You’re going to die someday. It might happen sixty years from now while you’re lying quietly in bed reflecting on a life well-lived, or it might be tomorrow when you step off the curb and into the path of a speeding garbage truck. Most likely, you’ll go out like David Carradine – a bottle of lotion in one hand, a box of tissues in the other, and a belt around your neck that’s tied at the other end to a coat rack in a dingy no-tell Motel. However it happens, it’s important to make your mark on the world and to experience everything this big green-and-blue marble has to offer. That’s why planning is important, specifically, you should plan a bucket list.
A bucket list is a number of things you feel you have to do before you die – see the Great Wall of China, spend a night in jail, steal a car, that sort of thing – and the contents of any two people’s bucket lists are largely a matter of taste and means. Richard Branson’s bucket list, for example, says “own space by 2030.” James Cameron’s bucket list has a big red X over “go to the bottom of the F’ing ocean WOOOO!” and George Lucas’ bucket list is constantly under revision – item 7, for example, went from “create beloved movie franchise” to “defile beloved movie franchise” in 1985, and was crossed off in 1999.
You’ve probably heard your friends complain about not being able to get what they want. Then again, maybe it’s you doing the complaining. Either way, the first question to ask yourself is: what do you want? Don’t answer too quickly. Everyone says they want to backpack Europe or go skydiving, and those are great, but unless you enjoy crowded living conditions, unusual food, foreign languages, and don’t mind the occasional bout of diarrhea, travel might not be for you, and before you decide to strap on a parachute, make sure you can even look straight down from a third-story window without throwing up.
A bucket list should be full of exotic, fun, and interesting things, but be honest with yourself, and start with realistic expectations – if you’re barely making enough money to pay your rent, taking a month-long vacation to Maui might not be within your reach. Not yet anyway. Take the time to find the things you really want to do, the things that speak to you on an almost spiritual level, and then figure out what it will take to get them. If something on your list costs too much money (“take a cruise to anywhere except Italy”), work on improving your career while crossing off less expensive bucket list items (“learn to play guitar well enough to impress women”).
With a never-say-die attitude, you’ll accomplish a lot before you go. Get out there, mix it up, and as Mark Twain said: "Let us endeavor to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry!”