Real Life Bucket List

I LOVE bucket lists. Love them. If you are a blogger and you write a bucket list, I will read it closely. I want to see what you want to do, what drives you, your dreams and aspirations…and then I will crib off you and pick things off your list to add to my own. 

For as much as I love bucket lists, though, I actually don’t have a big, official list of my own. I mean, I wrote out my running bucket list to tackle before leaving NYC, but I knew when I was writing it that most of those runs would never come to fruition. The amount of planning and juggling involved to make them happen would have sucked the joy out of actually running.

Real Life Bucket List. What’s on your bucket list - is it what you think you *should* want to do, or real life dreams? If someone offered you a bucket list item, would you actually do it?

Do you have a bucket list? Is everything on it truly what you desperately want to do? I thought about some things I would consider to be bucket list items and then I broke them down to see if they were actually what I just thought should be on my bucket list.

Running the Paris Marathon.

This is my go-to if I’m ever asked what my dream race would be. it’s a no brainer, really –  I love running, I love a challenge and I love Paris. I also always add that I’d savor every minute of refueling on cheese and bread and wine. (That last part is indisputable.)

Maybe it’s because I am DEFINITELY not in marathon shape (like I am questioning my sanity for signing up for a May marathon because we’ll blink and it’ll be here, people!), but if someone told me tomorrow I had just won a free trip to Paris and in one scenario I had a free entry to the Paris marathon and in the other scenario, it was just (“just” – ha!) a trip to Paris…well, call me a bad runner, but I’m picking the non-marathon option. Fran and I went five years ago, when I was actually training for the NYC marathon, so I scheduled in a run one morning, along the Seine, towards the Eiffel Tower, then back along the Left Bank. That’s all I need. Bucket list satisfied. Also, this is how we did Paris:

Real Life Bucket List. What’s on your bucket list - is it what you think you *should* want to do, or real life dreams? If someone offered you a bucket list item, would you actually do it?

And I’m MORE than okay with that.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail. (Or the Pacific Crest Trail).

I read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods probably a little over 20 years ago, before I had any idea I’d one day be living in the US, with the Appalachian Trail running right behind my mother-in-law’s house. He made it seem doable; enticing; hard but incredibly rewarding.

Then just a couple of years ago I read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and it made me feel like this was an experience that would be life-changing and transformative. 

Real Life Bucket List. What’s on your bucket list - is it what you think you *should* want to do, or real life dreams? If someone offered you a bucket list item, would you actually do it?

But, ugh, camping. Maybe for a night or two. But weeks? In some cases, months? And realistically, with kids, the thru-hike is not going to happen until waaaay later in life. Maybe I’m a little too Type-A, but if it’s not a thru-hike, I’m not sure I would put it on my bucket list. Am I being too honest here yet?

Let’s move on. To ultra running.

I am in a Facebook group for trail and ultra runners. I am neither, but I do run and I do want to start trail running and I would be lying if I told you the idea of running an ultra hadn’t sung its siren call to me. I see people posting in the group about coming back from injury or serious illness, starting with a one-mile run, then showing their medal from a 50K or a 100 miler. Holy crap, that is some inspiring stuff right there.

Could I do it? Maybe, with the right training and enough time and the right support team. Is it enticing? YES. (Although I’m not really sure why – I’ve read plenty of ultra-marathon recaps and none of them would make you think for a moment that any of it is sunshine and roses. They sound horrible, but that’s part of the fun!) 😉 Is it a real bucket list item? I don’t know. 

Norway. Yes, the whole country.

Going on vacation there became a bucket list item after a stopover. Remember I mentioned Fran and I had been to Paris? Well, we collected frequent flyer miles like champions to help with that trip and part of the deal with booking award travel is that it’s never just point A to B, direct flights. So on our way to Paris, we had a couple of hours stopover in Oslo. As the plane was landing, we saw a swath of stunningly beautiful, impossibly green scenery before us and we marveled aloud at how beautiful it was. A retired couple sitting near us, who turned out to be serious travelers, overheard and started chatting to us – they told us that all of the Scandinavian countries were a joy to visit but RIDICULOUSLY expensive. 

Well, in our naiveté, we thought, ‘How expensive could it be?” (This was back when the American dollar had tanked, so we already knew our Parisian trip was going to be pricey.) We went through customs and asked the (friendly!) immigration guy how to say hello and thank you in Norwegian – “Hallo” and “Takk”. We delighted to find out when we got into the airport waiting area that people also say “Takks a lot”. We browsed the shops and said “Hallo!” to as many people as we could, then we found a lovely little bar and ordered two of their local beer. We thought it was so great that the beers came with a free bowl of nuts and pretzels. We said, “Takk! Takks a lot!” to our bartender.

Real Life Bucket List. What’s on your bucket list - is it what you think you *should* want to do, or real life dreams? If someone offered you a bucket list item, would you actually do it?

Three weeks later, when our credit card statement arrived back home in Brooklyn, we discovered those Norwegian airport beers were $18 USD each. That’s how expensive it can be. Takk, but no Takks. (Unless someday we have a LOT of money, then yes, anywhere in Scandinavia is top of my travel bucket list for real.)

Now that I’ve started thinking about it, I realize some of what I thought would be on my bucket list is actually not that important to me. And I’ve experienced a lot of cool things that just happened – they were never on a bucket list to begin with, but ended up being amazing experiences I will treasure forever.

