, such as a girl telling him that whenever he got mad at someone, walk away, sing his happy song in his head for 5 minutes and then go back to the person with a calm mind to work things out.

The Ulysses Bucket List not only pushed the user to broaden his horizons and do things he usually wouldn’t, but it also made all the people he met unforgettable, as each challenge would spark a memory of the person and the beautiful experiences and memories he shared with them. Despite all of the amazing memories and challenges – both those he’s completed and those he’s yet to start on – he has yet to finish James Joyce’s Ulysses, with only 30 pages left at the time of him writing the story. Each time he reads it, he remembers back to the day he met the girl that gave him the gift that has never once stopped giving. 

That, is the story of the Ulysses Bucket List.


NB: Read the comments and follow the thread to see what happened after he posted the story – almost like an epilogue thanks to another kind Redditor. Alternatively, read his follow-up post:


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