The internet is buzzing with bucket lists for the under thirties crew. But what about us late bloomers? The Xennials (not quite Millennials, not quite Gen X-ers) that ferreted away our twenties studying and working on our careers. Trying to get a foot on the property ladder, or maybe starting a family. Back then, “quitting your job to travel the world” was a far-flung dream, not a daily affirmation.
Growing up in New Zealand, ‘travelling the world’ was something you did once to get out of your system. Typically, you finished university, worked for a couple of years to save some cash, then left on your big “OE” (or Overseas Experience for the uninitiated). Most people would go to the UK where you’d work in an office and live in a flat full of other Kiwis and Aussies having the same experience. Cultural immersion this was not. And unless you hit the jackpot of having an English grandparent (so you could get your hands on a coveted burgundy passport) or getting sponsored by your employer, most of us had to return home at the end of our 1-2 year working visa.
Which is what I had to do.
In 2008 I stuffed what I could of my new London life into my backpack, gave the rest to the Salvos, and returned home with my tail between my legs. I was so not done with travel, but going home was the only option I had left.
Fast forward a marriage, a kid, two dogs, countless moves and a new career later, and I’ve finally found myself back in Europe. This time with a stronger sense of who I am, where I want to go and how I’m going to get there (hello 30’s confidence!). So without further ado, here are 40 travel experiences and life goals I’d love to conquer before I’m forty-something.
40 Before 40 Bucket list
I realise this is an ambitious list, but you’ve only got one life right? In all honesty, I don’t mind if I tick these off before I’m 40 or 100. It’s all about having fun and chasing dreams. After all, the definition of a bucket list reads as “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime”.
#1 Go on Safari in Tanzania
An African Safari has been at the top of my bucket list forever. I imagine there’s nothing much more humbling in life than seeing elephants, giraffes and hippos, happy in their own environment. Time to make this dream a reality!
#2 Climb Mt Kilimanjaro
I was a bit nervous about writing this one down. But I’ve always been in awe of people who can conquer a mountain. I want to be that person. And as Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro seems a good place to start.
#3 Learn How to Dive
It’s so enthralling seeing dolphins, whales, seals, or pretty much any marine mammal, in the wild. Getting out on the water is something I try to do in every country I visit (where practical) and I’d love to get a different perspective. This is a biggy for me though. As a kid, I was scared to be in the swimming pool on my own in case some mystical creature morphed from the filter and grabbed me from below… Yep, I’ve got issues to overcome.
#4 See the Northern Lights
Enough said really. This one I’d love to share with my son as he’s obsessed with the magical ‘green lights’. I’m not too fussed about where or when we see them, but Iceland seems like a good choice!
#5 Exploring the Algarve in Portugal
Or more specifically, the caves of the Algarve. Preferably by private boat so we can jump off and discover hidden beaches at our leisure. A girl can dream, right?
#6 Continue to Travel Solo
When I was 27 I spent a couple of months living on the island of Syros, helping out at a local dog shelter. I spent 99% of my time alone. Walking the dogs, sitting on the roof of my ramshackle accommodation looking at the stars, exploring the deserted beaches and empty villages (it was January). Something shifted in me, and my love of solo travel was cemented. Of course, I love travelling with my husband and son. But it’s a different type of travel. I need both to stay balanced. But that’s a whole other post.
#7 Go Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia
This was going to just be “go hot air ballooning”. But if you’re going to do something, why not do it in the most epic way possible? Gliding above the mystical landscape of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon sounds magical. And Cappadocia in winter looks even more fascinating!
#8 Make a Difference
I’ve always been passionate about animal welfare, environmental concerns and ethical travel. But haven’t yet found a way to give back, or to help educate others. I feel like I can, and should, be doing more.
#9 Stay in an Overwater Bungalow
Bora-Bora or the Maldives, I’m not fussy (my husband might disagree on that one). As long as it’s hot, tropical, and there are fish swimming beneath our bed.
#10 Learn How to Pilot a Drone
A drone is #1 on my ‘things I really want but don’t have the money for’ wish list! Maybe it’s all the dreamy photos on Instagram, or because every travel blogger and their dog seems to have one now, but I really want to get my hands on a drone and learn how to take stunning photos and videos with it. Imagine how amazing Provence would look from above!
#11 Try Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
SUP looks like a lot of fun and a cool way to stay fit. It’s not something I could really do regularly unless we move closer to the water, but I’d like to give it a try!
#12 Island Hop in Greece – Off the Tourist Trail
Santorini was stunning. Mykonos was lovely. And I absolutely adored Crete – away from the main tourist hubs. But I’d love to travel slow in Greece. Discover the lesser-known islands, such as Milos, stay as long as we’d like, and then jump on the ferry to the next island oasis.
