Picture of Michael Woody

Want to sign up for free e-mail notification of the column or to see past columns? Click here!

We all have one, whether it is written down or tucked somewhere in the back of our mind just waiting for the right moment to transition over to ink on paper. Although there are some who feel that the term bucket list is misused, Oxford Dictionaries offer this simple definition: “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.” There is no age limit or condition of health restricting its creation, no boundaries set on its content, and its worthiness is not open for critique by others. It is your list, so make it as short or as long as you like, filled with things that are important to you. As you can imagine, these lists often include a wide range of experiences, things that we dream of doing, sometimes since childhood. As we navigate through the twists and turns of life, we start adding to that list, including experiences we want to share with the ones we love. But here’s the rub: Too often we don’t act, life gets in the way, or we simply determine that the items on our list can wait for yet another dawn. Only recently have I taken a closer look at my own list with a sense of urgency. Not because of illness (thankfully), but simply because I don’t want to miss sharing those experiences with the people I love, whose shared passions helped build my bucket list in the first place.

 Earlier this year, my family had the opportunity to embark on a remarkable journey, a steamboat cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the ?American Queen with executive editor Adam Pitluk and his family (see page 44; Adam got to check “write a story like Mark Twain” and “photograph my own story” off his own bucket list). The opportunity to explore the Mississippi River like Twain did? Absolutely on the list.

After a bit of research, we also learned that the American Queen Steamboat Company is focused on multigenerational travel, so my wife had the idea to invite her mother to join us. We thought it would be a great way to spend some unhurried time together, touring plantations, battlefields, historic river towns and even swamps. But as it turns out, a surprise bonus came with this invitation. This very experience — the riverboat, the Mississippi, the tours, all of it — was something that my wife’s parents had dreamed of doing, but they didn’t have the chance to check it off the list together before my wife’s father passed away. That’s what has fueled my sense of urgency, and that’s why I encourage you to do the same.

Although I have had the great fortune to check several items off my list, many still remain: Explore Venice by gondola; ride the Amtrak Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles; heli-ski in the Canadian Rockies; climb the hills of Salzburg, Austria; kayak the boundary waters of Minnesota; explore the Colosseum in Rome. As you can see, the list is long and ambitious, and it continues to grow.

The following quote has often been attributed to Mark Twain. Over the years, I have heard it presented at countless graduations, vessel christenings, dedications and special events, and each time, I am inspired. Although the attribution can not be verified, I am compelled to share it with you: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

So what are we waiting for? Grab a pen and flip to the maps in the back of this issue (pages 82-85). Where do you want to go? What do you want to see — and, most important, with whom? Then just do it! Figure out a way to make it happen, and 20 years from now, you will not be disappointed. As we have the opportunity to check items off the list, not only are we given fantastic stories to share, but we also gain memories that will last a lifetime.

So Twain up! Let’s get out there and explore, dream and discover the world.

Signature of Michael Woody

Michael Woody