Bucket List Adventures

“Wow, 130 countries. You must have ticked off your bucket list by now, haven’t you?”, asked a fellow traveller we’d met on our most recent adventure, cycling across North America. It’s not the first time Tim and I have heard that. Fortunately, it’s nowhere near true. In fact, the more we discover, the more the list of things we want to do, see and experience grows.

“How can that be?”, you might wonder. Surely a visit to the Eiffel Tower, seeing sunrise at Machu Picchu, sailing in the Caribbean and a hike in the Himalayas to come face-to-face with Mount Everest must shorten the list. Well, it does…and it doesn’t. Yes, those incredible experiences do get crossed off, but every time we meet a new challenge, it seems a dozen other possibilities start to make sense. Eventually, a lot of those new ideas get added to the things we want to do. So the list grows yet again.

But it’s not something that bothers us. In fact, it’s one of the things we love about our roving retirement. The world is such an incredible place; we won’t run out of new experiences in a thousand lifetimes. We continue to surprise ourselves with many of the things we achieve and it gives us the confidence to push our envelope even further.

And it’s not just the things that we do ourselves. We’re always meeting other like-minded adventurers as we travel. We love to engage and share their stories, learning about their discoveries and insights. These kinds of connections are a never-ending source of inspiration.

We often get asked what possessed us to ride bicycles across continents, self-supported. Let’s face it; it does seem a little unusual. We’re both in our 50s, both carrying quite a few too many kilos around the waist and don’t look particularly athletic. And yet we’ve cycled across Australia, Europe and North America.

The “crazy” idea came from meeting other cyclists as we backpacked through Central Asia, following the Silk Route from Shanghai to Istanbul. Many of our friends thought we were nuts to do that, citing all sorts of dangers and risks. In reality, it was an easy trip. The internet has made travel far simpler and accessible than years ago and while we weren’t bored, our experiences had lost a bit of their edge.

We were staying in a hostel favoured by long-distance cyclists and their stories of adventure had us enthralled. All of them were thousands of kilometres into their journeys, none of them were experienced cyclists and most of them had done very little training beforehand. “Just ride yourselves fit”, was the collective advice.

By the time we’d reached our next destination, both Tim and I had been cultivating the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could be touring cyclists as well. Over a cold beer in a square in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, we realised that both of us had been wondering the exact same thing: “Why not?” It was both the question and the answer. The rest, as they say, is history. Once we decided we were going to try it, we put the plan in motion and here we are today.

It was the same when we considered teaching English. Meeting other travellers who were successfully funding their travels by stopping to teach, gave us the inspiration to try and the information we needed to get our foot in the door. Neither of us is fond of public speaking and the thought of getting up in front of a class was somewhat terrifying at first. But as we learned from others and put our plans into action, things fell into place. When we both received “Teacher of the Year” awards in our first year of teaching in Vietnam, it validated our approach to jump right in with two feet and see how things turn out.

Of course, we still have challenging moments and things don’t always go perfectly. But even bad days are valuable life experiences and teach us something new about ourselves. It’s better than sticking around in jobs that we don’t like, wondering if we could (or should) do things we aspire to.

Our favourite saying is, “A bad day travelling is better than a good day at work”. Deciding to try something new is often the hardest part about doing it. And each time we successfully tick off another item on our bucket list, several more get added in its place. That’s why our bucket list isn’t getting any shorter and we couldn’t be happier.

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