40 Before 40,  30 Before 30,  Bucket List Travel

40 Before 40: Goals to Accomplish Before My 40th Birthday

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Looking for my latest 40 Before 40 update? Read On My 32nd Birthday: A 40 Before 40 Check-In 

What do you do to celebrate your birthday?

What if it’s a ‘big’ birthday, like a new decade? The kind of decade that makes lots of women freak out about having kids and settling down and stuff like that?

If you’re me, you set new goals.

Happy birthday to me! Last week, I turned 30 years old. My 30 Before 30 challenge has officially ended, and I’m back to set new goals.

Remind me again, what was 30 Before 30?

If you missed it yesterday, I wrapped up a series of posts I started 30* months before my 30th birthday. (*It was accidentally 29 months.)

I set myself 30 goals spanning travel, business, and my personal life, and set out to achieve them all before my 30th birthday.

Some I accomplished (like swimming in the Med), and some I did not (like becoming a dual citizen in Croatia). I’m okay with the ones I didn’t accomplish; I’m thrilled about the ones I did.

Now, having crossed the threshold of my 30s, I feel like it’s time to look forward with new goals and ambitions in mind. (Yes, some include having kids!)


40 Before 40: 40 Goals before my 40th Birthday

First of all, holy crap. When I can finally ‘finish’ this series will be on my 40th birthday. That’s 10 years from now. I’ll be FORTY.

Here’s the thing though:
Time flies.
Life flies.

I set 30 goals 30 months ago and had no idea how fast my life would move. My life, my situation, my relationships, everything… EVERYTHING changed.

If you had asked me on my 20th birthday where I thought I would be at 30, I would have had no idea. I don’t want to live my 30s the same way, lost but wandering an as-yet-unknown path. I know I can’t see the future, but my 40 Before 40 Goals will help me shape at least some of the exciting things that are bound to happen in my next decade.

How will 40 Before 40 work?

Unlike my 30 Before 30 goals, I don’t plan to update you each time I achieve a goal, or even count down like I did at 5 months and 1 month before my birthday this past year.

Instead, I plan to do the following:

  1. Always do a blog post on my birthday, updating you on life and my goals. This means I am committing to continuing this blog in some capacity for the next 10 years (that’s my 40th goal!).
  2. Commit to a selection of goals each year to try and stay focused and chip away at the list throughout the 10-year project.
  3. Write stories here (or elsewhere) when one of my goals is worth sharing. Many of these goals are complex and require preparation and lots of money – I hope the stories are worth sharing. I hope you’ll share them with me.

That means if you don’t hear from me for a year, I may still be working on my goals. You can always email me and ask how they’re going. And I’ll always update you on my birthday.

Get on with it! What are my 40 Before 40 goals?

Okay, *deep breath* here are my 40 Before 40 goals:

  1. Set two feet firmly on Antarctica
  2. Scuba at the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
  3. Visit the Taj Mahal (India)
  4. Learn to play the bagpipes
  5. See a crop circle
  6. See the Triple Crown in a single year (USA)
  7. Swim in all five Great Lakes (USA)
  8. Learn to surf
  9. Produce a byline feature in a global travel print publication
  10. Produce a cover story for a print publication
  11. Scuba between tectonic plates in Iceland
  12. Visit New Zealand
  13. Visit South Africa
  14. See the Pyramids (Egypt)
  15. Go parasailing
  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. Finish writing and publish my Freelance Writing Challenge book
  29. Travel back to Jordan, stay in a Martian Dome, and properly see Petra
  30. Go ziplining in Costa Rica
  31. Join a professional association as a travel writer
  32. See a lava flow (or the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan)
  33. Attend both my high school (2025) and college reunions (2019)
  34. Learn to throw pottery
  35. Cross the equator
  36. Fill my passport before it expires (2024!)
  37. Learn beekeeping
  38. Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn
  39. Introduce Mr. Valise here on the blog
  40. Write the final post in this series, on this blog on my 40th birthday.

Holy crap.

Many of these goals may not make sense to you. Many have a special meaning to me, or are an idea I’ve been harboring for a while and would finally like to try. But seriously – 40 goals? Am I crazy??

In case you were counting, there are trips to 14 countries on all 7 continents; that alone is an ambitious goal for most people in their entire lives. You know me though, I love to set goals – and I love to smash them!

