Travel, learn, grow: Dream big with these retirement bucket list ideas

Dec 01, 2019
A retirement bucket list is a great way to stay focused and plan your goals for the next stage of life. Source: Getty

Retirement is an exciting stage of life, as you bid farewell to a structured lifestyle and learn to embrace your new-found freedom. But while you’ve likely planned out your finances prior to retirement, choosing how to spend your time can prove trickier.

That’s where a bucket list can be helpful. Bucket lists can be created at any stage of life, but are commonly used among people approaching retirement to help plan for the future. They help you stay focused and give you a little more direction in retirement.

As explained by researcher Wei-Ching Wang of the I-Shou University in Taiwan, the end of full-time employment doesn’t guarantee a fulfilling retirement. In fact, from a study of 454 retirees, Wang was able to draw a link between the management of free time and a person’s overall quality of life.

After questioning Baby Boomers about their daily activities, goals and attitudes, the researcher used the quality of life scale from the World Health Organisation to determine just how much the two interact. In the end he concluded: “Quality of life is not affected as much by the amount of free time that a retiree has, but on how effectively the person manages this time on hand. Therefore, it’s important to educate people on how to use their free time more effectively to improve quality of life.”

It’s up to you what you’d like to include on your bucket list, but it’s best to start small with 10 or so ideas and add more as you tick others off. If your list is a couple of pages long it might seem a bit overwhelming and you won’t know where to start.

Dr Gabrielle Parle, finance and financial planning lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said the less prescriptive the bucket list the better. But above all, it should give you something to do, something to look forward to and involve someone you love.

“Bucket lists are a lot of fun to create and the joy that comes with compiling them is the first benefit,” Parle said. “It can contain flights of fancy, whimsy and anything that brings a sense of fun, joy, fulfilment or whatever we want it to be.

“Maybe a bucket list buddy can help. They could be a trusted friend or a relative who can play devil’s advocate and help to figure out the time and money commitments the bucket list items require.”

A recent study found skydiving, running a marathon and climbing a mountain were among the top later life goals for retirees. While online dating, hiring a personal trainer and learning to play the guitar also featured in the top 30, according to the Life Goals report.

You may already have a few ideas on your mind, but if you’re in need of a bit of inspiration, we’ve put together a few possible ideas to get the cogs turning.


Whether you want to jet off overseas or explore Australia with your caravan in tow, travel is by far one of the most common desires in retirement – and with paid employment out of the way there’s much more time to fulfil those wishes.

Going on a cruise is popular among retirees, with trips departing from different cities across Australia at all times of the year. You could discover Chilean lakes, volcanos, fjords and glaciers on a cruise around Antarctica, or view the famous northern lights on a trip through Europe.

If you’d rather stay in Australia, then perhaps you might consider buying a caravan and exploring the country by road. Grey Nomads have developed a reputation for travelling across the country for months at a time.

Travel at 60 also offers group tours of its own for community members with a schedule of activities for each day. Packages include accommodation, transport, meals and sometimes activities as well.

Find a hobby

Time is something you have plenty of in retirement, so it’s the perfect opportunity to take up a new hobby.

Perhaps there’s something you used to do before you had kids that you’ve been missing, or maybe you’ve been dying to try something new.

Crafty types may want to try their hand at painting, sewing, knitting or pottery. Photography is another great option for those with a creative streak, while dancing could keep both your mental and physical health in check.

Learn something new

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? While your days of going to school or university are long gone, you can still keep your mind active by learning a new skill.

If you plan to travel overseas, you could learn a new language to give you a bit of a head start once you get there. If you’re musically inclined, you could learn to play an instrument or join a local band.

Alternatively, you could check out any local theatre groups and show off your singing skills in a musical production. Your local council is a great first point of contact, and will be able to provide you with details on what’s on offer in your community.

Get out of your comfort zone

It’s not for the faint-hearted but if you want a bit of an adrenaline rush, you could try an extreme activity. Cairns in Far North Queensland is known for its heart-rate inducing activities, such as bungee jumping and skydiving over lush rainforests.

Or if you’re ready to take the ultimate plunge, New Zealand has one of the highest bungee jumps in the world. Situated in Queenstown on the South Island, the bungee jump stands at 134 metres above the Nevis River.

Alternatively, hang gliding and white water rafting are less intense ways to get your adrenalin fix.

Get active

Staying fit and healthy in retirement has been shown to boost physical and mental health. Setting a goal will help keep you motivated, so why not dream big and train for a marathon. You can start small with 5 kilometre events and slowly work your way up.

Grab a few friends together and build your stamina at weekly Parkrun events. The community-run events are held every Saturday morning right across the country with a set 5km route to follow. It’s free to take part and you don’t have to worry about getting left behind as people of all fitness abilities run or walk the distance at their own pace.

Another option is to sign up for a charity run where you can raise money for an important cause and improve your fitness at the same time.

Alternatively, you could get on your hiking boots and climb a mountain.

Queensland boasts some of the best hiking tracks in the country around the Lamington and Springbrook National Parks. While in South Australia you can take on the steep Mount Lofty track, which is situated just outside of Adelaide.

Join the community that will get you through the hard times ahead.

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Have you created a retirement bucket list? What do you have on your list?

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