40 Best Bucket-List Experiences for People Over 40
It's time to turn off Netflix and start binging on life.
Yes, we’re living in a golden age of television. But the fact that you crushed all of Big Little Lies or Stranger Things over three weekends is going to feel like a bit of a waste of time when you’re breathing your last breath.
So get out there and live a little, will ya? To help you out, here are 40 ideas that everyone over 40 can do to feel utterly fulfilled instantly. And for more on aging right, don’t miss these 100 Ways to Live to 100!
Let go of a grudge
Feeling sore about something that someone once did to you is strictly for kids. Declaring that you’re over their perceived infraction is the ultimate big-balls move. At once, you’ll free up the brain bandwidth and reclaim the power it’s had over you ever since. Clear the slate, be the bigger person, and you’ll feel all the better for it. It’s just one of 25 Ways to Be Happier Now!
Think you don’t have an altruistic bone in your body? Don’t let that stop you from giving your time to people you don’t know—without any expectations. Giving has been scientifically proven to be its own reward. Using MRI technology, researchers demonstrated that when we do something for other people, the part of the brain responsible for doling out dopamine—the euphoric agent associated with sex, money, food and drugs — becomes activated. Simply put: Giving feels good. It’s an adaptation, say evolutionary biologists, that enabled our puny, hairless species to grow to 7.2 billion and populate practically every corner of the earth.
Learn a foreign language
The English-speaking peoples are great at throwing their armies, commercial interests and their hodge-podge languages around the globe, and they have been for centuries. One unfortunate byproduct of that: Most native English speakers are only conversant in their mother tongue. Language informs the way we think, meaning that multilinguals can experience the world in a way that’s inarguably richer that monoglots. Learning a new language won’t just give you a better shot of bedding a local when you’re on vacation overseas—it may cause you to address all kinds of things from a slightly different angle. And it’ll keep you sharp, just like these 7 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power After 40.
Read the classics
Classics are classics for a reason. Tackling these weighty tomes can seem like a big time investment, so make it a long-term project. Identify 50 classic titles and commit to reading 10 per year over the next five years. Some of the advantages of hitting the books: Increasing your vocabulary; finally understanding cultural references that have eluded you for years; acquiring a context on history and culture and improving your intelligence. According to a 2013 study, you might even improve your social skills. And when you’re done with the classics, pick up some of the modern 40 Books Every Man and Every Woman Should Own.
Learn a new skill
You’re never too old to learn a new useful skill. Whether that’s coding, learning the ins-and-outs of the real estate market, or simply learning out to cook, do it—and do it well—and it will serve you for the rest of your days. If you want some inspiration, here are The 20 Most Lucrative Side Hustles for Putting Your Savings on Steroids.
Know 5 personalized dishes
Think of the 5 most incredible dishes you’ve ever eaten. Learn how they were made, then mimic, master and improve upon them, imparting elements that is uniquely yours. Keep the ingredients you need on hand at all times, and make them so often that putting them together becomes second nature. If you’re looking for a great culinary canvas on which to learn, check out the 40 Dishes Everyone Over 40 Should Master.
Master 5 cocktails
Be a host with the most and excite your guests who visit your home. Practice making four classics until putting them together becomes automatic. Create and name a memorable house cocktail. Bonus points if you can tell a compelling story about what inspired this particular combination of flavors. If you’re a mixology novice, you can start learning with these 15 Two-Ingredient Cocktails You Can Make in 15 Seconds.
Have “you” days
What would your ideal day be like? What would you eat, where would you go? What would you do? Give it some thought, then design a day that’s all about you—without the pressure of it being your birthday.
Turn off all of your devices, set up an out-of-office message on your email and take a day to consider nobody else’s wants but your own. You might just discover that being unflinchingly self-centered for a whole day may result in you being more giving of yourself the rest of the time. And for more ways to enjoy personal time, check out the 10 Best Non-Exercise Stress Busters.
Watch the classics
The Internet abounds with lists of the 50, 100, 500 most important films to be made over the past century. Skip the latest Marvel blockbuster—you know how it’ll pan out, after all—and see a classic movie once per week. Then find an esteemed movie reviewer you like; note how his or her impressions of a critically acclaimed movie compare with your own. Think about what those contrasts say about how you think, who you are.
Research your family tree
Rogues, adventurers, lovers, scoundrels, bigamists. Give your family tree a good shake, and all kinds of fascinating characters are bound to drop out. We live at a time in which resources for looking back at who we are and where our people came from abound. Having a sense of who these people were may give you a new perspective on who you are, the choices you make and crucially, where you might be heading.
Going through life without standing for your beliefs infers that everything in the world is fine. Things only change when people decide they’ve had enough of the status quo. So what’s sticking in your craw? What are you going to do about it? And for more on protests, or correspondent asks: Has #MeToo Gone #TooFar?
