A Bucket List Trip in Pictures

Two weeks ago we left for our bucket list anniversary trip to Italy. It was amazing! The weather cooperated, we reached all of our destinations without incident, and we had a great time experiencing a variety of settings. There isn’t anything I would change about our trip. I plan to share some tips about things I did that contributed to making it truly the trip of a lifetime in a future post. For today, I thought I’d just give you a some visual highlights of our journey (note: these were all taken with my iPhone. The scenery was that gorgeous!).

Rome Colosseum

Seeing the Colosseum up close was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (although I’d do it again!). Actually, being in a city with so many ancient structures was awe inspiring, itself. I had to laugh when a tour guide called a 17th century building “modern.”

In Tavolo Cooking Class

 

I booked a cooking class for us in Tuscany, because my husband loves to cook and where better to get the inside scoop on Italian food than from an Italian chef! Making homemade pasta for the first time, in Florence, was more than bucket list worthy.

 

Speaking of Tuscany, views like the one below were my main motivation for planning this trip in the first place. The hill towns and surrounding area were everything I imagined. Even a drizzly day couldn’t dampen our experience.

Tuscan hills

La Spezia

 

I booked an Air BnB apartment up in the hills of La Spezia as a launching off point for reaching the Cinque Terre. I am so glad I did because we got to see this view of the Gulf of Poets from the garden each night. No wonder Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley retreated here!

 

The Cinque Terre itself didn’t disappoint either. About 8 or 9 months ago, I came across a photo like the one below (that I took). Immediately I was intrigued and when I learned this was the Italian fishing village of Manarola, I added the Cinque Terre to our bucket list trip itinerary. We hiked a lot of miles up and down rocky seaside paths flanked by olive groves and lemon trees between the five towns. No wonder limoncello is popular here!

Cinque Terre

Duomo Milano

Finally, we finished up in Milan, city of fashion and finance. Staying in a five-star hotel has long been on my bucket list. Enter the Park Hyatt Milan, only a three-minute walk from the Duomo (if you cut through the famed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele). Our room was spacious and the manager event sent up champagne and dessert in honor of our anniversary.

I checked so many things off of my bucket list in those 10 days! I count that trip a privilege and the perfect way to celebrate twenty years of marriage to my wonderful husband!

In my next post I’ll tell you what I did for this trip that I haven’t done much previously, but made a big difference in making it memorable. In the meantime, where have you been (or where do you want to go) that is bucket list worthy?

Bucket List Life Dare: Make Spring Break Memorable

How many spring breaks do you have left with your children? What will you do to make this spring break memorable?

March 2016 Bucket List Life DareBethany, my eldest, received a packet in the mail this week notifying her that she has a summer job as a lifeguard at a camp in Wisconsin, 100 miles from our home. It wasn’t a complete surprise. She applied in December and had an interview at the camp early last month while she was there helping with a junior high retreat. By her estimates the interview had gone very well. But part of me was still hoping she wouldn’t be chosen for the job. I have counted the number of spring breaks and summer vacations we’ll have with her before she heads off to college. We’re down to two of each. How could we give up one, especially a three-month long stint like summer?

As Gretchen Rubin says in her book, The Happiness Project, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Nowhere is this more true than in parenting. I can remember when my girls were toddlers and babies, counting down the years until they’d go to preschool for a few hours each day. Not that I wanted to be rid of my three little girls, but I was exhausted by them and found focusing on the impermanence of those physically demanding days a source of comfort. The days spent changing diapers and wiping spit-up from my shirt sleeves, while little people with an incessant need to know “why, Mommy?” clung to my jeans and begged me to play another game of Candyland, dragged on and on.The days are long

But now here we are. Those little girls are twelve, fourteen and sixteen years old. This spring break I’ll be driving Bethany out East to look at colleges. We’re taking my mom with us for the journey and planning to do some sightseeing and vacation-like activities while we’re there. A tour of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. A stroll along the National Mall during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. And some time hanging out with my aunts and uncles in Pennsylvania on our way home.

