Big House in the Woods Debt-Free Bucket List

24 Bucket List Adventures We’re Trying to Conquer Since Becoming Debt-Free

We were sitting at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, beside a quaint beach restaurant. The Caribbean sun was sizzling hot. It was the perfect day to sink our toes into the Mexican sand, enjoy chips and fresh salsa, and feel the salty breeze on our faces.

The waves were rolling in, the Mexican cokes were cold, and everything was perfect.

It was our first trip to Mexico. We had just paid off our first and only mortgage and we jumped on a cruise ship. That trip would be the first of many adventures we would conquer on our bucket list now that we were debt-free and mortgage-free.

I’ve never been the type who likes to talk about bucket lists. It seems like such a morbid topic. Originally, I called this list “Our Travel Goals” but I felt like that might be difficult for everyone to relate to. So, I changed the title to “Bucket List” so we’re all on the same page.

We are on the same page now, right?

I have had so much fun creating a bucket list over the years and I’ve had even more fun crossing things off the list! But, before we get into all of that, we need to go over a few things…

What is a Bucket List?

A bucket list is essentially a number of experiences or achievements a person wants to have in their lifetime. These things could range from places to visit, foods to try, educational achievements, etc.

Why did I create a Bucket List?

If you have read Big House in the Woods for very long at all, you know that we have been debt-free and mortgage-free since we were 25. That was way back in 2011, y’all. Since then, we have built our dream home debt-free and set out to cross many things off our bucket list while still saving for early retirement.

This is a list of everything we have dreamed about doing. Some of these things are small goals and some are quite lofty while some of them might just seem silly to you.

We have accomplished many of them already and I look forward to continuing on down the list!

What are the benefits of having a Bucket List?

There are many benefits to having a bucket list but, for me, the number one benefit is that it keeps me focused. Any time I feel sidetracked about my goals, I can look at our bucket list and refocus.

Now, to be clear, most of the things on this particular bucket list are travel related items. I have plenty of things on my personal bucket list that aren’t published here like: raising my kids to be good & responsible citizens, being the best wife and mother I can, becoming a better manager of my time, learning to control my anger, etc.

I say all of this so you don’t think I only live to travel. I don’t. I live for much more than that but traveling is a huge perk to our debt-free lifestyle.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about our bucket list!

Our Bucket List

1. Spend one month in the Cayman Islands

When I think about a tropical paradise, I think about the Cayman Islands. The first time I saw the Cayman Islands was back in 2014. The turquoise water took my breath away. It was gorgeous. We have been back several times, but someday I would like to live there for at least a month.

Caribbean Sun & Salty Water

2. Travel to all 50 states in an RV

I can’t imagine living in the United States all of my life and never seeing all of it. I’ve already been to quite a few states but I hope to load my whole family up in an RV soon and travel to all 50 of them!

3. Buy a hand-woven basket in Mexico

This might seem like an odd item to have on a bucket list but I have always wanted to have a hand-crafted basket from someone who is highly skilled at making them. So, the first time we went to Mexico, I bought a beautiful hand-woven basket made by a local woman. It’s gorgeous, sturdy, and always reminds me of my first trip there.

4. Go on a trans-Atlantic cruise

If there is one thing I love, it’s being on a cruise ship but it seems like our trips are never long enough. One time, we even went on two cruises back-to-back. That means, when everyone else debarked, we stayed on and went again! Even then, the trip didn’t feel long enough.

So, one day I plan on booking a trans-Atlantic cruise. 14 days on the open sea? YES PLEASE! And instead of flying back home, we could just book another 14 day cruise back. A whole month at Sea. Ahhh….

Sailing at night

5. Buy a camper and, well, go camping

What is it about camping that’s so alluring? There is something about the woods and fresh air that sounds wonderful. Well, we’ve done this twice. Our first camper was an absolute disaster. It was old, in need of a good cleaning, and an off shade of pink. So, we named it Pinky. We camped in it 3 times and I think I cried all three times. So we sold it.

Then, a couple years later, we bought another camper. We were smarter this time and bought one that was newer. After camping in it 4 times and being attacked my mosquitoes, ants, tree frogs, snakes, and floods, we sold it too. I finally decided that camping wasn’t my thing.

