Inspired by recent conversations with family as well as posts that I’ve read here in The Land of Blog, I’ve compiled my own Bucket List of adventures, goals and achievements to strive for before the days, weeks, months and years really start to slip away from me…

The point of creating a Bucket List, to my way of thinking, isn’t (or shouldn’t be) another means of self-flagellation for things not done or opportunities frittered away but rather as a vehicle for self-exploration, for contemplating your inner wants and needs, passions and desires and in the process of enumerating goals and perhaps unattainable ideals, learning something about what really means the most to you.

I’ve created my Bucket List – the beginnings of one anyway – fresh off the heels of a life-changing trip to Estes Park where my husband and I reveled in the joy and beauty of hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  This analysis of what I’d like to do and achieve prior to kicking the proverbial bucket, in part, reinforced (as did our hiking adventures this fall) the great satisfaction I found in participating in outdoor activities in my 20s and 30s – camping, hiking, spelunking, rappelling, exploring – gloriously fun times spent both with friends and with my son as well as solitary forays into the woods to hike or photograph or just spend time alone to think.

And so, what I’ve inscribed onto my Bucket List thus far is as follows:

  1. Master our new Canon 70D SLR
  2. Get myself published on Freshly Pressed
  3. Hike the Grand Canyon
  4. Relearn to crochet
  5. Bag me a 14er in Colorado
  6. Visit and explore New England
  7. Visit and explore Alaska
  8. Visit and explore Scotland, England and Ireland
  9. Experience Niagara Falls
  10. Drive up along Michigan’s North Shore Drive
  11. Travel to Instanbul
  12. Learn to kayak

Working towards one’s goals can serve, also, as a motivator like none other.  I know exercise and eating well is something I need to and should do for good health.  It’s a gnawing concern and one I strive to manage.  But yearning to hike to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain – and I ain’t getting any younger! – is going to require more than just sheer will and determination.  I need to prepare my body for this particular goal.  Visualizing myself standing at the top one of those magnificent peaks is more than adequate motivation to get myself in shape to accomplish my objective.

Travel and photography, well, I already know I love these pursuits so including them on my list with the goal of learning more and expanding what I already know, what I’ve already seen and done, is exciting and enticing.  I learned to crochet in my early 20s and have never returned to it.  I believe it’s time now to do so.  And what WordPress blogger doesn’t dream of being featured on Freshly Pressed?

This list may not stand, it may (and should!) change over time and hopefully, by the end of 2015, I’ll have #5 crossed off, and perhaps replaced with the goal of bagging yet another.  We’re already researching options and making plans.  For me, planning an adventure is half the fun!

So.  What’s on YOUR bucket list?

After a much-delayed start in financially planning for my own retirement my husband and I both appear to be on a solid path. Flexibility is key and like most everyone concerned with their retirement years there are unknowns for which we are hopefully prepared to address. Health care is obviously the biggest concern as well as an unwelcome stock market crash that could send everything spiraling downward. But for now, all systems are GO and we continue to keep putting money away to help ensure a financially worry-free retirement.

An equally important component of retirement planning is deciding how we want to spend our time once we are no longer gainfully employed. Having a plan in place for what it is we that want to do is perhaps just as critical as amassing the nest egg required to support whatever lifestyle we choose to embark upon once we retire.

With my anticipated retirement date just a few years down the road (more or less!) I’ve given much thought to how I want to fill my days and enjoy life at that time – the true ultimate goal.

I’m always a little surprised to hear some folks say they don’t ever want to retire. They think they’ll be bored or maybe find themselves unfulfilled somehow. I suppose, for me, that’s a distinct possibility but all the more reason to think long and hard about what it is that I want to do and what I want for my life. The interesting side effect to this self-evaluation is that I came to realize what is truly important is the journey itself and not just getting to that longed for day when I actually retire. That is, rather than thinking about all the things I want to do once I retire I need to live my life TODAY and enjoy those activities now as well. Retirement, once she’s here, will simply allow more time and freedom – given ample and sufficient financial planning! – to be able to fully enjoy all the many things we want to do with our time.

Therein, however, lies the catch. The ‘gotcha’. We want to also be healthy enough to participate in our chosen activities – travel, golf, photography, adventures in cooking, adventures in baking, target shooting, bicycling, hiking, swimming and catching up on all those books I’ve yet to read. Maybe do some volunteer work or take a class or two at our local community college. A part-time job is also on the agenda – at outlet for interacting with people a few hours a week and earning a little mad money in the process. Yes, all these things and hopefully good health and vitality to make them all a reality.

Travel is probably, as for most people, the number one goal. Life wasn’t always easy for my parents but thankfully the last several years of their lives together Mom and Dad did quite a bit of traveling. The first trip they took together was to Mackinac Island and I was enchanted with their descriptions of this lovely, lovely place. We traveled there three years ago and our visit was everything I imagined and then some. It was wonderfully peaceful and relaxing and I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Our travel bucket list continues to grow and it’s sadly not realistic to think we’ll have the time, funds and good health to visit every single destination. Oktoberfest in Germany. Scotland, England and Ireland. A cruise down the river Rhine. Scandanavia. Italy. France. Istanbul. New Zealand. And not just foreign travel either. Here in the US there is New England, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Door County, Washington DC, Napa Valley, Alaska and Hawaii. There’s also Nova Scotia and the Panama Canal and all the island destinations in the Caribbean. Just so much to see and do in this world!

In the end there are no guarantees in this life. We have all read or heard the stories of people who became ill and die or are incapacitated shortly after they retire. Conversely there are folks who save vigorously thinking they need a set amount of funds (and in the process not savoring life along the way) and wait far too long to ever enjoy the fruits of their efforts. All that we can do is strive to live healthy lives, stay active now, plan for the future and be prepared to tweak those plans should the need arise.

What is your retirement philosophy? Are you counting the months and years until you bid farewell to your job or do you want to work right up until the end? What are you looking forward to? I’d love to hear what other folks are thinking about. What’s on YOUR bucket list?