Beginner travel series the nomad experiment Before List
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Go Beyond Your Bucket List…Starting Now!

Going Beyond The Bucket List!

First things first. I don’t really have much against bucket lists. I just think they kind of defeat most of the theory behind good goal-setting and progress-point checking philosophies set up by countless list ninjas over the past…oh…couple bajillion years.

The whole point of making a list and setting goals is to get sh*t done, right? Well a bucket list that has things that you want to do before you die is giving way too much space for procrastination and failure!

Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” which can totally be applied to this argument!

If I told you that you were going to live another 50 years, there’s very little incentive to take that bucket list trip to your dream destination. But if I told you that you were going to get hit by a bus in exactly 30 days, you bet your ass you would be dropping everything to make it your travel and life goals happen!

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Enter the travel and life “before” list.

Back in my 30s, I realized that giving myself the leeway of another 30-50 years to check things off my bucket list really wasn’t working in my favor. I had already dragged my feet for most of my adult life on even starting to travel!

Bucket list experiences were in the “do it later” category for a time well after I would get comfortable at travel…and we know that is still a work in progress!

I also realized that if I wanted to get a lot of new travel…and life…experiences under my belt, there was a bit of a chicken/egg thing going on. A lot of the things that were on my first list seem extremely tame to me now that I’ve expanded my comfort zone. Crazy things that have ended up on my current before list only made themselves known after obliterating my comfort zone and forcing myself to have those new experiences! Self-fulfilling or self-propelling prophecies if you will?

The faster I could check things off a list, the faster I could replenish it with newer, crazier ideas that I couldn’t have imagined prior!

That’s when I made my first “before” list—40 before 40 to be exact!

40 things that I wanted to check off before my 40th birthday. From travel to personal to financial and all areas in between. With extras on the list for flexibility in case my wants and tastes changed over time.

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Here are a few things from my actual before list—which I still have in printed form to this day.

Travel-Centric Before List Goals:

  • Ireland or Scotland — Sample whiskey at a distillery
  • London — Float down the Thames River
  • Drive coast to coast across the U.S.
  • Arizona — Swim in Havasu Falls
  • Mexico — Do a shot of Tequila or Mezcal in Mexico
  • Yosemite — See El Capitan in person
  • Florida — Visit the Everglades
  • Key West — Have a sex on the beach…
  • Virgin Islands — Work from a beach
  • Washington — Visit Seattle (Space Needle?)
  • Paris — Walk Montmartre at night
  • Grand Canyon — Dangle my feet off of a cliff at the Grand Canyon
  • Oregon — Hike to Crater Lake
  • States visited total to 40

General Before List Goals:

  • Get lifeguard certified
  • Speak a second language conversationally
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • Bet $50 on black
  • Foster a puppy or kitten for a week
  • Help build a Habitat house
  • Hitchhike
  • Dumpster dive
  • Crowd surf
  • Pink, blue, purple, or orange hair
  • Parachute, skydive, or bungee
  • Drive a dune buggy or a trophy truck
  • Cliff dive
  • Whitewater kayak or raft
  • Swim with dolphin, rays, or sharks
  • Complete a half-marathon either road or trail
  • Attend Cleveland football and baseball home game
  • See a Broadway show…on Broadway
  • Ride in a hot air balloon or blimp
  • Complete a 60+ mile cycling trip
  • Weigh-in at 150lbs
  • Whale watch from a coast
  • Sleep overnight on a beach
  • Buy some stocks
  • Learn to surf
  • Become handgun proficient
  • See Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight showing
  • Learn 5 songs on the guitar

I did pretty well on my first before list while finishing my late 30s, and when I hit 40 I just carried forward some of the things that were still valid and unchecked. And the crazy factor of my new list went sky-high because I had not only expanded my comfort zone, but also learned about new travel experiences and possibilities that I didn’t even know existed before!

Ever ride a chicken bus?

Think it would be cool to walk on stilts?

Maybe slack line…over a canyon?

How about climbing a live volcano or zip-lining through a real rainforest or working on a seasonal job? Yep. Just a few things from my current “before” list that I couldn’t even imagine years ago!

Creating Your Travel…And Life…Before List

Now it’s your turn! Grab a piece of paper and get started on your list! (Or you can buy the book and do it in there!) Add to it later when new ideas come up. Here are some suggestions for maximizing this exercise:

1. Spread the love.

Cover different categories like travel, financial, physical, emotional, mental, adventures, etc., so that you are well-balanced!

2. Include cool nuances or details.

For each idea elaborate a little bit even if you decide to change those details when finally living out the moment. For instance, instead of just “Travel to Paris”, embellish a bit and write “Travel to Paris — Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.”

3. Add at least 10-15 extras to your before list.

If you’re doing 30 before 30, give yourself 40-45 options. 60 before 60? Give yourself 70-75 options. You get the picture. Your life and travel aspirations will change, or you’ll simply change your mind. This is natural, so plan for it!

4. Use this as a true brainstorming exercise! 

You know the rules of brainstorming, right? Write everything down—nothing is off the table! Give yourself the freedom not to judge the likelihood or validity of doing something or traveling somewhere “crazy”just write it down!

5. Refine your list later.

You can formalize this list and really narrow things down to your final choices later. I highly suggest creating a document on your computer and in the cloud that you can return to for updating and crossing off travel or general victories as they occur. Print your before list out and post it somewhere so that you can see it every day!

6. Plan to slay it!

I can attest to this. Once you incorporate more and more flexibility and travel into your life, you’ll likely be able to plan on checking off multiple items at once. For instance, I finally traveled to Mexico and learned to surf and whale watched from the coast all on the same fairly short trip.

7. Shout from the mountaintops!

For an extra push of support and accountability and possibly a wingman (or woman) to experience things with, let people know about your before list. Post it on social media or just send it to a select few to let them know your intention and that you might be interested on tackling some of them together.

8. Check’em off and celebrate the win!

Literally check off or cross off things from your before when you accomplish them. Write down or document the dates and some details, and then pop some of your bubbly of choice to celebrate!

Don’t forget, this is your list! Add to it, and change at will!

Your travel dreams are allowed to change! The bottom line that you’ll be more successful at completing things on your before list,  bucket list, or wanderlust list—whatever you want to call it—if you keep it in front of you! Good luck!


Travel Planning Tips

Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.

Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above. 

Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start with an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, or another. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. And get a yearly evacuation plan, since you’ll have to get home after your emergency! 

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