Just go already

Just go already

Sleeping bag?  Check.  Tent?  Check.  Pocketknife?  Check.  Horse?  Wait, what?  For years my father-in-law has invited me on a cowboy camping trip that involves a four-hour horseback ride into the Wind River Range in Wyoming.  It’s never quite worked out in the past, but this year I was determined to make it happen, which is how I found myself on the back of my trusty steed (a.k.a. El Diablo) riding into the mountains on the Friday before Labor Day.

It wasn’t just me.  My father-in-law was there, of course, but also his brother-in-law Rusty (the organizer of the annual trip) and Rusty’s three sons.  We were each riding a horse and then we had three packhorses that were carrying all of our gear.  We made it to our remote campsite, unloaded the horses and began setting everything up.  What followed was four days of hiking, riding, fishing and telling stories around the campfire, all while miles away from the nearest cell phone signal.  Needless to say, it was a great time.

When the trip was over and we got back to civilization, I took a much-needed shower and started the long drive home.  I had plenty of windshield time so I thought back on the trip and a few takeaways came to mind.

There will always be reasons to say no.  As I mentioned earlier, my father-in-law has been inviting me on this trip for years.  As much as I wanted to go, I had just as many reasons to say “no” this time as I had previously.  Life is always busy.  There will always be schedules, commitments and to-do lists.  If you wait for the stars to align perfectly, you’ll never do anything.

“Yes” is more complicated than no, but much more rewarding too.  It can often be complicated and costly to say “yes”, but that is usually the price of admission for doing interesting/fulfilling things.  I had to take several days off work.  The drive was 11 hours each way.  And did I mention the horse?  “Yes” gets you out of your comfort zone.  It costs time and money.  It takes effort.  But to summarize Mark Twain, someday we’ll all regret the times we said “no” much more than the times we said “yes.”

Opportunities are finite.  You and I will only have so many chances to say “yes.”  To take the trip.  To mend the relationship.  To embrace the new opportunity.  Even if the world were perfect, our opportunities are finite and—newsflash—the world is far from perfect.  Case in point.  Both my father-in-law and uncle-in-law are battling cancer.  They’re doing well, but illness is always a good reminder that you won’t always have the opportunity to say “yes.”

Your body is in a constant state of entropy.  The horseback ride up the mountain was difficult, but the horseback ride down the mountain was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done (think “The Man From Snowy River”).  I managed it in my 40s, but I don’t think I’d want to attempt it in my 60s.  As we get older, things change.  Our bodies start to break down (entropy) and doors begin to close on certain opportunities.  I wrote about this concept in The Funny Thing About Time.  Take a minute to read it because it’s a good reminder.

Routine is the enemy of time.  A guy by the name of Jed Jenkins said that and he is so right.  When you’re stuck in a routine, time flies by.  Getting out of your routine slows things down.  It helps you look at things differently.  It refreshes and makes you better when you get back.  Four days in the mountains seemed like a really long time.  Not because it wasn’t fun, but because I was doing something different and new.  I had fresh eyes.  I was having new experiences.  Rather than my brain being on autopilot, I was aware and focused and present.  If you regularly fill your life with new experiences, it won’t seem so short and hurried.

How about you?  What travel plans are on your to do list?  What have you wanted to get around to “someday”?  What can you do today, this week or this month, to make those plans a reality?  Don’t keep putting it off.  Just go already.

~ Joe




Three easy ways to take interesting online courses

Three easy ways to take interesting online courses

When I was in college, I wanted to take a photography class as an elective.  Unfortunately, I was required to take “Fundamentals of Drawing” as a prerequisite.  I can’t draw to save my life, but I gave it a shot, assuming that the teacher would grade according to the “finance student who wants to take the photography class” curve.

On the first day of class the professor said, “I know many of you are here because you need this class to take the photography class.  I am not an easy grader.  If your drawings are bad, you will fail the class.”  And that’s the story of how I ended up not taking a photography class in college.

Thankfully, we live in a completely different world today.  Most of the rules, roadblocks and gatekeepers are gone and you can learn just about anything you want online, often for free.

Want an example?  Just a few weeks ago I learned how to tile a floor watching a 5-minute YouTube video.  Then I tiled my floor.  It turned out great.  I learned how to adjust my sprinkler heads the same way.  Ditto with how to play new songs on my guitar.

