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How Mary's Bucket List Changed Her Life, Can Inspire You

It is my hope that after reading this week’s Tuesday newsletter, your current Bucket List will get reinvigorated and if you don’t have one, you soon will!
Mary Kohrman has already built an inspiring Bucket List that has seen her swim with sharks….
….go skydiving, work at an exotic animal sanctuary, sell a piece of artwork, purchase an authentic sword, meet someone with a completely different point of view (Gypsies in Romania), attend a ceremony of another religion (Hindu temple), teach in another country, cross the London Bridge and much more.
Mary is from the small northern Indiana town of New Haven. The fourth of six kids, she credits her parents for teaching her to put her whole heart into going after the things she wanted, whether those goals were realistic or not. A graduate of Manchester University with degree’s in Biology (pre Med) and Journalism, her passion in life is travel. She works for Edgerton’s Travel and often helps people craft bucket list trips.
I asked her to share her story of how she has built and continues to build her Bucket List.
mary“Charlie, I had heard of people making bucket lists for as long as I can remember, but I think the moment I decided to sit down and start listing everything I wanted to do, all the experiences I wanted to have and the places I wanted to go, was when I first entered college and had that realization that college was the perfect time to mold myself into whoever I wanted to be for the rest of my life.
It was a fresh slate and I could be however bold and adventurous I wanted to be. My early 20’s became this blank canvas and I had all the time, opportunities and skills to make my life as dynamic and beautiful as I wanted. That concept just fascinated me and inspired me to write down all the things that I felt would be stepping stones in making my life everything I had always hoped it would be, and honestly, it worked.
My experiences over the past few years have shaped me into a confident, outgoing young woman who is not afraid to speak her mind or fight for what she wants in life. I feel like making the conscious effort to sit down and list your wants, not just your needs, is very liberating.
I look back at my original list from 2009 and see how much my wants have changed. Therein lies the big difference between a bucket list and say, a to-do list of things needed around the house. We all need very similar things in life: shelter, recognition, love, stability; however, a bucket list is much more personal than that. A bucket list is about the things you could live without, but don’t want to. These wants change as we age and as we grow, so that’s why I think it is so vital to start these lists as early as possible.
The experiences and accomplishments of my 19-year-old self seem far less necessary now, but at that time they were what I wanted more than anything. Those items I checked off my bucket list over the years grew with me, matured as I matured, and have adapted to my ever-changing wants in life.
At 19, I had many less grandiose wants such as wanting to meet a celebrity, going skydiving and attending a Cubs game. As the college years rolled by, those wants grew into wanting to live in another country, wanting to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and wanting to run in a 5k mud obstacle race.
Further, my wants evolved and changed as my life did, and new wants were added to the bucket list such as wanting to be fluent in another language, write a novel or learn to fly a plane (all of which currently sit, yet to be accomplished, on my list). I was very blessed in college to be granted a generous college scholarship to Manchester College and to have family and friends who supported all of my endeavors. They supported me as I learned to SCUBA dive and checked off “dive with sharks in the open ocean” from my list.
I was supported as I moved to India for a semester, and then ventured to Tanzania to serve as a midwife in an HIV clinic. Even when I decided to turn down my invitation to veterinary school to pursue my passion of working in the travel industry, my family and friends supported me there, too.

