My Personal 40 Before 40 Challenge

Sunset curacao

I’m old, I know that. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but here we are and today I turn 39. Sigh. That’s ok though, I’ve mostly come to terms with it but before next year when I turn the dreaded 40, I want to challenge myself to leave my 30s on as positive a note as possible. But wait! I know what you’re thinking, that this is a tired blogger ploy to generate yearlong interest in a post. While I won’t deny that would be nice, that’s not actually the reason for this slightly unusual 40 before 40 post.

I’m fairly positive that Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep didn’t intend their 1991 film “Defending Your Life” to become a major influence in my life, but it has. Without going through all the plotlines, the main message is that what is most important in our lives is to try to live without fear as much as possible. It can be a fear of poisonous snakes (a good one to have I think), a fear of rejection or a fear of change. Whatever the fear, we should conquer it while we’re alive if we want to be able to say that we led a successful life. For the most part I agree with that and it’s been something I’ve tried to tackle in the past to various degrees of success. That concept of conquering fears is an underlying theme to this list and while not EVERY item addresses it, many do. The idea isn’t just to have a year of fun experiences, it’s to continue my own personal journey towards a happier and healthier self and to lead a life that means something instead of just subsisting in the shadows.

With that in mind, I decided to put together a list of 40 things I would like to do before I turn 40. They’re not all travel related experiences, they’re life challenges as well but all together they are some things I really hope to get done before I enter the next chronological chapter in my life. So with out further ado, here’s my list and I hope you’ll help encourage me to actually see this through!

Note: This post will be pinned to the sidebar for the duration of 2015 and I will update as items are completed. I’ll probably also write an update post about them in June or July.

  1. Learn yoga.
  2. Go on an epic solo journey.
  3. Speak at more conferences.
  4. Learn basic automotive repair – change a tire, etc.
  5. Pick up on my genealogical research to pursue my British roots.
  6. Go bungee jumping. (I’ve done bungee swinging)
  7. Learn basic sewing, so I can quickly attach a button.
  8. Fly in First Class. Not Business or Business/First, but a full-fledged First Class experience.
  9. Go to the North Pole.
  10. Learn to play guitar.
  11. Paddle in a Dragon Boat
  12. Learn how to fold shirts.
  13. Epic road trip across America.
  14. Attend Highland Games in the Scottish Highlands
  15. Go camping. Not glamping or gamping but old fashioned camping.
  16. Learn how to better use my camera.
  17. Go paragliding off of Table Mountain. (or hang gliding anywhere)
  18. Start teaching blogging classes and/or giving tours.
  19. Volunteer with a local charity.
  20. Take swimming lessons. I can swim, but not really effectively; I just splash around.
  21. Attend a major sporting event.
  22. Go to Machu Picchu.
  23. Drive a racecar.
  24. Attend an epic festival or event (Mardi Gras, Holi, Running of the Bulls, etc.).
  25. Learn a new language.
  26. Dress more fashionably, more put together.
  27. Hug a panda.
  28. Go skydiving.
  29. Learn how to make macarons in France.
  30. See the Great Migration in Tanzania/Kenya
  31. Fly in a private plane.
  32. Try SCUBA diving.
  33. Read 5 books I don’t want to read. (Moby Dick, War and Peace, etc)
  34. Sit on a beach in the South Pacific/French Polynesia.
  35. Swim in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
  36. Meet Dolly Parton.
  37. Write a book.
  38. Play Baccarat in Monte Carlo while wearing a tux.
  39. Visit remaining 9 U.S. states I haven’t been to.
  40. See the Northern Lights.

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By: Mike

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on , and

57 Responses

  1. Kristen Bor (Bearfoot Theory)

    Happy Birthday! Awesome list…sounds like you are going to have a busy year. Can’t wait to hear about your first camping trip!

  2. Nita

    Happy Birthday Matt! What a great list of goals. Hope you achieve them. It should be a fun and interesting year 😀 All the best!!

  3. Alyssa

    I’ve been following you but finally checking out your site and blog. What a great challenge and list of goals! Happy Birthday!

  4. Travis

    If you get a chance to meet Dolly Parton, invite me along please! Great list by the way, and happy birthday!

  5. Brandi

    Happy Birthday, Matt! I love your list! I’ve seen quite a few people write these lists up before, but you included some of the most creative goals I’ve ever seen. I sincerely hope you achieve most, if no all, of these awesome goals in the next year.

