108 Things I Got to Do On My Year Off or Things To Do Before You Die
Things To Do In a Year
Several years ago, I took time off to enjoy a much needed sabbatical year, armed with a rough idea of what I hoped to accomplish during my time off. I hadn't heard of a bucket list and didn't even write a list of things to do in a year. But by giving myself the gift of a year, I got to do the equivalent of a bucket list's worth of things to do before you die.
I took the time to write all the fun things I did while I was on sabbatical and I was blown away, astounded and oh so thankful for the time. Sometimes, you gain a greater appreciation for both the big things and even the little things when you reflect back on those things most meaningful to you when you take a step back and savor the moments.
For myself, it made me really thankful for this break in time. A friend once told me you get to really enjoy travel and other experiences at least three times over 1) when you anticipate and plan 2) when you enjoy what you're doing in the moment and in addition 3) when you take a moment to reflect on the past. I definitely think that's true three fold.
It's incredible how rewarding life becomes when you take the time to focus on what matters most. In sharing my completed bucket list of 108 Things I Got to Do On My Year Off, I hope you'll be inspired to take the time to do more of what you love, whether it's in a few stolen moments here and there, a weekend, perhaps a week, a month or the ultimate indulgence of a year off.
If it seems hedonistic, foolhardy or selfish to take so much time off, you can take comfort in the fact that the idea of a sabbatical even has biblical roots. There's the idea of the weekly rest on the Sabbath. Even God took a day off from his busy schedule. And there's also the concept of a sabbatical year where you the let the ground go fallow to allow the soil to work its magic, processing previous crops and other organic matter so that the ground will be richer in years to come. It's much the same with people. It's not just a luxury but a necessity to take a step back to allow yourself a year to regenerate and prosper in years to come.
The end result? This self-imposed sabbatical turned out to be more than just a one time thing that had long lasting ramifications that helped jump start several meaningful changes which have significantly changed my career and life trajectory in profound ways I could have never imagined.
It's hard to believe this was 5 years ago. Since then I've garnered the courage to satisfy a long time yearning to quit spending my life energy working for others and to instead work for myself writing on-line full-time. Best decision ever. I've lived overseas for months at a time in Barcelona, Rome & Vancouver. I've taken up dancing again. Everyday I wake up truly satisfied to have taken the leap.
What if you lived as if you only had one year to live? What would you do with time off or rather time on? What would be on your list of things to do in a year. What are you waiting for? What's holding you back?
A picture of me in Fez with "Momo" a Moroccan tour guide who has guided celebrities such as Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman & Warren Beatty to reveal the hidden treasures of Fez, Morocco.
Photo Credit: Eric Jenkins
Updated 9/7 & 9/24/2013, 10/01 & 11/14/2013 11/30 12/5
Are You Focused on What Matters Most?
Do You Have a Bucket List?
How to Get Started | The Kitchen Timer Trick
If it seems intimidating to write a list of a hundred things, start small. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, get a blank piece of paper and set your watch, your cellphone or some sort of timer to beep in 15 minutes. Quick...Off the top of your head, what are the top 5 things you wish you could do in your life. No holding back. Put down the stuff you don't admit to anyone.
When the alarm goes off, set it again for another 15 minutes. Write another 5. Great, you've got 10. Do it again later in the day during a coffee break or lunch break. Start with a fresh piece of paper. It's OK if you repeat yourself if you can't remember what you wrote before. By the end of the week, you'll probably have at least a hundred and you can transfer it all onto a word document and either categorize or prioritize. If you're still stuck, you can also brainstorm by categories like work, hobbies, family, friends, music, sports, what ever's most meaningful to you.
Have You Written a Bucket List?
My Original Sabbatical Goals
If a sabbatical year sounds decadent, it has its roots that harken back to biblical times with the practical benefit for an agriculturally based lifestyle. By choosing a year not to work the fields and letting the crops go fallow, it allowed the ground a year to regenerate rather than be depleted of all its resources. Source: Remembering the Sabbatical Years of 2016...
