Whether you’re eating something scary for the first time or braving a new class at the gym, trying new things is never an easy feat. In fact, for many people, the pursuit of a never-before-attempted activity is enough to cause a cold sweat. But knowing how affirming and life-enriching new experiences can be—and considering that research suggests that most people have at least one major regret when they look back on their lives—you have to ask yourself: What’s the harm? What’s wrong with breaking out of your comfort zone from time to time?
Considering that research suggests that most people have at least one major regret when they look back on their lives, there’s no time like the present to start filling your life with new experiences. Not sure where to start? We’ve rounded up 50 things everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. And for more ways to make every day more exciting, fill your schedule with these 40 Best Bucket-List Experiences for People Over 40.
Get (far) out of Dodge.
While international travel may be pricey, leaving your home country is an experience that’s well worth it. In addition to allowing you to explore new cultures and get a richer understanding of the world around you, research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin reveals that international travel can actually boost creativity, too. And before you book your next trip, check out these 35 Brilliant Travel Hacks Only Experienced Globetrotters Know.
See a Broadway show—on or off.
There are few experiences more magical than getting to see a show on the Great White Way. The energy of the crowd, the amazing performances, and the feeling that you got to participate in a truly unique experience are all something every person should try at least once in their lives, whether they consider themselves theater fans or not. And if New York is out of reach, you can always catch your favorite show when it passes through your area on tour.
Hit the road.
Even if driving across the country has never topped your “must do” list, if you want to say you enjoyed a well-lived life, it’s well worth it to take a road trip. There’s something about hitting the open road, camping, staying in middle-of-nowhere motels, and seeing parts of the country you’d never otherwise have had an opportunity to spend time in that can broaden your horizons and profoundly relax you in no time.
Master an instrument.
You don’t have to be the next Beethoven to benefit from learning an instrument. Even if you’re never going to make it on stage at Carnegie Hall, it’s definitely worth trying to learn an instrument at some point in your life. Not only is playing music an enjoyable hobby, researchers at the University of Zurich have even found that learning an instrument increases the brain’s plasticity, meaning that you might just be getting smarter, or at least more capable of learning new things, every time you practice. And for more amazing skills to pick up, master the 40 Amazing Habits to Adopt After 40.
Grow or catch your own meal.
No shade to grocery stores, but there’s something invaluable about knowing you can take care of yourself, no matter what life throws at you. One of the best ways to prove this to yourself is to make a meal completely from scratch—and we don’t mean just eschewing the boxed cake mix and cheese in a can. Growing fruits and vegetables in your garden or catching a fish, cleaning it, and preparing it can give you a feeling of pride that just can’t be matched by microwaveable mac and cheese.
Put on a show.
You don’t have to be a virtuoso to get some serious kicks out of getting up on stage and giving it all you’ve got. There’s nothing in the world like the rush of performing in front of an audience, and it’s definitely something every adult—even the shyest among us—should try at least once. Whether you’re signing at an open mic night or wowing in a local theater production, you’ll never experience a rush like it again.
Catch a game.
Watching your favorite team play on TV is fun, but watching them play live is exhilarating in an entirely different way. Even corny experiences like doing The Wave or getting on the Jumobtron are ones you should definitely have at least once in your lifetime.
Do a ride-along.
If you love cop movies but aren’t sure you have what it takes to become a member of the force, you can always scratch that itch with a ride-along. In many cities and towns, you can request to ride with police or EMTs for a shift, seeing the unique ins and outs of their jobs and getting a feel for whether or not it should be your second act, after all.
Adopt a pet.
Sure, puppy cuddles and adorable selfies with your cat are great as it is, but there’s so much more to adopting a pet than that. Not only are you potentially saving your furry friend’s life, pets can lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, reduce your risk of depression, improve your fitness level, and may even help you live a longer life—not a bad list of accomplishments for someone’s who’s afraid of the vacuum.
Fly first class.
Is flying first class an unbelievable luxury? Yes. Is it also totally worth it? Also yes. Even if you only get to do it once in your lifetime, it’s well worth it to experience a flight where you’re not crammed into your seat like sardines in a can and people bring you champagne with a smile.
Make the first move.
Asking someone out doesn’t have to be as nerve-racking as it’s often made out to be. In fact, in many cases, it’s a major rush. Even if you don’t make a habit of it, it’s definitely worth your while to let yourself be the pursuer, rather than the pursued, at least once in your life.
Traveling abroad is great, but there are few experiences that beat actually immersing yourself in another culture for a long period of time. Living abroad, even if you can only swing it for a few months, can totally change your perspective on the world.
Watch a meteor shower.
The world is a magical place, if you know where to look. Meteor showers, while not entirely uncommon, can give you a profound sense of wonder about the universe—or at least a beautiful distraction from your everyday life—so make it a priority to look up from time to time.
Leap out of an airplane.
You only live once, so why not have a little adventure along the way? Skydiving is not only an unparalleled thrill, it’s also a great way to stare your own mortality in the face and declare yourself the victor.
See the Grand Canyon.
