40 Before 40,  Personal Stories

On My 34th Birthday: A 40 Before 40 Check-In

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This post is part of a series I publish each year on my birthday. If you haven’t read it, I recommend starting with my 40 Before 40 goals list. You can also check out my updates from Year 1Year 2, and Year 3 if you’re interested.

While it seemed like the past year went by at a crawl, here we are again – I’ve made another circuit around the sun: today is my 34th birthday!

Each year on April 23rd, I sit down and take a look at my past year and prepare for the coming one. It’s something I started several years ago when I set 30 goals I wanted to accomplish before my 30th birthday. After I turned 30, I set another round of goals: this time 40 goals to accomplish before my 40th.

This year’s update isn’t nearly as exciting as past ones, as you can probably guess based on how this year has gone for all of us. Nevertheless, I wanted to do my standard update for posterity. Hopefully by next year I’ll have a lot more goals accomplished to report – and more goals to commit to as international travel resumes.

A 40 Before 40 Check-In

Each year on my birthday, I check-in on this project, looking back on the goals I hoped to accomplish, the ones I did accomplish, and others I want to try and accomplish in the next year.

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

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

During the second year, I completed three more of my goals:

  1. Produce a Byline Feature in a Global Travel Print Publication
  2. Cross the Equator
  3. Introduce Mr. Valise Here on the Blog

In the third year of this decade, I accomplished one more goal:

  1. Publish my first book

And for this past, fourth year, I hoped to accomplish the following goals:

  • Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn
  • Produce a cover story for a print publication
  • Fly a transoceanic flight in first class
  • Dine at Canlis (the nicest restaurant in Seattle)
  • Travel every calendar day of the year
  • Travel back to Jordan, stay in a Martian Dome, and properly see Petra

This was going to bring me almost back ‘on pace’ (which is four goals per year) – but as you can probably guess, the past year hasn’t gone to plan. (For literally anything!)

Goals I Accomplished in Year 4 of my 40 Before 40 Challenge

Can you guess how many goals I accomplished in the past year – an entire year of the pandemic? Yep, you’d be right that I accomplished zero of my goals.

So far, I’ve completed 8 of my 40 goals, which is 20%. But I’m 4 years through the decade – 40% of the way. This means I’m pretty far behind if I want to accomplish them all, and I have a lot of work to do if I want to get caught up – especially as travel is still going to be affected for most of the next year if not longer.

However, just because I’m falling behind and it might be tougher to accomplish all of these goals doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying!

Remaining 40 Before 40 Goals

Here are the goals I still have left – and six years to complete them in!

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

My 40 Before 40 Goals for Year 5 (34-35 Years Old)

For the coming year, here are the goals I’d like to accomplish:

  • Fly a transoceanic flight in first class – Due to cancelled flights last year, Mr. V has a bunch of airline credit. I think that means it’s worth splurging on our first trip to London once that’s allowed again.
  • Swim in all five Great Lakes (USA) – I’ve swum in two of the Great Lakes so far, but moving to Ohio should give us a chance to travel to and take a chilly dip in the remaining three.
  • Travel every calendar day of the year – I have 10 days on the calendar I’ve never traveled before (January 8th, 15th, and 22nd, March 23rd-26th, and April 16th-18th) and I hope to plan trips this year to travel on them all.
  • Travel back to Jordan, stay in a Martian Dome, and properly see Petra – After cancelling my Jordan tour in early 2020, I’ve rescheduled it for March 2022. Here’s hoping it it happens this time! 

How to Set & Accomplish Goals

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.

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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