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Bucket Lists for All Ages

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Keeping a bucket list is something shared across generations.
Michael DeYoung/Getty Images

If you’re like me, you have your own personal bucket list. The idea of keeping a bucket list has been around a long time, but it was made popular about 10 years ago by the film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The two men (one a corporate billionaire, the other a blue-collar mechanic) shared a hospital room and were both given a year to live. They decided to spend their last year doing all the things they always wanted to do and set off on an adventure to check things off their bucket list.

For most of us, the idea of a bucket list has little to do with feeling that we're about to "kick the bucket," but everything to do with making the most out of life. While we zoom through our days focused only on accomplishing all the things we have to do and should do, our bucket list reminds us to also focus on all the things we want to do and would love to do. It’s inspirational as well as aspirational.

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I am by no means unique in having a bucket list — nor is it something reserved for the 50-and-over crowd. Keeping a bucket list, it turns out, is something shared across generations, according to AARP research. Travel ranks high on all of them, and the younger the travelers are, the more destinations they dream about.

I revise my list often. Topping my travel desires are Alaska, South Africa and Singapore.

Two years ago, my husband and I took our adult children to visit the Mediterranean. You’d be surprised at how anxious they are to go when they know you’re paying! It turned out to be one of the best family experiences and times we’ve shared together.

What a great thing to have in common with people of so many ages. What an inspiration for creating experiences with family and friends. It’s also exciting to learn that, even though a bucket list invites us to fantasize freely, half of boomers’ desired destinations are domestic and doable.

Planning a trip — maybe an intergenerational trip — is a grand way to brighten the bleak last days of winter or usher in the rejuvenation of spring. And once you have all the plans in place, looking forward to going is half the fun. More people in our survey said that dreaming of, planning and anticipating travel give them as much joy as experiencing the trip!

Travel is part of living a vibrant life at every age, of having fun and valuing experiences over things. It’s a great way to get to know your children and grandchildren better — or to fall in love all over again with your spouse or partner.

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We apparently need the break. Fifty-five percent of working Americans do not use all of their earned time off, leaving 638 million unused vacation days on the table. What’s stopping us? For about a third who are age 45+, it’s the fear of returning to a mountain of work.

Even mountains of work are easier to face when you’re refreshed and renewed by a vacation, and according to Forbes magazine, your boss should thank you for taking time off. Taking vacation time pays off in workplace benefits, including higher productivity, stronger workplace morale, greater employee retention and significant health benefits.

I urge you to pick your spot, read all about it, discuss it with your traveling companions and make the arrangements. AARP has lots of resources to help at  It’s never too early or too late to begin checking things off your bucket list. And, who knows, along the way you may discover more things to add.

Bon voyage, wherever your journey takes you.

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