It will be a different spring break, for sure. I’m sad to leave behind my husband and the other two girls, but we all agreed that it would be less fun for them to hang around while we tour campuses and sit through information sessions. But it also promises to be a memory-making excursion. Three generations of women set loose on a road trip from the Midwest to the East coast. It has the makings of a movie plot.

So my challenge to you this month is to take note of how short the years are for your family. How many spring breaks do you have left with your growing children? What can you be doing during this year’s spring break to store up memories for the years to come?

Each spring break is an opportunity to break free of the everyday chaos and hurriedness. It is an invitation to hang out, sleep late, play games, talk, travel. To make memories. More than likely your spring break plans are already set. Maybe you’ve booked a trip or bought tickets to a local event. Whatever you have on the calendar for your kids’ spring break, I dare you to make it one for the books. Pull out your family’s bucket list and decide you’re going to complete something on it this year, THIS spring break.

Because you never know when a letter is going to arrive in your mail notifying you that the time you thought you had left with your kids has just shrunk a little further.

Tell us in the comments, what will you do to make the most of spring break with your kid(s) this year?
CoursePromoImageIf you want to make sure you’re capturing the most interesting, motivating ideas for your family’s bucket list – the kind that bring you closer together, you need to take my online video course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists. Now through the end of March you can get the course for 50% off, using this link. Purchase it now and watch it together over spring break. Or save it for those rainy days in April. It’s self-paced and packed with resources (many of which aren’t available anywhere else).

 

[Image via Pixabay]

Looking Forward and Back

Dec28LookingForwardHas 2015 been a good year for you? Or a struggle? What can you learn from your experiences this year to make the next one even better? What do you most want to see happen in your life in 2016? If you are serious about living your bucket list dreams, then I invite you to spend time looking forward and back.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite times of year (next to Christmas itself). Aside from the lull in regular activities during winter break, I love the perspective afforded during the year-end wrap up. I spend time reviewing the past year and celebrating all that has transpired in the past twelve months. And I use both my accomplishments and missteps to plan what I’ll go after in the year to come.

For example, in 2015 we missed out on the trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania that we’d hoped to make because of health struggles for our middle daughter, Katherine. But after a long series of doctors and tests, we did get a diagnosis and successful treatment. Her health is so much better now than it was in January. With this coming on the heels of her sister’s protracted concussion recovery, I learned how to be persistent and stay positive on my kids’ behalf. Hopefully health won’t be an issue for any of us in 2016. And while Hershey isn’t on our list for 2016, we are thinking through what other places we’ll visit.

Early in the year our eldest, Bethany, travelled to Spain on a school exchange trip – and adventure that was both eye-opening and frustrating. But instead of staying mired in all that went wrong, we chose as a family to host another teen from Spain a few months later. And that experience showed us that it is possible to have a successful cross-cultural exchange. In 2016, I want to keep that same attitude of not letting one poor experience prevent any of us from embracing opportunities for adventure, in whatever form.

That’s just a little of what I’m pondering as I look back on 2015 and prepare for 2016. This process, more than any other, makes the biggest difference in my life when it comes to reaching my bucket list goals and helping my family reach their goals. It gives me a grid to evaluate the decisions that will arise in the coming months. I can ask: does this fit what I’m hoping for in this year or not? Will it distract me (or my family) from what we most want to do? Does it help us to become the people we want to be?

This process also helps with time management and calendar planning. I go through a brief exercise similar to this one every month for my writing career goals. It shapes my action plan and daily “to do” lists. I can see clearly what next steps I need to take toward realizing my most desired goals. Which allows me to map out my time each day to make sure I continually make forward progress. At the end of the month I always review how I did on reaching my goals before planning goals for the next month.

The other strength in taking time looking forward and back is that you can use it to plan your budget. What bucket list goals did you have to bypass this year because of finances? How could you adjust your spending (or boost your earning) in the next twelve months to make a more costly goal attainable?

Why not join me in a year-end review and planning session? Pull out your favorite pen and a blank sheet of paper. Curl up in a cushy chair, under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea or hot cocoa or a glass of wine. And enjoy both looking forward and back in order to make 2016 a year of bucket list goals achieved! That’s what I’ll be doing this week.