Mother Nature is amazing—a few places are more solid proof of that than the Grand Canyon. Spanning more than 1,900 square miles and rising 2,600 feet above sea level, this vast red rock canyon is well worth a visit (or a hike, if you’re feeling adventurous), no matter how far you have to travel to get there.
Cruise the PCH.
Just because an experience makes you feel like a million bucks doesn’t mean it has to literally drain your bank account. Driving along California’s Pacific Coast Highway, which runs over 655 miles from Orange County to Mendocino County, is a breathtaking experience. Just roll the windows down or put the top back, crank up the music, and enjoy mile after mile of truly stunning sights. Just make sure that when you hit the road it’s not in one of The 20 Worst Rental Cars of the Last 20 Years.
Witness the Pyramids.
Seeing a piece of living history is one of those experiences you just can’t quite put into words. Taking a trip to Giza and seeing these ancient monuments is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience—and one well worth enjoying.
Eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Even if your usual diet consists of little more than drive-thru hamburgers and fluorescent mac and cheese, it’s worth the money to try out a world-renowned restaurant at least once. Whether you’re dining at The French Laundry or Eleven Madison Park, you’ll definitely have a whole new outlook on fine dining after a meal at one of these famed food meccas.
Score an invite to a black-tie event.
Your standard jeans and t-shirt combo has its time and place, but you should definitely try dressing things up from time to time—particularly if you can snag yourself an invitation to a black-tie event. While those uncomfortable dress shoes and expensive suit will only be on for a few hours, those hilarious photos of you living it up in your finery will become cherished memories for a lifetime.
Master a new language.
Travel isn’t the only way to boost your brainpower and learn about new cultures. Even if you stumble a bit at first, learning a new language is an amazing way to deepen your interactions with the world around you. Better yet, research reveals that bilingualism is actually related to slower rates of brain aging and reduces a person’s risk of dementia.
Ride in a limo.
You don’t have to have a hugely flush bank account to ride in a limo these days, making it a fun and accessible experience everyone should try at least once. Whether you’re just taking a ride around town or making a night of it for a special event, you’ll definitely look back fondly on the time you traveled in high style.
Go whitewater rafting.
If you think hitting the open road is a thrill, try hitting the open water. In addition to being an amazing workout that engages your core and upper body, whitewater rafting is a great way for thrill-seekers to enjoy an endorphin rush with minimal risk to their actual safety.
Cutting class may have gotten you into trouble as a kid, but as an adult, it’s a totally worthwhile (and relatively low-risk) experience. You log long enough hours at work as it is—it’s high time you treated yourself to a day off, taking time to catch a matinee, hit the beach, or just catch up on a few chapters of that book you never find time to read.
Visit the Blue Lagoon.
Your local swimming hole is probably good enough to cool off on a hot day, but if you want a truly once-in-a-lifetime dip, head to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Less than an hour from Reykjavik, Iceland’s charming capital, this geothermal spa can keep you pleasantly warm on even the snowiest days, and its white mud—which you can get from a swim-up bar at an adjacent satellite station—is said to have a wealth of skin-healing properties.
Dye your hair.
There’s no age limit on expressing yourself, and dyeing your hair is one of the easiest, and most expensive ways to transform in mere minutes. At least once in your life, try dyeing your hair a fun color. In addition to being a fun change of pace, something as simple as a little hair dye can significantly boost your confidence, too. And when you want to shave off a few years, try out one of the 15 Best Men’s Haircuts for Looking Instantly Younger.
See the sky light up.
Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights, are stunning celestial displays that everyone should experience at least once in their life. Find out where the closest ones to you take place and make a point of camping out as you watch this magical display take place.
Pay a stranger’s bill.
You don’t need a ton of time on your hands to do a good deed for another person. Even if you don’t have the hours to log on a long-term volunteer project, you can always brighten another person’s day (and lighten their financial load) by buying them dinner. Just tell your waitress that you want to pick up the bill for someone else when you’re paying your own—your gesture surely won’t go unappreciated.
Blow a bonus.
At least once in your life, treat yourself to something you really, really want, even if it’s a bit of a splurge. That must-have LeCoultre or Birkin will definitely become a treasured possession—and possibly even an heirloom.
Swim with sharks.
A little terror, a little endorphin rush, and an experience you’ll never forget all rolled into one? Where do we sign up? While swimming with sharks may seem frightening, you’re actually relatively safe when you’re diving into shark-infested waters—and it’s definitely a lot more exciting than your average snorkeling trip.
They say taking leaps can yield great results—just ask anyone who’s gotten a new perspective on life after diving headfirst off a bridge. Bungee jumping can be an exhilarating way to satisfy your inner adventure-seeker without the risk associated with a game of Russian roulette.
Play the tables in Vegas.
Sometimes you win big, sometimes you lose big, but you’ll definitely have an amazing story to tell regardless of how you fare. And even if you walk away from the tables empty-handed, at least the drinks are free. Though if you want to game the system a little bit, Here’s the Easiest Way to Double Your Money in Vegas.
Visit every continent.
There’s so much more to the world than what you’ve seen in your hometown. If you want to look back on your life and say you’ve seen it all, try setting foot on every continent. Even if you only have a day or two to spend in each, or you don’t make it to all of them for another 50 years, you won’t regret spending your time or money on such an incredible experience.
