How to Write A Bucket List

The execution of Lady Jane Grey in the Tower o...

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Since I graduated in 2009 my life has been different from what I planned. My father passed away in summer 2010 when I was 22 and losing him was the most devastating thing I have ever gone through. My father was full of spirit and passion and had accomplished so much in his 58 years of life. In the days and months following his death I didn’t do myself any favors – I drank too much, I quarrelled too much, I regretted too much, I cared too little about myself. I cut out everything in my life that was too complicated or emotionally draining. In a way, it was good for me to have some time where I wasn’t constantly pushing myself, constantly focused on what to do next. But I know my father, a man filled with curiosity about the world around him, would have wanted me to continue to live my life and so I pulled out a bucket list I had written when I was 14 and reworked it into the below list.

Writing a Bucket list can be one of the most satisfying and eye-opening lifevestments you can do for yourself (though checking something off your list is even more satisfying).

How to Write a Bucket List

1. Add Diversity. As they say, “Variety is the spice of life” so be sure to include a variety of activities and interests in your list. This helps develop a well-rounded vision for what you want to accomplish in your life. Also be sure to include goals you can accomplish during different periods and decades of your life. One that I added to my list that I am excited about is running a 5K when I am 50.

2. Take Your Time. Rome wasn’t built in a day – your bucket list shouldn’t be written in an hour. Bucket lists are works in progress so revisit and add items often. Really commit to something before putting it on the list.

3. Add Anything Important (no matter how small). Some of you may disagree with me on this but I believe a bucket list is more fun if you are using it often and constantly adding to it. Adding small goals can build momentum and can help you develop more long-term goals. Just this past weekend I made my first pumpkin pie ever and was able to check that off the list!

4. Do Your Research. Read other bucket lists and share yours. Discovering someone else’s bucket list can help you define and refine yours and sharing your list can help give direction to others. Be sure to post links on this page to your lists!

Bucket lists are my favorite lifevestment. They allow us to cultivate our lives and focus on what we care most about. I learn so much about myself every time I add something to the list so I encourage everyone to try writing one.

Ashley’s Bucket List (as of October 24th, 2011)

  1. Explore Angkor Wat
  2. Memorize Poe’s “The Raven”
  3. Be a valedictorian
  4. See the Eiffel Tower
  5. Own a farm
  6. See St. Paul’s Cathedral
  7. Discover nutella
  8. Learn to love earl grey tea
  9. Read all of Harry Potter
  10. Write my personal fashion style guide
  11. Memorize at least one new recipe every year
  12. Visit Lyon, France at least twice
  13. Run a 5K
  14. Become a beekeeper
  15. Train a dog from a puppy
  16. Chop off all of my hair (or at least 10 inches)
  17. Never dye my hair in my 20s or when I turn gray
  18. Run a 5K when I’m 50
  19. Explore the English countryside
  20. Grow a flower garden
  21. See King Lear performed live
  22. Go to a book signing
  23. Give birth to my child
  24. Learn to do a French manicure
  25. Get married
  26. Never get divorced (and stay true to my family)
  27. Eat at Avec in Chicago 
  28. Eat at Gibsons in Chicago 
  29. Do a traditional british afternoon tea service
  30. Go on the Jack the Ripper walk in London
  31. Give a large donation to a charity (animal rescue or an arboretum)
  32. Go to New York Fashion Week
  33. Read every work by Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen
  34. See every film version of Jane Eyre (as available)
  35. Collect Department 56 Dickens Village houses
  36. Collect old books and 1st editions
  37. Keep up Dad’s travel pin map (put a pin on every part of the map you have visited)
  38. Be the sole photographer for a wedding
  39. Perfect my posture
  40. Graduate college (magna cum laude)
  41. Pay off student loans
  42. Have a zero-energy home
  43. Visit Salem, MA
  44. See every episode of The Office (US Edition)
  45. See every episode of Mad Men
  46. See Buffalo Springfield from the concert pit
  47. Wear a fascinator
  48. See Bizet’s Carmen at the Lyric Opera
  49. Learn to bake at least ten different Christmas cookies
  50. Write a novel
  51. See Lady Jane Grey’s grave at the Tower of London
  52. Learn to make felt food
  53. Read Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children
  54. Meet Patrick Stewart (Love him!)
  55. Visit Tokyo and see the cherry blossoms
  56. Do dim sum in Hong Kong
  57. See a temple in Bali
  58. Start a charm bracelet
  59. Read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land
  60. Read Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  61. See Dyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait
  62. See every episode of Battlestar Galactica
  63. Read Byatt’s Possession
  64. Read Byatt’s Little Black Book of Stories
  65. Own an embosser
  66. Visit Iceland
  67. Collect vintage absinthe spoons
  68. See the Taj Mahal and buy a marble souvenir
  69. Learn to love Indian food
  70. Make the 1905 salad from The Columbia Restaraunt 
  71. Read Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  72. Drive an Aston Martin
  73. Date someone not of U.S.nationality
  74. Read Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
  75. Visit Buckingham Palace
  76. Visit Versailles
  77. Visit Belgium and eat at least ten different types of chocolate
  78. See Positano, Italy
  79. Visit South Africa
  80. Go on a cruise
  81. Climb up to Macchu Picchu
  82. Do a cart-wheel in the South American salt plains
  83. Go zip-lining
  84. Visit China and stand on the Great Wall
  85. See Stonehedge and other Neolithic buildings in England including a stone with a hole
  86. Visit Paris during the springtime when it rains
  87. Ride the TGV through France and see Roman ruins
  88. See the Parthenon and take a cruise through the Greek Isles
  89. Take a cruise down the Nile
  90. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  91. Go on a mountain trek
  92. Buy a house in the woods with lots of trees
  93. Make homemade French onion soup
  94. Have lots of pets
  95. Eat at a café in Venice while it rains
  96. Eat food off a large leaf
  97. Sleep in a treehouse
  98. Memorize an entire Bollywood song
  99. Memorize grandpa’s biscuit recipe
  100. Don’t eat beef for 50 years (haven’t since 2003)
  101. Get a custom coat made
  102. Learn to fire a handgun
  103. Study abroad in India
  104. Learn to make pumpkin pie

