1 Year Older, 1 Year Wiser and 1 Year On from my Travel Wishlist
Yesterday was my birthday! I turned the ripe old age of 26 (still classed as “mid-twenties” I’d like to add!) and I had a brilliant weekend of celebrations with friends and family. I technically stretched it out over 4 days, with a picnic and open air play on Thursday, stand-up and drinks on Friday, a spa day on Saturday and a family meal on the day itself! Having a July birthday is a wonderful thing and I always look forward to the month of July. It’s been a busy year since my 25th birthday, exploring new places, moving from Madrid back to London, starting a new job, trying to figure out ‘what next’. It’s a been a year of a lot of change. Of course not everything has been perfect and rose-tinted over the last 12 months (no one’s life is perfect!) but I’m a strong believer in a positive mindset so I choose to remember the good things over the last 12 months, rather than the not-so-good things. And here I’ve picked out 12 happy memories from each month of the last year, to remind myself of how lucky I have been.
Last year I spent my birthday in San Sebastián in Spain and I wrote a travel wishlist of things I’d like to do or places I’d like to visit before I turn 30. I gave myself 5 years to complete the 14 items on the wishlist, and as I’m now one year in, I wanted to revisit that list and see which ones I’ve progressed with and which ones I’m still to complete in the next 4 years.
1. Get the RYA Day Skipper qualification – Complete! In December I passed my shore-based theory course after an 8-week evening class in London, in May I passed a 5-day non-tidal Day Skipper course in Antigua and a month later in June I completed the tidal conversion course in the Solent. I’m now qualified to charter and skipper a yacht, which feels a little daunting! But I was thrilled to get the qualification!
2. Visit Australia and Antarctica – Not yet. I don’t currently have plans for either of those two continents, however my interview with Felicity Aston a few months ago about her solo expedition across Antarctica was very inspiring!
3. Run a marathon abroad – In progress… As you might have seen from this blog post in May, I’m going to run the Athens Marathon this November! Since my last birthday I’ve run a 10km and a half-marathon (both in London) in preparation for the big event. I’m now 7 weeks into my 24-week training and fingers crossed I’ll make it to the finish line! I’m fundraising for the children’s charity Plan UK and really need all the sponsorship I can get, so please do head over to my JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/Virginia-Stuart-Taylor
4. Do a sky dive – Not yet. No progress made on no. 4 or 5 as I’m waiting to find the right place, and if push comes to shove in the last month before my 30th birthday then I can do those with relatively little planning.
5. Do a bungee jump – Not yet. See no. 4.
6. Live outside Europe for at least 6 months – In progress… This is one of the goals I’m focussing most on at the moment. It’s a bit of a biggie so needs a lot more forward planning than some of the others.
7. Go heli-skiing – Not yet. I’m in no hurry for this either, I want to keep it as something to look forward to.
8. Climb a mountain – Not yet. The current plan is to hike up Kilimanjaro with a couple of school friends in 2016, although another friend did suggest that I might want to start off with the Three Peaks (Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis & Snowdon – the three highest peaks in England, Scotland & Wales) and see how they go first! On that note, if any keen friends fancy joining me for one or all of the Three Peaks then do let me know.
9. See the Northern Lights – Complete! Oh yes we did! It was touch and go, as we spent 3 nights of our trip to Iceland surrounded in cloud and falling snow, and it was only on the very last night that the Aurora Borealis deigned to poke its head out of the night sky and display green streaks of electrically charged particles from the sun. I have seen photos of more dramatic displays of purples and pink lights as well as green, but I still thought it was incredible.
10. Work on a yacht in the Caribbean – In progress… I have actually made progress on this one as I now have an RYA sailing qualification, which while not strictly relevant to a crew job, can only help. Having been out to sail in the Caribbean two months ago, I also did a bit of investigating to work out how the crewing jobs work. This one also links to a new addition to my wishlist below…
11. Do Ibiza in style – Not yet. This was going to happen this year but for various reasons didn’t. One day!
12. Volunteer in a developing country – In progress… I still really, really want to do this. I’ve recently become involved with the charity Plan UK and while I’m not yet volunteering “in” a developing country, I am sponsoring a young girl in Honduras and am helping to publicise the charity’s campaigns. I’m always keeping my eyes open for opportunities to volunteer abroad so if you know of any good charities/organisations then please do let me know.
13. Walk the Camino de Santiago (or similar) – In progress… I have no idea when this will actually happen but I am at least doing a lot more hiking than usual, having gone hiking in the Lake District & the Scottish Highlands in 2014 and in the South Downs and the Peak District already this year. Although the Camino de Santiago in France & Spain is the famous one, I would welcome other similar suggestions.
14. Backpack around South America – Not yet. This one is tricky as I want to do this with someone else, which obviously requires someone I really like travelling with (and preferably a man for security reasons) to conveniently take a few months off work at the same time as me… Definitely still high up on the priority list though. I didn’t learn Spanish and Portuguese for nothing!
New additions to the wishlist
I wouldn’t be human if my wishlist hadn’t evolved over the last 12 months as new ideas present themselves. So with the following three I’m now up to 17 things on my wishlist! I’m not exactly making it easy for myself am I…
15. Ski the Inferno race. My wonderful aunt is a veteran in the skiing world and has skied the Inferno race in Mürren, Switzerland, many many times, often winning her category. It’s a 15km-long race and I would love to follow in her footsteps and make it to the finish line too.
16. Sail across the Atlantic. Again in the sailing vein, I’ve heard that an ocean crossing is an incredible trip, and I’d love to experience that odd sensation where you look around you and see absolutely nothing. Just you, your boat, your fellow crew, and miles and miles of open sea around you in every direction. It can take between a couple of weeks to over a month to do the crossing, completely at the mercy of Mother Nature and the winds.
17. Visit 50 countries before turning 30. I don’t normally care too much about numbers of countries – it doesn’t tell you much about how well-travelled a person really is, if for example they’ve only spent a night in each country. However I do find it harder and harder to visit new countries, as I keep returning to the obvious ones (Spain, France, Italy) and I don’t feel I’m pushing myself to discover unfamiliar places. I’m currently on 44 countries, and will be adding 2 new countries (Sweden & Morocco) later this year, so I’m banking on being able to reach 50 in the next 4 years!
So, I’m 20% of the way through the five-year plan, having only ticked off 2 of the 17 goals (which is 12%). So I’m already behind – typical. But another 5 are in progress. If I manage to achieve 5 in the next year then I’ll be back on track. So in the next 12 months I’m going to focus on: 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 17 and hope I achieve at least 5 of those!
Upon reading through this blog post again, part of me things I’m being a bit too ambitious, part of me thinks I’m ludicrous for putting such structure around it and for calculating percentages (massive loser I know!), and part of me feels really excited and motivated to make it all happen.