For many Baby Boomers, their bucket list of adventures is never empty

Whether retired or just winding down from a rich career of work, many baby boomers are jotting down “bucket lists” of things yet-to-do. For some, it’s a second career as entrepreneur. For others – like veteran journalist and academic Judy Muller – it is an enduring quest to see the world.

I’ve never been crazy about the term “bucket list” — probably because it’s a reminder of the fact that i will eventually kick said bucket.

Judy Muller, senior correspondent and USC professor.

Judy Muller, senior correspondent and USC professor.

Even so, I find myself compiling a list of places I hope to see before it’s too late, a mental exercise I chalk up to peer pressure. My peers, being baby boomers, seem to be competing for the most notches on their bucket-list belt. There they are on Facebook and holiday cards, posing with penguins in Antarctica, grinning — or perhaps grimacing — from the heights of Machu Picchu and Kilimanjaro. It all feels a bit manic.

  • “The Galapagos?” — check.
  • “Safari in Tanzania?” — check.
  • “Cycling in Cambodia?” — check.

I haven’t done any of these things, so I admit to a certain amount of bucket list envy. It takes a combination of time and money to pull this off and the travel industry is wisely targeting those seniors who have both. And boomers are also spending big bucks on other kinds of trips — eco travel for the environmentally conscious, voluntourism for those who want to help indigenous communities, religious pilgrimages, and medical tourism (a $60 billion industry that invites people to get tummies tucked or hips replaced in a less expensive country). The most popular medical destinations include Singapore, Thailand, Costa Rica and Mexico.

DSCF0756Of course, a lot of boomers — even those in their 60s — still have to work for a living. Bucket-list travel for those people may seem as remote as retirement itself. My advice: start small. When i told my daughter I’d like to take her somewhere for her 40th birthday this year, she responded, “Let’s go to surf camp!” I’m not sure I can resurrect my old surfing skills, much less my surfing muscles, but in a moment of nostalgia and bucket list mania, I said yes.

I’m thinking Costa Rica or Mexico. You know, one of those countries offering cheap knee replacements.

Judy Muller, a long-time network reporter, is today a professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This is one of her commentaries for American Public Media’s “Marketplace.”


  1. I teach a Gerontology class and one of the questions for the students is what they would do if they could live to be 150. Number one answer: travel the world. You are right in sync!

  2. Travel when you’re 64,74,84? Why not! Indeed, the travel industry is ost likely going to make big bucks with boomers (the others will be too busy working to travel…)I think you hit the nail on the head. Travel is something on the mind of everyone who retires (I know, I have) and I certainly used that longing for travel as the start of my book about a retiree who’s not sure what to do with himself now that his career is behind him…He eventually gives up on travelling and chooses painting instead (something I did too…but now I write!)

    Actually, travelling after a career is over is really very therapeutic: helps you reset yourself, gives you time to think things over…Because, thanks to medical advances, we can all look forward to a second life (well, perhaps not all, but many…)

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