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Every year on my birthday, I write myself a letter in the future. I use a service called FutureMe.org to set the delivery date for my next birthday. It has become one of my favorite annual traditions, and I now eagerly anticipate my own letters from Last Year Me, setting out my goals and hopes for the coming year.

What I love about these letters is the charming naïveté I display year after year. I started sending myself letters 10 years ago – back in 2009! Each year, my letters contain wildly ambitious, off-beat, and downright silly goals, but there’s one common thread. I consistently fail to predict how complicated, messy, and joyful each coming year will be. In some ways, that’s why I like reading them – it gives me context on my past year, even as I think about the future ones.

This 40 Before 40 goal series is similar. I set goals each year, full of hope and optimism and a little bit of delusion. The following year I come back to check in. I hold myself accountable but with forgiveness for failing. By practicing this skill year after year, I’ve gotten better at setting and accomplishing the milestones I want in my life – but also living with grace because I’ve definitely learned now that I’m only human. 

Today is my 32nd birthday. It’s been 2 years since I set 40 goals I wanted to accomplish before I turned 40 (“40 Before 40”). It’s time for another check-up on my goals and life – and to look forward in an optimistically delusional way to the year ahead. 

A 40 Before 40 Check-In

I am a space nerd and I don’t care who knows it!

As you might remember, I set 40 goals on my 30th birthday two years ago. It is my intention to complete these goals before my 40th birthday; that suddenly feels a close eight years away.

In my first year, I completed four of my goals:

  1. Learn to Surf
  2. Join a Professional Association as a Travel Writer
  3. Learn to Throw Pottery
  4. Learn Beekeeping

In this second year, I suggested that I would complete the following goals:

  1. Go parasailing
  2. Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn
  3. Learn to play the bagpipes
  4. Visit South Africa
  5. Go on an African safari
  6. Swim with dolphins
  7. Cross the equator

Seven goals? No biggie! 😂

Unlike my first year, I didn’t make an estimate for how much this would cost. There were a couple big trips that were in the air, and I wasn’t sure which would happen and not – or how much they would cost if they did.

As in my first year, of course I didn’t accomplish all of these goals. Some of you believe I’m a goal-achieving super-human, but I’m not. I set goals and fail All The Time. I over-set goals so I will accomplish at least some of them. That’s what I’m doing with this 40 Before 40 challenge: in these early years, I’m overcommitting so that I can accomplish as many as I can. In later years, I’ll have to invest a lot if I want to accomplish the remaining ones.

So let’s dive into the goals I did accomplish, instead of the ones I intended to!

Goals I Accomplished in Year 2 of my 40 Before 40 Challenge

Produce a Byline Feature in a Global Travel Print Publication

Not my best picture, but my first two stories are mounted above my desk, with other favorite art.

Writing a feature story with my name on it has been a goal for a long time. It’s not easy to do, as the media world has become stressed and print publications (magazines/newspapers) have closed their doors or turned to syndication.

This year, I made great strides here. I landed a story in October that ran as a spread in Toronto’s The Globe & Mail newspaper, and then four more stories that ran between January and April – one more for the Globe & Mail, and three in the San Francisco Chronicle including one that ran on the front page of the travel section.

While I still haven’t cracked the travel magazine world, these newspaper stories let me see my name in print (*swoon*) and helped me start to leverage my portfolio for bigger and better things.

☑️ Accomplished 10/19/18

Cross the Equator

40 Before 40 - Equator
I’ve been to the Upside Down… aka the Southern Hemisphere!

Many people were surprised to learn I had never crossed the equator before. Apparently in order to be a  “professional traveler” and “travel writer,” you must have already visited literally everywhere. Not so! I am certainly more well-traveled than most people – but I’m far from the most-traveled person you’ll meet.

In early March, I flew to Chile for a trip with blogger friends. When I stepped off the plane in Santiago, that was my first time south of the equator. Everything is very normal on that side of the world, with the exception of some constellations which are upside down. Mind blown. 😮

☑️ Accomplished 03/04/19

Introduce Mr. Valise Here on the Blog

Who’s that mystery man in my Instagram stories sometimes???

Those of you deeply devoted readers who follow every single post I write know I recently accomplished this one…

Wait, there aren’t any of you? Womp womp.

Yesterday, I introduced Mr. Valise, aka Jacob, who we’re still going to call Mr. Valise or Mr. V. Years ago, I decided I would introduce him if we got engaged or married, and we were engaged over Christmas! I started thinking about the right time to introduce him, and my birthday (today!) seemed like a good time. But, I already had this post scheduled… so you met him a day early. Go read about him and our story here.

☑️ Accomplished 04/22/19

Remaining 40 Before 40 Goals

Standing in the ULA Rocket Factory
One of the highlights of my year – but not a goal! (Visiting the ULA rocket factory.)

