Oh, the places you’ll go!

Before flying across the country to the East Coast in late October to visit my parents, I had prepared myself well for the long flight… healthy snacks, check! Reading material, check! Laptop with downloaded documentary (on the John Muir Trail), check! Pen and paper, check!

But instead of resorting to external entertainment, I got lost in my own thoughts and ended up staring out the plane window for hours. And hours. Passing over the snow-capped Sierras at sunrise, watching the barren desert landscape of Nevada underneath me slowly transform into the red rock canyons and plateaus of Utah, then back into mountains while passing the Rockies of Colorado which give way to lots and lots of flat farmland, and then a multitude of colorful tree-lined lakes as we begin our descent into the Eastern Seaboard with a glimpse of the Atlantic just before landing… who needs a book when you have a whole country to watch pass by underneath you??


Flying over the Rocky mountains (from a previous flight)

I’m such a geography geek (and always have been!). I even play this little game of name-that-geographical-feature-and/or-city/state-that-I’m-flying-over-right-now whenever I’m on a plane.


Utah? Nevada? Western Colorado? Also from a previous flight.


Hey, I know this place! Flying over the Golden Gate, San Francisco

Somewhere around the flat farmland though, I did doze off for a bit (sorry Iowa?, no offense!), but after I awoke, something intense was stirring inside of me, maybe the recycled air in the plane got to my brain or something, but all of a sudden I had the strong desire to put pen to paper on a list of things and places I want to experience before I die. So I did. My pen could barely keep up with my thoughts as the list just poured out of me. The resulting scribble isn’t easy to read!

Now I’ve already had a “wanderlist” of sorts already on this blog, and while that list of destinations that I want to visit in my lifetime is still valid, I’ve decided to enhance it with some life goals that I have set for myself. And instead of calling it a “wanderlist” or a “bucketlist”, I’m just simply going to call it “my adventure” list. Because that’s what it is.

I imagine this list growing and evolving over time. Situations and circumstances change. Different opportunities may come up. Maybe today the 3 week Annapurna trek in Nepal sounds like a great idea (yes, it sure does!), but maybe in a few years, an extended trek at high elevation like that might not sound so great afterall. I’m already getting pretty wussy when it comes to hiking in cold weather! Guess I better get crackin’!

This list is not at all about ticking off the ‘ole checklist of the wonders of the world merely to check them off. To say I’ve been there. To get the famous picture perfect postcard shot. NOT AT ALL. Okay, I admit I’ll probably still take that picture anyway :) But you catch my drift…

Machu Picchu

I could not pass up taking this classic shot of Machu Picchu!

This is about where I want to go and what I want to do with my life. Yup, it’s about me!

Because I need to honor my own creative and adventurous spirit.

Sure, I’ll probably be inspired by outside influences (the many wonderful travel blogs out there, friends’ pictures, the word on the street, etc…). For example, how could I not have visited the beautiful Southwest desert of Bolivia after hearing about it from fellow travelers?? It wasn’t even on my radar before hearing about it while on the road in South America.

But this list is my own creation, it’s not based off of a Top Ten list from Lonely Planet. I believe it’ll be my guideline to continue living a stimulating, unique, and amazing life. To see these goals written down makes me happy.

Reminds me that I prefer to be an active participant in my life, that the world is my playground, that there are new things to try, and new challenges to learn from.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be days of lounging around in my pajama pants, watching movies and eating whatever I want though. Because there will be plenty of that too. Downtime days are just as essential to my well-being. I am an introvert, afterall.

But, I’m also not going to sit back and wait around because life is about living now, not waiting for something to happen.

I have to be careful though in seeing these goals as just goals/fun ideas of what to do, and not set high expectations for myself, only to let myself down when I don’t “succeed”. I have been disappointed many a time when I’ve done that in the past. Then I beat myself up over the fact that I’m disappointed in the first place. “Get over it!”, I tell myself, but bad habits are hard to break. Even now, I grapple with the expectation of what I thought my life would look like by the time I’m at the age that I am. But if I keep thinking that way, I’ll remain stuck in negative thought patterns and never make progress. Instead, I must focus on all the positive and wonderful and unique experiences that I’ve had in my life so far, the lessons I’ve learned along the way, and keep doing the things that make me happy and motivated to keep going. One of which is simply writing and sharing this blog.

My goals and dreams and ideas for having a fun time…

(In no particular order)

  • Hike the 3 week Annapurna Sanctuary Trek in Nepal (I wasn’t kidding!)

  • Learn how to ride a scooter

  • Snorkel with sea turtles (very very soon! Mexico January 2014!)

  • Backpack a 7 day section of the John Muir Trail (maybe next summer?)

  • Get an article or blog post published somewhere other than my own blog

  • See the Northern Lights (Iceland, Canada, Norway?)

  • Break a board with a knife-hand strike (in my 4 years of martial arts training, I have yet to do this, but someday…)

  • Try stand-up paddleboarding

  • Visit family in Holland and combine that with a trip to explore Iceland and hike in the Swiss Alps (ya know, while I’m over there…)

  • Enjoy one night of total luxury in a fancy hotel-spa with a 5 course meal, massage, and a pedicure (yes, I did just say that… I’m allowed to have one girly goal)

  • Try paragliding

  • Get paid for writing something, anything…

  • See the wildflower bloom in Death Valley

  • See a whale in the wild up close and personal

  • Hike the Napali coast in Kauai

  • Learn how to use Quickbooks and try my hand at bookkeeping

  • Live abroad in one place for at least 6 months

  • Invite and treat a total stranger to a meal

  • Volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

  • Explore the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (doing this in 3 weeks! boo-yah!)

  • Sip tea in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in SF (how have I not done this yet in 8 years of living in the Bay Area?)

  • Create a martial arts form and teach it to someone else

  • Visit a tropical island in the South Pacific

  • Get a free tour, hotel stay, or meal for writing about it

  • Save up enough money (again) to buy a new (used) car (my car is 17 years old and has 170,000 miles… sadly, she’s not gonna last forever)

  • Explore Glacier National Park and road trip around Montana and Idaho (in said new car)

  • Become proficient in Spanish

  • Spend a few months exploring around Cambodia and Vietnam

  • Backpack in the Yolla Bolly wilderness (Northern California)

  • Fall in love

  • Break-fall properly without fear while being taken down during sparring (my most intense, scary part of my martial arts training… I’m still scared that I’m gonna get hurt)

  • Hut to hut hike on the East Coast (penciled in for next October 2014)

  • Get one of my pictures published in a travel magazine

Note: I wrote this post, then re-read Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the places you’ll go”. Brilliant work, that Dr. Seuss. Spot on. 


  1. This just makes me wanna stand up and shout YEE_HAAA!!!! Fantastic post Sam,you are a great writer with a big heart and an adventurous spirit and I can’t wait to see you soon in Mexico to tick off some of those ‘adventures’ :-)

    1. Thank you so much Sarah!

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