One last thing I’m doing in 40 Before 40 that I didn’t do in 30 Before 30… Each year I want to set a small list of the goals to try and accomplish in the coming year. My idea is that if I chew off pieces of the list each year, eventually I’ll be close to finishing it without cramming a bunch in the last year and going bankrupt.

My40 Before 40 Goals for Year 1 (30-31 Years Old)

Here are the goals I plan to try and accomplish in the coming year. As I mentioned in one of my 30 Before 30 posts, I was unrealistic about the cost of my goals. Therefore, I’ve also included estimates of the cost to do each.

  • Learn to surf ($200) –  ✓ accomplished 8/10/17
  • Go parasailing ($250)
  • Finish writing and publish my Freelance Writing Challenge book ($20 for proofs)
  • Go zip lining in Costa Rica ($100)
  • Join a professional association as a travel writer ($330) – ✓ accomplished 7/1/17
  • Get my Kokopelli tattoo redrawn ($150)
  • Learn to throw pottery ($50) – ✓ accomplished 8/18/17

Total Year 1 Estimate: $1100

That’s not a huge amount, to be honest. It just requires dedication and focus – and reminders! I’ve already come up with a small plan to try and achieve each. Stay tuned here or on my social media channels as I share each successful goal using the hashtag #40Before40.

Okay, there you have it. Who’s ready to follow along on my 40 Before 40 journey?

Help others discover this post too!

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.


  • Anne Murphy

    What a fascinating list!

    Definitely a travel writer’s list… This will give you plenty of material!

    I looked at your 30 before 30 post as well. I’m delighted by both what you accomplished and the self understanding that allows you to change goals as life progresses. You’re certainly going to add many you haven’t even thought of – keeping a flexible tally, to see what you keep and what you change – and why – might be just as interesting! (And pottery and beekeeping suggest a part of you drawn to a less peripatetic life – at least, at times… It can be good to switch back and forth.)

    This is going to be fun to watch!

    • Valerie

      Anne, thanks so much for reading and your thoughtful comment 🙂

      For beekeeping, it might be funny – but I want to retire like Sherlock Holmes (who retired to the English countryside to keep bees). The beekeeping skills will be an important step! 🙂

      Thanks for following along! I foresee 3 posts about this in the coming year – one for the adventure travel/Costa Rica items, one for my book, and one on my 31st birthday which recaps the other three.

  • Laura Omamo

    Ah, new goals… I’m not even 30 yet, but I won’t cram 30 goals in the last two years before that. Maybe I should think about 40 before 40 already… Actually, I have a wish list / to do list with 101 items on them. Yes, from about point 62 you really become creative and start thinking big! When you are ready for “Africa” and Camino the Santiago, please get back to me. Been there, done that. Many warm greetings!

    • Valerie

      Laura, thanks for swinging by my blog! I didn’t expect 30 Before 30 to be as popular or challenging as it was! There’s something nice about 40 Before 40 though, since it gives you loads of time to plan. I too have a big bucket list, and love getting creative to add things to it. Do you have a link to yours somewhere? I’d love to see it!

      • Laura Omamo

        Hi Valerie, thanks for your interest… but it’s secret. 🙂 Actually, you are really inspiring me right now to sit down, “recalibrate” it and pick 40 points to go for before 40.

        • Valerie

          Hehe no worries! I have a private list too – some of those events are on this list, but many are not! Good luck with your list and finding a way to get it all done!

  • azuresong

    Shouldn’t the costs include, e.g., flying to and staying in Costa Rica, not just the $100 to the zipline company?

    • Valerie

      Good point, but no, I wouldn’t consider those parts of the costs. I want to go to Costa Rica anyway, so I don’t include flights/hotels in this case. (For something like Antarctica where I’m only going to complete the goal, yes I would include travel costs).

  • Judith Asu

    Is taking a/few surf-lesson/s really considered learning to surf?! It should be more like try out surfing/pottery. Or else I could say I learned, western horse back riding, mountaineering, cooking, surfing, belly dancing and sailing last summer lol. (All activities I spent between 3h and 2 weeks doing (in a class or with a pro) last summer.) To say you could learn any of it in that brief time is really disrespectful to the craft of doing something skillfully/properly.

    • Valerie

      Judith, actually, yes, taking a lesson is considered “learning.” I appreciate that you don’t agree, but I’m surprised it was worth spending so much time on my blog leaving a mean comment.