YouTube is great, but sometimes you want a more formal learning process so you can take a deeper dive into a subject.  For that, I’ve been experimenting with three companies that provide thousands of interesting online courses.


What it is.  Coursera is an online education website started by a former Stanford professor.  The company has agreements with more than 120 top universities (e.g. Princeton, Yale and Stanford) to make their most popular and interesting courses available free of charge to anyone who wants to take them.

How it works.  Courses are a combination of videos, assignments and tests and usually take four to six weeks to complete.  You study at your own pace and can go back to review material if needed or pause the lecture if you want to look something up, do further research or cook dinner.

What it costs.  The courses are free for anyone who wants to take them, but you can pay a nominal fee (usually between $50 and $95) if you want to receive a course certificate that you can show a potential employer or list on your resume.

Types of classes.  Imagine a college course catalog and that’s what the list of Coursera courses looks like.  Want to take a nutrition class from Johns Hopkins?  Check.  How about a music class from the Berklee College of Music?  Check.  Computer programming at Stanford?  Law at the University of London?  The history of Beatles music at the University of Rochester?  Check, check and check.


What it is.  CreativeLive was founded by the super talented Chase Jarvis.  If you’ve ever seen an ad or commercial for Nike, Apple, RedBull or Starbucks, chances are you’ve seen Jarvis’ photography and video work.  The idea behind the company is to bring together some of the top creative minds in the world and do live classes in their areas of expertise.

How it works.  Browse the list of upcoming classes and sign up for whatever sounds interesting.  The live classes are often free, but if you miss the class or want to browse the catalog of hundreds of past classes, you can take those for a small fee.

What it costs.  Again, the live classes are often free, but if you sign up for a past class from the catalog, they usually cost anywhere from $29 to $99 (some are more) depending on how in depth the class is.

Types of classes.  There are classes in areas like photography, videography, design, music, money, travel and life.  For example, I recently took a class on travel hacking (taking great trips for less money) taught by a guy who just finished visiting every country in the world.  I’m also signed up to take an upcoming class on travel photography in July.  Those are just a few examples, but there are hundreds of others to choose from.


What it is.  Like the others we’ve discussed so far, Udemy is an online learning platform.  Rather than providing just college courses (like Coursera) or focusing on a narrow range of topics (like CreativeLive), Udemy offers a broad range of skill building classes in a ton of different areas.

How it works: Sign up by creating a user name and log in and then start browsing courses to take.  And if you have a particular area of expertise, Udemy makes it easy for you to create your own course and sell it on their platform.

What it costs:  Some classes are free, but most cost between $29 and $99.

Types of classes:  There are more than 30,000 courses in areas like business and entrepreneurship, academics, the arts, health and fitness, language, music, and technology.

One of our core beliefs here at Intentional Retirement is that curiosity and a willingness to learn will often result in an interesting and rewarding retirement.  The resources discussed above make that easier than ever.

~ Joe

P.S.  A little weekly inspiration from over on our Facebook Page:

What science teaches us about making retirement decisions

What science teaches us about making retirement decisions

I think it’s fair to say that most of us believe we are rational beings and we make rational decisions. I just finished reading a book, however, that calls that premise into question.

In Predictably Irrational, professor Dan Ariely uses cleverly designed experiments to show time and again that many of the daily decisions we make—from the mundane to the monumental—are completely irrational. His point is that these irrationalities are so systematic and predictable, that we can understand them and then compensate for them so we can make better decisions.

The section of the book that really caught my eye related to the concept of anchoring. Anchoring is our tendency to rely on the first piece of information we are presented with (the “anchor”) when making decisions. As the name implies, the anchor influences all of the related decisions that come after it. If you examine your life—how you spend your money, how you spend your day, where you buy coffee, who you hang out with, how much television you watch—you can likely trace those habits or repetitive behaviors back to some sort of anchor.

What does this have to do with making retirement decisions? Again, our first decisions on a particular matter tend to act as anchors for the subsequent decisions we make in that area. When you enter retirement you make a whole bunch of new decisions. Those decisions—the who, what, where, when and why of retirement—will resonate for years to come. You should be very intentional as you make them. Professor Ariely:

“We should also pay particular attention to the first decision we make in what is going to be a long stream of decisions. When we face such a decision, it might seem to us that this is just one decision, without large consequences; but in fact the power of the first decision can have such a long-lasting effect that it will percolate into our future decisions for years to come. Given this effect, the first decision is crucial, and we should give it an appropriate amount of attention.”

