When I was younger, I can remember reading an inspirational story in a book called “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. The short story titled Another Check Mark On the List is about a 15-year-old boy named John who, on one rainy day, when it was too wet outside to play, decided to write a list of goals. John continued writing until he had 127 goals. These goals included exploring the Nile River,climbing the world’s highest mountains, read the entire works of Shakespeare and learning 3 foreign languages. He also wanted to milk a poisonous snake and ride an ostrich!
Of the 127 goals that he listed over 60 years ago, John has achieved 108. If he lives to become 75 years old he will achieve 109 (he listed “live to see the 21st Century”). How did John achieve all of these goals? He wrote them down.
After reading this story, I too decided, like many other people, to make a list of all the things I wanted to do/see/learn throughout my life. I, however, wanted to achieve these things before the age of 30. Back then 30 seemed to be quite old and an acceptable age to have completed all my goals. Well with less than 6 years left I thought I would share some of my old goals, with a few added that I have recently thought up of.
I want to have travelled to 50 countries. 5 years ago, while on a train for 3 days travelling from Tanzania to Zambia I met an American couple on a round the world trip. They were truly fascinating and gave me an insight into how I wanted my life to be. They were in their late 30’s and seemed to have achieved so much in life. From various professions, to finding love and travelling the world they taught me a lot and entertained me on our horrendous 3 day journey.
As the Zambian immigration officers entered our tiny cabin and shook us awake in the early hours of the morning to stamp our passports, the couple told me they were super excited as this would be their 50th country to visit. I knew then that I hoped, one day, to do the same. (Currently I have been to 36…14 to go!!)
I want to be able to speak at least 4 foreign languages. This is a difficult one. It’s not like flying to some country and ticking it off the list. It takes time, motivation and determination to learn another language. I have attempted to pick up the local languages while on my travels but it has been much more difficulte than I initially thought. During my year in South Africa I picked up quite a few Sotho phrases, especially useful when addressing my students. However as I have not met anyone since that speaks Sotho, I am forgetting it more and more each day. The same goes for Swahili, although I didn’t learn as much and there are more Swahili speakers about, I still seem to have forgotten the few phrases I learnt.
Thanks to spending 4 months in a school in France when I was 16 and a summer working in a hostel in Paris, my french is pretty good. Then again, not as good us it used to be. My challenge for this year is to learn Korean. It is probably one of the most difficult languages out there, with a totally different alphabet and sounds, but if I put my mind to it you never know how much I might learn.
I want to do every extreme sport imaginable. Back in my teens the thought of jumping out of a plane, bungee jumping, cliff jumping, and white water rafting were thrilling. Don’t get me wrong, they still are. However, back then they were far off dreams where-as in recent years many have become a reality. I did the highest bungee jump in the world, off the Bloukrans bridge, in South Africa when I was 18. In the same year I rafted down grade 5 rapids on the Zambezi crossing from Zambia to Zimbabwe and abseiled down the side of Vicroria falls.
Two years ago, My friend Alice and I had the opportunity to fly a plane over our houses, after a drunken encounter with a friendly pilot in Cork! Last March I had the opportunity to do my 1st Sky-Dive, free falling 15,000 feet over Lake Wanaka in New Zealand. I have been cliff jumping in Scotland, done a tandem gorge swing in Zambia, been ski-ing in Austria, scuba diving in Zanzibar,and open sea kayaking in New Zealand. I also fed wild hyeenas chunks of meat from my mouth in Ethiopia, not a sport, but extreme none the less. In the near future I hope to go para-gliding, do another sky-dive, go snowboarding, water skiing and whatever else pops into my mind.
I want to LIVE and WORK on every continent. So far I have lived and worked in Australasia(9 months in Australia fruit picking, minding children, working in a party hostel!) , Africa (teaching Business and Economics in South Africa and English in Kenya), Europe (worked in a hostel in Paris and many jobs in Ireland of course!) , North America (lived in Canada and worked for an online travel magazine) and Asia (currently teaching English In Korea). Not bad for a 24-year-old, but I still need to conquer South America and… Antarctica. Which no doubt will prove to be the biggest challenge!!
Things I want to achieve; I hoped I would have written my first book by now. I have always wanted to be a writer and can remember my primary school teacher when I was 9 and 10 telling my parents what a vivid imagination I had. I love writing and travelling and have kept diaries of most of my adventures. I just need to motivate myself to sit down and start to turn them into something people would enjoy reading, find a way of sharing crazy adventures with the world. I guess this blog is how I’m achieving that at present. If you’re reading this…you’re awesome, thanks!
I also want to run a marathon in a time that won’t be highly embarrassing and make my way up a mountain such as Everest Base Camp or Mount Kilimanjaro. I am currently awfully unfit and the thought of ‘running’ or ‘steep climbing’ makes me sick. This needs to change and fast. I climbed Croagh Patrick in July which I was very proud of. Then again so did 20,000 other people including small kids and old grannies! I need to become healthier and fitter and get out there and run a marathon and climb some mountains. This may take some time to achieve but remains on the list!
On my original list I wanted to ‘Go to University’ and become a Journalist. That done, I now want to go back to University to get a Masters in International Development. I would then like to return to Africa and ‘make a difference’. Not quite sure how, but maybe set up a childrens home, or new schools and give young people the same opportunity I had to go there for a years voluntary work before University.
Copy other peoples epic voyages…! For my journalism thesis I interviewed and wrote about ten insanely interesting ‘International Adventurers’ who opened my eyes to a world of challenging travel I had never previously conceived. Marianne Du Toit, a South African woman now living in Ireland, inspired me with tales of her epic 2 year journey on horseback from Peru to New York city. She rode across 3 continents, despite never having sat on a horse before, and somehow bargained for accommodation, food and help from the locals despite speaking not a word of Spanish. Makes me want to do a trip of similar epic proportions, perhaps following in the footsteps of Genghis Khan and cross outer Mongolia and beyond.
Another fascinating interviewees was Lois Pryce, who one day decided to quit her job with the BBC, buy a motorbike and depart London on a 6 month journey of epic proportions travelling across Europe and down through the whole African continent. Dealing with racism, loneliness, sexism and every sort of difficulty imaginable her story is one of hope, motivation and courage and something I would love to copy someday.
Tim Severin, another international explorer, has done more things, been to more places and studied more cultures than I could even hope to do. He has sailed a leather boat across the Atlantic in the wake of St. Brendan the Navigator, captained an Arab sailing ship from Muscat to China to investigate the legends of Sindbad the Sailor, ridden the route of the first Crusader knights across Europe to Jerusalem, sailed the Pacific on a bamboo raft to test the theory that ancient Chinese mariners could have reached to the Americas, and traced the origins of Moby Dick, the great white whale among the aboriginal sea hunters of the Pacific. He has written books about all his expeditions and he has also recorded his journeys in documentary films which have become classics of exploration and adventure. He is now writing a series of Childrens fiction, amoungst other things. He has achieved more than I could ever hope of doing in my life time, but If I shall stick by the quote which I live by you never know where it might take me…
“If I dream it, I can do it!”
Here’s to achieving all your goals in life and most importantly, being happy!