5 Ways to Identify Your Bucket List Items

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by TripAdvisor. This article is written for entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as financial or any other type of professional advice.

When contemplating saving and investing money (rather than spending immediately), typically, I’ll consider a specific purpose and timeline. If unsure exactly what my future life will look like, I can use these financial goals as a basic guide.

While doing the sometimes dull work of financial goal setting, I might also create a bucket list, a process that is generally more fun. I haven’t always kept such a list. But now that I have the time, money, and desire to pursue bigger projects and trips, here are ways I’ve learned to identify items for my bucket list:

Brainstorm and write down what I really want to do

I may have a few things in mind to start with so it makes sense to go ahead and write these down. At this point, I don’t worry about whether I’ll accomplish every item on my list or whether an item seems list-worthy. The more intentional I can be about setting and achieving goals, the more likely I’ll succeed.

When I consider my bucket-list goals, I realize that I would love to do the following:

  • Run a marathon
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Hike down the Grand Canyon
  • Visit Antarctica or the Arctic

Your list may look much different from mine, depending on your interests and stage of life. The important thing is to consider goals and dreams, whether short-term, long-term, highly attainable, or seemingly out of reach, and document them to provide guidance in making decisions and taking advantage of opportunities.

Ask friends and family about their bucket lists

Hopefully, my friends and family have a few things (or more) that they hope to accomplish in their lifetimes. I don’t need to duplicate what my friends or family members are doing, but I may become inspired by their goals.

Plus, I may discover that their aspirations mirror mine and we can work together to mark off bucket-list items. For example, if a friend wants to run a marathon, we could train together.

Alternatively, I may find that a friend has already accomplished a mutual bucket-list item and I can get tips from her to help me reach my goals.

Check out travel and adventure websites

Generally, when I think about bucket lists, I think about travel, generally to an exotic location or one that has opportunities for adventure. For example, a few years ago, for our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a cruise to Bermuda. This trip ticked off a couple of items on my list: 1) go on a cruise; and 2) visit Bermuda.

You likely already have places you’d love to travel if you had the money and time.

But if you need inspiration, consider general travel websites such as TripAdvisor, which allows you to find adventure vacations worldwide and get insights about adventures you may be considering such as canoeing in the Boundary Waters or hiking up Half Dome.

Since I have some special interests, I might find bucket-list recommendations based on my hobbies. Runners may consider big city marathons; backpackers, one of these treks; or literature lovers, landmarks like these.

Consider the list in the movie The Bucket List

I was inspired by watching The Bucket List. In the movie, a hospital tycoon played by Jack Nicholson and a blue-collar worker played by Morgan Freeman become unlikely comrades in crossing off items on their bucket lists. These include:

  • driving a race car
  • going on a safari
  • climbing the Pyramids
  • kissing the most beautiful girl in the world
  • laughing until crying
  • witnessing something truly majestic

There are several takeaways from the movie that applies to developing my own bucket list: 1) I’m never too old to make a bucket list; 2) my bucket list should represent what is meaningful to me; and 3) though certain bucket list items are costlier than others, I shouldn’t eliminate a dream just because I’m not sure how I’ll get the money to cover my list-related expenses.

Visit websites that focus on developing and achieving bucket-list goals

I’ve checked out Bucketlist, which provides ideas, resources, and a social forum for developing, tracking, and documenting achievements of my bucket list. I enjoyed bucket-list prompts from personal websites, such as Marelisa’s Daring to Live Fully post on 10,000+ Bucket List Ideas for Designing Your Best Life.

From these websites, I realized that I had already accomplished many things that I wanted to do (including items that I may not have initially considered worthy of being part of a bucket list):

  • Take a road trip across the United States
  • Get a First Aid/CPR certification
  • Go on a weeklong mission trip
  • Grow a garden
  • Ride in a gondola in Venice
  • Complete a cycling century (100 miles in one day)

I also picked up a few new ideas. One that sounds intriguing is cycling down the Danube Bike Trail (#26 on Marelisa’s list). Another that I had considered more of a personal goal is to write and publish a book; somehow, putting this item on my bucket list makes it sound more appealing. Plus, it gives me the license to fund this project just as I would fund an overseas trip.

Finally, I discovered there were interpersonal items that cause me to consider goals not related to travel, fitness, or career development. Many folks have set goals that involve interactions with other people; for example, they want to serve as a mentor, throw a surprise party, or teach someone to read. These may take time but likely do not cost as much as epic trips.

I have decided to document my bucket list goals not only to keep me accountable but to guide me in arranging and prioritizing my resources (namely time and money) to achieve them. In addition to the ones listed above, here are several more:

  • Hike around Mont Blanc
  • Learn to converse in Spanish
  • Go sailing in Newport, Rhode Island
  • Kayak and/or ride bikes in Alaska
  • Write, publish, and sell my own book
  • Host area visitors in my home

Accomplishing these things-I-want-to-do-before-I-die may require cash or large expanses of time. Planning, along with saving and investing, can be useful.

Do you maintain and pursue a bucket list? Has it helped you to thrive?

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