So, when it came time to build our dream house, we bought land in the woods. That way, I can enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer (campfires, UTV rides, long walks) but, when night falls, I can take a shower and sleep in my own bed!

Doesn’t it make you wonder why in the world I listed #2?

“Camping” in style

6. Swim with the Stingrays in Grand Cayman

This is a popular attraction in the Cayman Islands and something I wanted to do also. Well, I got my chance! We have actually swam with the stingrays twice. It was amazing and a little unsettling all at the same time.

Cayman Islands + Best Friends + Stingrays = Epoch Vacation

7. Live in Portugal for a while

After a lot of research, The Man decided that we should one day live in Portugal for a while. I mean, why not? It’s beautiful, the food is amazing, the people are friendly, and it’s one of the safest places in Europe. Count me in!

8. RV through Canada

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about Canada outside of the Mountie on When Calls the Heart and the few things we learned from spending hours talking with a Canadian traveler on a cruise one night. So, what better way to learn than on an RV trip?

9. Go on as many cruises as possible

We are cruisers. It’s what we like to do. Caribbean views, awesome ports of call, amazing food, endless coffee, steel drum music, on-board water slides, movies under the stars, and a ship that rocks me to sleep every night. Oh, did I mention the food??

Breakfast with a view

So far, we’ve been on 10 cruises and we can’t wait to go on the next one! We had a few hiccups while preparing for cruise #10 but we still had an amazing trip to Galveston and we met so many awesome people on the trip (as usual)!

Enjoying the view from Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas

10. Swim in all five Great Lakes and visit their islands

I’ve never seen the Great Lakes but I hope that changes one day. When I do see them, I plan on swimming in all five of them. It just sounds refreshing!

I also want to visit some of the islands in the Great Lakes. Did you know that there are over 35,000 islands scattered throughout the Great Lakes? Obviously, we won’t be visiting all 35,000 but I would like to see some of the most notable ones.

11. Live in a skoolie

Ok, y’all. Do you know what a skoolie is?

A school bus that has been purchased by a private owner and converted for some purpose other than hauling people around, such as RVing. Can be a very economical, cost-efficient means of obtaining an RV.

Urban Dictionary

I probably drive my husband crazy talking about this but the kids and I say that we HAVE to live in a skoolie one day! Maybe we can combine it with #10 & #2.

I love to look up images of skoolies online. Some people really make them gorgeous!

12. Eat cake donuts on top of Pikes Peak

So, there is a little gift shop on top of Pikes Peak and I remember eating a cake donut and drinking hot chocolate there on a vacation with my grandparents when I was young. I still remember what our booth looked like. That was the first cake donut I had ever eaten and I have never had another one that good. I can’t wait to go back. I have talked about this so much that my kids are craving cake donuts on top of Pikes Peak!

13. Spend a Fall in Maine

Spending a Fall in Maine just sounds like the ultimate Fall activity. White water rafting, fly fishing (I have no idea how to do that but I can learn!), road-tripping, hiking to Moxie Falls, ATV trail rides, moose sightings…the list goes on!

14. Tour Jamaica with a Local

Jamaica is so alluring, so tropical, so beautiful. It’s one of those “ultimate destinations.” So it had to make the list.

The view of Jamaica from a resort

Well, we were able to cross this one off the list in 2014! We have been back several times since then and we’ve taken a submarine down to look at a sunken ship, toured a plantation, walked through historic churches, fed exotic birds from our hands, traveled all over the island with a local guide (his name was Lindsey!), shopped, swam, drank from coconuts on the beach…the list goes on.

I’ll never forget walking on the beach with a very dear friend of mine and just talking about life.

15. Eat Hershey Kisses in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Ever since I taught my kids about Pennsylvania, they have wanted to go to Hershey and eat chocolate. So, we will!

16. Go see the White House

This just seems logical. I’m an American so I should go see the White House. Plus, I think it would be amazing!

17. Visit Ireland

Oh, Ireland. How you call to me every time I play my Irish Dreams cd.

18. Climb Mayan Ruins

When I was in school, I remember learning about the Mayans and the breathtaking structures they built and hoping I could one day visit them. That dream came true a few years back when we were in Costa Maya, Mexico. We took a long, hot bus ride to Chacchoben. It was so worth it.

