friendship, link-ups, stories

Adventures in Bucket-Filling, Close to Home

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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  1. 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.
  1. 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 IMG_0465feet 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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!
  1. 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.

*                 *                  *

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! 🙂

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  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach January 24, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    When I was a kid I lived on a cul-de-sac and they would build the snow mound in the center and we would sled down it too. It was our own private snow fort. Looking back, doing the Avon breast cancer 3-day walk was pretty cool. I actually raised tons of money and it was tough to stick to training (yes, we had to train to walk) but it was a really memorable experience, especially because a couple days later it was 9-11 so it was like seeing one side of humanity versus another.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 24, 2016 at 3:43 PM

      Ooh, cool, a cul-de-sac snow mound! (I guess you haven’t always lived near the beach, then?) 🙂

      Wow, that must have been a really intense experience doing the Avon walk, and just before 9/11, no less. And I totally am not surprised to hear that training was required. I’m in pretty good walking shape because I walk about 5-8 miles most days just getting around the city, but on days when I walk substantially more than that, I am definitely sore afterwards!

  • Reply Jillian January 24, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    I love this idea, and your list 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 24, 2016 at 3:41 PM

      Thanks, Jillian! It is a cool idea, for sure. 🙂 I definitely have lists of stuff I want to accomplish in the future, but it’s nice to take time to appreciate past experiences too.

  • Reply Maggie January 24, 2016 at 1:20 PM

    I love this addition! And local is a great place to look for opportunities. Most of mine were close to home as well! Thanks for participating! I love reading these.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 24, 2016 at 3:40 PM

      Thank YOU for the idea! And I loved that you included a lot of close-to-home stuff too, like the salsa lessons and the Northern Lights. (I actually thought your ice-skating story had been part of that post too, but it looks like it was in another post.) Anyway, very cool idea, and I hope to see more of these lists around! 🙂

      • Reply Michael @ Financially Alert January 26, 2016 at 6:20 AM

        Maggie and Sarah, you both have inspired me to do a list of my own. 🙂

        It really is the simple things in life that spread so my joy.

        BTW Sarah, awesome job on facing your fears with the poem reading – you rock!!

        • Reply Sarah Noelle January 26, 2016 at 8:57 AM

          Thanks, Michael. Reading the poem was definitely scary, but definitely worth it! And that would be awesome if you did a list too! I agree, it was a great idea. 🙂

  • Reply Mortimer January 24, 2016 at 7:04 PM

    This is a beautiful list of memories. The joy you had doing them shines through in reading it. Thanks so much for sharing! This idea also ties right into my post a few days ago about seeing abundance everywhere while living frugally, so I’m going to hop on this bandwagon and do one of my own. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 25, 2016 at 8:56 AM

      Thanks, Mortimer! And you should definitely do one! The credit goes to Maggie for her awesome idea. 🙂

  • Reply Des January 25, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    This is awesome, Sarah! What a fantastic twist on the series, and so in line with your current goals – I love it. I especially love that it gave you a set of experiences where you could look at the common threads between them! I’m actually tempted to (personally, not on the blog) do something similar, because as fun as Australia was, I am so not about to spend the bonkers amount of money that studying abroad cost me anytime soon.

    I should really write about it. It cost *way* more money than I anticipated.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 25, 2016 at 10:13 AM

      You totally should! I think it’s pretty common to underestimate how much big trips are going to cost — at least for me it is. I always budget out a certain amount, but then once I get there I have this total change in mindset from “I should save money” to “YOLO!” I don’t know if that’s why you ended up spending more than expected in Australia, but it’s definitely what happens to me anytime I go anywhere!

  • Reply middle_class January 25, 2016 at 1:37 PM

    I love this idea. I actually keep a list of accomplishments, some of which definitely are typical bucket list worthy. Like you, travel is a BIG part of this. However, it’s good to look back at see a lot of different accomplishments that did not take a lot of money!

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 25, 2016 at 4:00 PM

      Yes, it’s so easy to just think about travel, isn’t it? (Which totally makes sense, because travel is almost always memorable!)
      I like that you actually keep a list of accomplishments. Maybe I should try this. I was surprised that it took me a while to remember some of these experiences!

  • Reply kalieb January 25, 2016 at 3:42 PM

    Very fun! We’ve embraced camping as an inexpensive alternative to pricey vacations. We’ve even camped with a newborn & toddler in tow, something I’d put on my “fill-the-bucket” list since I didn’t grow up as a camper.

    Last year, my husband & son built an awesome igloo in our front yard. It outlasted every other snow creation, and could (barely) fit our entire family inside. It was a good way to make the most of a long winter.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 25, 2016 at 4:02 PM

      Ooh, camping, nice! I actually camped last summer, for the first time as an adult, and it was AMAZING. (And definitely way cheaper than sleeping in a hotel, clearly.) I also love the igloo idea — how creative!

  • Reply Generation YRA January 26, 2016 at 12:29 AM

    This list is amazing, Sarah! It’s wonderful that you also incorporated the challenge of choosing things that were close to home/not travel related. One of my main mantras this year has been “Make Home Your Vacation” based on a post I saw from someone that highlighted – why do we need to always be running from our regular, daily lives to make it to the next vacation? Here are some of the fun, free activities we love! Visit to the public library and walk downtown (really look at the architecture of buildings and what’s above normal viewing level), garage sale/estate sale visits (without actually purchasing anything), play pretend (anything!) with your young nieces and nephews, walk to a nearby park and read, farmers/Saturday markets!