Click on any of these links for more stories about how I spent my sabbatical. Here are some of the fun things I was able to do. What would be at the top of your list? And let me tell you now. You will never ever regret the time you spent.
6. Summers in Vancouver With My Parents
7. Write a Book
Check Mark - Dan Eriksson, flickr.com
Sardana Dance - Kwong Yee Cheng, flickr.com
Plan Your Own Radical Family Sabbatical - Enjoy a Life Changing Vacation in As Little a 30 Days
This is one of my favorite books that I recently read. The author, Chris Brady, in this travelogue is so encouraging about what it takes to turn a someday, maybe one day possibility and turn it into reality. He also eloquently scribes the intangible somewhat difficult to define qualities of travel that end up changing your everyday perspective once you return.
And he doesn't just share the magic. That's evident right from the start where he talks about the ugly discussion you gotta have with your significant other. It's the talk that takes some courage. I know because I've had to take a deep breath to convince my husband that what I'm about to propose isn't needless frivolous or hedonistic but rather a decision built on a larger goal of wanting to not just get up everyday and live but to really live and savor all that life has to offer. This is a book that inspire you to find your way.
Other true stories from families who've been there and done that include:
Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family On a Radical Sabbatical
One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children
Bring Your Own Children: South America! A Family Sabbatical Handbook
I Won't Worry My Life Away - Press Play to Preview Song
Ask Yourself. How much time do you spend worrying instead of living? "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" is the first single released by Jason Mraz from his debut album Waiting for My Rocket to Come in 2002. The song is about a friend of Jason's being struck with cancer and how it changed his outlook on life. From Wikipedia.org
Barcelona January 2008
#4 - Learn Sardana Dance
#5 - Learn to Cook
Half the fun of cooking was shopping for ingredients and I ended up tapping into our house guests for impromptu cooking classes despite our no oven kitchen. I learned to stock basics like no-fail couscous as a substitution for rice, to have basic soup stock on hand, tomatoes and canned tomato anything and that remnants of any liquor bottle could be used to add taste to most sauces, soups and dishes
I watched a friend of mine make a fabulous shrimp curry -- the key seems to be using a fresh hot pepper like jalapeno, two cans of coconut milk not low-fat and frozen shrimp will do just fine. Another friend improved upon the basic recipe with his specialty being "use up everything in the pantry" with his additon of crushed tomatoes and sauteed cashews and garlic.
What I discovered about cooking is that it is not so much about precise measurements but improvisational based on what ingredients inspire you at the market, what's leftover in your cupboard or whatever you fancy eating that day
Cooking is longer an intimidating, worrisome chore. It's great to be able to crack open a glass of wine & set out a cheese plate to enjoy the process of cooking. My husband has become my defacto sous chef and we now enjoy eating in more. It is much better value and we continue to surprise ourselves with what we come up with on the fly.
Here's the recipe for an easy to make one-pot meal that's dead simple and if you use low fat sausage and lentils, it's good for you too.
Homemade seafood soup using prepared fish or seafood soup stock and frozen seafood can provide an easy and elegant dinner meal.
By having friends stay with us abroad we had a chance to stock the pantry together, go grocery shopping and traded cooking tips which helped me immensely to relax into cooking.
Lentils & Sausage, lissame, flickr.com
Ingredients for Seafood Soup
#7 - Write a Book - More Inspiration - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
I thought I would try something different to kickstart the writing process with the unusual approach of using Squidoo to create over a hundred lenses which will serve as a kind of rough draft. Next, I'll do a massive printout of material then either discover it was a stupid idea or figure out how to weave together a compelling narrative and turn it into my own version of eat, pray, love. My challenge is to have my prose match my passion. My secret desire is to reach as many people as Gilbert's to encourage others to do more of what they love and less of what they don't.
#8 - Find a Gardening Job
Found a Seasonal Part-Time Gardening Job
When we returned to Washington in May, Gardening season was already underway and I had already missed two critical months - March & April. However, about a month ahead in April, I contacted a wholesale nursery and was lucky to secure seasonal employment that would keep me busy in May & June. At that point, I had plans to head to Vancouver for the summer.
