My New Personal Challenge – A Bucket List of Sorts

Matt Long LandLopers

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called My Personal 40 Before 40 Challenge. The year before turning 40 I set a massive challenge, to create a list of things I wanted to accomplish before turning 40. More than traveling to some nice places, it was also a list of personal challenges, of finding ways in which I could improve as a human being. So that’s why on the list you’ll see “Visit Machu Picchu” but a few lines down you’ll also notice a desire to learn how to change a car tire. But that’s what I think a real bucket list should be all about. It should be a list of ever-changing goals whether it’s traveling to far flung locales around the world, or something more mundane like learning how to sew on a button. I’ve been feeling a little lost lately, so I thought I’d take a few moments to once again create a challenge list. I refuse to call it a 50 Before 50 List, since that’s still 8 years away, but it is a grouping of experiences and tasks I would love to accomplish whether it’s in 2018, 2019 or well beyond.

  1. Write a Book – Ever since I was a little kid, I always just assumed that I’d be a writer. It’s just in my DNA and yet, I’ve never even attempted to write a book. It’s partly from a lack of confidence but I’m also waiting for the right story. Maybe this should be the year though to get started and see where it takes me.
  2. Journey to the North Pole – I love expeditionary trips, whether it’s to Antarctica, the Galapagos or some other far-flung place. I enjoy feeling like a real explorer and not just a tourist and while I’ve gotten close, a true expedition to the Arctic is high on my to-do list. There are many different ways to reach the Arctic through a few different countries, but no matter how I get up there I’d love to spend a couple of weeks exploring this hard to reach part of the world.
  3. Improve My Cooking – I cook dinner almost every night of the week when I’m home and while the meals are fine, they’re certainly not exceptional and they’ve become boring. I keep falling into the same culinary routine and for some reason I just can’t break out of it. I would love to learn from a real cook some basic techniques and new recipes to add to my culinary repertoire. Ideally this would be a recurring class and not just a one-time thing.
  4. Visit Remaining 9 States I Haven’t Seen – Although I love traveling the world, I also enjoy seeing more of my own country which is why I’d really enjoy visiting those 8 states I haven’t been to yet. Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico and Wyoming – these are the great states of the union I’ve somehow missed over the years. Two of them – Kansas and New Mexico – are included on my upcoming Route 66 drive, which leaves the rest. Except for Alaska, they’re mostly grouped together so another road trip might be in order.


  1. See More of the Pacific – Visiting the South Pacific nearly two years ago was the culmination of a lifetime of dreaming. Of course though, and predictably, it simply whetted my proverbial appetite making me yearn to see even more. Whether it’s US possessions like Guam and Samoa, or the tiny islands dotting the mighty ocean, I would love to venture forth and see what wonders they have to offer.
  2. Walk the Road Not Taken – I think I’ve fallen into a travel rut, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not good either. In 2018 I need to make sure that I stop being so regimented, and put down the guidebooks and just go off and do my own thing. I think I’ve become so obsessed with documenting everything and making sure I don’t miss something “important” that I sometimes miss the most crucial aspect of travel – the spirit of discovery.
  3. Visit India – I’ve long avoided traveling to the sub-continent for a wide variety of reasons. I think though at this stage in my life I’m ready to venture forth, as long as it’s done in a very particular way. I’m fairly certain actually that this will be soon fulfilled, so watch this space.
  4. Read 5 Books I’ve Been Avoiding – Ever since I first learned to read, I’ve had a book in my hands. I credit a steady stream of novels for helping me in life more than anything else really. However, not every book has interested me and there are certain “classics” of literature that I’ve been avoiding for a very long time. I think it’s finally time to tackle them and see if they deserve their notoriety; but no, that does not mean I’m reading Joyce. Sorry, I can’t go that far.
  5. Attend Space Camp – While on a Context Travel tour of the National Air & Space Museum I learned a very important fact: There exists a Space Camp for adults. Growing up in the ‘80s, I remember very well the slightly hokey and fairly awful movie “Space Camp” and wanting more than anything to spend a week enjoying this incredible experience. My parents would have none of it though and I passed through into adulthood without ever having visited and I frankly forgot all about it. But then the tour guide mentioned that adults can go to Space Camp too and I was immediately thrust back to the ‘80s and the wide-eyed dreams of a youngster. I don’t know what’s involved, how much it is or anything really, but attending Space Camp has now very quickly made it to the top of my American travel bucket list.

