Progress Report: My Personal 40 Before 40 Challenge

Hang glide North Carolina

In January, I wrote a post that would come to define my year – I just didn’t realize it at the time. When I turned 39 I had a realization; that I had less than a year to make the most of my 30s and I wanted to see and do as much as possible. To get myself excited to tackle these items, I made a list of 40 things that I want to accomplish before I turn the dread 4-0. That left 364 days to check off items that are both somewhat mundane as well as experiences that can only be called fantastical. The mix was designed with a purpose. There are certain skills that I have avoided learning in the first 39 years of my life and before I start the next decade of my life, I want to make sure I can do them and be a normal functioning member of society. But the list is also about personal growth through travel and the remarkable experiences that travel gives all of us. Since we’re now halfway through the year, I thought I would provide a progress report. The point of the report isn’t to just share with you all what I’ve done (or haven’t done, as the case may be) but to also motivate myself to get cranking on the items that remain! Admittedly, it doesn’t look like some of the bullet points on the original list will happen this year, but that’s ok. In retrospect, I wouldn’t want to accomplish everything on the list, I want to make sure I have plenty to do after I turn 40. I’ve also added items to the list that I’ll detail at the end of the year; experiences I didn’t know I’d be doing but in hindsight probably should’ve been on the list. So, without further ado here is a look at how I’m progressing on my 40 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 40 list.

1. Learn yoga

Not usually a flexible person, I wanted to try yoga as a low-impact way to stay fit. I have issues with my knee and moving forward it will be difficult to keep up with the cardio exercises that I normally do. My first real experience with yoga was a private lesson on the beach while I was staying along the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. I was nervous at first, unsure what to do and afraid to look silly, but the instructor was amazing and before long I was right there with her, managing even the most complicated of poses. I want to make this a regular part of my life; I just need to find the appropriate place and instructor here at home to make that happen.

2. Go on an epic solo journey

While I haven’t gone on the ‘epic’ journey I had in mind, I have had several opportunities to travel alone this year, most recently as I drove around North Carolina. While I do enjoy traveling with others, especially my partner, I think it’s important to travel by yourself once in a while. Not only is it fun to figure everything out on your own, gaining confidence along the way, but the time alone is important for self-reflection. I’m not sure why it is, but the travel experience lends itself to this preoccupation with evaluating our lives, where we are and where we are going. It’s important to have this time alone, not just to enjoy a trip, but to figure out where the direction your life is headed as well.

3. Speak at more conferences

I love public speaking in a way that is probably rare. Instead of shrinking for the experience, getting up in front of a crowd is an adrenaline rush for me and something I really enjoy doing. When I was working full time I spoke at a lot of conferences and as a blogger I’ve even presented a few times, but over the last couple of years I’ve been too busy to apply for the spots. In order to keep my public speaking skills up I listed this as a goal and I’m happy to say that I’ve achieved it. I’ve been invited to speak at several conferences and small meetings and in October I’ll be presenting at my next conference – SoMeT2015 (Social Media Tourism Symposium) in New Orleans! This is something I need to be always doing though, I think it’s important not only for self-promotion, but as a way to make sure I don’t lose that love of public speaking through atrophy.

Machu Picchu Peru


4. Learn basic automotive repair – change a tire, etc

I like driving, but that’s where my relationship with cars begins and ends. Anything that goes beyond the glove box isn’t just well beyond my comprehension, I also have very little interest in it. Then, last year while driving in the Australian Outback, my car broke down and I was faced with having to change a tire or essentially die. Seriously. Luckily, help came along in the form of a random passerby, probably the first in that part of the world in months, and I was saved. But it was a good reminder that it’s important to know at least a little bit about basic automotive repair. Earlier this year I spent some time with YouTube and my car’s instruction manual and now feel fairly confident that if need be, I could rescue myself the next time instead of waiting for someone else to come help me out.

 7. Learn basic sewing, so I can quickly attach a button

An oddly important skill, it’s one I had avoided learning for a long time. I didn’t think this would be an early success story, but then I was surprised by assistance I received when I least expected it. Arriving at the Four Seasons Seattle for a brief stay, the staff there had read my post about the 40 things I want to do and decided to help me out. They purchased a short book on learning how to sew and left it for me along with a lovely card in my room. A simple gesture, it touched me beyond measure and I’m still so incredibly grateful for the thought that went into it. Thanks to them, and the helpful book, I have successfully learned how to sew on a button, but anything more advanced may just be well beyond my abilities.

 12. Learn how to fold shirts

I don’t know what’s wrong with me when it comes to folding shirts, but I have a mental block when it comes to organizing my clothes and presenting them in a neat and thoughtful way. It’s annoyed my partner for years and, more recently, it’s also started to annoy me. With some help from friends and family though I think I sort of accomplished this goal – at least my closet looks a lot better than it did before!

 13. Epic road trip across America.

Route 66, the Mother Road as Steinbeck called it, has been calling my name for a long time. While I won’t be tackling this mega-drive in 2015, I am organizing it for 2016 and in the meantime, I have and will soon enjoy other road trip adventures. There’s nothing better than a great road trip, the freedom of the open road and the promise of discoveries yet unmade. Last week I had the opportunity to drive around North Carolina, to learn more about this beautiful state and along the way I did have those wonderful, unplanned adventures. Later this year I’ll be tackling a road trip in Alberta, Canada, not the same as Route 66 but it should be just as fun.

