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Baby Boomers compete for bucket list victories

An elderly tourist photographs the "You Are Entering the American Sector" sign at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany.

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.

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.

Of 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.

About the author

Judy Muller is a professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
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