In other words, the first weeks and months of retirement are critical. Many people enter retirement with the best of intentions, but because they don’t understand this concept of anchoring, one of two things happens. First, they are so deeply anchored to previous decisions that when they are confronted with the new paradigm of retirement, they talk themselves out of things, even if it is something that they have been dreaming about for years. For example, “I’d love to travel, but that’s just not me.”

Second, they transition into retirement without a lot of intention or urgency and they assume that they will have plenty of time to figure things out as they go. But while they’re waiting for the dust to settle, they make decisions early on—the first 30 days, 60 days, a year—that end up acting as anchors for years to come and that prevent them from pursuing their ideal retirement. So what are some ways that we can avoid this fate?

Stop. I’ve talked many times before about a “stop doing” list. Never is that list more critical than when you transition into retirement. By cutting out old obligations that are no longer relevant to your new phase of life, you allow yourself space and breathing room to focus on your new pursuits, activities, obligations and commitments and give them the time and attention they deserve.

Shake things up. If you find yourself in a rut and anchored to decades of old habits and routines, it’s helpful to have big, new plans—like moving, traveling, or volunteering—that will force you to steer off the well-worn path you’ve become accustomed to and proactively pursue your new goals. If you don’t have specific new plans, it’s easy to fall into a routine that doesn’t look much different from your working years, save for sleeping in a little bit and having more time to run errands.

Keep a journal. As you transition into retirement, spend a little time at the end of each day journaling. Write about the emotions, feelings, experiences and changes related to the transition. Most of all, write about the decisions you’re confronted with. If you take time at the end of each day to think and write about those decisions in the context of what you want the next 20 or 30 years of your life to look like, then you’ll likely make decisions that put you on the path to where you want to go.

Have a response ready. When you retire, you will be confronted with a number of people and organizations that will want a piece of your newfound time and freedom. Rather than hastily committing to something you might later regret, have a ready response that defers any decision. Here’s the one I suggest: “Thanks for asking. You know, I’m new to this whole retirement thing and I’m still trying to figure out what my schedule will look like, so let me think about it and then I’ll get back to you.” If it isn’t something that fits with your plans, follow up later with a quick call or email to decline.

Remember, the decisions you make in the first weeks and months of retirement will resonate for years. Therefore:

  • Have specific plans.
  • Be intentional.
  • Have a sense of urgency.
  • Understand the resistance you’ll feel if your new plans conflict with your old anchors and be prepared to push through it.
  • Keep a journal to help you think through your daily decisions
  • Cut old commitments that aren’t a fit for your new phase of life
  • Be slow to make new commitments.

To all of my readers in the U.S., have a great Memorial Day Weekend!  And to those outside the U.S., just have a great weekend. 🙂

~ Joe

Walking the Camino de Santiago

Walking the Camino de Santiago

Note: This post is part of a weekend series I’m doing throughout 2015 that is focused on fun things to do (or learn) during retirement (i.e. bucket list items). I hope you enjoy them and use them as inspiration for your own adventures. Congrats to Donna from our Facebook page who was the winner of this week’s giveaway.  There’s a copy of my book The Bell Lap on the way to you Donna.

There’s just something about a good hike.  Maybe it’s because modern life so often has us cooped up inside.  Maybe it’s the fresh air and scenery.  Maybe it’s just getting a chance to stretch our legs while we’re still healthy and active.  Whatever the reason, I’ve noticed that retirees tend to front load their Bucket Lists with activities that include walking and hiking.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to share a story with you today from my friends over at One Road at a Time.  Patti and Abi started their blog a few years ago and are writing about their adventures as they try to see the world (you guessed it) one road at a time.

When I saw that they were hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I emailed Patti and asked her if I could interview her for an article on hiking the Camino.  She graciously agreed and when they were taking a break to let their blisters heal (the hike takes more than a month), she took time to answer a few questions.  Enjoy.

For those that aren’t familiar with it, tell us about the Camino de Santiago (e.g. What is it?  How far?  How long does it take?  Etc.)