Sleep under the stars
The cheapest, most effective way to gain some perspective on your place in the universe is to get someplace dark on a clear summer night and look skyward. Breathe in the air and listen to a cacophony of hundreds of other lifeforms within a few steps of where you lay. And remember: Stargazing is one of the 50 Best Ways to Relax with Your Partner.
Go to a masquerade ball
A funny thing happens when you put on a mask. The anonymity it provides can often lead you to behave, and even think, in a why you ordinarily wouldn’t. Attending a masquerade ball can be a fascinating glimpse into a less self-conscious version of you. What will you do, say and think when your identity is obscured?
Go on an African safari
Sure, you’ll see elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, giraffes, hyenas, gazelles, etc. But even if you’re from Dubuque, Poughkeepsie or Paducah, you’ll feel an eerie sense of homecoming on the savanna. Sub-Saharan Africa is where modern humans got our start, and to experience the landscape, flora and fauna that would be recognizable to our ancient forebears will instill a sense of awe and wonder in you. So, without further ado, here are the Best Safaris and Luxury Desert Experiences.
Ride a horse
For thousands of years, riding on horseback was just about as fast as any human being could travel save for falling off of a cliff. Saddle up, take a ride and experience what until 200 years ago was the last word in rapid transit. Better yet—invest in an Old Paint of your own.
Try a sensory deprivation tank
Depriving your brain of stimulation enables you to experience what it can do when left to its own devices. Some people use it to prepare for competitive events, while others find it restful because the brain behaves in a way that is similar to sleep. If you find meditation a challenge, it’s still a cool way to engage in some relaxation and introspection. And remember: Getting centered is one of the 30 Best Ways to Get More Energy Before Noon.
Experience the hottest and coldest climates on earth
The hottest: 134 degrees fahrenheit. The coldest: -128 fahrenheit. That’s a huge amount of variation on a planet you could circumnavigate in just over two weeks driving 70 miles per hour. Experiencing the extremes of our world is a great way to gain a perspective on this wondrous, varied blue marble in the limited time you’re walking around on its surface.
Experience zero gravity
Get on one of those flights or machines that simulates zero gravity. It’ll cost around five grand. Are there more practical ways to spend $5,000? Sure. Are there more fun ways? Yes. Are there more fun legal ways? Not really.
Catch, kill, clean, cook and eat a fish
Whether you’re a man or a woman, inviting friends and family to a salmon bake at your place is always impressive. The knowledge that you’re nourishing your nearest and dearest with what you’ve wrenched from the briny depths with your own two hands is satisfying in the most primitive and masculine way you can imagine.
Go to a World Cup game
In American sports, what’s happening on the field has to vie for attention with halftime shows, cheerleaders, and the kiss-cam. But at your average mid-season game in England’s Premier League, electrified capacity crowds are mesmerized by 90 nonstop minutes of frenetic gameplay. Now contrast that to the atmosphere of a World Cup game, in which national teams come together for a month every four years. You may never be able to sit through nine innings of major league baseball again.
Drive on the autobahn
The fastest you can legally drive on a US highway is on a 41-mile stretch of toll road between San Antonio and Austin, Texas. There, you can open her up to 85 mph without worrying about getting pulled over. Thing is, there are plenty of production cars in the U.S. capable of hitting almost twice that speed.
Next time you’re in Germany, rent yourself a 2017 Audi R8—the fastest series production Audi of all time—and head to the autobahn, where ordinarily there are no speed limits, and take it to the max: A scorching 200.7mph. And once you’re home, check out one of these 14 Sportscars to Buy Now!
Make a fire
Being able to create fire is the technological leap that differentiated humankind from all other creatures. It’d be a shame to live and die without trying your hand at something so quintessentially human. Grab some sticks and get rubbing.
Buy the bar a drink
Now that you can afford it, randomly treat the denizens of a bar to a round of drinks. Not only will it make you feel good, it’ll start up a few interesting conversations and gain you some fast friends.
Seventy percent of the planet we live on is covered by water, and you’re living in the 0.01% of human history in which you can harness the technology that enables air-breathers to go and check out the deep first hand. Don’t miss your chance. It’s literally a whole other world.
Make something from scratch
In the 20th century you could walk into a store and buy something you wanted or needed. In the 21st century, you order in online and it shows up in a couple of days. But there’s something great about putting in a little thought, making a commitment and creating that thing yourself. There’s certainly no shortage of people on YouTube willing to show you how for free.