This is the book I was originally writing in Barcelona to help people figure out what they need to do if they want a career in gardening. With people interested in green careers, I'm hoping there's a market for it.
I finished a 100 page proposal and a very, preliminary sketchy rough draft of it overseas. I sent out query letters & proposals to potential publishers.
I was working full-time hours in May & June and intended to work on edits of it while I was in Vancouver but hearing nothing back from my proposals, my motivation took a bit of a beating. So I decided to shelve it and work again on it in Spring 2009.
I posted one of the chapters online but trying to use Blogger to build a website was a bit exhausting from a linking perspective. Perhaps I will transfer some of the information over to Squidoo to make into a lens. Anyway, if you're interested, here's a FREE preview chapter of my book.
Getting Dirty - Quit Your Job & Get Paid to Garden For a Living
Do More of What You Love & Less Of What You Don't
Get Out Of Your Own Way - My Biggest Obstacle is Myself
Most of the time, I just need to get out of my own way -- battling insecurities about writing and indecisiveness of what course my life should take next. If you're looking for inspiration on what to do next in your life, take 2 hours to see this movie. It's a must see if you're considering on making bold life changes.
Favorite Barcelona Indulgences
9. Taste Test Xurros or Churros
13. Take in Menu Del Dias
14. Morning Market Runs
15. Sitting in Cafes Writing, Paid to Write Hill Rag & Online
16. Drinking Chai
17. Staying Up Late Writing With EJ & Sleeping In Late
18. Met with Language Exchange Partner
19. Visit to Florence
21. Travel with Husband to Portugal
22. Share Barcelona Experience With Visiting Family & Friends
23. Experience St. Jordi's Day & Santa Semana
24. Escape Winter
#9 - Taste Test Xurros or Churros
#10 - Las Meninas at the Picasso Museum
When I feel creatively blocked or challenged, I attempt to write in the style of a writer I admire. It feels a bit like cheating but I know it's a common exercise for art students. I only have to think about Pablo Picasso and his obsession with a 1656 painting by Diego Velazquez.
It's inspiring to visit this one room in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona just to see a series of 58 interpretations and comparative studies by Picasso painted between August and December 1957. With such a strong artistic style, it's hard to imagine a great painter like Picasso ever feeling inadequate.
But Picasso channelled his energy and his series of studies from Las Meninas is a testament to the power of focus. I love that he doggedly pressed on for months studying just the one painting and according to the museum, his works consitute an "exhaustive study of form, rhythm, colour and movement".
Although the YouTube video is in Spanish, no interpretation is required to appreciate the side by side comparison of the original Velazquez painting to the Picasso paintings.
#11 - Cafe Con Leche & Mini Croissants
Forn De Pa Mistral
Best Bakery In Barcelona
There are plenty of bakeries and coffee shops to enjoy in Barcelona but the one that rates consistently #1 with the locals is Mistral, a hidden secret to most tourists because of its small unassuming exterior and cafe tucked behind on a less busy street. Once inside, the bustling interior and the need to take a number tell the story of its excellence. It's family run since 1879.
Best Cafe Con Leche
I'm also partial to Mistral because it's the first place I ever had a cafe con leche -- a perfect blend of half coffee & half steamed milk, never bitter. I see tourists stopping into Starbucks and can't believe it. They're missing out. Mistral's coffee is half the price and twice the value.
You know how when you have a Krispy Kreme donut in the U.S. & the secret is to go when the sign is lit and to get the glazed donuts hot off the conveyor belt. With Mistral their delectable wonder that one of my husband's students let us in on is their mini chocolate croissants. If you get them when they're fresh out of the oven, the chocolate is melted and it's the perfect bite of pastry and oozing chocolate.
Located in the Raval area near the "Universitat".
Get the mini-croissants here for the full stand-up experience
Ronda Sant Antoni, 96
Mon - Sat 07:00 - 21:00
Go to this location just around the corner for a cup of coffee & to sit down
Torres i Amat 7 is the larger cafeteria / bakery
#12 - Satisfy Chocolate & Pastry Cravings
Where I live in Washington, D.C., the closest pastry shop is at least a half an hour walk away. Whereas in Barcelona, you can't help stumble onto a pastry shop on every block.