Mary during Traditional day at my university in Mangalore India
Mary during Traditional day at my university in Mangalore India
My bucket list has always served as a guide when I started to wonder which path was best for me. It was a reality check for me to see which things were truly most important to me, and it was also a motivator when I looked back at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish.
I think the greatest lesson I have learned from my ever-changing and ever-growing bucket list is that my wants and goals are fleeting. The top 5 things on my list this year are very different than they were last year. However, that is part of why the bucket list is so addicting. I strive to accomplish as many things on my list as I can while they are still so yearned for. If we all waited until the “right time” to pursue all of the things we wanted in life, many of those items on the list would be long forgotten and abandoned.
The time to start creating memories and challenging yourself is right now. I pride myself in having very few regrets because the majority of the time the decisions I made and the things I did were on my list, and to accomplish them was not only a learning experience, but also a stepping stone into the next challenge on my list.
Having grown up in a small town, I feel that the common mentality in middle-America is to work hard and reward those efforts “when the time is right.” I agree that good things come to those who wait, but good things can also come while you’re waiting for the end goal. I know so many people who have told me that they were waiting on the right time to travel, or for the safest time to follow their dreams, but then that ideal time and situation never happened. I believe that the best time to make yourself happy is in the present. So long as all your needs are met and you are handling your responsibilities,
I think it is healthy to create a list of things that you desire and then work hard to achieve them- then and there. Working in the travel industry has taught me that many people put off their “trips of a lifetime” until later in life, but often many of them have said they wish they would have nurtured their love of travel sooner. It is in this sense that the idea of a bucket list is so important.
A bucket list is a guide to helping you accentuate the everyday life with some fun, some adventure and something special for yourself and those you love. That sentiment is not to say that a bucket list is solely for selfish reasons, though. Many of the items on my list have to do with others. I listed things like wanting to someday by my mom her red convertible she has always wanted. I listed my dream to take my dad to Rome to he could see Vatican City for himself. I have even listed more vague wants on my list such as wanting to work for Habitat For Humanity or helping to save a life.
A bucket list does not have to be only material wants or a list of dream vacations; it should be about listing the things that will make you feel fulfilled and alive. With each item I check off my list, I try to write down at least two more.
A bucket list is meant, in theory, to be a to-do list before one “kicks the bucket” but I have decided to put a more positive spin on mine. Whether I am 24 or 94, I plan to keep adding to my list. Life should not be a countdown, but an ever-growing list of challenges and adventures.
My list began as 50 things when I was 19. It is now 182 and I have checked off over 80 of them. Some of my completed items are small like selling a piece of artwork, attempting to snowboard and taking a ballroom dancing class. Some of my completed items are bigger, such as Halibut fishing in Alaska …..
… and going on an African safari.
The value of a completed bucket list item is not measured by expense or “shock value” but on how happy it made me. Pulling up a 100-pound fish in Alaska may not seem like a life-changing thing to many people, but it was one of my favorite memories from my travels. Each item is a goal, and in turn becomes yet another priceless memory.”
Some of the items I have checked off my list:
Go skydiving
See the Taj Mahal
Go to Dubai
Go to the Vatican
Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Stay at the Atlantis Resort
Accept a failure at something – be happy that I tried my best
See Stonehenge
Make a true friend from another country and keep in touch for years Travel across a foreign country by myself
Work at an exotic animal sanctuary – Black Pine Animal Sanctuary Travel part of Europe with a complete stranger
Sell a piece of artwork
Graduate from college
Learn to change the oil in my car
Make up a recipe all on my own, and have it actually turn out tasting good
Learn to make my own jewelry
Run a mud mini-marathon – The Warrior Dash (photo below of Mary and her brother after finishing that challenge)
Scuba dive
Help rehabilitate a wild animal
See a tornado
Live in a major city – Chicago
Go on an African safari
Get lost in a foreign city – Rome
Swim with sharks
Purchase an authentic sword
Try guacamole
Meet someone with a completely different point of view – Gypsies in Romania
Own a Shiba Inu
Go on a kayaking trip
Learn to gracefully really walk in 6″ high heels
Attend a ceremony of another religion – Hindu temple festivals, India
See ground zero in NYC
Work in Eastern Europe
Plant a tree
Help a homeless person
Take ballroom dance lessons
Study Abroad
Teach English in another country – Romania
Go on a spontaneous road trip to a major city for only 1 night – New York City
Cross the London Bridge
mary4“Charlie, I think just seeing so many people I know and love put off their own happiness because they fear that taking time for themselves is meant for “later” really helped drive the idea of a bucket list into my head. I wholeheartedly understand that life and responsibilities need to come first, but I also believe that taking time to find even the smallest gratifications in life is important. There is not “perfect time” to begin traveling or to begin your bucket list.
I think people get so caught up in what they think they should be doing, or in what they feel they owe society that they forget that a bucket list can be comprised of personal wants both big and small. It may be trying a new food or seeing an old movie you’ve always heard about. A bucket list is about giving yourself a guideline to living the life you want, even if those first steps are small and seemingly insignificant to everyone else.
My bucket list has helped me to grow from a small town college student who dreamed of going to even one foreign country, into a confident, outgoing young woman who believes that life is only as exciting and diverse as you make it. I am no more brave or financially stable than any other recent college graduate, but I have learned to balance my wants and needs, and I have learned to work hard to accomplish my goals. Lack of money, time or resources does not have to be a dead end to what you want to accomplish. The bucket list someone creates is not about what they can accomplish today. The whole idea is to create this list of things you want to work toward; the list is your driving force for becoming whoever you want to be before you “kick the bucket.”
I love my job as a travel agent at Edgerton’s because I have the freedom to explore so many avenues of travel for our clients. Not only do we have a wide variety of group trips through our company like our upcoming tour of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, but we also have access to numerous vendors that meet every type of travel need there is. I have been really researching and investigating some of the adventure style tours and itineraries with everything from mountain climbing, to hiking along the Amazon, to safaris in Africa.
The beauty of working for a company like Edgerton’s is that the sky is the limit when it comes to the types of trips we can find or create for our clients. Even if a trip is not going to be a part of the current Edgerton’s calendar, that does not mean it cannot be pieced together independently. It is that creative side to my job that I love so much. People can come to us with their bucket lists and we can help build the trip of a lifetime around those experiences they want to have or the places they want to see. That is the true beauty of being a travel agent. We are trained in so many aspects of the travel industry, and then given the tools and contacts to link then into a safe, meticulously planned trip for our clients. It’s like being an artist of travel, and each client’s bucket list is the framework for what we at Edgerton’s are able to create.” – Mary Kohrman
Thank you, Mary, for those inspiring words.
I often speak about former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz. Like Mary, he first developed a bucket list when he was in his 20’s. One day in 1966, one month after having been just hired as an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina, Lou Holtz found himself unemployed and questioning his future. Holtz’s wife, Beth, was eight months pregnant with the couple’s third child and Holtz had just spent everything they had to make a down payment on a house.
His wife gave to him the book The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz in an effort to lift his spirits. The book suggested that you write down all the goals you want to achieve before you die. Holtz sat down and let his imagination go. Before he knew it, he had listed 107 goals he wanted to achieve in his life, covering all areas of his life that he wanted to improve, from professionally to parenting to improving his spiritual life. His list became a guideline for his life and a measuring stick of his success.
Among these goals was being a guest on The Tonight Show, having dinner at the White House, landing a plane on an aircraft carrier, coaching Notre Dame Football, winning a national championship and meeting the pope. This was pretty big stuff for an unemployed 28-year-old.
Now in his mid 70’s, Holtz has accomplished almost all 107.
If you would like to contact Mary about building a Bucket List trip for you, your family or a team building challenge-trip for your organization, you can reach her at the Fort Wayne, IN Edgerton’s Travel office:
Photo courtesy of Charlie Adams
Photo courtesy of Charlie Adams

Charlie Adams is an Oxford native, graduate of Lafayette High School and a member of the Ole Miss Class of 1985. Adams is the author of 4 books on positive attitude and peak performance, including 2013′s “How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!!” and “Stoke the Fire Within.” His books and motivational keynotes and seminars are designed to make sure events reach their objectives and to help create winning cultures. Email him at: Charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.

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