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Trimming Your Bucket List

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

How to narrow the focus of your RV “must-dos” to specific areas and specific activities

For some of us, buying a motorhome meant we could check an item off our bucket list – finally, we could travel to all those places we had longed to visit. Of course, checking off that item made our list infinitely longer. How do we narrow it down to doable goals?
In her Psychology Today blog entitled “How to Write a Bucket List,” Alice Boyes, Ph.D, offers five suggestions to write your best-ever bucket list. I’ll use her five points and add my own comments specifically for RVers.

Surround yourself with people who are actively pursuing their bucket lists.

RV resorts and campgrounds are filled with people who are doing just that. Boyes described an effect called social contagion, where you can catch extra willpower from your friends. Talk to the folks who drove to Alaska, who visited all 87 National Monuments or who studied Spanish and conversed with locals during their three-month RV trip to Mexico. Ask people about their favorite places and experiences encountered on their journey. Take notes so you can add to or refine your list.

Scoring a beachfront camping site in the Florida Keys is surely high on any sun-and-sand-loving RVer’s bucket list.

Scoring a beachfront camping site in the Florida Keys is surely high on any sun-and-sand-loving RVer’s bucket list.

Make a list of goals you want to achieve this year.

When you think you have an entire lifetime to check off the items on your bucket list, there might not be much urgency to get things done. What can you do this year, or even this month? Take steps to achieve those “someday” items. If you want to write a book someday, join a writing group or sign up for an online class now. Perhaps some of your RV travels could include locations to research that are essential to your novel.

Mix big and small goals, and include harder/easier variations.

There are items on my bucket list I will probably never do. Some are too expensive. For example, the average cost of an African safari is $800 per person, per night. However, a scaled-down variation of that goal is to visit animal sanctuaries in North America. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah sits on 3,700 picturesque acres and is surrounded by 17,000 acres of state and federal land. Best Friends is home to more than 1,600 dogs, cats, horses, birds and other animals that were abandoned, abused and neglected. Even though I haven’t seen zebras migrating across the Kalahari, I saw companion animals being cared for in America’s largest no-kill sanctuary, and not once did I have to swat at those pesky tsetse flies.

Put some time aside each week to work on your bucket list.

Devote time each week to doing or planning your bucket list. If you want to win a pickleball tournament, play the game as often as possible to improve your skills. If you want to get a hole-in-one, spending more time on the golf course will improve your odds. If you want to take an Alaskan cruise, research the cost and options available on various cruise lines. Ask friends who have already had the experiences for their recommendations.

Being part of an RV rally is the best way to attend Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta.

Being part of an RV rally is the best way to attend Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta.

Let your bucket list reflect your own personality, quirks and interests.

Let’s say you are an avid gardener. In addition to tending your own garden – which might mean container gardening while in your motorhome – visit botanical gardens and flower festivals. While it would be nice to smell the cherry blossoms in Japan or the tulips in Holland, there are numerous places in North America that offer similar experiences. Washington, D.C., is famous for its National Cherry Blossom Festival. Skagit Valley, in the state of Washington, and Holland, Michigan, both host tulip festivals in the spring. A quick Google search of “cherry blossom festivals” or “tulip festivals” will show dozens of such events across the country.

Sometimes reflecting upon the most memorable highlights of your life so far helps set future goals as well. While Dottie Cross was in Mexico to rock climb, she saw a starving dog chained to a tree. Soon after she and two friends rescued the dog, it died. Prompted by the horrible conditions of the dogs in the area, they founded Fiona Animal Refuge (www.potreropups.org) in 2013. The facility, which has 19 kennels, an office and an operating room, offers free veterinarian services and basic animal care products to pets and pet owners in the town of El Potrero Chico. Dottie’s future goals include saving more of Mexico’s dogs.

Some people don’t make bucket lists, preferring to let life unfold one day at a time. That doesn’t mean they don’t have amazing adventures, worthy of the most ambitious bucket lists. Nanci Stahlman-Drag, who hiked Machu Picchu in Peru, sang in the Playa Choir at Burning Man and skied in Argentina said, “I watch out for opportunities, try to have an open mind and hope for a schedule flexible enough to jump on board when the chance arises.” This method of living life to its fullest is working perfectly for her and others like her, including Steve Moore.

