When you hear the term "bucket list," the usual suspects spring to mind—travel experiences, breathtaking hot-air balloon rides, dinner at one of the world's top restaurants—but we think it's time you hit the reset button. While these are all amazing things to do before you die, your checklist could do with a few more meaningful and eye-opening activities. It's time to turn your standard list into an extraordinary one. Besides, it's the experiences that will make you the happiest; even science agrees.
If you haven't written your list yet (or it needs a major revision), take a scroll through our suggestions before you put pen to paper. From traveling solo to starting a garden or discovering your ancestral past, these 12 things to put on your bucket list sit firmly outside the norm. So grab your notepad and start writing yours down because we guarantee you'll want to add these.
Travel Somewhere by Yourself
We all love to travel with our family or a group of friends, but there's so much to gain from going it alone. Embarking on a solo expedition is incredibly liberating and rewarding. You have the freedom to be yourself and to set the daily agenda without the distraction of fellow travelers. You can throw your watch away, think on your feet, trust your instincts, and go with the flow. Without a rigid travel timetable, you can ditch the plans, and go off the beaten track to explore the world at your own pace, and you just never know what places you'll discover or people you'll meet. Add this to your list of travel goals before you die.
Show Random Acts of Kindness to Strangers
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We all lead busy lives with barely enough time for ourselves, let alone others, but trust us when we tell you that there's more to gain from being nice to others than not. In fact, showing random acts of kindness to those around you has a lot of positive side effects. Not only does it make us happier, but it also has a fountain of youth effect and gives us healthier hearts.
According to David R. Hamilton, PhD, the feel-good factor of being kind triggers a biochemical reaction and elevates our levels of dopamine in the brain "so we get a natural high, or what's known as the 'helper's high.'" This emotional warmth we feel also slows the aging process thanks to the oxytocin we produce as a result. "This reduces the levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging at its source," Hamilton explains. So buy a stranger a cup of coffee every now and then, pay someone a compliment, or even bake a cake for your new neighbor. It feels good, and it's good for you too.
Grow Your Own Garden
There's something deeply rewarding about cooking a meal with vegetables from your own garden. It's such a simple, honest, and humble feeling to watch your vegetables grow from seedlings into a nutritious bed of goodness for your entire family to enjoy. If you live in the city and space isn't on your side, buy some pots and start a herb garden or a vertical garden. Urban gardening has become a popular global trend, with many cities swapping rooftops for garden beds. Look up community gardens in your local area that you can join. Gardening is a lot of fun, and it can save you cash on groceries, too. Put this on your bucket list today.
Live in Another Country for a Year
There's only so much you can do when you vacation overseas, and much of it ends up being the main tourist attractions and regular sightseeing hot spots. But if you truly want to know a place (and yourself), then pack up your things and move overseas for a year or two. Ditch the self-help books and become an expat. The university of life will teach you everything—confidence, resilience, compassion, and freedom from fear.
Donate Your Time to Charity
So many of us throw money at a cause or offload our old unwanted things at the local thrift store, but take it one step further and donate the one thing that really costs you: your time. There is nothing more valuable, and if you can impart some of your precious time to some of the charities that need it most, you'll feel that "helper's high" we spoke about earlier. And more importantly, you'll make a big difference in someone else's life. So sign up to lend a hand at the local soup kitchen, teach underprivileged children at a nearby school, or offer your services at a local animal shelter. As Bob Hope said, "If you haven't any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble."
Befriend Someone With a Different Background
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How much do you know about the various cultures around the world (or even within your own country)? We live on a planet with such a diverse population, and it's time we all learned a little more about each other. Make it your purpose in life to befriend other people who aren't from the same heritage or background as you. Through learning about how other people live, from their upbringing to their traditions and ceremonies, we can all develop a deeper understanding of how the world works (and why), which will ultimately foster more compassion for others. Now that is a beautiful thing.
Learn Something New
This could be anything new, such as an online course or learning to code, but why not challenge yourself and learn something that really pushes you out of your comfort zone? Try surfing, buy a skateboard (with a helmet, please), sign up for cooking classes, take a sommelier course, learn about photography, discover calligraphy, or establish some new life skills. You might meet The One or start a new business. The possibilities are endless.
Get to Know Your Home Country
Most people dream of embarking on foreign adventures, but what about exploring your own backyard? It's often the case that tourists see more of your hometown than you do, so it's time to change that statistic. Don't overlook the magic of your surroundings, don't take your home for granted, and don't be afraid to go beyond the familiar to uncover the treasures of the land where you live. You will forge a deeper emotional and spiritual connection to your own home, too.
The positive impact of journaling on your health and happiness are well-known. I started journaling years ago, and this process has dramatically improved my emotional and physical health. Oprah has been a devoted diarist since she was 15, and she attributes much of her success to journaling. "It's astonishing to be able to track your own evolution—who I was, who I'm still becoming," she said. Our memory fades as we age, so by writing down our struggles and triumphs, we can look back, reflect, and understand our lives a little better.
Discover Your Ancestral Past
Have you ever done your family tree? Traced your heritage line back to where it all began? I hadn't ever really thought about it seriously until I asked our associate social media editor, Jasmine Fox-Suliaman, who told me about her lifelong dream to research her family's ancestry. "I would love to research my family's path, where they came from originally, and how they got here, and then take the same trip they did," she said. "I would love to go to those places and follow in their footsteps so I can connect with my heritage and understand all the things that happened before me."
Boost Your Financial Fitness
Women have a tendency to lack confidence when it comes to money. In fact, there's scientific proof that women are behind on their finances because they feel uncomfortable talking about money. Well, in the age of the mompreneur and female leaders, it's time we turned our fears into fortitude and took charge of our financial fitness once and for all.
Make Sustainability a Part of Your Life
We all know the word "sustainability," but how much do we understand the importance of it? It's so much more than just a buzzword; it's about making lifestyle changes to ensure we are being mindful of the environment and protecting our planet for future generations. It's as simple as choosing to travel with an eco state-of-mind, choosing local décor brands that are eco-conscious instead of contributing to landfills, and choosing renewable water filters over disposable plastic bottles. There are so many ways you can reduce your waste and conserve energy, so start by making small steps to make sustainability a part of your life.
Be inspired by these 12 things to put on your bucket list and start thinking about what meaningful experiences you hope to have.
This post was originally published on January 5, 2017, and has since been updated.