A few weeks before my 36th birthday, I started to feel a Niggle. The Niggle started out so small I barely noticed it, but it fed off a plentiful diet of deskwork and email and grew into something worryingly large and obtrusive. It felt like the mental equivalent of a lump that you refuse to see a doctor about because you know perfectly well it’s serious.
At first I thought the Niggle had appeared because I hadn’t travelled for a few months. For most of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to travel fairly frequently, and for many years I even worked in the travel industry as a sort of journalist/photographer/digital-type person.
So it was unusual for me to have no travel plans. Instead, I had a fun job (that no longer involved travel), a house, two cats, a mortgage, and a retired father who insisted on cooking dinner for me at least once a week. It was enough to give me the screaming heebie jeebies.
Noticing my Niggle one night after dinner, my father observed that I was “trying too hard to get the most out of life”. I could only boggle. How can you possibly try too hard to get the most out of life? What other reasonable course of action is there? A slow, soggy sinking into the sofa?
So I spoke to my other parent about the Niggle. She told me about a movie called The Bucket List where two men learn they’re terminally ill, so they draw up a list of things they want to do and head off together on a road trip.
I know I shouldn’t have been able to relate to this scenario considering that
1. I am not about to die (Niggles aren’t fatal, as far as I know) and
2. I don’t have a convenient travel companion in the next hospital bed.
But for some reason the notion appealed to my Niggle.
So I made a list of some of the things I want to do, starting with seeing a kangaroo (not in a zoo). However, it struck me as rather ungrateful to ignore all the things I’ve already experienced, so I made a list of those too.
10 Things from the ‘Done’ Bucket (in no particular order)
- Climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. Had heated argument with fiancé at summit. Did not marry fiancé.
- Tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Baby gorilla jumped on me and gave me headlice.
- Spent a week at Bulungula, the most idyllic place on earth. Didn’t get any sleep due to boyfriend’s dog lying under the bed and growling at goats all night.
- Climbed two extremely active volcanoes: Le Volcan in Reunion and Oldonyo Lengai in Tanzania. Disappointingly, neither erupted while I was on them.
- Sky-dived in Sossusvlei and paraglided on skis in Switzerland. They were tandem jumps, so a tad woessy, although the instructor’s harness snapped on the paraglide jump, so that made it quite interesting.
- Bungee jumped at Vic Falls. This was a couple of years before that same bungee cord snapped.
- Saw the Great Migration a couple of times. Realised I could never capture the magnificence on camera so hummed ‘The Circle of Life’ a lot instead.
- Slept in the same room as a rock star. The rock star was Jamiroquai. The room was Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge presidential suite. The guy from Jamiroquai wasn’t in it at the same time as me.
- Got charged by a baby elephant on foot. Obviously the baby elephant was on foot. The point is, so was I. And elephants, even baby ones, run faster than I do.
- Drank rum swinging in a hammock on a pirate ship. Admittedly it was a fake pirate ship, but it was in Mauritius. And one of the ‘pirates’ proposed to me. Did not marry him either.
10 things from the ‘To Do’ Bucket
- See a wild kangaroo, preferably hopping nobly across the plains. A wallaby, a platypus and a koala would be good too.
- Swim with piranhas in the Amazon. Pink river dolphins would be a plus.
- Hike the Fish River Canyon. With crazy adventurer Johan Bakkes, if possible.
- Get close(ish) to a volcano that is busy erupting. See actual lava. Maybe scoop it up with a spade like James May.
- See Mt Everest. From a distance. Do some of the Anapurna trail and drink yak’s milk.
- See an aardvark or a pangolin. Any anteater, in fact.
- Learn to speak Spanish well enough to do more than politely order a big beer.
- See the northern or southern lights. Preferably the aurora australis because I’m southern too.
- Ride on a carnival float in Rio wearing a sparkly bikini. Although the bikini part might be pushing it.
- Visit the glow-worm caves in New Zealand. Remember to keep mouth shut so glow-worms don’t fall into it.