When Steve was a few months shy of 70, a friend asked him how he planned to celebrate this milestone birthday. Steve said, “Play lots of golf.” The friend said, “You should play 70 rounds for your 70th year.” It took Steve about two seconds to process the idea and accept the challenge. He normally plays 25-30 rounds in a year. Steve and his wife, Ellen, decided to take a big summer road trip and make it all about getting in rounds of golf. A couple of the highlights were golfing at Coeur D’Alene and Lake Tahoe. When they got back to Colorado, he played the 70th round in Breckenridge with the friend who issued the challenge, complete with a little champagne to celebrate.

Even with the best planning, sometimes things just don’t work out. When April 19, 2011, was announced as the date for the final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, my husband, Jim, and I made plans to watch the historic event from a kayak on Florida’s Space Coast. Even before we left our home in Colorado, the date was moved to April 29. With just hours to liftoff, we heard the news that the launch had been scrubbed. During the next 10 days, the launch was moved three times. When the date was moved from May 10 to “at least May 16 pending additional troubleshooting and repairs,” we gave up the goal of watching Endeavour’s final launch. Instead, we happily celebrated my mother’s 82nd birthday with her on May 14.

Here’s my take on bucket lists. Start with love, gratitude and forgiveness. Ira Byock, author of “The Four Things that Matter Most,” reminds us to say, “I love you,” “Thank you,” “Please forgive me,” and “I forgive you.” Use every opportunity to express and demonstrate love to family and friends. Think of the people with whom you feel most comfortable, confident and happy. Tell them how much they mean to you.

Next, continue your list with being in service to others and doing meaningful work. What were you put on this earth to accomplish? Have you used your talents and gifts to the best of your ability? Author Richard Bach said, “Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.”

Then, by all means, embrace your passions and adventures. What ignites your passion? What activities make your heart do a happy dance? How do you express creativity? What are the top places you really want to see?

Start living your bucket list now. Today, do what will make you feel like you’ve lived a full and worthwhile life. That way your bucket will never seem empty.

10 Bucket List Questions

    1. What would you do if you had unlimited time, money and resources?
    2. What would you do if you only had one week and limited disposable income?
    3. What skills or activities do you want to develop or try?
    4. What countries or locations do you want to visit?
    5. What special moments or events do you want to experience?
    6. What can you do to show love and express gratitude to your loved ones?
    7. What do you need to do physically, mentally and spiritually in your life?
    8. What charity can you support with your time and/or money?
    9. What are the most memorable highlights of your life so far?
    10. What memories will help you feel you’ve lived a full and worthwhile life?

Categories of Bucket Lists

Rather than just listing exotic places to visit, consider your values and passions. These categories may be helpful while brainstorming ideas for your list.

      • Personal growth

Learn a new language, write and publish a book, take up a new hobby, win best of show, research your ancestry, start a blog, finish a degree or get another one, enroll in online classes, learn to play a musical instrument, write a song, build a kayak.

      • Relationships

Plan adventures with your significant other, spend quality time with your children, spoil your grandchildren, be present at the birth of a child (other than your own), record your family’s stories.

      • Community involvement

Volunteer for a nonprofit organization or start one of your own, become a mentor to a child or teenager, organize a food or toy drive, run for political office, participate in a home-building project, rebuild donated bicycles for children in need.

      • Adventure and recreation

Go skydiving, ride in a hot air balloon, shoot a .50-caliber rifle and hit the bull’s-eye at 1,000 yards, get a hole-in-one, win a pickleball tournament, go helicopter skiing, bike across the U.S., raft the Grand Canyon, try a zip line.

      • Events and entertainment

Attend a Super Bowl, see a Chihuly glass exhibition, volunteer on a chase crew at Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta, bet on a horse at the Kentucky Derby, admire the art at Burning Man, dig for dinosaur bones, be an extra in a movie.

      • Career and finances

Start your own business, telecommute, work toward financial independence, find your dream job, pay off debts, set up a will or trust, own a home, make home improvements, downsize.

      • Travel by motorhome

Visit all 50 states, see the fall colors in New England, view the Northern Lights, vacation in Key West, tour all 60 national parks, attend an RV rally, boondock in Quartzsite, visit Hearst Castle in California, explore Canada and Mexico.

      • International travel

Go on an African safari, do a bike-and-barge trip in Europe, smell cherry blossoms in Japan, take a boat trip on the Amazon, hike Milford Sound in New Zealand, see a performance in the Sydney Opera House, photograph penguins in Antarctica.

Mary Zalmanek and her husband, Jim, enjoy traveling in their 2019 Winnebago Vista LX when they are not at home in Colorado. Mary loves to cook and entertain, even in the small confines of her motorhome. She shares her favorite recipes on her food blog cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com

Mary ZalmanekMotorHome LifestyleRV Travel Destinations

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