I’ve posted a few annual bucket lists to this blog in the past. However, I didn’t for 2020. I needed to step back and think about what my goals were around my bucket list as typically we’d only cross a few entries off each year. That didn’t make me happy. I’m the kind of person who gets giddy when she finishes a to-do list.
Maybe that was the problem. Had I set them up to be just another thing to cross off?
I’ve read the headlines telling us it is better to invest in experiences rather than things. That it will bring us more joy. I don’t need to be convinced. I definitely would pick an experience over a purchase any day.
Why do new experiences bring bliss into my life? Below are five reasons that I love new experiences:
People. Typically, new experiences involve other people. After years of believing myself to be an introvert, I read Quiet by Susan Cain and realized I’m actually a shy extrovert. Being around other people gives me energy. Often new experiences are something that I do with other people which makes it that much sweeter.
Planning. With the financial stress of two girls in college, big trips and adventurous vacations were on the back burner for a bit. We told ourselves we’d celebrate once they graduated. I made it through three and a half years and balked. Even with the wonderful smaller vacations we managed to take, it wasn’t the same. If I’m not planning a big trip, I’m not happy. The excitement of deciding what we’ll do, researching and planning out our days, is so much fun. I live the experience a thousand times before I actually get to do it.
Learning. I recently took the VIA Character Strengths Survey and the results were that my greatest strength is my love of learning. I would agree. I read primarily non-fiction, am obsessed with documentaries and have taken so many craft classes that I’m not sure there are any left in Maine for me to try. I think I’ll have to move onto cooking classes next. I love to learn. New experiences bring the opportunity for new learning.
Memories. I remember the things I did and the places I went much more than the things that I bought. Pictures of previous adventures surround me. As I glance to my right, I see the view from the top of Skellig Michael in Ireland and across the architectural marvel that is Machu Picchu in Peru. I can go back to those moments in an instant and remember the exhilaration and joy of being there.
Beauty. Obviously, not all experiences carry the same weight, but for those exceptional ones that can take your breath away, it is wonderfully amazing.
While I was gaining deeper insight into why new experiences bring me bliss, the world came to a screeching halt as the COVID-19 virus reached pandemic levels. With our new world normal of sheltering in place and social distancing, I decided to revamp my bucket list and go virtual, at least for now.
Here are a few virtual experiences I’ll be trying as we stay home and work to flatten the curve:
- Learn more about Happiness. I decided to take advantage of the wealth of free online courses that many colleges now offer. I’m in the process of taking The Science of Well-Being, offered by Yale through Coursera. It takes both a scientific and practical approach to happiness. The first time I brought my oldest daughter to elementary school for orientation, I got teary eyed. It wasn’t because I was sad that she was growing up, but because I was so excited for all the new experiences she was going to have as she went through her school years. I’ve always loved school and learning, so taking an academic approach to exploring bliss sounds like fun to me.
- Revisit our Honeymoon. As I packed for our honeymoon to the South of France and Italy, I envisioned myself as Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953) and brought plenty of flowing summer dresses to fit the part . I never quite matched her casual, effortless beauty but I did get to wander the streets of Italy and it was Florence that won my heart. It was a beautiful, art-filled city that easily lived up to their reputation as the birthplace of the Renaissance. With so many museums and other sites offering virtual tours, I can now walk through the halls of the Uffizi again. Here’s a short virtual tour of the museum: Explore the Uffizi Galleries. This link is to a longer, thirty four minute virtual walking tour that takes you around the city: Florence, Italy Short Walking Tour.
- Stay Active. This is probably one of the hardest areas to focus on right now, especially as many of the trails I typically hike are closed due to the pandemic. Other than walking the dog, I’m not moving my body too much these days. The My Peak Challenge website is offering a free 30-Day Social Distancing Challenge with activities you can do from home to keep moving. Nice, concise lessons on how to keep active each day.
- Catch a Theatrical Show. We looked into getting tickets to see Hugh Jackman in the Music Man when it comes to Broadway this fall but sadly at $450 each for the matinee we couldn’t justify the purchase. My girlfriend texted me the link to filmed on stage. Now that Broadway’s lights have dimmed temporarily, they are offering opportunities to watch many of the shows via streaming. The available list changes regularly. While I may catch a show or two, since I already own the video of Hugh Jackman’s London performance of Oklahoma, I think I’ll be playing that on repeat for now. I’ve always been a fan of those Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.
- Join a Book Club. I’ve wanted to join a book club for a few years and there seem to be quite a few options for virtual clubs catering to different interests. I’m going to give The Reddit Book Club a try. It helps that their April book selection, “Devil in the White City” is a book I already own and have been meaning to read. It’s a win-win situation.
- Listen to some Ted Talks. There are some riveting Ted Talks out there. I’ve listened to many in the past, most recently The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown which was fantastic. Given my blissful theme this year, I’m going to check out some of the Ted Talks under their “What makes you happy?” topic heading. There are so many interesting ones listed. I’m looking forward to listening to a few.
- Enjoy some virtual stops along the Maine Beer Trail. We have been working our way through the Maine Beer Trail for the last few years now. The Maine Brewers Association puts out a beer trail map which lists all the craft breweries in Maine. You earn prizes by getting stamps in your map for each brewery that you visit. While our visits have been put on hold for now, the Maine Brew Bus is offering virtual tours with local craft brewers on their Instagram page. Previous virtual visits are available on their website.
Why does this bring me bliss? The planning, enjoying and remembering of new experiences all add bliss to my life in different ways. While more traditional bucket list items are on hold for now, there are still many opportunities to find bliss through virtual and at home experiences. There is always something new to try.
Do you have any new adventures planned for 2020? How have you been keeping busy during the pandemic?
I’m participating in a Blogging A-Z Challenge for April 2020. I will be posting new content every day this month except most Sundays. Each post is associated with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. My theme for the challenge is Bliss. To read more of my A to Z posts from this year, click HERE.