The Adventure

5 Tips to Take Your 'Bucket List' From Dream to Reality

Posted by Jane Carswell on Wed, Sep 28, 2011

by Ellen Barone

Are ‘bucket lists’ for dreamers only? Or can they be a blueprint for achieving life goals and happiness?

Bucket List Travel Experiences   Heli Hiking in the Canadian RockiesFor many, ‘The Bucket List’–a movie about two terminally ill men who head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die–was a wakeup call and reminder not to sideline passion and fulfillment in lieu of the daily grind.

Perhaps, like me, the film inspired you to sit down and draft your own list of things you’d like to experience and accomplish before kicking the bucket. Mine ranges from places I want to visit (Antarctica), and dream adventures (heli-skiing), to healthy habits (daily meditation and yoga) and professional goals (team up with an agent).

Asking important questions - What makes my soul soar? What’s really important to me? What gives my life meaning? - is a powerful way to mine your heart for ‘bucket list’ dreams and aspirations. But then what? Here are five tips to help take your ‘bucket list’ from dream to reality.

1) Dream big. Forget practical. So what if you can’t imagine how you’ll get from here to there. Who cares if your friends and family think you’re crazy. Every building, company, product, accomplishment, or innovation began as an idea, a thought, a dream. More than two decades ago, as a then high school math teacher, I attended a presentation by two talented travel photographers, Lisl Dennis and Nevada Wier. I remember thinking that day, Wow, what a cool life. I’d love to do that someday. Today I do. And, even more miraculous, I am honored to count those two extraordinary women among my friends.

2) Just say yes. I don’t know about you, but my knee-jerk response when opportunity comes knocking is NO: Not tonight, I’d rather stay home. No thank you, I can’t afford it.  No way am I going bungee-jumping, I’m afraid of heights. NO is out of my mouth before I even realize it. But sometimes I catch myself. Sometimes I remind myself to step outside my comfort zone and say YES. Why? Because I know that NO closes me off, puts up walls, and keeps me where I am. YES, on the other hand, leads to where I want to go.

3) Give away your talents. I recently read an article about Voluntourism which posed the question: “Who benefits the most – those in need or the volunteers?” If you’ve ever given of yourself, I think you’d agree that the giver receives as much, if not more, from the act. But beyond that, when you give away your talents, time, or insights, you open yourself to the people, circumstances, and serendipity that miraculously transforms wish list to reality.

4) Question your motives. “I recently scratched a few items off my bucket list,” said a friend, “when I realized they were things I thought I SHOULD do rather than what I WANTED to do.” Her words got me thinking: How many of our aspirations and actions are conditioned by slick marketing, other people’s values, or childhood and societal conditioning, as opposed to our true heart’s desire?

5) It’s all about the experience. When discussing the subject of bucket lists with friends, travel was a common theme. We each had places we wanted to go: Iceland, Italy, Africa, Alaska… But why? Digging deeper, we realized that each of our bucket list travel experiences represented an imagined experience: Viewing the northern lights from a steaming Icelandic thermal pool. Dining al fresco in a centuries-old Tuscan village. Viewing herds of zebra, wildebeest, and lion in the golden plains of Africa. Or an unforgettable voyage along Alaska's Inside Passage. But what can be forgotten amongst our daydreams and wish lists is that the gifts of travel – a sense of wonder and timelessness - is accessible to us, no matter whether we are hiking the Grand Canyon or ambling along Main Street in our hometowns.

What’s on your bucket list? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Ellen Barone is a freelance photojournalist specializing in travel. For the latest travel news, tips, and reviews, visit her website at

Photo: If Heli-Hiking in the Canadian Rockies is on your bucket list, contact CMH Summer Adventures!  Photo by Michael Welch.

Tags: Adventure Travel, For Fun