First human settlements in the area of Chacchoben have been dated at around 1000BC. By 360AD Chacchoben had become the largest community in the region of the lakes and consolidated as the most prestigious ceremonial center boasting Gran Basamento as its most important ritual plaza.

Today, Temple One, soaring above the canopy of the tropical forest, still expresses the glory of Chacchoben’s ancient sophistication.
Chacchoben Ruins

19. Eat Authentic Mexican Food in Mexico

My daughter and I love to watch cooking shows. We don’t watch them often because we don’t watch much TV in general but every once in a while we’ll watch a cooking show on PBS. One of our favorites is Pati’s Mexican Table. She always makes us crave authentic Mexican food.

So, one time, before a trip to Cozumel, The Man researched until he found an amazing restaurant where we could enjoy some good, authentic Mexican food.

Just talking about it makes me hungry!

Restaurante Del Museo - Big House in the Woods

20. Visit all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homesites

I have read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series aloud to our family. I’ve even read all of her journals and any other material I can find about her!

I hope to see all of her homesites:
Pepin, Wisconsin
Independence, Kansas
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Burr Oak, Iowa
De Smet, South Dakota
Mansfield, Missouri
Malone, New York
Spring Valley, Minnesota

It’s a long list but I’m sure we can make it happen when we’re traveling around the United States in our skoolie!

21. Hike in Roatan, Honduras

Roatan is gorgeous!

Roatán is an island in the Caribbean, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) off the northern coast of Honduras. It is located between the islands of Útila and Guanaja, and is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

The island rests on an exposed ancient coral reef, rising to about 270 metres (890 ft) above sea level. Located near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef).


If you’re going to go hiking, this is the place to do it. We crossed this item off our list a few years back when a local guide named Jeffery took us hiking. The view from the top was breath-taking.

The view from the top

22. Learn to make homemade soap

For so long, this seemed like something I only read about in books about the “old days” but I know people who make their own soap so I set out to learn also. Thankfully, we had a neighbor move in recently who knew how to make soap so she came over to teach me. I bought the equipment and ingredients I needed and it didn’t take long before I had two large loaves of homemade soap in my kitchen! Now, that’s all we use and it’s very satisfying.

It even turned into my first awkward YouTube video.

Big House in the Woods Homemade Coconut Oil Soap

23. Horseback riding in Colorado

I did this as a kid on vacations with my grandparents. Every year, we would set out on a vacation to Colorado and we would always go on a trail ride. It was my favorite part of the vacation. I’ve told my kids about it so much that I’ve got them convinced that I’m a regular wrangler!

My dream is to take them horseback riding in Colorado just like I did when I was younger.

24. Go to a rodeo in Wyoming

Ok, this is another activity I was fortunate to do when I was young and now, every time the PBR comes on tv, I wish I was sitting in the open air watching a rodeo in Wyoming on a crisp summer evening.

I’ll go back. Just watch.

Important things to remember when making your bucket list

Big House in the Woods is all about helping you on your debt-free journey then enjoying the lifestyle afterward. So, when you’re creating a bucket list, it’s important to remember two things:

  1. Add inexpensive things you can do while on your journey to becoming debt-free
  2. Save all of the expensive things (like trips, etc) for when you pay off all of your debt. (These more expensive things will help motivate you!)

Just because it’s a “bucket list” doesn’t mean you should let it derail you from your goals. Becoming debt-free, mortgage-free, and financially free is your number one goal.

Cross things off your bucket list that won’t sidetrack you. Here some examples: hiking in an area near you, trying a new recipe that’s adventurous and out of the norm for you, go thrift shopping (but set a limit!), or plan a fantastic staycation.

How to Create a Bucket List

Many times when people think about a Bucket List, they immediately think about sky diving or ice skating on an iceberg. Ok, maybe not the iceberg thing but, if it was possible, it would be so much fun!

So, if you don’t write down skydiving, what do you write?

Well, I have good news for you. Sean over at Location Rebel has the absolute best guide to help you create your own bucket list. So, if you’re wondering how to create a bucket list, you can read his guide here. You won’t want to miss it.

Happy adventuring!