If pouring into your relationships with your spouse and kids is a goal for you in 2016, then I invite you to check out my Udemy course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists. It helps you Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Listsbring your family closer, create more camaraderie & make quality memories, using your bucket lists as a springboard. Plus, it’s available for the lowest price right now. Take 60% off registration through 1/1/16 using the code NEWYEAR16.

Ever Felt Overwhelmed By Life? Me Too!

Me too!Yesterday I expected to have time to run out for groceries after I arrived home from work (I work several days each week in a church office). Except that there was the dentist appointment an hour later that I had forgotten about. Dinner ended up being “”baked potatoes & toppings bar” since I was relying on that grocery run for my original dinner plan. And then there were kids needing to be driven to the library and school issues to be worked out. Ultimately I had to leave my family to clean up after dinner to dash to my home office to meet a magazine article deadline. It was a stressful evening, to say the least.

Can you relate? Modern motherhood is a feat of multi-tasking unrivaled by any other calling. Talking with my friends, I find I’m not alone in feeling harried, hurried and pulled in dozens of directions. And as my stressful evening shows, it requires serious organizational skills.

Part of my problem last night (other than my own tendency to overcommit myself) was that I hadn’t updated my weekly planner. I have a Google calendar, which I love. My whole family shares it and we can see our schedules anytime anywhere. But that doesn’t always mean that we/I look at it all the time. I also have the Paprika app on my phone and iPad for menu planning and recipes. I can’t say enough about how it has revolutionized cooking and meal planning for me. But I don’t look at it every day until it’s time to cook.

What I do look at every morning and throughout the day, is my weekly planner. Because it’s a two-page 8.5” x 11” spread, I can write down my daily appointments and schedule, I copy my menu plan for each day from Paprika, and I track all of my to do lists, deadlines and responsibilities. When my family asks me to buy something, be somewhere or do something for them, I always ask “did you write it down for me?” Because if it’s not in writing (which I can copy or post in my planner), it probably won’t happen.

I can also attribute a large percentage of the bucket list goals I have reached to my weekly planner. I tell people often that it’s a proven fact that writing down your goals increases the odds you’ll reach them. Not only that, but breaking them into smaller steps, which I do regularly, is HUGE when it comes to tackling big (often important) life goals and dreams.

I love my weekly planner and benefit from it so much, I thought other moms could use it too. I launched the 2015 edition last fall. Now this year I’m making a newer, even better edition available.

2016DandilionCoversmallHere’s how the Bucket List Moms Weekly Organizer can help you not only stay on top of busy family life, but also get more done (seriously!) and reach one life goal after another:

  • Get the big picture of what’s coming for you and your family, while you’re sitting down having your morning coffee and can think straight (two-page monthly calendar spread).
  • Remember to set monthly goals for doing the things that matter most and that you enjoy: “date night,” family time and personal goals for yourself.
  • Cut down the overwhelm by focusing on just the upcoming week – and not just your schedule, but also your meal plan, the tasks you need to do as a volunteer or professional, those odd household chores or errands that you’d otherwise forget about. Each with their own slot by day, to further reduce the stress that comes from seeing them all as one mass of stuff to do (trust me, it helps).
  • Find inspiration to care for yourself and the things that set your insides buzzing, through weekly inspirational quotes, bucket list prompts, and space for jotting down your thoughts, dreams and ideas. Keeping them somewhere that you can see them will make you more likely to turn them into reality.
  • Get a sneak peek at upcoming Bucket List Life Dares from now through 2016. Each month you’ll find the dare noted at the start of the month so you can be part of taking the challenge and reaching even more of your bucket list goals.

For the next three weeks I am offering the Bucket List Moms 16-Month Weekly Organizer for a special launch savings of $10 (that’s 37% off the list price of $26.99 for the 15-month planner paperback planner). Plus subscribers to my newsletter will be receiving an exclusive discount code for another 25% off (so sign up now).

Not sure the format will work for you? Download the seven-week sample copy and start using it now. See the difference it makes for you and your family.

