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Get, While The Gettin’s Good

Why you shouldn’t wait to take those bucket list trips

By Morgan Baker

Whether you plan your own active vacation or sign on with an adventure group, there’s one common refrain from both travelers and those who organize trips: go now while you can. Kaiyote Snow, of Kaiyote Tours in Fort Collins, WA, says she’s seen some sad stories of people who waited too long. Many are women who are now doing a solo trip because their husband has died. She says people budget their money really well, but aren’t good at budgeting time.

Snow provides two different kinds of trips – one is national – hiking and backpacking national parks, such as Olympic National Park where the trips are private and tend to cater more to the group she’s taking, such as a family or group of friends.

“There are incidents where a client could have seen more, done more — but they couldn’t walk up the hill.”

Her other trips are international trips to Taiwan, Nicaragua, Iceland and other destinations that focus on the environment and birding. These are small groups but draw a different clientele – usually people in their 60s and 70s.

She says, “There are incidents where a client could have seen more, done more — but they couldn’t walk up the hill.” Snow says, “People think tomorrow is a guarantee and it’s not…live life for today.”

“When it comes to an expiration date on a bucket list trip” says Ray Hendricks, of Just Roughin’ It out of Phoenix, AZ. “It depends on the person. Even if you’re 65, it is still feasible, it’s just a matter of how much work you want to put into it.” Those who haven’t trained, the minority, he admits, sometimes had to be coaxed off the trail and were disappointed with the premature end to their trip.

Until recently, two of his most popular hikes were the Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon and The Half-Dome at Yosemite. His clients were usually 40-60 years old, in excellent shape and had taken the time to train for this trip. But, according to Hendricks, he’s also lead 82-year-olds across the camera rim-to-rim who carried a pack the whole way.

Choose your type of activity carefully, says Suzanne Modigliani who spent her vacation on a horse in Uruguay with Hidden Trails, but says she would be out of breath in a minute, so no climbing for her; similarly, she has scratched kayaking off her list.

Todd Phillips, 60, of New York City, has been going on active vacations with his wife and occasionally his two children for years, but has stepped it up in the last few as his kids are now out of college.

Phillips says, “You must be physically fit. After turning 39, if one does not make an extra effort to stay flexible, one is in store for a world of hurt and won’t be able to take advantage of the things that one can experience in travel.”

“Unfortunately, as we get older we all tend to slow down and travel requires energy and the ability to cope with the unknown. That, I guess, is what we refer to as the mystery of travel,” he says.

Modigliani, 68, has gone on two horse-back riding adventures, which she admits is not for everyone, but she rides regularly at home on Martha’s Vineyard and was ready for both the cattle-ride she took about ten years ago and the more recent ride in Spring 2018.

Modigliani says she loved the Uruguay trip, where she was one of 7, plus a gaucho and guide leader, because she got to see forests, lagoons and beaches she would not have, had she not been on a horse. However, the saddle was the hardest saddle she’d ever sat in and day after day of sitting-trot gave her saddle sores she wasn’t prepared for. “It was physically uncomfortable, so much so the gaucho gave me his saddle. My bones were shaking,” she says.

“It’s important to be a competent rider. They ask what level you are and reserve the right to send you home. It’s a fast-paced trip and it was accurately described,” she says.

Some adventure trip organizations, such as National Geographic Expeditions and Backroads provide activity levels from which to choose, as they help set expectations, says Alena Hadley of National Geographic Expeditions. The urgency, she says, is to tap into what’s right for you right now.

Liz Einbinder, spokesperson from Backroads, a hiking and biking organization, says their sweet spot is 45-65, but older travelers have participated and can choose different routes as vans are there to ferry equipment between stops.

Travelers say if you’re thinking of going on an adventure, go now, because you never know where life will take you.

Instead of saving up for one big trip post retirement, she suggests going on smaller trips pre-retirement.

The notion of bucket lists drives Snow crazy she says. “People should just want experiences, meet great people and go to great places,” she says, but if you are into bucket lists, she encourages people to have one for pre-retirement. “What you want now may be totally different than what you want later,” she says.

Sometimes, people either have the time but not the money or the money but not the time, Snow says. Instead of saving up for one big trip post-retirement, she suggests going on smaller trips pre-retirement.

Phillips hopes he can continue to travel when he’s older, but he says, “That depends on life. There is an old Jewish saying; ‘Man plans and God laughs’…At 60-years-old everything seems to be urgent. We have experienced the good and bad stuff of life and we know that there is no guarantee.”

“Be in shape,” says Modigliani. “You don’t do yourself any favors if you’re not in shape. If you want to do it, do it.” She asks herself, “How many more years do I have to do this?”

There are many ways to define a successful trip. Einbinder says, “For some it might be biking further than they have before, or doing the long bike options, and for others it could be seeing a new region for the first time. Our goal is to give everyone a great vacation that is exactly what they want to experience.”

Listen to your body, and don’t wait. You’ll be glad you didn’t. Go now while you’ve still got it. Seeing parts of the world you can only see on one of these trips and completing an expedition successfully will make you feel great.

“What’s on your bucket list?” Snow asks. “You’re going to wait? That seems so ridiculous.”

About the Writer

Morgan Baker is the Managing Editor for the Bucket and teaches at Emerson College. What’s next? A move to Hawaii. After a year in Hawaii, she is back in Cambridge, where her new adventure is adding a puppy to her family. She teaches writing at Emerson College. Her work can be found in The Boston Globe and The Brevity Blog, among other publications. She can be reached at

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