Our Family Bucket List
Want to ensure a family life filled with all the good stuff - adventure, security and love? Gather your loved ones together and pick up a pen.
Here’s a time-honored way to get things done: sit down, write down everything you need to accomplish, then cross items off as you go. A list is a great way to manage the little stuff. But what about the big stuff? Forget about making your dentist appointment or getting the car serviced - what about traveling to Europe, adopting a child, buying a second home? After all, someday when you look back on your life, you won’t be thinking about your forgotten hair appointment. You’ll want to be sure that you accomplished the things that help shape who you are - not just as a person but as a family.
Enter the family bucket list - a list of things you want to make sure get done before it’s too late. It’s like your life’s to-do list, but it’s not just yours, it’s your family’s. And it’s not about getting through the day; it’s about prioritizing your life for years to come. The benefits go beyond planning for tomorrow though; when a family comes together as a unit to pinpoint what’s important, dreams converge, and intimacy builds. We talked to three families who used bucket lists to map out their family’s shared future - and to foster closeness in the here and now.
The Krupickas: Kayak at the Dunes
A couple years ago, Lara Krupicka of Chicago discovered that her then 12-year-old daughter had a natural talent. “She’d had a good first season in track, and people were like, “Wait, she did that well in her basketball shoes?” Lara laughs. “So we bought her track spikes as a Christmas gift.” A few months later, Lara’s daughter announced a goal - she wanted to break the high school track record. Then, lo and behold, she did it - while still in junior high.
Lara is understandably proud of her daughter’s achievements, but she doesn’t see them happening by accident, or in a vacuum. “To see her achieve her goal wasn’t just meaningful to her; it was meaningful to us,” she explains. “It struck me that in our family there was an amazing dynamic happening when one of us went after something particularly important, I saw how some of our goals would stretch across our family and realized we need to embrace that."
So Lara and her family sat down and began brainstorming - what did they want as individuals? What did they want as a family? And where did these hopes and dreams overlap? Lara says articulating hopes and dreams wasn’t new for her family, but the exercise of writing them down was.
“Last fall was the first time we got this in writing, but using that language and seizing those opportunities - I can’t even pinpoint where that started,” she says. The magic was in the intention - the sense of pride that came with identifying a goal and accomplishing it rather than simply hoping that something would happen.
Thus inspired, Lara didn’t stop there. From her family bucket lists she developed a family bucket list manifesto, with calls for the reader to “Savor the anticipation of a goal,” “Plan to amaze yourself,” and crucially, “Be spontaneous, but plan often.” Out of this grew her book Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie into Every Day.
Despite the emphasis on family, Lara advises people to write their own individual lists prior to coming together as a group. “Start your own list first, and have your kids get their bucket list going. There’s a synergy that happens,” she explains. “The family list grows out of that.”
Lara points out that as they cross things off their list, the kids naturally become more engaged. “It’s a push-pull. Writing down our goals allows my husband and I to focus on some deficits with our kids-and our kids learn that we’re serious about it!” One of the items on their list was to go kayaking at Sleeping Bear Dunes-which they made happen last summer. “The more adventures we do, the more we expose them to, the more they’ve grown to embrace it.”
The Thomsens: Travel to Europe
When Kathy Thomsen first married her husband, Jim, they lived in a tiny apartment with no furniture. They’d pull out their jar of loose change, count in the middle of their floor, and that would tell them what they could afford to do that weekend. To say they were cash poor may be an understatement. But they were rich in dreams, which is why they began their own bucket list very early on - on and old-school yellow notepad.
“We wrote it while were expecting our first child,” Kathy recalls. “Jim has heard about this idea of writing down 101 lifetime goals. We both liked the concept of making a list. Where are we going from here? What do we want our family, our life, to look like? The idea was that if you’re intentional about writing things down, you’re more likely to see where it will take you.”
Now Kathy and Jim have been married more than a quarter century, and on their 25th wedding anniversary they decided it would be fun to pull out that old list. “It’s funny. Some entries were big like travel to Europe. But some of them were ‘Buy a crib’!” The list was almost like a time capsule, giving a rare window into the concerns that held sway so long ago.
“What was cool was that while we wrote things like, ‘I want to learn how to sail’ or ‘I want to go to these countries someday,’ we also came up with things like ‘I want to paint the nursery.’ Those might seem silly, but they were important - we needed to prepare for the family.”
Some of their entries felt pie-in-the-sky at the time. “We wrote things like, have a four-bedroom home, travel to several countries, spend time in the mountains, have a second home,” Kathy recalls. “We even put down, ‘Have a grand piano,’ well, we have one now!” But they also donate money to their college and church and give generously to benefit others. “Each year we decide ahead of time which organizations we want to give to so we can plan for it.”
They also managed to make it to their travel destination, purchase a second home in the mountains, and live in a large home they built themselves. This was all possible, Kathy says, because peppered among the fantasies on that first list were some nitty-gritty financial goals too.
“Jim made sure to include, ‘Have x amount of money in the bank,”’ she points out. “When we think back to those first few years, when we had so little-just the two of us in this tiny apartment - compared with these last few years, we live a very nice lifestyle now that we never imagined back then.” But because they sat down to write their bucket list, they did imagine it. Now that they’ve achieved it they find themselves looking ahead to the next 25 years. “We still want to be intentional about challenging ourselves and doing stimulating things, but accumulating things is not as important anymore,” Kathy reflects. “Being financially stable is always important, of course, but now, as our kids get ready for college, we’re talking about downsizing. We built this house six years ago, and it’s enormous. Now we’re thinking maybe we can sell this and live somewhere else! We’re more interested in freedom.
What is on your family bucket list? Sending kids to college? Traveling somewhere new each year? Saving for retirement? Make the most of every life experience and those memories that last a lifetime and build a lasting legacy.