Drink a Guinness in Dublin
Does a pint of the famed lager taste better in Dublin? Yes.But not because it’s brewed with water from the city’s major river, the Liffey, because contrary to popular belief it’s not. The water comes from the Wicklow mountains. “In Irish pubs you can order a Guinness knowing that the tap has been flowing all day, so you’ll never get a pint which has been sat in the pipes for an hour. Whereas in London, it could have been there all day,” says beer expert Pete Brown. “The locals also tend to know their own beer inside out, so you’ll get it at the right temperature, in the right glass and with the right head. That’s really important.”
Grow your own fruit and vegetables
Nothing says “I’m a master of nature” than putting delicious, nutritious organic food on the table that you’ve grown yourself. (Plus, it’s a hedge against the collapse of society.) Even if you don’t have much space or time, try growing some low-maintenance herbs.
Walk the Great Wall of China
We hear about it daily, but the idea of building a giant wall to keep people out of a country is nothing new. The Chinese did it more than 2,700 years ago as a means of blocking nomadic tribes from the Eurasian steppes. Most of the Wall was constructed during the Ming Dynasty, which, you may recall, came into being after the most notorious steppe-dwelling interlopers—the Mongols—had seen their power dissipate. So in terms of effectiveness, the Ming-era wall construction was a bit like closing the gate after the horse had bolted, but it symbolized a barrier between Chinese civilization and the and the rest of the world. Think about that as you spend a day (or more) walking a section of it.
Reach out often
“I really should reach out to….” Yes, you really should—and you really should do it now. By putting off something so quick and simple, you’re should-ing all over yourself. It’s 2018. The next time you tell yourself that you should make a connection, reach into your pocket and call or text that someone. You’ll be glad you did, and they will too.
Adopt a pet
There are a lot of animals that need love and a home. Giving a fellow creature a new lease of life will make you and him or her feel great. Certain species have actually been credited with alleviating mental issues such as depression and anxiety. And once you do, then read up on The Former Model Who Wants to Save Your Dog’s Life.
Host a holiday event
Whether it’s Christmas, Chanukah or Thanksgiving, put on your big-boy pants and take care of the ones you love by making them feel cared and catered for in your home.
See a music legend
If the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that music legends pass away far before their time. Tom Petty, Lemmy, Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frye, Natalie Cole, Merle Haggard… Let’s hope the list doesn’t go on in ’18. But many rock legends are reaching retirement age. Their lives span the entire history of the genre. See them while you can.
Go to a drive-in movie
It’s a slice of Americana that’s been in decline for decades. Although there are Disneyfied versions here and there, seek out an authentic drive-in that’s been around for a time while you still can.
Run after a giant wheel of cheese
Seriously. It’s what they do every year at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England. A nine-pound round of Double Gloucester cheese is set loose at the top of a steep 200-yard incline, and a mob of danger seekers run after it in a bid to catch and claim it. (No one ever has, of course; the cheese is presented to whomever gets to the bottom of the hill first.) Fun facts: The cheese can achieve speeds of 70mph and gets a one-second head start on the runners.
Build a shelter
Like building a fire, building a shelter was an essential skill for our ancient forbears who left the tropics for colder, wetter climes. Not only is shelter-building a cool way to reconnect with our prehistoric past, there’s a chance it could come in handy on an inclement hiking trip.
Get your clothes made
You know it’s a terrific feeling to find clothes that fit well. But there’s something very special about something made to fit your body. Expensive? It can be. But find the right tailor, and your silhouette will be transformed in ways that you can’t imagine. Bonus: Having clothes made for your current physique will deter you from getting out of shape.
Write and give a speech
It might been a while since you were called upon to make a best-man speech, which likely was a loose collection of inebriated anecdotes about a college trip to Amsterdam, concluding with the assertion that Becca is a “really great girl.” You’re better than that now. Use your words. Volunteer for a conference or presentation. Write a TED talk and give it a trial run on YouTube. Attend a Toastmasters and start crafting something great.
Pilot a plane
It’s relatively cheap to take flying lessons. What could be more fun than being in the cockpit, pulling back and getting up, up and away? If that’s not your speed, rent a private jet.
Train for and run a marathon
This long-distance event was born more than 2,500 years ago, when a Greek runner was dispatched to Athens from the battlefield at Marathon to announce that the Greeks had won an improbable battle. When he got to Athens, he promptly keeled over and died. Don’t do that. But do run a marathon. Fewer accomplishments feel as good. Set the goal six months to a year before the event — that’ll give you plenty of time and reason to institute a better diet, regular exercise and improved time management.
Celebrate the stories of an elderly relative
Smoking, drinking, carousing—our elders did everything you and I do. Family legends are worth passing down, and they’re a lost art. So the next time you have an opportunity, grab a bottle of something strong, ask an elder ten questions about their life. It’ll put yours in wondrous perspective. And for more on living life to the fullest, here’s How Jane Fonda Stays an Ageless Wonder.
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