#13 Go Back to Rome
I’ve come to realise that I’m not a city girl. I thought I was in New Zealand because I chose to live most of my adult life in Auckland, and as far as cities go – it’s incredible! Surrounded by miles of beautiful coastline, it’s home to some amazing beaches and if you get too bogged down in city life you just jump on a ferry to a nearby island. Cities in Europe are a different breed. I adore going to London or Paris for work or a short break, but after a few days, I’m craving the quiet of my country haven in Provence. This is all to say that as far as capital cities go, they have to be pretty special to keep me mesmerized and make me want to return. Rome was this for me. It’s walkable, it’s alluring, the history is awe-inspiring, and as a bonus, it’s super vegan-friendly!
#14 Go to a Yoga Retreat in Bali
I’ve been to a wonderful retreat in France, and soon I’m going to another in Italy. But if there’s one country that knows how to put on a dreamy yoga retreat, it’s Bali. Sign me up!
#15 Do a Road Trip Through Canada
Canada was my first overseas trip. I was 18 and my brother was getting married, so I was travelling with family. The country left a huge impression on me. And it wasn’t just because of the epic fries (drop into the chip truck in Kenora if you’re ever in the area)! But forget just popping over for a week or so. No. If I go back, I want to do it properly and spend a month or two road tripping (maybe camping) our way through Canada.
#16 Hiking the Torres del Paine in Patagonia
I’ve got to admit, I don’t know a whole lot about Chile. But I got talking to a Chilean when I was in the Falklands, and he totally sold his home country! Ever since, I’ve been slightly obsessed – wondering why it took me so long to click on to this amazing destination. And the Torres del Paine National Park looks like an incredible place to spend time in nature.
#17 Conquer French
I finally, finally, feel like I’m making a little headway with this. It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears (ok, maybe not so much blood) to get here. I can make myself understood in most situations – just not eloquently yet. I’d love to be able to have some personality in French and not talk like a toddler.
#18 Munching in Mexico
Hidden beaches, ancient ruins, epic festivals and an intriguing underwater world that’s just perfect for snorkelling; there are many reasons to visit Mexico, but the top of my list is the food!
#19 Spend Time With Mountain Gorillas in Uganda
There are less than 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild and around half of them live in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It must be such an incredibly rewarding experience to finally lay eyes (and lens!) on a mountain gorilla after tracking them through the unforgiving jungle terrain.
#20 Explore More of France
We’ve been very lucky to have experienced living in three different regions of France so far. We found our feet in Aquitaine, bought a house in Poitou-Charentes, and then moved to Provence 6 months later! If anything, it’s shown me how incredibly diverse this country is, and I can’t wait to get to know more of it.
#21 Take a Family Holiday to the VLT in Chile
You may think a barren desert is an odd choice for a family holiday, but Chile’s Atacama Desert is home to the biggest, most powerful telescope on the planet – the Very Large Telescope (VLT). Add in a space-mad 5-year-old, a husband who loves James Bond films (Quantum of Solace was filmed there), and the fact I love anything that’s a bit different and unusual – you’ve got the perfect recipe!
#22 Hike Table Mountain
You can take the cable car up Table Mountain in South Africa, but I’d bet the views are that much more enjoyable after a strenuous hike!
#23 Learn How to Take Better Wildlife Photos
In my dream life, I’d travel around the planet taking photos of wildlife in their natural habitat, à la Shannon Wild. But I’ll settle for being a decent wildlife photographer as a side hustle. Anything to spend more time with animals!
#24 Swim in the Dead Sea
OK, so swimming in the Dead Sea might be a bit of a stretch. The water is incredibly dense due to its unusually high salt content – it’s 10 times as salty as the ocean – meaning you can only bob around on the surface. And if the pictures are anything to go by, reading a copy of the local paper is a must while doing so!
#25 Visit Giraffe Manor in Kenya
Although it kind of annoys me that Giraffe Manor has turned into one of those places people go to get the perfect Instagram shot (see example below), there’s no denying the good work they do, in conjunction with the Giraffe Centre, to protect the species. Plus it looks like a whole lot of fun! This is another experience I’d absolutely love to share with my son.
#26 See the Grand Canyon
It’s just one of those iconic places that have to be seen to be believed right? The otherworldly landscape of the Grand Canyon fascinates me, even more so after walking the Ochre Trail and Colorado Provençal here in Provence, which are said to be tiny versions of the US spectacle!
#27 Milford Sound, New Zealand
I lived in New Zealand for over thirty years and one place that has eluded me during all of that time is the Milford Sound. I’m determined to change that in the next few years, either by cruising the sound or hiking the renowned Milford track.