The Camino de Santiago – a UNESCO World Heritage site – is an ancient pilgrimage.  It is believed the ashes of St. James are buried in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela and pilgrims dating back centuries would travel the Camino to pay homage to St. James.  It is a pilgrimage of faith, or dedication, or discovery, or a personal challenge.  The distance from the French town of St. Jean Pied de Port, to Santiago, Spain is about 800 kms (500 miles) and most pilgrims walk it in about 35 days, although there are many pilgrims who walk just a section(s) and there are those who walk sections of the Camino on different visits.  Every pilgrim walks his/her own pace on the Camino. We know and have talked to people who have done the entire walk multiple times.  There are pilgrims who also bike the Camino.

Where are you right now?  How many miles have you gone so far?

Right now, April 30, we are in Leon and we have walked about 150 miles. We walked from St. Jean Pied de Port, in France, to Burgos, Spain and from Burgos we took the train to Leon.  We chose not to walk across the meseta (approx. 100 miles) because of my foot ailments.

Sometimes the “why” of these trips evolves over time or only comes months or years later once you’ve had time to process the experience, but what initially made you want to do it?  Did it just sound like a fun challenge or was there some other reason?

We jokingly say we have no idea why we are walking.  We love to walk and we wanted to see Spain.  We have no deeply profound or spiritual reason.  We are here, living it.  But I can tell you it was important to us to do it now, while we are able.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Blisters!  I have been plagued with blisters on both feet.  At home, we walk all the time, up to 20 – 25 miles per week and I have no memory of having a blister in the past decade or more.  Here on the Camino, I refer to myself as a walking blister.  Because of the blisters, we chose not to walk the Meseta, using the days instead to rest and heal in Leon before continuing on to Santiago.

Where do you stay on the route?

We stay in hotels, B&B’s, pensions, casa rurals, etc. because we want the privacy and because we want to ensure a reasonably good night’s sleep. And let’s face it, we want to be comfortable! Many pilgrims, of all ages, stay in albergues (hostels), which are either municipally or privately owned.  Municipal albergues are usually free, asking for a donation and the private albergues charge anywhere from 5 to 10 euros for a bed in a dormitory or 30 to 40 euros for a private room.  Albergue accommodations are most often co-ed dormitory style.

Have the people been nice so far?

Yes!  Pilgrims have a comradery because they all understand what it means to be on the Camino.  The locals are also incredibly nice.  There is a phrase, “Buen Camino” and people passing by will just stop and say, “Buen Camino.”  And the locals are so willing to help with directions or information if needed.

Are there any pros and cons to doing the trip with your spouse?

I can’t imagine doing this with anyone other than my husband, Abi.  There is nothing easy about making this journey and having the emotional support of my hubby is essential.  Plus, we know what the other one needs, wants and likes.  There is no second guessing.

I’ve heard two types of fun described.  Type 1 fun is fun while you’re doing it.  Type 2 fun is painful and challenging while you’re doing it, but fun once it’s over and you have a chance to reflect back on it.  Does the Camino fall more into the second category?

Absolutely! About day 5 we asked each other, “Are we having fun yet?”  The answer was a resounding, “No!”  Fun is going to Disneyland or playing cards and drinking tequila with good friends.  The Camino is damn hard, physically demanding.  But it is also incredibly rewarding and if you want to get to know a country and its people, walk across it.

What is the typical daily cost (food, hotel, etc.)?

The cost is really determined by your journey.  I know a young woman who walked the Camino solo and I believe she averaged about $33 per day because she stayed in albergues and ate pilgrim meals.  I would guesstimate we average $100 per day for the two of us.  Our average accommodation stay is $60.  Pilgrim meals (a preset 3-course meal) average $11 – $13 and they can be found most anywhere.  Incidentals such as snacks, toothpaste, sunscreen and band-aids, we purchase along the way.

Did you train for it at all?

We did.  We did a lot of extra walking for a couple of months before we left home, but we traveled for 5 weeks in Europe and the Middle East before starting to walk, so it didn’t really pay off.

Do you meet a lot of people and/or participate in different traditions/gatherings associated with the walk or is everyone pretty focused on the hiking?