After re-reading this list I can’t help but feel like many of the things on here are superficial and naive. But that’s the beauty of the bucket list – it’s constantly evolving with you.

Untitled, known in English as The Arnolfini Po...

Image via Wikipedia


Here are some other fantastic posts on Bucket Lists:

11 thoughts on “How to Write A Bucket List

  1. This is great!! I’m sorry about the loss of your dad… I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been. It’s great you appreciate the value of life now though and I’m sure your dad is so proud of you for pursuing your dreams 🙂

  2. I haven’t created a full blown bucket list before. I often create and update short and long term goals, but never a full blown, in my wildest dreams, bucket list. I think I may do that soon. Thanks for the push.

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  5. Now you’ve inspired me to write a bucket list.

    I find the following items on yours of special interest;
    absinthe spoons, I didn’t know of collecting antique ones. I have one new one
    Iceland, Love Iceland!
    Stonehenge, yes please!
    Parthenon, I spent 3 weeks in Greece with my sister and OMG was it all spectacular, especially the Parthenon, it made me cry.
    Home in the woods, 40 acres for the past 25 years, hard work – lots of beauty (hundreds of basil plants in summer)
    a custom coat, do you know of Katwise on Etsy?

    Be well,

    • I can only imagine how amazing the Parthenon was! And I am very jealous of your home in the woods. I plan on living in Chicago for a few more years and then settling on a small farm to try and grow my own food – I’m sure all the hard work is worth it! And I’ve never heard of Katwise – I’ll need to check them out! Thanks for all the wonderful comments!

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  7. Wow! Reading your story was like looking in the mirror for me. I also lost my Dad when I was 24 just before graduating. Directly after graduting I moved halfway across the world to teach English in South Korea. I pretty much hated my first year here because everything seemed impossible – adapting to a new culture and new way of life on top of trying to come to terms with how my family had changed made me a very withdrawn person. I hated social events and felt drained at the thought of an evening out with friends…. listening to everyday banter about what I felt were meaningless, petty things drove me crazy. I’ve just decided to teach a lesson on writing your own bucket list with my adult students – and I hope its going to be as motivating as I think yours is! Thanks for an awesome list – I’ve added a few of yours to mine! 🙂

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