I’ve never been one for birthdays. They’re fine, I’ve had some good ones but on the whole my birthday has been just like any other day of the year. I’m also not one to particularly care about getting older. I like my current age and there’s no way I want to be back in my 20s. Mid-30s and chiseled abs might be nice, but I’m honestly ok with my 43-year old, 6-pack devoid self. What growing older has provided me though is an opportunity to both reflect on past decisions, not always a great idea, and to plan for the future. It’s the latter that isn’t just more productive, but I enjoy it the most and so today I want to share where I am, what I’m doing and where I hope to go in the next 364 days, both literally and metaphorically.
Over the last year or so I’ve felt like I have been in a rut creatively. I’m still proud of the work I produce, don’t get me wrong. But I felt as if everything was too formulaic and predictable. It’s actually caused me a fair amount of angst and even depression, making me wonder if I was doing the right thing with my life. What I concluded is that I wasn’t evolving anymore. I wasn’t changing or adapting, and it was slowly killing both me and my creative endeavors. I treat LandLopers in 2019 the same as I did five years ago, and that just won’t cut it. That’s why I’m excited to announce that starting very soon I will be producing a weekly podcast. I think it’s the ideal next step for me and will add a lot of color and dimension to my work. It will of course be travel themed and is called “Explore the World with Matt Long.” I’ll have a full post all about it once it’s live, but I’m more excited about this than I am anything I’ve done in a very long time. It will enable me to share advice and stories in a way I haven’t been able to, as well as interview some cool people both in and out of the travel industry. My goal is for the first podcast to go live in a couple of weeks, so please stay tuned!
Importance of Personal Challenges
When I turned 40 three years ago, I took another look at my 40 Before 40 list and revamped it for the years ahead of me. The original 40 Before 40 list was meant to be a series of challenges, both prosaic and life changing, to help me usher in this new decade of life. Once I turned 40 I thought it important to reexamine it, adapt it and use it as a guide moving forward. I’ve sort of done that, but not with the frequency or regularity that I’d like. The truth is that I wrote it and then sort of forgot about it for a while. Luckily, somewhat unplanned, I’ve already ticked off several items on the list but of course have many more to address. But I think this exercise is an important one. It’s important to focus our energies and direct them towards ways in which we can better and improve ourselves. Life is a journey, a continuous education but sometimes it’s important to have a lesson plan to work from.
I’ll accomplish some things, fail at others and probably procrastinate on everything else. But it’s a healthy and I hope productive way to keep moving forward, to keep improving and to keep loving life. With all of this in mind, here are some of the highlights from previous year’s (and this year’s) list.
- Do one nice thing for someone else every day
- Interact more with local cultures when I travel
- Go skydiving
- Pay more attention to my health
- Read 5 more books that I’ve been avoiding for years
- Sunbathe along Copacabana beach
- Visit the remaining US states I haven’t visited
- Go on an epic, private, individual trip
- Age gracefully
This Is The Best Time
It’s cliché and everyone says it, but I really don’t feel 43. I’m not exactly sure what 43 is supposed to feel like, but whatever it is I’m not there. Sure, I have aches and pains, I can’t sleep through the night anymore and being around a group of Millennials wants me to simultaneously pull a blanket over my head and grab the nearest bottle of anything. I remember as a kid looking up to adults, imagining that I could never be as old as they were. It’s shocking to consider that when I was 10 years old, my mom was 35 and my dad was 40. No way that could possibly be true and yet it is. If I had followed a similar path, I’d have a teen living under my roof instead of Siberian Huskies. But as I look around at my friends, some with kids in high school, the not-so-subtle truth begins to dawn on me that not only am I an adult, I’m a middle-aged adult at that.
But I don’t think my age has ever really defined who I am, so why start now? If I had let age define me, then at 36 I never would have left a good, stable career to do what I do now, whatever that is. I would have thought that surely one’s late 30s is too old to restart one’s life, but thankfully I didn’t think that way. Actually, it’s not too old at all and the rolls of successful people are littered with the names of people who only became well-known after their 40s or even 50s. A few to note include:
Anthony Bourdain – 44 when he published his first book and left the kitchen
Julia Child – 49 when her epic tome “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was first published
Vera Wang – 40 when she opened her first design salon
So if anything, it seems as if I’m in my best and most productive decade of my life and certainly not the beginning of the twilight years.