#28 Sample Sicily
We’ve taken the ferry to Corsica and Sardinia, next up is Mallorca in May, and after that, I have my sights set on Sicily! I love everything about Italy, and this sun-soaked Mediterranean Island is sure to be no exception.
#29 Listen to More Live Music
It’s been way too long since I’ve listened to live music. And I’m not talking about big concerts. I much prefer small, intimate settings with local musicians performing. Part of this is not having a babysitter since we arrived in France. And it’s partly just laziness for not making it happen. My husband and I both love music though, so we need to make this a priority.
Madagascar has always seemed like such a magical place. Maybe because I was first introduced to it through the animated movie of the same name. But there’s more the to world’s fourth largest island than bushy tailed lemurs and the lush jungle landscape. Madagascar has a unique ecology that supports a large variety flora and fauna found only in this part of the world. I’d love to discover some of the country’s unique parks such as Tsingy de Bemaraha, which is known for its towering limestone pinnacles, and Isalo National Park, which offers a Jurassic-like experience and where you can see ring-tailed lemurs scurrying between the trees. And let’s not forget the famous Avenue of the Baobabs (pictured below) – this protected stretch of soil offers yet another reason to add Madagascar to your bucket list!
#31 Have an all-day Spa Experience
I can’t quite believe I’ve reached the ripe age of 36 without ticking this one off my list. I came close on a recent girls weekend to Auckland, but we missed out due to our lack of planning in advance!
#32 Cruise the Canals of France
After following Diane’s trip through the canals of France, I’ve been hooked on this unique holiday idea! Not only is it a great way to travel slowly through the French countryside and discover some new places along the way, I think it’d be such a fun way to spend time together as a family. I’m not sure our two Heffalump dogs would look quite so cute as Dagny behind the wheel though!
#33 Start Running, Properly
I went on a run this week. My first ‘intentional’ (other than while playing sports) run of my life. It’s just not my thing. And I’ve always had bad knees. But I’ve come to the conclusion that if I wait for an amazing gym with Les Mills worthy classes (at convenient times) to magically appear in my neighbourhood before I consistently exercise again (I’m not sure the occasional at home yoga practice and walking the dogs’ count)… Well, the result wouldn’t be pretty. So, running it is.
#34 New York at Christmas
I blame Hollywood for this one. Movies such as Serendipity and The Family Man have a lot to answer for.
#35 Exploring the Rainforests of Costa Rica
Costa Rica landed on my radar when I was researching it for a work project back in NZ, and it hasn’t left my mind since. Again, it’s the kind of place I don’t want to just visit for a week, I’d like to stay a while, get to know it, and maybe volunteer at this awesome organisation. Also, did someone say sloths?
As the Lonely Planet puts it, Jamaica is the best Caribbean island for spicy food, spicy music and stunning scenery. Nevermind what else you can experience in this Caribbean island paradise, they had me at spicy.
#37 Own a Mini Cooper
Ah yes, I can’t seem to shake this one. Truth is, apart from one dumb decision in my early 20’s, I’ve always bought cheap, as-reliable-as-they-can-be-for-the-price cars that weren’t a whole lot of fun. Well maybe with the exception of Daisy – who I bought off some backpackers who had painted bright flowers all over her! Anyway, my point is, I’d love to drive a fun & stylish car for a change. Now I just have to work out how I’d keep it clean between the kid-crumbs and the dog fur…
#38 Take a Helicopter Ride in Chamonix
While this mountainous region in France is best known for skiing and snowboarding, I’d like to see the incredible landscapes of the Chamonix France from another angle! A helicopter tour promises to show you the best scenery, from the foreboding glaciers to the ragged ridges and rises on either side of the Chamonix Valley.
I struck Japan off my travel wish list for years after learning about the dolphin hunt that takes place in Taiji every year. But to be fair, if I was to follow the same moral compass for every destination there would be far fewer countries left on this list! So instead of boycotting these countries, a more effective method might be to continue to support sustainable and ethical activities while travelling. By doing so, I’m helping another aspect of the economy to thrive, and if everyone did the same, perhaps in the future the people of the country will be less dependant on other methods of financial gain. For example, some of the Gorilla trackers in Uganda used to be poachers, but now tourism has taken over as a primary industry, allowing these guides to make a living in a more ethical way.
My wish is that one day you’ll be able to take dolphin safaris in Taiji to see these beautiful creatures, and captive marine mammals will be a thing of the past. In the meantime, I’m happy to see the cherry blossoms, bamboo forests, temples and shrines of this interesting country.
#40 Experience the Ancient City of Petra
If you’re not sure why this made the list, I’ll just leave this here…
Wow, that turned into a whopper of a post. Originally I just wanted to jot down some ideas and inspirations! I’d love to know if you’ve had any of these experiences yourself. Or maybe you have your own ’40 things to do before 40′ bucket list you’d like to share?
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