Alta Norway

 16. Learn how to better use my camera

I love photography and have gotten better over the years, but there still remained features on my camera that intimidated me. Not at all professionally trained, through trial and error I have improved over the years, but probably not in the right way. So when I was in Norway I decided to do some research and learn how to take better night photos, in anticipation of the Northern Lights. More than just taking a shot in the dark (get it?) it’s about shutter speed and timing so that the brilliance of the lights can really be captured. While it’s not my best style of photography, I am proud to say that I managed to not only capture photos of the Northern Lights, but photos I’m actually proud of as well.

 17. Go paragliding off of Table Mountain

I honestly thought that I would yet again visit South Africa this year, a country I have come to understand, appreciate and certainly love. That didn’t happen, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to try a paragliding or hang gliding experience for myself. I had the perfect opportunity just last week while visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Kitty Hawk, the site of the Wright Brothers’ first attempt at human powered flight. The massive sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park are perfect for the first time hang glider like myself and with the expert help from the pros at Kitty Hawk Kites, I too found myself soaring through the air.

 22. Go to Machu Picchu

There are certain places around the world that rest comfortably on almost everyone’s travel bucket lists, and the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu is one of them. I’ve wanted to visit this archeological wonder ever since I was a little kid; my love of adventure and history coming together for this one experience. Working with Intrepid Travel, I spent a week in Peru including a day visiting (finally) this great wonder of man’s ingenuity. Was it worth the travel and hassle to get there? You bet, and Machu Picchu itself is just as beautiful as it seems in every postcard and on every travel calendar.

 Whitehaven Beach Queensland Australia

34. Sit on a beach in the South Pacific/French Polynesia

Reading the works of Michener at an age entirely too young and probably inappropriate, visiting the tropical islands of the South Pacific has been #1 on my travel bucket list since well before the concept of bucket lists began. What I had in mind when I added this item was a trip to Tahiti or the like, resting in an overwater bungalow and floating in the crystal clear waters without a worry in the world. While it seems unlikely that a trip to what is classically defined as the South Pacific will happen this year (although it might in 2016) I did indeed visit the South Pacific and I did sit on that tropical beach. The South Pacific can be defined as including Australia and in that case, Queensland is the country’s best place to enjoy moments of tropical perfection. My favorite beach experience was on the private and secluded Whitehaven beach, frequently named one of the best beaches in the world. Arriving by helicopter, I had a couple of hours on this amazing stretch of land, almost to myself, to bask in the sun, take a dip in the water and to enjoy those much anticipated moments of carefree relaxation. That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning my desire to see Tahiti and the surrounding islands, I just need to slightly alter the language in this wish-list item.

 35. Swim in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef & 32. Try SCUBA diving

Australia is one of my favorite countries to visit but throughout my travels in the Land Down Under, there was one key experience I had somehow skipped – visiting the Great Barrier Reef. That changed in May when, at the kind invitation of Queensland Tourism, I spent nearly a month in the state, including time along the Great Barrier Reef itself. Spending the night on a remarkable Reefsleep experience, I saw this natural wonder at every time of day and in every possible way, including through a scuba diving experience. I have snorkeled all over the world, but scuba scared me. My mind just doesn’t like the idea of breathing underwater and so I had somehow avoided it throughout the years. That changed in Queensland though as I cast aside my fears and joined an expert instructor under the water. While I was hesitant at first, I also know a once in a lifetime opportunity when I see one and I decided to just go for it. And wow, am I glad I did. The experience was remarkable and seeing the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef from a completely different point of view became a favorite moment of the trip.

 40. See the Northern Lights

This was actually the first item I ticked off of my list, and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to see them twice. In February, my partner and I took a quick vacation to Iceland, one of our favorite countries, where we stayed at a beautiful farm-hotel on the West Coast. It was a great experience and the best part was seeing the heavens come alive at night, absent any nearby city the skies were as dark as can be. The forecast wasn’t great for the Northern Lights, but on my last night there I saw small wisps of them peeking from around the nearby mountains. The real show came in Norway though, while visiting the so-called Northern Lights Capital of the World – Alta. I went on a Northern Lights tour and sure enough, we saw a great display of them over the bay. But it was the next night, standing all alone on a frozen lake that I saw what was probably the best Northern Lights demonstration that I’ll ever see. I stood there in the freezing cold for more than an hour as the colors shifted from green to pink, dancing around the skies, behind mountains and at one point all around me. It was spectacular and I know is an evening that I will never forget.

Looking back at this list I don’t feel deflated. Sure, half the year is gone and I’ve only accomplished 14/40 items but on the other hand, I’ve accomplished 14 out of 40 goals! I think that’s pretty great and I still have half a year left to tick off as many more as possible. Even though I now know that I won’t be able to complete them all, I’m ok with that. I’m excited to enter my 40s, what promises to be my best decade, with things to do and with no regrets in life.

To read the original list, check out this post.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

6 thoughts on “Progress Report: My Personal 40 Before 40 Challenge”

  1. Great update Matt, so pleased you’ve managed to accomplish so much already! Looking forward to seeing more updates and if our paths cross I’d be more than happy to help with a few photog tips (not that you need it!)

  2. Man, I wish I had thought of something like this. Too late for me, I turn 40 next month. Ha ha ha

    Love that you had ‘changing a tire’ on your list. I still need to do that. One day. Maybe.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Good on you for being man enough to admit you don’t know how to change a car tire. I’ve never done it either ;(
    But I can sow a button ;)
    Nice list, off to Cape Town later in the year and paragliding is one of the things I’d like to do.
    Frank (bbqboy)

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