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Why Bucket Lists Matter (and the one place every list should include)

African Safari

Most of us have a bucket list. In fact, a recent survey found that 95 percent of people do. But how realistic are they? And does working to accomplish the things on our lists really matter?

I have two ways to answer those questions. First, a fact-based response. Then, a personal one. Both answers are likely to have you dusting off your bucket list and rethinking where it fits on your list of priorities.

The power behind a bucket list

The literal meaning of the term “bucket list” is listing out the things you want to do before you die (or “kick the bucket”). And while contemplating our mortality isn’t always comfortable, a study conducted by Stanford University revealed that creating a bucket list – and actively working toward achieving what’s on it – can be a healthy way to consider what we want in life and map out future milestones.

Based on the research, experts recommend bucket lists blend reachable short- and long-term goals, rather than just list impossible fantasies. By mixing activities that you can tackle over a weekend with longer-term goals that require planning and preparation, you gain a sense of accomplishment and stay motivated for the long haul. Effective bucket lists should have only three to five items on them, with additions made as goals are met or as your desires change.

In other words, to get the full value of your bucket list, you should write it down and make a practice of revisiting and refreshing it at least once a year, such as on your birthday or New Year’s Day. It’s also a good idea to share your list with family and friends. Not only does it communicate what you want in life, but they’ll also help hold you accountable and be there to celebrate your successes.

According to the study, travel is the number one item on most bucket lists based on people’s desire to experience new places and create unforgettable memories. And, that brings me to my personal answer to why bucket lists matter.

Goal #1: Unforgettable memories

Early in my career in the travel industry, I got an up-close and personal view of the power of bucket lists and made a dear friend at the same time.

One Saturday, a couple walked into our travel agency. (Yes, it was pre-Internet!) They began browsing our cruise brochures, selecting a wide variety, and adding them to a growing stack. When I asked when they were planning to travel, the man asked to talk with me in private. He told me he had recently received a terminal diagnosis, and wanted to spend the time he had left traveling with his wife, his children, and his friends.

Family vacation

He had quite the bucket list of destinations in mind. An African safari and a cruise to the Seychelles. A luxury cruise to the Baltic that included Russia. A Caribbean cruise with friends and family, and a trip to the Greek islands. He asked me to help him plan a trip each month, starting right away. His only must-haves were to make it happen immediately and to make it high-end. He wanted to spare no expense to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for his family and friends. He told me that because he would not be there to retire with his wife and enjoy their bucket list destinations, he wanted to do them now to make the most of the time he had left. We developed an immediate connection, and in those few six months he and his wife became family to me. I was honored to help make his dreams come true.

In the end, he made it on every trip but the last one he had planned. Working with him, I saw how a bucket list can be a motivating force to be reckoned with. I also saw firsthand the role these trips played in making memories for his wife, children, and friends to treasure long after he passed away.

So, what’s on your list?

I’m a firm believer in bucket lists. And not just having a list – but making the time to accomplish what’s on it.

Stepping back to contemplate what makes it on your list offers insight into what’s of utmost importance to you. Writing down your top five goals builds excitement while checking them off provides a satisfying sense of accomplishment. And comparing what’s on your spouse’s or best friend’s list can develop into the best kind of shared goals.

 Amalfi Coast

I’m often asked for suggestions about places to include on a bucket list. Many hidden gems collected during my lifetime of travel experiences come to mind. But, if I’m forced to choose just one, I recommend everyone’s travel bucket list include Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Often times, people visit Rome, Florence, or Venice and think they’ve seen Italy. With its blue waters, soaring cliffs, and quaint villages, the Amalfi Coast lets you experience the true essence of Italy and is my definition of a hidden gem.

The absolute best part of my job is helping people accomplish their travel dreams. Let’s talk about what’s on your bucket list and get started on a plan to take you there.

Call the Cruise Dreams team at (877) 999-4533 or email us at

Waves to you and smooth sailings ahead!

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