30 feels different. I feel like this decade will be better than the last and I am ready for it!
The question is... did I complete my 30 Before 30 challenge in time for last Sunday?
Those of you who have been following on my blog over the last couple of years may have seen I created a 30 Before 30 list – a bucket list of sorts, although I wasn’t planning to die at the end of it. And, happily, I haven’t. It was simply a challenge to make the last couple of years in my 20’s count.
The idea was to
1. Help make me a better person – more friendly, more relaxed, having experienced more
2. Achieve something other than being busy in life
3. Get me through some tough times (little did I know it was going to get tougher, but hey, maybe the list DID help!
My 30 Before 30 began in January 2013, on an old sofa in South Africa. I was volunteering on a Transfrontier Africa wildlife project in Kruger National Park and after a long day of rhino tracking and after a few drinks, the subject of my February birthday came up. I was next in line for birthdays in our group of 11, and I was approaching the big 3-0 with just over two years to go. I’d heard of a “30 Before 30” list before, and it appealed. The other volunteers and I started bounding around ideas to put on the list, and quickly filled the quota of tasks to complete. Some of the Africa crew started me off with the ‘make a cake on a fire’ challenge and promised a tractor drive on my return to the UK, and it spiraled from there. Other friends have mucked in along the way, kept me company, gifted me items, shown me new skills… It’s been a fun challenge!
So, how did I do?
30 challenges doesn’t seem like a lot to do over two years; it’s roughly 730 days. However, most of the fun happened at the weekends as it often involved appointments, travel or half day activities, so that narrowed down my time options to 104 weekends. Take away numerous weekends ear-marked for visits to family and friends, six holidays, some illness, and two Christmases and three birthdays, the free days for completing tasks on the list were surprisingly limited.
Some challenges I faced completing my… challenge...
1. Some of the challenges were not cheap. The castle stay was quickly diarised as the finale when I reached the grand old age of 30, but it was the most expensive part of the list by a long way. Other things cost a fair whack too (e.g. rafting, ziplining), but a lot of them were free (e.g. the compliment giving and tractor driving) or of minimal cost (e.g. book reading challenge).
2. Others needed company – I didn’t relish the thought of dining alone 10 times in my own town, so I had to coordinate dinners with friends and family.
3. Some challenges were only possible to complete on specific days (e.g. (e.g. shopping at my local farmers’ market – every third Friday morning, a specific kind of breakfast in Costa Rica, and the elusive flash mob).
4. Some of the challenges could only be done in specific areas (e.g. ziplining – not easy to find near where I lived! – and seeing the Milky Way – there’s a lot of light pollution in the UK).
On the other hand, many were very easy to check off. The font writing was just a matter of scanning and emailing the company, the sponsoring an elephant was basically life admin, and the posting of cake recipes abroad only meant a trip to the Post Office.
I didn’t let the financial, chronological, being solo and geographical obstacles stop me. A few times I managed to complete several challenges on one day (e.g. getting a henna tattoo, trying a new restaurant), and I had a little encouragement and help along the way. Husband Roberto also dreamed of staying in a castle (my perfect companion) and Uni friend Carmai also wanted to see Les Miserables on stage, so that helped get me moving along. Before I knew it, the challenges were checking themselves off.
What was my least enjoyable challenge?
Surprisingly enough for a reader like me, ‘read the top five books of all time’ was my least enjoyable. When I say ‘least enjoyable’, I hated every minute of it and ducked out of the novels and tomes as soon as I believed I’d achieved the status of ‘giving it a go and despairing at the thought of turning another page.’ These five books were boring and arduous, heavy and uninteresting. Sorry, I do not agree with you, Guardian; these books are NOT the best human kind has to offer in centuries of penning stories! I could write you a better list, stretching more than a mere five, as well.
Which challenge was the most fun?
Driving a tractor and white water rafting are in joint position, definitely. I love anything with big tyres and mechanical bits, and Farmer Ted was so obliging and calm with me at the wheel. He even made me do a 3-point-turn on a narrow farm track, and allowed me to open up the combine arms. My husband and I did rafting for our first date, and it was a real thrill. We’ve since done it again (January 2015, and I have also been to an urban white water centre with my cousin), which was fantastic fun. I am sure we’ll go again!
Yes, namely the few challenges I didn’t complete.
1. Paste photos into my Raleigh International scrapbook to finish off the diary I did while I was volunteering in summer 2012.
I can’t find it – gutted! This diary had my life and soul into it, through the stress and fun of a Raleigh project! I managed to complete my African diary though – ½ a point there then!
2. Join a flash mob
This one was due to be completed, after scouring the country for flashmobs (could only find two, one when I was on holiday and one too far away), at a friend’s wedding, but it was called off (the wedding, not the mob).
3. Pay a compliment to a stranger every day for a week
This one was, on paper, a deceptively easy one to tick off. I would often get to day two or three and then forget to continue. I do think I have become a more compliment-giving person though, as a result of trying this so many times.
4. WOOFF – after figuring out WOOFF needs an annual membership fee (not much) and signing up in winter, I lost interest in this fast.
However, I have volunteered more frequently in general over the last two years to make up for it, and plan to continue.
5. Climb a church spire
This one almost happened three times – once on honeymoon and then we had to change our destination at the last minute – and then twice it needed to be cancelled back home in Swindon. One day I’ll do it, hopefully! The sound of the bells mean a lot to me and I’d love to see them up close.
Other than non-completion of these five tasks (4.5, be fair!), I have no regrets. I chose the challenges carefully, and I wouldn’t change any of them. In reality, I had many more challenges I wanted to add to the list, but it would have lost the essence of a 30 Before 30 if I’d included more.
What do I feel I’ve achieved?
Well, achieving the individual tasks has been a real boost. As I mentioned, the last two years have been pretty challenging on other levels leading to personal struggles, illness, stress, major life negative and positive changes in my life. It’s been chaotic to say the least and I think this list was something constant I could, not RELY on, but entertain myself and give myself a form of drive. There was a period of time between September and Christmas 2014 when I was close to not bothering with anything, but I knew I was feeling better when, in January, I found myself booking the castle stay. I was back on form!
I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’ve always been out-going and confident, and this list has helped me to remember that in darker days. I have tried new things – food, vehicles, literature, outdoor activities etc. – and have enjoyed quality time with some of my closest friends. These are all incredibly positive, life-affirming and uplifting things.
I’m not too happy with that, to be honest. I could have done better!
If I had found my Raleigh expedition diary, I reckon I could have completed the entire list with another three or four weeks of time, aside from possibly finding a flash mob. These events are incredibly difficult to track down… I think the media (namely YouTube) portray them as much more commonplace than they actually are - maybe they're more common in the USA?
I still plan to complete the ones which I dropped the ball on, but now, it’s time to enjoy welcoming in my 31st year! February is full of parties and treats, life is good.
Thanks to Carmai, Roberto, Amy, Anna, Ted and Craig especially for their assistance in getting me to finish my list. It’s been two years to remember!
If you like the sound of 30 Before 30 lists, why not check out my mate Suzie’s 40 Before 40 – she’s gone a step further than me with 10 additional challenges.
Maybe I should start a new, longer one…
Find me on Facebook
…And on Twitter
Born to be a Tourist