  6. Erin

    Happy Birthday Matt! Ohhh, I can’t wait to see you tackle some of these. Love this list! And knowing you the way I do, I definitely want reality show style video footage from you roughing it and camping! 🙂

  7. Anne

    Happy Birthday, Matt! Nice list… If you ever make it to Montreal, I can easily get you in a Dragon Boat.The season starts May 1st and ends about 3rd week of September.Keep us updated on your list.

  8. Explorista

    This is so nice! It makes me so inspired to write my own list (30 before 30; sorry Matt! ;-)). And I completely agree with not living your life in fear. It’s hard, but the rewards are greater than than the comfort of staying within what doesn’t scare you 🙂

    Also happy birthday!

  9. Valerie

    Happy Birthday, Matt! That’s an awesome list — good luck completing it! I set one for myself — but it’s a much wider time frame (30 months until I turn 30 🙂 ). It’s always fun to find a good excuse for some goal setting!

  10. Mike

    That’s a nice list with all that extremes (skydiving, etc) but, you are almost 40 years old, you have travelled so much and you don’t know how to change a tire, sew a button or even fold a shirt?!?! wtf??

    • Mike

      I’m a weird guy, what can I say

  11. Sally

    I just turned 39 too, and I’m thinking I should steal this idea… and basically everything on your list as I really need to learn how to change a tire already and, OMIGOD, Dolly Parton. (Although I’m happy to say I already know how to fold a shirt thanks to a summer I spent working at the Gap.)

    • Mike

      Steal away and I covet your ability to fold shirts, I just roll them up into balls and toss onto the shelves 🙂

  12. Katie Featherstone

    I was feeling a little bad about having got to 23 without properly learning how to fold a shirt- you’ve just restored my life confidence so thank-you. 😉 No, seriously though, what a great list. I can’t believe you’v eonly got 9 states left!

  13. Nigel

    Dolly is looking forward to meeting you Matt! What type of racer car are you wanting to drive? Stock car? F1? Rally?

  14. Ian

    hugging a panda is absolutely amazing! Great list by the way 🙂

  15. Jenna

    Happy birthday and great list! Better get cracking 🙂

  16. Karrell

    Awesome awesome list!!! While I was reading it, I had to ask myself a few times, “did I write this?” 🙂

    • Mike

      Thanks and you know what they say, great minds think alike. 🙂

  17. Amateur Triper

    Happy 39th! I don’t need to make lists like these anymore, I turned 40 in December. But, 40 is the new 30, so there’s no excuse to slow down.

    • Mike

      thank you and you’re right 🙂

  18. Ingrid

    Wow Matt, was browsing and don’t know how I came across your web page/blog but will definitely sign up to your updates. Like you I am a bit of a travel junkie, will go anywhere but need my day job to pay for travelling so can only do it once a year. saw your list of 40 things, I am going to draw one up right now! Ticked the Northern Lights off my bucket list in January 2015 – went to Tromso and was so fortunate to see it 3 times in 5 days there. Words cannot describe how awesome it is to see…. hope you get to do that and good luck with your list P.S. love your pic with Old Town Dubrovnik in the background!

    • Mike

      Thank you so much and welcome!

  19. Mrs. Goodlife

    It’s an impressive list, but worth working towards. I would skip number 33, why waste the time on something you don’t want to do?
    About 4, 7,12 and 26: you could get AAA, buy superglue, roll them, just always stand next to the guy dressed worse than you…problem solved! 🙂

  20. Nikki

    I LOVE THIS! Trip is my passion as well sand I was just conversing with a friend about how I could do more of it on my working stiff salary.

  21. Steven

    Happy birthday! And a great list. I turned 40 back in April, and although I didn’t make an official list, there were things I definitely wanted to accomplish by that birthday. A few of those changed from “before I turn 40” to “during the year I’m 40,” but overall, 40 has been great, and with 41 coming up in just over two months, I think it’s going to be a good one too.

  22. Elena

    Happy birthday Matt! Great list– (although I giggled at the learning how to fold a shirt–I would have imagined that as a frequent packer, you had this down). 🙂

  23. Alain

    Wow! That’s a lot of things, eh? Boy, I’m FEW months older than you? LOL….

    • Mike

      What can I say, I’m an over-achiever 🙂

  24. Stephanie

    This is really inspiring! I’ve have some goals I would like to achieve by 30- you listing everything out like this makes me want to get started on mine. Thanks for the great post!

  25. Heather

    What a most excellent list! I was literally clapping my hands in glee. Cheers to you experiencing each & every one of these!!

  26. Myriam

    Hey Matt, I can help with the macarons if you give me those blogging lessons 😉 A few of these made me really giggle, but most are so inspiring; I’m gonna steal some of them I think. Good luck with the list, it’s a great one.

