Birthdays don’t bring out the best in me.
Instead of celebrating being another year wiser, reflecting on a year of great experiences and appreciating being healthy and having great family and friends in my life, I approach birthdays with a sense of insecurity and impending doom.
I can’t help it.
I get depressed about being single (even though I love my independence and would rather be on my own than with the wrong person), I moan about not having children (even though I don’t actually want children), I detest the accounting career that has seen me stuck in a 9-to-5 office job rut for most of the past 17 years (even though it has also paid for a 15 month career break, other travel opportunities and the deposit on my London flat) and I view being another year older as a step closer to my grave and start panicking about not doing everything I want to in life.
Every birthday feels like a mid-life crisis. But this year is going to be different.
I recently reflected on some of the amazing travel adventures I’ve experienced in my “40 Countries, 40 Travel Ideas to Inspire You” article, so the time feels right to start planning some more. As the clock ticks over to an age I’ve been dreading since I turned 37 last year, I’m celebrating it by adding 38 things to my “bucket list” - 38 things I want to do before I die.
- Take time out to explore my home, the country I left 12 years ago, on my Great Aussie Road Trip
- Find a way to earn a living doing something I am passionate about that doesn't involve the suffocating routine of a 9-to-5 office job
- Turn the dream trip of a lifetime into reality and save up for an Antarctica Expedition, sharing the ice with penguins, seals, whales and birdlife (whilst wearing a really warm jacket!)
- Head to the opposite pole to search for polar bears in their natural environment
- Return to one of my favourite places in the world (Africa) to repeat one of my favourite experiences of all time (wildlife safari) during the annual migration from the Serengeti to an area I didn't see on my last visit to the country (Maasai Mara, Kenya)
- Have an article or photograph published
- Extend my exploration of South East Asia to one of the few countries in the region I have yet to visit, Indonesia, and enjoy a mojito as the sun is setting on one of its tropical beaches whilst singing Redgum’s “I’ve been to Bali too”
- Return to Myanmar, a place that provided one of my most humbling travel experiences of all time, to hopefully learn that the recent change in the political environment has encouraged more travellers to visit the country to create additional income and opportunities for the locals, without leaving the negative aspects of tourism behind when they leave
- Explore the temples, shrines and gardens of Kyoto during the cherry blossom season in Japan
- Force myself to slow down in an ashram or spiritual retreat in Asia, appreciate simply “being” instead of wondering “what next” and learn to meditate
- Get up close and personal with the lemurs and other unique wildlife of Madagascar
- Return to Iceland in winter to search for the Northern Lights and revisit my favourite location, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, to witness the surreal floating ice in a different season
- Trek the terraced rice fields of Banaue in the Philippines to assess whether the locals’ description of it being the “eighth wonder of the world” is warranted before heading south to chillax on the beaches
- Further explore my spiritual side on a journey through Tibet
- Get my hands dirty with some organic farming somewhere in the world with a WWOOF holiday
- Take advantage of my recent experience at driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and head to Yellowstone (USA) with my camera and hiking boots in search of beers, wolves, bison, moose and other wildlife amidst the waterfalls and geysers of the world’s first national park’s thermal region
- Be in a country when they win the football World Cup (and accept that it’s unlikely to be in England)
- Contrast my recent experiences in East and Southern Africa with an overland adventure through the Western countries of Ghana, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger and Togo
- Take off my watch, put on my hiking shoes, pick up my camera and lose myself (not literally) in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
- Stand opposite Petra (Jordan) in the cave that Karl Pilkington described as the “better piece of real estate” due to its view
- Embrace the ‘real’ religion of South America with locals at a football match
- Pack my bikini, sunglasses, sunscreen, kindle and party shoes for some Greek Island hopping
- Head off the beaten track to explore the geographical diversity of Oman
- Treat myself to a spa resort on a Caribbean Island and watch a live cricket match in the West Indies
- Sip a glass of Pimms at Wimbledon and go punting in Cambridge, two ‘must do’ things in England that I still haven’t done after living in London for 12 years
- Embrace my inner David Attenborough, avoid being eaten by a piranha and attempt to co-exist with blood-sucking leeches in the Amazon
- Replace the Ethiopian stereotype placed in my mind by Bob Geldof in the 1980’s with a stereotype created from my own visit to the country
- Visit Colombia to discover for myself if the positive backpacker recommendations for this country outweigh its negative media perception
- Take what I’ve learned from both positive and negative volunteer and NGO experiences and apply it to more volunteering and international aid support in developing countries
- Follow up my first European encounter 13 years ago with a photography-focused European escape, including countries I haven’t yet visited such as Croatia, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia.
- Party with the locals in Rio, Brazil
- Head to the Galapagos Islands to discover if it’s really true that it’s one of the most incredible wildlife locations on earth
- Hike through and photograph some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world at Patagonia in Argentina.
- Head south to New Zealand to confirm whether the magical landscapes depicted in Lord of the Rings was reality or just great camera work
- Watch re-runs of Northern Exposure and then head to Alaska to see how accurate the depiction of this unique state was
- Embrace the cigar, rum, classic car, salsa stereotype of Cuba
- Join the Gringo Trail and explore South and Latin America with a flexible itinerary and no deadlines
- Leave my accounting career and office job behind to experience a year or two of odd jobs and explore alternate career paths