|The Author in Hell|
So. All of this brings me to a book my wife and I read a few years ago which has had a long-lasting impact on our lives, and more importantly on the enrichment and enjoyment of them.
|Communing with Turtles in the Cayman Islands|
Some of you are familiar with the CBS television show The Amazing Race. The program, hosted pitch-perfectly by the world traveling New Zealander Phil Keoghan, is a full on race around the globe with the winning team taking home a million dollar prize. (Or, more accurately, half each whatever’s left after tax.) A fundamental part of every episode is a series of challenges in which the team members must complete tasks of local origin. Cooking, eating, playing a local game, participating in a local sporting event, or some other aspect – but the essential part of each task is the understanding of something a bit more about the culture. And since taking in the local culture is – at least for me – one of the major things I’m looking for on a trip, this is one of my favorite parts of the show.
|Time Out in Monet's Garden|
|The Infamous Landing on St Barth|
In the first chapter, Phil discusses his inspiration for creating The List – a concept it appears was stolen outright by the 2007 movie The Bucket List – as arising from a near-death experience he’d had in his late teens. Scuba diving as a cub reporter for a local news outlet, Phil found himself in the dark, under water, trapped in an old sunken wreck of a ship. As he describes it he’d essentially decided, as he began to pass out from lack of oxygen, that although this was his time to die he was deeply unhappy at all the things he would be unable to do in his life. Coming to on the deck of his support boat, he resolved there and then to write down those things he wanted to accomplish in life, and work to ensure that they were not “someday” goals, but true, everyday intentions. With an intention, you work towards the action specifically, rather than daydreaming about how nice it would be to do something, someday.
|Kisses from Dolphins|
I’m not going to get into each of the eight areas Phil notes and the book encourages you to pursue, but the goals are not simply related to big, expensive spectacles which require planning and money to accomplish. Your goal, he suggests, might be to volunteer at a local charity. It might be to get yourself into better condition in order to run a footrace. (The footrace is the specific endgame, not the more amorphic “get into better shape”. That’s the difference. You have to have something tangible, a measurement or accomplishment which can be codified.)
My wife and I, despite having done some very interesting things, and having traveled quite a bit, were taken up by Phil’s challenge, and immediately created our own lists. As you can see by the accompanying pictures, we’ve already accomplished a number of things which were on that original list. Of the vacations we’ve taken in the five plus years since we first ran across N.O.W (the acronym for No Opportunity Wasted), each of them had to have something on our NOW list as the fulcrum of the trip. Since that time we’ve visited glaciers, an active volcano, swum with dolphins, stayed a night in a haunted hotel, and volunteered at a favorite non-profit. (My wife, Cris, is still involved with them in fact, recently becoming the President of the Board of the Jazz Angels, a non-profit dedicated to teaching kids the history and skills of jazz.)
|Glacier Hunting in Alaska|
And this is part of what Phil talks about. The book, and the philosophy behind it, is all about doing something different. Doing something that gets you outside of your usual comfort zone, something that challenges you in physical or emotional ways. Setting the goal, but then taking the necessary and productive steps to achieve it. It can be as simple as going to – and participating in -- a nudists’ wedding (which Phil describes in one very amusing chapter); or as complex as learning a new skill and applying it to something special. It can be dining on a volcano; skin-diving the Great Barrier Reef, or off the coast of Hawaii; or grabbing a cup of coffee at Café Du Monde in New Orleans. It can be finding an old friend and renewing your relationship. It can be finding your favorite teacher and letting them know what they meant in your life.
It can be about a ride across the country to raise money for Multiple Schlerosis as Phil and his friends did last year.
It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. In fact, Keoghan suggests that the best stuff may cost next to nothing. For us it’s all about the experience. The memory – and in my case the photography – of each of these adventures, ensuring that when our time comes we won’t look back and regret not accomplishing something we really wanted to do.
And doing it. N.O.W.