Riding the waves is no easy feat—there’s a reason surfers tend to be in such amazing shape, after all. Even if it takes you a hundred tries to get up, you’ll get a serious sense of accomplishment—not to mention a great workout—when you finally make it up on your board.
Ride a thrilling coaster.
What goes up must come down, even if it comes down screaming bloody murder. Braving a terrifying rollercoaster is a great way to enjoy a relatively safe thrill, get those endorphins pumping, and feel like a kid again. For ideas on what rollercoasters to ride, check out The Craziest Amusement Park Ride in Every State.
Stay in (temporary) luxury.
Your bed may be comfortable, but sleeping at a five-star hotel is an experience unlike any other. A room at the Mandarin Oriental or St. Regis—or a travel guide-worthy boutique—is a completely different experience than staying at your average Motel 6. Splurge on some room service, let a private butler draw you a bath, or just generally luxuriate somewhere you know you won’t have to make the bed.
Ride an elephant.
Seeing an elephant in a circus is one thing, but riding on top of one of these majestic beasts is an entirely different animal (so to speak). Take your seat, check out the world from a new vantage point, and experience the coolest way to travel that doesn’t involve befriending Richard Branson or Elon Musk.
Stay up past dawn.
There are 24 usable hours in every day. With that in mind, make the most of your time by pulling an all-nighter. Grab dinner at midnight. Hit the gym at 4:00 a.m. Watch the sun rise from your rooftop. And fall asleep exhausted as the rest of the world is waking up.
It’ll probably be some time before humans perfect the art of flight that doesn’t involve planes or drones, but you can sure come close. Hang gliding is an exciting experience unlike any other most humans will get the opportunity to enjoy. Who can remember what their problems were when they’re soaring through the air?
Ride an ATV.
Your car may do 0-to-60 at what feels like record speed, but it’s still probably no match for a bumpy, rocky dirt road. Enter: the ATV. Riding on one of these bad boys is a thrill ride unto itself, and gets even sweeter with the added knowledge that you won’t be ruining the resale value of your car if you head for rougher terrain.
Horrify your palette.
They say the best way to conquer a fear is to face it head-on—or better yet, put it in your face. At least once in your lifetime, sit down to a meal that would normally scare the pants off of you, whether that means tucking into some casu marzu, downing a Sardinian cheese made with maggots, or enjoying a healthy portion of sneak steak.
Sure, we’ve all got bills to pay, but that doesn’t mean every job you take on is going to be a winner. There’s something truly empowering about giving your notice at a job that was sucking the life out of you and never looking back. For tips on successfully pulling this move, peruse The Practical Guide to Quitting Your Job and Traveling the World.
Become a black belt.
Knowing that you could potentially take down an attacker is an undeniably powerful feeling. Understanding your own strength—having the ability to use it to your advantage in a potentially-perilous situation—can make those solo walks home at night a lot less intimidating in no time.
Go on a ghost tour.
Are there really spirits walking among us? Are some places actually haunted by the ghosts of the people who died there? Well, there’s one fun way to find out: set out on a ghost tour. These exciting attractions, which take place everywhere from debtor’s prisons in Edinburgh to famous stateside murder sites, like the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts, might just have you believing there’s life on the other side.
Be the first to say those three little words.
Love is fickle. Love is fleeting. But love is kind of awesome, anyway, so why wait for someone else to profess their adoration for you? It may be uncomfortable or even terrifying, but telling someone “I love you” is amazing—especially if the feeling is reciprocated.
Scale to the summit.
Not everyone has the time, money, or incentive to summit Kilimanjaro. However, there’s something to be said for the feeling of accomplishment when you climb to the peak of a mountain—no matter how small—and look down at the world below, relishing your accomplishments.
Visit your ancestral homeland.
It’s one thing to know where your family came from, but it’s another thing to see it firsthand. If your ancestors are immigrants to the country you now call home, go trace their origins and see where they came from to get a better understanding of what your family went through to give you the life you lead today.
Ride on a motorcycle.
Your mom may have told you that she’d disown you if you ever sat on the back of a Harley, but sometimes, it feels good to break the rules. Even if you don’t end up falling so in love with the bike that you want one of your own, it’s worth knowing for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Brew your own beer.
If you love good beer, why not try making your own? As at-home brewing kits get more sophisticated, it’s easier than ever to perfect your recipe and deliver a product you’re proud to share with friends.
Ride in a hot air balloon.
Some people would tell you that the entire purpose of life is to see things from new perspectives. Well, what better way to do that than by floating in a hot air balloon? This whimsical activity may feel a bit silly, but when you see those likes racking up on Instagram, you won’t regret doing it.
Having some time off from work is always a pleasure, but taking a break and vacationing solo is a pleasure many people don’t expect. Whether you’re heading across the globe for a month or just spending a few days on your own a few towns from home, taking a vacation alone is an experience everyone should try at least once. And if you’re thinking of taking this venture on, be sure to bone up on 12 Genius Ways to Happily Fly Solo As a Single Person.
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