We’ve met and talked with people from all over the world but there aren’t any traditions/gatherings that I know of, although there is a large social media network.  I believe there is more social interaction with those who stay in the albergues because after all you’re eating and sleeping with so many others.  During the day we’re pretty much just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  We have however, come across groups of up to 20 that appear to be walking together and there are organized tours available also.

Any tips for people considering doing the walk?

Don’t do this on a whim!  I researched for over 2 years. I believe the most critical component in preparing for this walk is your gear.  The right shoes, the right socks, a pack that fits well and choosing wisely what you will carry with you because every ounce counts when you have to carry it.  Do your homework.

Any short/fun stories or travel serendipity you’d like to share?

The owner of our hotel kidnapped us.  It’s a long story.  Those interested can read about it over here.

Do you have any major takeaways, life lessons, etc. from your walk so far?

Yes!  Don’t jinx yourself by saying you never get blisters!  Other than that not really, but ask me again at the end of our journey.

Anything else you’d like to mention about the experience that I didn’t ask about?

The terrain of the Camino tests the walker from beginning to end.  On day 1 we climbed over the Pyrenees Mtn. with a summit elevation of 4,600’ and we had to slog through snow and mud. I’ve had an ongoing debate about which is the lesser of 2 evils, uphill or downhill?  Loose rocky downhill grades to flat broad farm roads to asphalt to washed away sections of the trail; the Camino throws everything at you. Walking in the spring has gifted us with the most beautiful vistas anyone can imagine.

Tell us a bit about your blog “One Road at a Time.”

I launched One Road at a Time in October of 2012.  It started as a creative outlet for me; I love to write and tell stories. I try to capture the human interest side of the story with details and photos. I designed every aspect of the site, with the support of my husband, Abi, and my wizard webmaster.  To get to know me and Abi a bit better scroll through the archives and read a few of our posts. You’ll find a variety of content including classic road trips, hospitality intrigue and adventures abroad.  We retired early and downsized our lifestyle and while we don’t live large, we have a home base and the resources to travel.  By sharing our journey we hope to inspire others to redefine retirement…One Road at a Time.

Thanks Abi and Patti!  Good luck with the rest of your walk.

How to make time lapse videos with your smart phone

How to make time lapse videos with your smart phone

Note: This post is part of a weekend series I’m doing throughout 2015 that is focused on fun things to do (or learn) during retirement (i.e. bucket list items). I hope you enjoy them and use them as inspiration for your own adventures. Congrats to Dennis from our email subscribers who was the winner of this week’s giveaway.  There’s an iTunes gift card on the way to your inbox Dennis. Feel free to use it toward the purchase of the time lapsing app discussed below.

Have you ever watched one those cool time lapse videos and asked yourself “I wonder how they did that?” Me too. So I added “learn to time lapse” to my bucket list. Time lapse is one of those things that has become infinitely more approachable with the advent of apps and the smart phone. Making a time lapse used to involve complicated and expensive equipment (which you can definitely still use if you want to make super high quality videos), but now just about anyone can make a cool time lapse video with equipment they already have in their pocket.  Here’s an easy guide on how to make time lapse videos with your smart phone.

What is time lapse?

Before jumping in, let’s explain what time lapse is. Many people incorrectly assume that time lapse is just shooting a video and then speeding it up. In actuality, time lapse is a series of still photos that are strung together and played back to create a moving sequence. What makes it interesting is that the rate at which the photos are played back is faster than the rate at which they were captured. This allows you to see movement that your eye wouldn’t normally pick up on. For example, you could take a picture of clouds every 10 seconds and then play those pictures back at 30 frames per second and you’d see the clouds rapidly changing and moving across the sky.

What equipment do you need?

For beginners, all you should need is your smart phone, a tripod and an app to help you sequence and render the photos. The app I use is Lapse It, which is available for both iPhone and Android. (Note: Some smart phones like the iPhone have a time lapse setting, but it doesn’t allow you to control any of the settings, so I prefer to use the app).  If you already have a tripod, you’ll need an adapter that will hold your smart phone.

Step 1: Compose the photo

One of the key benefits of time lapse is movement, so when composing your shot, you want to look for things with some sort of movement (e.g. clouds, sunrise, tides, traffic, etc.). Your camera needs to be still while taking the photos, so find an interesting scene, set your camera up on the tripod and you’re ready to go. Note: Try to set up your camera where people won’t be walking in front of it (unless people are the subject of your time lapse).