  27. sheng

    40 is not old at all. but hope can finish your plan

  28. Lydian

    Such a great idea! I might follow your example, I just have two more months to come up with this list. Following your progress!

  29. Bruce

    Go for it, Matt. Leave the baccarat for last. That’s when it all gets given back and all accounts are evened up!

  30. Mike

    Looks like an awesome list! I made a 30 before 30 when I turned 25 and its been a huge motivating factor for the last 4 years. Trying to think of a 40 for my 40’s as I finish up the last few items.

  31. Ann

    Great list! I have 4 days left to finish my 30 By 30 list. (Eeeek!) You’ve inspired some more 35 By 35’s!

  32. Fuzzi

    Hi. Love the list. Are you an advanced paraglider? If not you might need to adjust your goal re paragliding off table mountain. They don’t allow commercial tandem flights. You can do it from lions head or signal hill. Try to come when it is full moon.
    My goals for 30 was to visit all countries from Cape to Cairo and by 40(this year) all 7 continents. Accomplished both and I’m sure you will accomplish yours too.

  33. Francesco

    Kick Ass list! Pretty tough too !
    thanks for the fun and for the inspiration!
    Good luck

  34. Elin

    Great to have a list like that. How are you planning to go to the North Pole? Skiing or by Helicopter or maybee on a cruise?
    Good luck with your list!

  35. Geoff

    Hit me up by email, Matt! We both live in DC and I’d love to connect at some point to talk travel.

  36. Dave Jones

    Haha #26 – Hug a Panda. Fantastic goal to have. I’ll have to add that to my bucket list. I love this whole list in general. Really nice to set some goals!

  37. Tessa

    Lovely list, Matt! We share a lot of common items and you’ve given me ideas for new ones! I’m eyeing to do add a Porsche Driving Experience, and it’s in my home base of Atlanta!

  38. Kia

    Wait a minute, you’re 39 and that is your before-40 list? Bravo on being ambitious. Some people don’t do so much over the course of their entire lives!

    I’m in my early 30s and travel has really helped me build a sense of achievement. I was working at a global publisher in a job I enjoyed, but travelling around the world has given me so much more fulfilment and pride than any job in the past.

    Good luck with the rest of the items. I’ll be sure to check back!


  39. Vivienne

    Hi Matt,

    Your list is epic, I turn 26 this month and it scares me that I am closer to 30 than 20, but when I think of it in terms of things to do before a certain age then it feels much better.

    In other news, I come from Kenya, the great Wildebeest migration is an amazing experience, so glad its on your to do list.

    When you finally give a blogging class, and happen to do one in New York, I shall certainly attend. Keep traveling and allowing us to see the World through your blog:)

  40. Mario Hussein

    Hi Matt,
    A very belated happy birthday. Only discovered about you and your site after reading an article in today`s online BBC. Being a fellow Aquarian, we do have a lot of things in common, except for all the resources you had to start out. Really enjoy reading LANDLOPERS. What a 40 list.! Wish I could have just a third on my list. Keep travelling to keep us informed. By the way, you should include CAMINO DE SANTIAGO ( St. James’ Way) on your next list.

  41. JohnB

    I see you still need to knock off the books and not meaning to be arrogant or presumptuous I’ll dare to be of some help with a list of titles I have enjoyed:
    1. The Bridge over San Luis Rey
    2. A Good Man in Africa
    3. The General in his Laberinth
    4. Pedro Paramo
    5. Cold Stone Jug

  42. Yan

    Hi Matt! I just found your website 🙂 It’s awesomely inspiring! Have you ever planned to come to Brunei Darussalam?

  43. Dan

    I have a list like this one, but “hug a Panda”?? lol

  44. Michelle

    Love this list – I’ll need to make a similar one! Good luck in crossing off some of the remaining ones for this year and, if not, in getting them in next year!

  45. Grete

    Great list and I am impressed by how much you have managed to achieve! I too have a list (99% travel related), but unfortunately I have to live until I am 126 to have any realistic chance of ticking them all off!

  46. cc

    happy birthday

  47. Harriett

    Hi matt, happy 40th birthday I think for yesterday? How is your 40 by 40 list looking now, all ticked off? I turn 40 in three weeks hence I found your site, in mild panic about doing something amazing to mark the occasion…!

  48. Justin

    I’d say “learn to better use my camera” is fully complete! You’re photography is beautiful, Matt. Nice work. You are inspiring! Time to pen my own list.


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