I’m reminded often that you can plan, plan, plan to your heart’s content, but what life has in store for you is often crazily removed from what you imagined for yourself and hopefully, in most cases, what you never knew you wanted until you had it. And sometimes it’s the element of surprise that makes it so very special and bucket-list worthy.

So, what’s on your real-life bucket list?

Is there something you say you want, but secretly aren’t that sure about?


  1. An ultra is definitely on my bucket list and it will become crossed off next mth when I tackle my first 50k. My sis and I went on part of the Appalachian trail the other yr which was cool recently posted…Don’t do as I do (5 Common Runnning Mistakes)My Profile

  2. Oh wow we are bucket list compadres! I’ve been trolling the VCM website! I think it’s too hilly for me….
    OSLO!!! It’s my absolute fave and i NEED to spend more time there.
    Of course Paris. You just have to.
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Come do VCM!!!! It will be so fun! I think the elevation is similar to NYC, it’s the turns I’m worried about.

  3. You have a great list, here. My friends ran Paris a few years back (did London/Paris within a week, actually) and loved it. And I love Norway–it is a fantastic country. Finally, the AT is on my list, too. Let’s set a date!
    misszippy recently posted…My podcast is live!My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Over Thanksgiving I’m going to do a run on a section of the AT. When the boys are bigger we want to start hiking with them and hopefully do a few overnights, too.

  4. I will be lucky IF I can ever cross the 1/2 marathon off of my bucket list. I am studying for the MFT licensing exam (just passed the first exam last Friday & studying for the second) and so after I get licensed, I am going to work on Bucket List stuff, which hopefully starts off with training for a 10k & then, possibly moving towards a 1/2 marathon. I don’t know how you guys do the marathon & ultra marathons….

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I vividly remember lining up at my first half marathon, thinking HOW am I actually going to run 13.1 miles?? This is insane! But with training, of course you can do it! I think you’ll find you surprise yourself once you get into racing. 🙂

      • Thanks. Baby steps for me. I just passed the 2nd exam so I will try to start training after the new year. I have to see what my doctor says due to the Bursitis in my hip. Boo!

        • Carly Pizzani says:

          Congrats on passing the second exam!! That’s fantastic! But boo to the bursitis – hopefully you’ll be able to build up strength while dealing with it and get back to full health.

          • Thanks, Carly! I love hearing about your adventures. Pray that my bursitis will be cleared up. I have not ran since the Lexus LaceUp 5k that was on Nov. 14th due to the bursitis, the second exam, work and then, getting sick from the stress of the exams.

  5. The AT or the PCT are on my list but I don’t know if I could last that long. The max back country hiking I’ve done was 5 days and I felt absolutely disgusting after that. I would have paid $1000 for a shower.
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…High Five FridayMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Right? I’ve heard once you get past a certain amount of time you don’t feel gross anymore, but I just don’t think it’s in me to want to test that theory!!!

  6. A Walk in the Woods is now a movie and of course I Googled to see if moose were in it. I’m sick, right??
    I love bucket lists too. I love dreams. I love people reaching dreams. It makes me cry.
    I’d love to go to Norway. They have moose there. (seriously, I’m sick)
    I think northern lights are in my top five bucket list items.
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I love your moose love!! From memory, there were no moose in the book – lots of bear talk, though… Seeing a moose in Norway would DEFINITELY be a bucket list item!

  7. NYC marathon is definitely on my radar. 2017 is the plan – to come over there with a few friends and run with a few thousand new friends. I ran three qualifying half marathons this year so it feels like the universe is saying DO IT!
    Char recently posted…No Doubts About ItMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Oh you will LOVE it!!! I think if you sign up with a certain travel company you are guaranteed entry (I mean you still have to pay, but you’ll definitely get in). Just make sure you give yourself enough time before the race to get over jet lag!

  8. Somehow I missed this post….and I love it. I, too, am bucket list obsessed! I’d also love to do Paris marathon, but then I think that just running through Paris would be enough…. I’m planning to enter the lottery for the NYC marathon, but honestly doing a half there would probably be just fine…. Trying surfing was on my bucket list and I did it a few times and absolutely loved it despite being horrible at it…. but in the last year or two, at the same time as addressing my bucket list, I have also been placing more emphasis on doing something I enjoy every day rather than waiting to cross items off a list…. living each day as well as possible is what I want to do more than anything else. recently posted…PainMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      You know, your comment about living well every day is interesting – I think opportunity for bucket list type experiences really happen because you’re open to them and willing to make them happen. And that only works if you’re living life in a way that leaves yourself open and ready for new experiences, right? 🙂

  9. Oslo is amazing and so is Copenhagen. You can see a lot in just a day for both of those cities, so if a cruise is on your bucket list, that would be a great way to hit them. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was always on my bucket list, but now that you mention it – camping? Yeah, I don’t think so 😉
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      You know, I’ve always been a little anti- cruise, but Scandinavia is one of those areas that would just be perfect to visit while cruising.

  10. I’m so with you on the non-camping, too Type A to do the whole Cheryl Strayed thing! I mean, it sounds super badass but I would be crying in my tent…if I could actually put it up each night. BUT, a marathon in pretty much any big city around the world? I’m THERE! I would love to just travel with some of my girlfriends (that’s YOU) and race all over the place. That would be a dream trip for me 🙂
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    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Omg could you imagine getting a big group of runner chicks together and doing a round-the-world race tour??? That would be amazing!! We’re going to need a charity to run for, a sponsor, a PR company and a Kickstarter, stat!!