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 26, 2016 at 9:06 AM

      Thanks, Alyssa! 🙂 I love your list of activities. Public libraries, architecture, farmers markets — great suggestions! I love living in a city because the activity of walking around and looking at stuff (and at people) is always available. Vacations are great, but it would be a shame to always just be looking forward to the next one and not enjoying what’s around us. “Make Home Your Vacation” is such a cool mantra — I might steal it, haha.

      • Reply Generation YRA January 26, 2016 at 10:39 AM

        Please do! It’s amazing how it changes your outlook when making home your vacation. 🙂

  • Reply Vic @ Dad is Cheap January 26, 2016 at 1:57 AM

    A fill the bucket list is a great way to reflect on all the amazing things you’ve already done! I think I might just have to do a write up myself! I like how you excluded travel from your list as it shows people that you can do some really fun things without having the break the bank to do it.

    I live in Southern California, so the thought of temperatures going below 60 degrees is terrifying enough. I don’t know if I would survive your winter escapades.

    Great post Sarah!

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 26, 2016 at 8:59 AM

      Yes, you totally should do a list too — that would be great! And believe you me, I would LOVE to be basking in the sun in Southern California. Despite all my big talk about my winter escapades, I get cold really easily and vastly prefer temperatures that are above 75 degrees. Maybe someday I’ll get to live someplace warmer…

  • Reply Emily Jividene January 26, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Great post! I like the idea of keeping them all close to home…it’s easy to appreciate the world at large (or when you spent some bucks to do something), but sometimes harder to feel that you can do memorable things when you’re sticking close to home and on a budget.
    One of my most memorable things was relearning to knit as an adult. My grandmother showed me how to knit as a child, but I dropped it and didn’t pick it up again until around the age of 40. Relearning the skill (which I really love) gives me a sense of accomplishment every time I complete a project but also connects me to that grandmother and that time as a child.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 26, 2016 at 9:13 AM

      How cool that you’ve picked up knitting again as an adult! It sounds like it’s something that’s really meaningful to you as well, as well as being a fun, local, low-cost activity. And you’re making useful items, to boot! 🙂

  • Reply Abigail @ipickuppennies January 26, 2016 at 2:50 PM

    Hmmm, well I’m pretty boring these days, but growing up in Alaska provided some weird/interesting experiences.

    Each year, there’s a winter festival that meant kids like me were riding fair rides in temps that were under 30 degrees. Sometimes, sub-zero.

    I volunteered at the Iditarod hotline as a teen, answering calls from all over the country/world from people who are keeping up with the race.

    I met the guy who created the jump shot in basketball. (Well, two guys are credited, but this guy is more often the one credited.) I guess having a taller brother is the key to innovation.

    I met a guy who was in Antarctica with Admiral Byrd, had a mountain down there named after him and then mounted an expedition and climbed it at age 89.

    I wrote a monthly op-ed column for the main Anchorage paper for around a year and a half, starting at age 15.

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 26, 2016 at 6:37 PM

      Wow, that is a seriously cool list of Alaska-related experiences! Did you read Maggie’s original fill-the-bucket post? Most of hers have to do with Alaska too since she lives there.

      I wonder if the Iditarod still has people answering phones, or if that has all been internet-ized…

  • Reply Millennial Money Man January 26, 2016 at 6:00 PM

    I bought a ukulele this week! It kinda sounds lame, but I have a music degree that I haven’t used in 7 months and I want to use that creative outlet again! Also – you can get a semi-decent uke for $50. This is a cool post idea – I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a financial success (like we all do), and it’s nice to take a step back and see the cool stuff I’ve done already. 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Noelle January 26, 2016 at 6:32 PM

      Oh hey, that’s great! $50 for hours of entertainment sounds like a pretty good investment to me. 🙂 And yeah, all credit goes to Maggie for the post idea!

  • Reply our next life February 1, 2016 at 2:08 AM

    I love the way you approached this, to place a special focus on inexpensive, close-to-home activities. So wise! We really could all use this focus, regardless of whether or not we’re still paying off our student loans. It’s kind of like the notion of looking for happiness externally when where we need to look is within ourselves. Okay, I’ll stop being all metaphysical about it. I love that you sledded down a snow pile, and ran those races. And that mountain climb in the winter — whoa! You get my respect for that. (Of course, you already had my respect, but maybe just a different, extra kind of respect now?) 😉

    • Reply Sarah Noelle February 1, 2016 at 9:28 AM

      Haha, metaphysical comments are welcome here. And yeah, it’s amazing to me how many awesome free/cheap activities are out there, especially ones that take place outside. Interestingly, even though I grew up in a semi-rural area, I don’t think I fully appreciated outdoor adventuring until I moved to Boston. (And yes, I am counting parking lot sledding as outdoor adventuring.) 🙂

      • Reply our next life February 1, 2016 at 7:52 PM

        I think you definitely get to count parking lot sledding as outdoor adventure. 🙂

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  • Reply The Personal Economist February 15, 2016 at 11:56 PM

    Hi – you’ve inspired me to do my own Fill-My-Bucket List on my blog page too! I got a bit distracted looking at old photos but I suppose that is the whole point!

    • Reply Sarah Noelle February 16, 2016 at 12:52 AM

      Oh yay, that’s great! All credit goes to Maggie for the idea. 🙂

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