This post was inspired by Maggie at Northern Expenditure, who had the very cool idea of making a “fill-the-bucket” list and encouraging other bloggers to do so too. A fill-the-bucket list is different than a regular bucket list: rather than a list of things you want to do, it’s a list of cool things you’ve already done. The idea is to celebrate the opportunities you’ve already taken, rather than putting pressure on yourself to accomplish certain things within a specific timeframe.
For my own fill-the-bucket list, I decided to add in an extra challenge for myself: no travel anecdotes. When I first started brainstorming the list, I realized that almost every cool experience that came easily to mind was related to travel, and by travel I mean some sort of big expensive trip involving airline tickets and hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. And while I’ve had the chance to have some really cool experiences traveling (like this one that I wrote about a while ago), I decided that it would be a valuable exercise for me to make a fill-the-bucket list of memorable experiences I’ve had that did not involve a big trip, as a reminder to myself that you don’t have to spend a ton of money or go far from home to create a truly meaningful experience.
(Which is a very timely reminder since, given the amount that I owe in student loans, I may not be going on any more trips anytime soon, ha!)
So here it is: my non-travel fill-the-bucket list!
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- I read one of my poems at an open-mic night! For many years I was super shy, which meant, among other things, that standing up in front of a roomful of people for any reason was basically out of the question. I also used to write a lot of poetry, most of which I never showed to anyone. But about three years ago I heard about a poetry open mic night in my neighborhood in Boston. And despite my shyness, I thought to myself, you know what? This could be really fun, not to mention character-building. So I went to the open mic night, which was held in the packed basement of a popular bar, and…I read one of my poems! Out loud, to a roomful of strangers! And I got a huge round of enthusiastic applause (as did everyone who read something—most audiences at open mic night are super supportive and encouraging). Cost: $3 cover to get in.
- I went sledding in a parking lot after a blizzard! So, at the tail end of a huge snowstorm a few years back, my friend C. and I decided we wanted to go sledding. The only problem was, it’s tough to go sledding in Boston because there are, you know, roads and buildings and things everywhere. But C. had the bright idea to walk to a huge parking lot in Somerville, where industrial-sized snowplows were plowing three feet of freshly fallen snow into huge, steep piles (seriously, look at the photo!). We sledded down the piles, in the middle of the parking lot, for probably an hour and a half. There were no cars at all, and no other people, because it was still snowing and no one had managed to dig their cars out of their driveway yet. Cost: $0
- I went contra dancing! I had done a small amount of contra dancing when I was a child, but I rediscovered it when I was in my mid-20s, after a decade of being too shy to participate in dancing of any type. If you’re not familiar with it, contra dancing is the folk dance of New England. It’s also one of the most inclusive types of dancing that I have ever encountered. If you go, you will see people of all ages and many ability levels, and you will dance with all of them. Also, the regular men-must-lead-and-women-must-follow convention that is common at many other types of dances is frequently ignored at contra dances—which I personally appreciate. Plus, there’s great fiddle music. I actually haven’t gone contra dancing lately, but it was my favorite social activity for quite a while, and I’m glad I decided to try it out again as an adult. Cost: usually about $7 for an evening of dancing, or often it’s pay-what-you-can.
- I ran in a race series! I have never been a fast or particularly consistent runner, but a few years ago my friend B. and I heard about a race series where, if we ran in at least five races over the course of a summer, we would each get a free running jacket as a prize. I had never run in a race before, but I managed to run three 5Ks, a 5-miler, and a 10K—and got the jacket (hooray!), which I still have. Cost: The race registrations probably cost between $15 and $30 each, so at least $100 total. However, a lot of this money went to various charities, and we got free T-shirts and lots of free food after the races, and of course the free jackets!
- I climbed a mountain in the winter during a -30F degree windchill! There’s this mountain in New Hampshire, not too far from where I grew up, called Mt. Cardigan. It’s my favorite mountain ever because I’ve been climbing it regularly ever since I was a little kid (it only takes a little over an hour to get to the top), and it has a cool rock summit and an amazing view. One year my friend G., who is really into winter hiking, suggested that we put on our snowpants and yak traks, and climb Mt. Cardigan on December 23rd in the ice and snow. I would never in a million years have suggested this myself, but it was incredibly fun and, for me, unusually adventurous. The -30F degree windchill was only at the summit (we looked it up online later), but the entire hike was still pretty darn cold. Cost: $0.
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So that’s my low-cost, close-to-home fill-the-bucket list, or at least a few highlights from it!
Interestingly, after finishing this list, I noticed that every experience I listed has a strong social component, whether it’s doing an activity with a friend or participating in a large community gathering, or (in the case of the races) both. An interesting theme, and probably an important one to remember. And two of them are specifically about getting past shyness.
Oh, and two out of the five of them involve snow. I guess snow just provides extra opportunities for adventure!
What kinds of fun, cheap/free activities have you discovered? I need more ideas! 🙂