Round the World Adventures: An Interview with Kathrin Spaccarelli

Imagine taking your family on a year-long trip around the world. Kathrin Spaccarelli and her husband Nathan did just that with their two boys from September 2013 to September 2014. A longtime love of traveling, plus a desire to introduce their boys to friends and familiar places in Japan (where both Kathrin & Nathan lived before getting married), among other things, inspired the Spaccarellis to sell their home, pull their son from public school (and instead “world school” both boys) and make the trip. Their travel adventures included Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Portugal, the UK, France, Austria, Italy and more – for a total of 25 countries in one long trip.

Round the World TravelAfter hearing their story during a Creative Live class I took last spring, I knew I had to share the Spaccarellis’ perspective on family bucket lists with you. So today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Kathrin Spaccarelli. Here is some of what Kathrin told me in a recent interview:

A lot of people love to travel, but not everyone takes their family on a Round The World trip for a year. What made you decide to do that and why at that point in time? 

We were watching our kids grow up all too fast. We really wanted some time to just enjoy each other. It was a good moment for us emotionally, but also as far as the kids’ ages. We loved that they weren’t yet in their teen years where they were perhaps more connected to their friends than their parents. Our other criteria was that they were able to self play or read – so we could all be doing our own thing together. The hope was that they would be old enough to read during long train rides.

That said, I think now even as they do age, that [round-the-world] experience has so bonded us all that I can totally see us doing it again as they get older and into their teens.

Can you share a highlight from that year of a time where you felt especially close as a family? 

Every day was its own magic. Every day we were finding something new and exciting to experience together.  If we were studying caves in Malaysia or religion in Thailand or Mozart when we were in Austria – whatever it was that was local to the area – we would also give the kids some choices too. So we had adventures that everybody loved.GT1 P1060266 Elephant Nature Camp

The moments that stood out to me though were those moments where the ten-year-old looks over at me and says, “Mom, we really don’t need more than what’s in our backpacks, do we?” That is the reason we took our kids. When you come from the developed world, to be able to see other countries and appreciate where you are and what you do have. Those were those moments where it hit home.

Points and miles played a big role in making your trip possible. For other families with destinations on their bucket list, where would you suggest starting in the points and miles world?

 The biggest one is the Creative Live Course: Make Your Dream Trip a Reality. The idea behind it is, within 30 days we’ll help you get enough points and miles to go on a dream trip of your choice, whatever that is. Even though we got all of our tickets around the world for the whole family with points and miles that we accumulated before we left, there were tricks I learned in this dream trip class.

I also follow The Points Guy online. And the Frugal Travel Guy. There are quite a few other sources out there to start. The key is using credit cards that earn you points or miles, and making sure every dollar you spend is connected to award miles. Opening credit cards, if your credit is good and you are financially smart with it, can get you good bonuses where you earn quite a few miles just by starting up with a card.

What’s next on your family’s bucket list?

Most of the time in our house when we talk bucket lists, it involves travel. In January we are scheduled to go to South Africa to visit a dear couple, who we met on our travels, that invited us to come. They live near Capetown and they have connections with a safari that we will take. January should be a nice month to make that happen.

You don't have to think about what if I couldOther than that, we’re always dreaming. Each of us have a few spots we’re thinking of. My younger son is in public school right now, so we have to work around that. But my older son
is homeschooled, so he’s ready to go any time.

Anything you would like to add? 

The biggest thing I noticed is that it is all a matter of choices. We came from a more affluent area in Portland and we would have people who own three big screen tv’s look at us with envy and say “boy, I wish we could do what you guys did.” I think it’s a matter of choices.

I want people to know that it is possible. That by making certain choices you can make this happen. There are so many ways to make it happen. It’s so great for the family – not only for the kids themselves and their education, but as a family we learned and grew together so much. If I had anything to say to anybody, I’d just say “go do it.” Because it’s totally possible. You don’t have to think about “what if I could,” but “when I can.” And then make it happen.

You can find Kathrin online at takingthebigbreak.com, in the Taking the Big Break FB community, and on twitter: @TheBigBreak.