Step 2: Adjust the settings

Once you’re camera is set up, you’ll need to set the frame rate. That is the number of seconds (or minutes) between each photo. Lapse It allows you to easily adjust the frame rate based on what you’re trying to capture. If something is moving relatively quickly, you can set your frame to capture a photo every few seconds. If it’s moving more slowly (sunrise for example), you can set your frame rate to capture a photo every 10-15 seconds.

Step 3: Take the photos

Once you’ve chosen your subject, set up your camera and adjusted the settings, just hit the “capture” button to start taking photos. At this point you can sit back and relax, because it can take a bit to get enough photos for the video. For example, if you plan on playing photos back at 30 frames per second and you want a 30 second video, then you need 900 photos. If you’re taking a picture of clouds every 10 seconds and you want to take 900 photos, then you need to take photos for 2.5 hours.

Step 4: Render the images

Once you’ve taken all the photos you need, just hit “stop” and Lapse It will automatically bring up the settings for rendering the final images. This is where you can choose the playback speed, add music or filters, trim the video, etc. Each time you adjust a setting, you can play back the sequence to see what your final video will look like. When you have it like you want it, just hit “render” and Lapse It will complete the project. Once it’s done you can save the video to your camera roll or share it to social media like Instagram or Facebook.

The final product

What does the final product look like? I was in Belize a few weeks ago and took a quick time lapse of the sunrise. I’ll put it below, but if you’re reading this post in your email, you may need to visit Intentional Retirement to actually watch the playback. I’m still learning the ropes myself, so this isn’t the best quality in the world, but you get the idea. Now you can give it a try yourself.

Bucket List Books: How and why to add reading to your bucket list

Bucket List Books: How and why to add reading to your bucket list

Note: This is part of a weekend bucket list series I’m doing throughout 2015 that is focused on fun things to do during retirement (i.e. bucket list items). I hope you enjoy them and use them as inspiration for your own adventures.  I’m also doing a giveaway in conjunction with the series that you can read more about below.

One of the goals on my bucket list is to read 500 books between ages 40 and 50. Is reading on your bucket list? If not, it should be. Why is regular reading so important? How will you benefit from reading more? How can you make it through dozens of books in the typical year? What have I read so far on my way to 500 books in 10 years? Read on to find out. 🙂

Why You Should Read More

It keeps your mind sharp. Recent studies show that engaging your brain keeps it sharp, improves your vocabulary, improves your memory, helps improve your reasoning ability and might even help delay the symptoms or onset of dementia.

It inspires you to do interesting things. We all want to live full and interesting lives. Reading gives you ideas of things to do and then inspires you to do them. It’s difficult to read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, without being inspired to get up off the couch and plan your own hike. If you read My Life in France by Julia Child, you’ll probably want to sign up for cooking classes or maybe even plan a trip to Paris. Reading is a great way to get ideas and inspiration for your bucket list.

It gives you ideas for self-improvement. Getting Things Done helped me to bring some sanity to my To-Do list. The Power of Habit helped me to understand how I can get rid of bad habits and create good ones. On Writing helped me to improve my writing. Books can help make a better you. As Socrates once said: “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”

It’s fun and a low cost form of entertainment. I spend most Saturday mornings on the couch with a cup of coffee and whatever book I happen to be reading. Not only is it enjoyable and relaxing, but it’s cheap entertainment (I get most of what I read from either the library or Amazon).

So in summary, reading gives you a better vocabulary. It makes you smarter and more interesting. It helps keep your mind sharp and improves your memory. It makes you a better conversationalist. It inspires you to do fun and interesting things. It’s great entertainment.  That’s not a bad list of benefits.

How to Read More

Life is busy, so if you want to read more, you need to make it a priority. That said, here are a few tricks that helped me read more than 50 books last year.

Listen to audio books. I drive about 25 minutes to work every day (and 25 minutes home) and spend additional time driving to and from appointments. On average, I probably spend about 90 minutes in the car each day. Rather than listening to the radio, I listen to books. My local library has an App that allows me to download audio books for free, so I always have something to listen to. A little less than half of my reading list last year was audio books.