Two years into a 10-year project (20%), I’ve accomplished 7 of my 40 goals (17.5%)… I’m a bit behind on accomplishing my goals! Here’s what’s left:

  1. Go parasailing
  2. Finish writing and publish my Freelance Writing Challenge book
  3. Go zip lining in Costa Rica
  4. Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn
  5. Set two feet firmly on Antarctica
  6. Scuba at the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
  7. Visit the Taj Mahal (India)
  8. Learn to play the bagpipes
  9. See a crop circle
  10. See the Triple Crown in a single year (USA)
  11. Swim in all five Great Lakes (USA)
  12. Produce a cover story for a print publication
  13. Scuba between tectonic plates in Iceland
  14. Visit New Zealand
  15. Visit South Africa
  16. See the Pyramids (Egypt)
  17. Walk along the Camino de Santiago (Spain)
  18. Ride in a gondola in Venice (Italy)
  19. Experience ‘zero gravity’
  20. Ride in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia (Turkey)
  21. Go on an African safari
  22. Fly a transoceanic flight in first class
  23. See the cherry blossoms bloom in Japan
  24. Get my child(ren) their first passport(s)
  25. Swim with dolphins
  26. Dine at Canlis (the nicest restaurant in Seattle)
  27. Travel every calendar day of the year
  28. See the Nazca Lines (Peru)
  29. Travel back to Jordan, stay in a Martian Dome, and properly see Petra
  30. See a lava flow (or the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan)
  31. Attend both my high school (2025) and college reunions (2019/2024)
  32. Fill my passport before it expires (2024!)
  33. Write the final post in this series, on this blog on my 40th birthday

My 40 Before 40 Goals for Year 3 (32-33 Years Old)

For the coming year, here’s a shortlist of the goals I’d like to accomplish:

  1. Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn – I’ve been stuck on going back under the needle, but I think I’ll do a few small tattoos in one session, like I’ve done in years past.
  2. Finish writing and publish my Freelance Writing Challenge book – I’m actually renaming this goal officially: Publish my first book. I recently finished writing a book and will be announcing it very soon (TOMORROW! STAY TUNED!).
  3. Experience ‘zero gravity’ – This is a big investment (about $5k!) but I think I’ll treat myself to it when my book comes out.
  4. Produce a cover story for a print publication – I’ve been slowly working toward this since my first newspaper stories this year. Hopefully, propelled by my book, I’ll be able to land one (or more) of these assignments!
  5. Travel back to Jordan, stay in a Martian Dome, and properly see Petra – I’ve had to shift the STG Jordan Tour to March 2020… but it’s on! Come join me in Jordan!
  6. Scuba at the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) – It’s looking very likely that I will make my first trip to Australia in September or October 🤞as part of promo for my book. While there, I’d love to scuba (or snorkel, which I will also accept as completion of this goal) at the GBR.
  7. Visit New Zealand – I’m on the fence about how to make this happen as part of that Aus trip since it will make it a 4+ week trip, but it might happen! Goodbye money! 💸
  8. Go parasailing – Seems like this shouldn’t be hard to do… right? I don’t currently have many tropical/water destination trips planned for the coming year though.

If I accomplish all of these goals, that would be a huge leap forward on my progress – I’d be ahead of the pace to actually accomplish them all! We’ll just have to see how life goes!

How to Set & Accomplish Goals

Before I retire to birthday celebrations, I wanted to add a quick section to this post. I get questions about goal-setting and goal accomplishment all the time because of this 40 Before 40 series (and the 30 Before 30 series I ran before it). Here’s how I approach goals:

  1. Write my list of goals, brainstorming style. Nothing is off limits in the first phase of goal-setting. Anything I want to accomplish, I list.
  2. Consider how much time each goal will take to accomplish. Self explanatory.
  3. Consider how much money each goal will take to accomplish. Again, self explanatory – but put real $$$ money numbers! Do the research, find the real costs. That’ll help you evaluate what you can actually do.
  4. Narrow down my list based on realistic expectations. Keep in mind the price, the time, and the other sacrifices you’ll need to make to accomplish each goal. Be realistic to cut those that you can’t do in the timeline you’ve set yourself. I gave myself 10 years, which gives me a lot more flexibility to set bananas crazy dreams. 🍌
  5. Create subsets of goals or steps along the way. Break them down into phases or smaller lists, like I do with each annual list I try for the coming year.
  6. Focus on your goals. Write them down on sticky notes or 3×5 cards and carry them around. Look at them often. Dream of your life having accomplished them. You’ll start acting in a way that makes those goals a reality.
  7. Just get to it. Nothing accomplishes your goals for you. At the end of the day, you’ve got to put in the work, time, and money.

I hope this helps if you’re considering setting some goals of your own. Hit me up in the comments if you have questions.

With that… Happy birthday to me! 🎉

4 comments

Reply

I’ll be in Australia In September so let me know if things end up working out. Also, look into if they have parasailing near the great barrier reef. I think they might!

Reply

Ooh, great tip, thank you! I’ll let you know for sure!

Reply

Great list! You may be able to Parasail in Australia?

Would love to partner with you leading a trip to Antarctica!

Best,

Joan

Reply

Maybe! We’ll see if Aus comes together… not looking like it right now! I’d love to partner on Antarctica too… but I’m not sure how many people I could convince to go!

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