Koala Australia

  1. Explore Tasmania – Australia is probably my favorite country and although I haven’t been back in a few years, the memories created there are still as vibrant as ever. While I’d love to see even more of the states and territories I have visited, there is one still unknown to me – Tasmania. Home to devils and incredible landscapes, the stories and photos I’ve seen have made this one of my top travel wish list items.
  2. Learn a New Language – I have always loved learning languages and, to be honest, it’s a skill that comes fairly easily to me. In recent years though I’ve let my proficiency in French and German slide, which is disappointing. In addition to improving those skills though, I’d love to pick up a new language, something totally different like Chinese or Russian. I really enjoy the challenge of learning a new language because it’s about so much more than learning grammar, it’s about appreciating the nuances of difference cultures.
  3. National Parks – There are now 59 national parks in the United States and many more national monuments and sites that together have saved the physical reflection of what it means to be an American from certain extinction. The national parks of the West in particular have always captured my imagination and I’m sad to say that I haven’t visited even one of them. I would love to one day see the wonders of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Arches and others to witness firsthand the remarkable natural beauty of our country and to say a silent prayer of thanks to those who toiled to make sure they still exist for me to enjoy today.
  4. Talk to More People – Not long ago, I was asked to chronicle some of the people I met while traveling who made a difference in my travel experiences. The problem was I couldn’t think of very many, which worried me greatly. It showed me that I didn’t do a great job of getting out and chatting with people last year, one of the most important aspects of the travel experience. I need to get back to my roots in 2018 and take the time to engage with as many people as I can when I’m on the road.

Baselland Switzerland

  1. See Areas of Europe New to Me – I always enjoying visiting Europe but, especially in recent years, I tend to go back to the same places. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are still some countries left for me to see and I’d love to experience them. Switzerland, Portugal and Eastern Europe have all largely eluded me and I think it’s time to correct that.
  2. Be More Patient – I know it’s a virtue, but it’s not a quality I possess in large abundance. This can be especially problematic while traveling. It starts at the airport for me, I hate waiting in lines and the security queue is when my patience first starts to falter. I get annoyed at the people who have no idea what they are doing and hold up everyone behind them in the process. This continues on to boarding the plane with the same confused people strolling aimlessly through the cabin. You see where I am going with this. I need to learn to take a deep breath and just relax. I will get to my destination and there is no reason to be upset. No matter what happens, nothing THAT bad will result, so take a moment to breathe and assess.
  3. Learn How to Properly Swim – I float extremely well and can get myself from one end to the pool to the other and I know I won’t die while snorkeling, but I’m no pro. I’d like to be able to dive and look somewhat proficient as I splash around. Plus, this low-impact cardio would be the ideal alternative to some of those truly awful exercise routines, like running.
  4. An Epic Journey – In the 21st century it’s hard to feel like a true explorer, like someone truly going off of the beaten path. The experiences do exist however, they’re just more challenging to find. Whether it was in Antarctica or Kyrgyzstan, I always embrace the feeling of discovery and exploration and would love to undertake another epic journey somewhere new and totally different.
  5. Trek with Gorillas – I love wildlife, which means I also appreciate conservation which makes animal experiences a tricky thing. Some should always be avoided but others, like safari, are fantastic if done responsibly. One in particular has piqued my interest, observing the mighty gorilla in the wild. There are a few different spots in Africa where this can be done and, as long as the experience is conducted responsibly, it’s an experience I’d very much like to undertake.

Great White Shark South Africa

  1. Do Something Completely Unexpected – My best memories almost all come from experiences that were so out of the norm for me that I would never have thought to add them to a list like this. Ultimately, that’s what life is all about. It’s about forcing ourselves out of our normal comfort zones and taking a deep dive into the unexpected. I love that spirit and rush of excitement that comes along with it and while I’m not sure what that experience is for the purposes of this list, believe me, I’m keeping my eyes open for that unique opportunity to suddenly reveal itself.

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.

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