Speed-reading. I used to be a painfully slow reader, so a while back I did a learning challenge on speed-reading. Read through the article for ways to test and improve your reading speed.

Always take your book with you. I got this tip from Stephen King in his book On Writing. Everywhere I go I either have a book or my iPod with me. You’d be amazed at how much time you spend in waiting rooms, in line or otherwise standing around doing nothing. Take your book along and make use of the time.

Read stuff that you enjoy. If you want to read War and Peace, more power to you, but don’t feel pressure to read things just because they’re classics. Read what you enjoy. If you look through my list below you’ll see Steinbeck and Dickens, but you’ll also see about a half-dozen Jack Reacher novels, which are the literary equivalent of junk food. Who cares? I like them. I took a detective fiction class in college and since then I’ve always appreciated the genre. Read what you enjoy and you’ll read more.

Bucket List Books: What I’ve Read the Last Two Years

Below is a list of what I read during the first 2 years of my 10-year goal. I put Amazon links to each book in case you’d like to learn more about a particular book and possibly add it to your own reading list.

2013 (Age 40)

  1. Wool, Hugh Howey
  2. Do The Work, Steven Pressfield
  3. The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau
  4. Boomerang, Michael Lewis
  5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand
  6. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, David Allen
  7. Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, Tony Horwitz
  8. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  9. The Big Short, Michael Lewis
  10. The Glass Castle: A Memoir, Jeannette Walls
  11. My Life in France, Julia Child
  12. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  13. The Four Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss
  14. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  15. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King
  16. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris
  17. The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern, Victor David Hansen
  18. World War Z, Max Brooks
  19. Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, Piers Paul Read
  20. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, Michael Pollan
  21. Grand Ambition, G. Bruce Knecht
  22. Child of God, Cormack McCarthy
  23. Everyman, Phillip Roth
  24. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bordain
  25. Tuesdays With Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life’s Greatest Lesson, Mitch Albom
  26. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Missions That Killed Osama Bin Laden, Mark Owen

2014 (Age 41)

  1. Jack London: An American Life, Earle Labor
  2. The Graveyard Book, Niel Gaiman
  3. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, Rolf Potts
  4. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  5. Walden, Henry David Thoreau
  6. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, Nathaniel Philbrick
  7. The Sea Wolf, Jack London
  8. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  9. Open: An Autobiography, Andre Agassi
  10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
  12. My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir
  13. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  14. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  15. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
  16. Start Something that Matters, Blake Mycoskie
  17. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  18. Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson
  19. Roughing It, Mark Twain
  20. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber
  21. The Martian, Andy Weir
  22. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
  23. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
  24. Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, John Lukacs
  25. White Fang, Jack London
  26. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  27. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson
  28. John Barleycorn, Jack London
  29. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
  30. Travels With Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck
  31. The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World, Stephen Mansfield
  32. The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer
  33. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson
  34. Moneyball, Michael Lewis
  35. A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin
  36. Wooden On Leadership, John Wooden
  37. The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, Chris Guillebeau
  38. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Dicker
  39. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lax, Rebecca Skloot
  40. The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin
  41. 61 Hours, Lee Child
  42. 12 Years A Slave, Solomon Northup
  43. Worth Dying For, Lee Child
  44. A Wanted Man, Lee Child
  45. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
  46. Never Go Back, Lee Child
  47. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  48. River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, Candice Millard
  49. We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance, David Howarth
  50. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  51. The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King
  52. Lawerence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle Ease, Scott Anderson
  53. Sailing Alone Around the World, Joshua Slocum
  54. One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaska Odyssey, Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke

Giveaway: One of my favorite books last year was Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. In the 1890s, he became the first person to sail alone around the world and then he wrote a book about it. He’s actually a really good writer, so in addition to being a great adventure tale, it’s a story well told. This week’s giveaway winner is a subscriber from our email updates list (congrats Karl!) so I’m sending him a copy of the book. Tune into future posts for more giveaways.

Note:  Since I have my own books for sale on Amazon, I am a part of their Amazon Affiliate program.  The links above are affiliate links, which simply means that if you buy a book after clicking one of the links, Amazon (at no additional cost to you) will pay me a small commission that I use to help cover the costs of this site.  That’s not why I recommend the books, of course, but I wanted to be sure to make you aware of it.