When you hear the term "bucket list," the usual suspects spring to mind, like unforgettable travel experiences in faraway destinations, such as breathtaking hot-air balloon rides or dinner at one of the world's top restaurants. While these are all amazing things to aspire to, consider adding these meaningful and eye-opening activities to your checklist.
From traveling solo to discovering your ancestral past, these 12 bucket list items will inspire you to live life to its full potential.
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 means having the freedom to cater to yourself and to set the daily agenda without the distraction of fellow travelers. You can throw your watch away and go with the flow or be as rigid with your itinerary as you wish. Without a timetable bound to others, you can explore a destination at your own pace. As National Geographic points out, there are a number of things to gain by experiencing solo travel. A few include learning how to enjoy your own company, how to be more tolerant and compassionate, and how to rely on your biggest advocate - yourself! Plus, you never know what interesting places you'll discover or cool people you'll meet.
Show Random Acts of Kindness
We all lead busy lives with barely enough time for ourselves, let alone others, but what we know is this: Being kind to others will never go out of style. In fact, showing random acts of kindness to those around you has a lot of positive side effects, like giving your heart a healthy boost. According to David R. Hamilton, Ph.D., and author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, the feel-good factor of being kind triggers a biochemical reaction 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. In turn, oxytocin "reduces the levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging at its source," Hamilton explains.
To pay it forward, buy the stranger behind you in line a cup of coffee every now and then, pay someone a compliment (make sure to be specific!), 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 fruits and 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 (or roommates) to enjoy. If your living situation lacks access to adequate space, buy some pots, and start an 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.
Live in Another Country for a Year
There's only so much you can do when you vacation overseas, and much of it probably ends up being the main tourist attractions and sightseeing hot spots. But if you want to dig deeper into a place (and maybe go deeper with yourself too), consider packing up your things and move overseas for a year or two. For example, Australia offers work visas for U.S. citizens up to 30; there are also opportunities to teach English abroad or do a work-trade program on a farm to make their travel ambitions a reality.
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's truly invaluable: your time. 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. Work it into your schedule by volunteering the skills you have to a cause you resonate with. For example, if you work in marketing, is there an organization that could use your event planning or content creation skills? Additionally, consider Forbes' tips for finding the right nonprofit organization to align with, including considering your values, doing your research, and reflecting on the type of do-gooder you are.
Befriend Someone With a Different Background
We live on a planet with such a diverse population, and it's time we all learned a little more about each other.
How much do you know about the various cultures that coexist across the country, your home state, even your own city? We live on a planet with such a diverse population, and it's time we all learned a little more about each other. The good news is one needn't travel across the world to experience different cultures. A blog post by Ashford University recommends visiting a local museum, broadening your mind with books, listening to cultural podcasts (try NPR's Rough Translation), and perusing the geotags on Instagram as examples of how to learn more about the world around us.
Learn Something New
Learning something new could be anything, such as taking an online course on writing or learning to code. Or, really shake things up and sample something you wouldn't naturally gravitate toward. For example, try surfing if you're typically drawn to the mountains, sign up for cooking classes if you're kitchen-averse, or try a wine-tasting class if beer is your go-to. You'll gain new skills and a new perspective.
Get to Know Your City
Most people dream of embarking on foreign adventures, but what about exploring your own backyard? Don't overlook the magic of your own surroundings. There's a lot to learn from seeing your city through a visitor's eyes. For example, choose a free weekend to explore a neighborhood you haven't been to yet, dine at a restaurant on the other side of town, or pop into that museum you drive by every day but haven't been into yet. Bonus: Many city attractions have resident discounts; check with the attraction website or search "free things to do" in your city.
The kind of private reflection that takes place while writing can help us work through issues and concerns we may have to allow us to come to a deeper understanding.
The positive impact of journaling on your health and happiness may be just what some people need to maintain an optimistic outlook. Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin explains that "the kind of private reflection that takes place while writing can help us work through issues and concerns we may have to allow us to come to a deeper understanding." 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 traced your heritage back to where it all began? "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," one MyDomaine editor shared. "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." To get started with exploring your heritage, consider reaching out to a professional genealogist, rooting around old boxes at home, and chatting up the elders in your family, recommends National Geographic. There are a number of online resources too, including Ancestry.com and Archives.org.
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 a concerted effort to champion female leaders, it's time we turn our fears into fortitude and take charge of our financial fitness once and for all. For inspiration and community, check out Ladies Get Paid, Ellevest, and Stash Wealth.
Make Sustainability a Mindful Part of Your Life
Sustainability is so much more than just a buzzword; it's about making lifestyle changes to ensure we are consuming resources responsibly and doing what we can to protect our planet for future generations. It might involve buying local décor brands that are eco-conscious, choosing renewable water filters over disposable plastic bottles, or bringing your own coffee mug to the cafe for your daily dose of java. 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 lifestyle.
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Yeung JWK, Zhang Z, Kim TY. Volunteering and Health Benefits in General Adults: Cumulative Effects and Forms. BMC Public Health. 2017;18(1):8. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8
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National Institute on Aging. How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking. Updated October 19, 2020.
Money Fit Women Study: Executive Summary. Fidelity Investments.