A radically adventurous bucket list

Jenny Cossey, mountain biker, outside one of the 50 NZ mountain huts on her bucket list

Jenny Cossey knocks another mountain hut off her bucket list

We know what a bucket list ought to be, right? It’s a list of wonderful things a person decides to do before they kick the bucket, i.e. before they die. They WRITE THEIR BUCKET LIST, thereby making it real, making it part of the life they will live.

  • Most people write their own bucket lists.
  • Most people decide what goes on their own bucket list.
  • Most items are things that the writer really would like to do.
  • The expiry date of most bucket lists is the expiry date of the person.

But Jenny is different. She decided to ask her friends what she should aim to do before her 50th birthday. Some nominated things that Jenny might normally do, like cycle all the NZ national cycleways — mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, trail running and dancing are as natural to her as breathing. But at least half the suggestions were right outside her comfort zone: friends challenged her to do things that would never have occurred to her otherwise, like “go blonde” or do a 10-day silent meditation course.


Jenny was given a toy boy for her 50th birthday: a Ken doll.

After culling duplicates from the ensuing list, she did her darndest to achieve all 50. Pretty awe inspiring, especially as she achieved almost the entire list in a single year.

  1. Kite surfing YES
  2. Kayak Cook Strait CHEAT (kayaks on the ferry)
  3. Visit 50 Huts YES
  4. Cycle all NZ national cycleways YES
  5. Groovy dance event (Pole Dancing) YES
  6. Vipassana 10-day silent medication course YES
  7. Wrist flower arrangement YES
  8. Catch a cray in the Cook Strait (went diving and Raymond caught one) GOOD TRY
  9. Breaker Bay Beach in Breaker Bay style YES
  10. Read a book in a week YES
  11. Water ski (next year in Lake Wanaka) ORGANISED
  12. Hillary Trail YES
  13. Dating young for fun PASS WITH A PUSH (online, no dates)
  14. Scooter the Bays YES
  15. Buy a corset and wear it YES
  16. Tie a fly YES
  17. Go commando for a week YES
  18. Stay in bed all day and read a book YES
  19. Qualify for the mile high club (NO LUCK)
  20. Drink a bottle of absinthe with friends YES
  21. Go blonde YES
  22. Hot stone massage YES
  23. Learn to surf (trial session at Lyall Bay beach) PASS WITH A PUSH
  24. Snorkel Island Bay Reserve YES
  25. Toy boy (given a plastic male Barbie called Ken) CHEAT
  26. Hot air ballooning YES
  27. Listen to a live messiah YES
  28. Listen to a male kiwi boom (a kiwi whistling in the dark) YES
  29. Go out for high tea by bike in frocks YES
  30. Learn a new craft YES
  31. Clay shooting (NO LUCK)
  32. Artistic roller skating YES
  33. Roller Derby YES
  34. Make a margarita YES
  35. Read Tristram Shandy (began it, but boring) SERIOUS SHAMEFUL FAIL!!
  36. Wear a daffodil in your hair all day YES
  37. Wear a wedding dress (a red one) YES
  38. Wear a veil 30 minutes in Courtenay Place YES
  39. Re-learn how to touch type FAIL
  40. Visit D’Urville Island YES
  41. Do the Karapoti classic MTB ride YES
  42. Learn Spanish (30 hours on Mango, WCC Library) YES
  43. Tour on a tandem (no luck — friend too small) GOOD TRY
  44. Try a Chalkie event YES
  45. Make a pavlova YES
  46. Ride a snow bike (fat bike) YES
  47. Make real pasta YES
  48. Learn to parapont (attempted on the Remarkables) PASS WITH A PUSH
  49. Organise my sons so they all visit me on the same weekend YES
  50. Go to Antarctica (job interview at Union Glacier) FAIR ENOUGH
Jenny tries pole dancing

Pole dancing was on this middle-age bucket list

Other things Jenny tried

  1. Setting off a PLB (personal locator beam) in the Landsborough (5-day hike and raft adventure)
  2. Hitching with my bike in a bike box
  3. Try a dry suit (it leaked)
  4. Walking on bonker curved stilts
  5. Tango in the moonlight
  6. Won best dressed at the Kapiti MTB (?) race and 3rd woman in my age group
  7. Flicked my (?) into back wheel and broke spokes. Had to single gear last 10km out of Heaphy Track.
  8. First tooth implant
  9. Be in American TV commercial running at midnight with sparklers to 2am
  10. Leave a child behind on a school trip to swimming pool
  11. First mole map of my body and first eye exam
  12. Have reflexology on my feet

Bring another bucket!

Phew! I feel tired just looking at that list. And excited. And inspired. Are you?

What will she do when she turns 60? or 70? Can’t wait to find out. She has already written her best self into life.

16 thoughts on “A radically adventurous bucket list

  1. Robyn Haynes says:

    Seems right for Jenny – and good on her! Somehow I don’t like the idea of a bucket list. Not for me. I would miss the spontaneity of life unfolding in a series of surprises, of finding hidden opportunities when they popped their little heads up. If I was consulting a bucket list I might miss them! I still make plans to do fun stuff and work at not feeling guilty if I stay in my pyjamas all day and read a book. I still challenge myself by learning new things. But a bucket list is not for me. I wonder what others think.

    1. What a lovely insight. Maybe that’s why Jenny needed some encouragement to lie in bed and read a book: some of us are naturals at that! You probably need but one thing on your bucket list: carry on living just as I am. In fact, that’s just what I think if I imagine writing a bucket list.

  2. bone&silver says:

    And am SO impressed she did so much… Now when she turns 51 she can just relax and live her life haha

    1. Aha, that’ll be the day!

  3. lifecameos says:

    I have found I kept quite busy dealing with life’s curve balls for some years now. I really enjoy the times when I get to relax and curl up with a book.

    1. You deserve that luxury. Enjoy!

  4. I wouldn’t have attempted half of them aged 25

    1. She is intrepid.

      1. I can think of other words that are equally applicable. like crazy, 😈 :bear: 😀

  5. toutparmoi says:

    That is an adventurous list – though I’m not sure I’d call other people’s challenges a Bucket List.

    My idea of a Bucket List is when you stop and think about the things you intend to do one day after things like education, jobs, lack of money, family stop having to come first.

    There are those moments when you think, “I always wanted to be/see/do…” And then there comes that single life-changing one of, “It’s now or never…” While other people say, “Have you gone mad?” Or, “Good for you!”

    1. I think that’s just what we said to Jenny! You’re right, this was not the usual idea of a bucket list. And do you have your own?

      1. toutparmoi says:

        No – but I’m thinking of presenting myself with an annual Challenge.

  6. Val says:

    I feel the same way as Robyn, I don’t like bucket lists and prefer to live my life naturally and spontaneously (when I can!). But good on Jenny for achieving what she wanted to – most of that must have taken a good deal of energy as well as courage.

    1. For this highly energetic gal, one more fun thing to chalk up. I can’t think of anything for a bucket list, myself!

  7. Phew … mine pail’s into insignificance by comparison!

%d bloggers like this: