If you could do anything before you died, what would you do? That was the question that Ben Nemtin, founder of The Buried Life and keynote speaker at Signature Travel Network’s 2023 Conference, asked the audience to begin his talk.

If you’re unfamiliar, The Buried Life is a movement founded by four friends from Victoria, British Columbia, and has included a TV show on MTV, a bestselling book and, by December 2024, a feature film; it poses the question: “What do you want to do before you die?” The foursome—including Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Jonnie Penn and Duncan Penn—hopped in a van after high school and began traveling across Canada to complete their list of 100 things they wanted to do before they died. It started because they were fed up with their day to day lives and wanted something different; they wanted to find their true selves by completing things they had previously only dreamed of. But while completing their own “bucket lists,” they began helping others complete theirs—and that’s when things really took off. From there, the road trip turned into a movement based on a discovery that everything you do has a ripple effect: When you help one person, you don’t just help that one person—you help their family, their friends, potentially anyone that one person encounters.

Matt Turner at Ultra
Matt Turner, editor, Questex Travel + Meetings Group (Tim Fuchs)

The work you do, as a travel advisor, creates these same positive ripples through people’s lives. In planning extraordinary vacations for clients who are trusting you with their hard-earned dollars, you generate a positive attitude in them and then positive interactions between them and the people they meet, including the people in the communities they visit. It’s a tremendous responsibility but it’s one very much worth shouldering.

Along those lines, psychologist Thomas Gilovich conducted a famous study on regret. He found that specific actions people wish they hadn’t taken are regretted more in the short-term but, ultimately, inactions are regretted more in the long-term. According to Nemtin, Gilovich’s study found that 76 percent of people regretted not doing something earlier in their life. That’s a shocking number. Three-quarters of all people will have lived their lives not wishing they hadn’t done this or that, but instead wishing they had done that something.

This is where the travel advisor comes into play. You all make those memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences come true for a living. “It’s vital for people to act on their hopes and dreams,” said Nemtin, and it’s very likely your clients are doing just that. But if you have the feeling your client is holding back on something they truly want, be sure to give them that gentle nudge or a little inspiration to want to make it happen. I’m telling you: Science says they won’t regret it.

Just as importantly, however: Make sure you also live by those words. But how can you make the impossible possible? Nemtin has five steps for that:

  1. Write out a list of 100 things you want to do before you die: “This forces you to slow down and think about what’s important to you.”
  2. Share that list with others: “When you share your dreams, you feel accountable to the people you share them with.”
  3. Be unstoppable: “Do not underestimate the power of persistence. Most people give up, but the truth is you don’t know what’s possible until you’re actually doing it.”
  4. Be brave: “Fear is the biggest barrier … [but] that discomfort, that fear, that’s a net positive because that means growth. You don’t grow without being vulnerable.”
  5. Give back: “When you help someone else, it fills you up in a way that doing something for yourself doesn’t—it just resonates.”

You can’t serve your customers if you don’t take care of yourself and, more importantly, as Nemtin put it: “Being true to yourself not only brings you the most happiness, but it also brings you the most success.”

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