What is your life’s purpose?
My life’s mission is to give every person in the world the tools and inspiration to live their bucket list — one checkmark at a time.

How are you living this purpose?
I aspire to live this purpose every day, in everything I do, whether it be through writing, speaking, or through my restaurant. But, it wasn’t always that way. Before following my calling, I instead followed in the family footsteps. My husband and I borrowed every dime to open a little Italian restaurant, Sugo Trattoria, in my hometown. We settled into a beyond-full-time work routine that ate up over seventy hours a week of our lives. It left little time for anything else. Though the restaurant was rewarding and the food business is in my blood, there was also something else tugging at my heart. It was an urge to explore and try something for the first time—a lot of somethings.

Whenever I would mention my dreams of exploring the world and checking off my bucket list, a majority of people would say it wasn’t possible while owning a restaurant: “The owner has to be there or your place will never be successful.” I couldn’t accept that—or that you could only have one dream or one passion—so I set out to prove people wrong. I spent several years systemizing procedures in order to spend less time physically at the restaurant and more time traveling. It allowed me to start living my bucket list, which was an essential key to living my purpose. It showed people that with determination, belief, and passion, the seemingly impossible was possible.

Exploring Prambanan Temple Compounds in Indonesia

During this time, my blog Bucket List Journey was born. Initially, it was created as simply a place to record my bucket list goals and write about my adventures in completing them—an online scrapbook of sorts. But as time went on, it became evident that following my passion for having new experiences meant traveling to many different destinations around the world. So, Bucket List Journey slowly morphed into the travel blog that it is today. By sharing stories, inspiration, and tips on my site (and through my book Bucket List Adventures), it is helping others to step out of their comfort zone and live their dreams too. Furthermore, sharing my story of fear, belief, determination, travel, and bucket lists at speaking engagements is another way I am able to live my purpose.

How did you find your purpose?
There was a time when everyone began throwing around the word “passion” and I desperately wanted to find mine, that one thing that truly made me happy and that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I loved cooking, but I wasn’t sure that was all that there was for me out there. The search for passion meant that I would need to try new things, but I was suffering from extreme fear and anxiety that were keeping me from attempting almost anything that was not in my small bubble of a comfort zone.

After countless years, hundreds of missed opportunities, and so many restrictions put on my life, there was a moment that I was curled up on the floor of my bedroom with tears rolling down my face. I looked in the mirror and instantly realized that the woman staring back at me was not the woman she was meant to be. My heart wanted adventure, travel, and exploration. And in that moment, it became clear that the only one who could change my life was me. On that morning, I made a life-changing promise to myself to never let fear make my decisions for me and to start living my bucket list. That day my entire life changed.

Taking in the view from Piaynemo summit in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Now, if an opportunity presents itself and I want to say no, I always ask if that negative is my fear speaking. If it is (which was the case most of the time in the beginning!), I find a way to turn that no into a yes. This is what happened on one of my first travel invitations to go on a safari in Africa—solo! I had to overcome what seemed like a thousand fears to make it happen: getting multiple vaccinations, flying over twenty hours, traveling alone, meeting new people, being in such a foreign land, etc. But, if I hadn’t forced myself to say yes, I would have missed out on the completely surreal experiences of sleeping in a tent in the Serengeti, being in a Jeep surrounded by wildlife, visiting a Maasai tribe, and spending the afternoon at an orphanage. Plus, as I continued to step out of my comfort zone, my confidence built. Things became less scary.

As my fear lessened and I began to experience more things in search of passion, I realized that the search was my passion. Having new experiences, immersing myself into different cultures, and exploring new places was what I wanted to do every day. It was that thing that got me excited each morning, the thing that I would do even if I never made a dime.

Part of the pure joy of finding my passion is being able to share my story with others in hopes to inspire them to overcome their fears and live their ideal life.

Walking through Jerash Archaeological Site in Jordan

What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Finding your purpose will require taking a hard look within yourself and analyzing what makes you happy and what is important to you. What makes you feel good inside and what would you do absolutely for free? When you are trying to find your purpose, believe that anything is possible—that there are no limitations.

Once you’ve determined what it is, don’t wait for the perfect time to start living your passion. Begin today. Even if you only take the tiniest step, as long as you are moving forward, you are making progress.

Biking along the eastern shores of Virginia

What resources do you recommend?
My own book Bucket List Adventures: 10 Incredible Journeys to Experience Before You Die (shameless plug), is a great resource for tips on traveling and inspiration for starting and conquering your own life list.

One of my favorite inspirational travel autobiographies is Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan. It’s a touching true story about a man’s quest to reunite lost children of Nepal with their parents. His incredible journey, the lively kids, and the tender reconciliations had me not wanting the book to end.

A food-related travel book that inspires me to delve deeper into the eating habits around the world is The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People. It is a book that studied the longest living people in the world: the locations they live, the foods they eat and their daily habits.

Beyond that, for travel and food inspiration, I love the Travel + Leisure website; and the Chopra Center articles are helpful to keep me balanced.

Connect with Annette White
Email: Annette@bucketlistjourney.net
Website: https://bucketlistjourney.net
Restaurant: www.sugotrattoria.com
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