In Europe, they bake the kind of bread that's crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside -- the kind of bread that you need to eat within a day but that was never a problem. My daily bread foraging would include a crunchy ciabatta roll.
Barcelona is All About the Chocolate
Not to be missed, the one hundred year old award-winning pastry shop created by Antoni Escriba, who has been described as the "Mozart of Chocolate".
#20 - Travel to Andalusia & Morocco - Field Trips With Students Beyond Barcelona
Sometimes when you start out on a journey, you don't know where adventure will lead you. We knew that we'd be headed out on two road trips with the students and one week of personal vacation during Spring break. Barcelona was so fabulous which much to see and do that I'd get a little homesick when we left town.
Cool Things I Got to Do In Vancouver
27. Attend the Burnaby Flower Auction
28. Attend Family Gathering at Two Chefs and a Table
29. House Sit A Character House w/an English Garden
32. Live the Life of Semi-Retirement
33. Enjoy Small Indulgences
34. Chase Good Weather. Escape DC Humidity & Enjoy A/C Outside
35. Visit Garden Center, Lee Valley Tools, Mall Indoor Tropicals with Dad
36. Line dancing with Mom
37. Cycle the Seawall
38. Attend Ice Skating Lessons To Learn How to Stop
39. Host New Year's
#25 - Work at the Pacific National Exhibition
Favorite Vancouver Eats
40. Bon Ton's Diplomat Cake, Nanaimo bars, shortbread
41. Deep Fried Breaded Almond Chicken, Gai Lan, Dim Sum
42. Sushi, sashimi, Japanese food at Hi-Genki, Metrotown, Fujiya
43. Okaisan, Ochazuke, Salmon, Japanese Pickles, anchovies
44. Purdy's chocolates, ice cream, English Toffee, white almond bark, Cadbury
45. Wine gums, fruit gummy bears, macaroons
46. Cheezies, dill pickle, ketchup chips
47. Fish & Chips
48. Dairy Queen Buster Bars
49. Mom's waffles & blueberries
49. Fresh veggies at Kin's. Mini-bok choi, gai-lan. Superstore, Granville Island.
50. Wine Tour Okanagan, Lower Mainland, ice wine
51. Tea chai, Murchie's, Green tea matcha lattes
52. Avalon chocolate milk
53. Dad's butter tarts
54. Tim Horton's
#47 - Eat Fish & Chips
Things I Appreciate About Washington
55. Enjoy Our 1960s Light Filled House
56. Host Book Signing Party in Our Garden
57. Attend Opening Washington Nationals Ball Park
58. Nap With Cats
59. Chai at Teaism
60. Read the Newspaper With My Husband
61. Enjoy Dinners At Home
62. Read Library Books
63. Find a Part-Time, Low Stress Job to Allow Freedom to Write
64. Wander weekdays when everyone else is working
#56 - Hosted Husband's Book Signing Party
Terrific Musical Performances
I Got to Enjoy
65. La Portena Jazz Band
66. Hall & Oates
67. Tower of Power
69. Billy Dixon, So Tight Band
70. Dal Richards
71. Jodaiko at the Powell Street Festival
72. Friday Jazz at the Hyatt
73. Blues Night in Southwest DC
74. Flamenco in Barcelona
Previous Years & Other:
David Clayton Thomas
Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, Vegas Lounge Acts
Jersey Boys, Other Broadway Musicals New York
Opera at CUA
#74 - Flamenco in Barcelona
Neat Things I Learned Online
75. Be in Media Again
76. Produce Content On Squidoo
77. Write for Associated Content
78. Summarize Articles for Brijit
79. Learn SEO techniques, Google
80. Code HTML
81. Blog, Picasa
82. Replace Boob Tube w/You Tube, Netflix, Streaming TV
83. Sign-up for Skype
84. Communicate via Web Cam
#76 & #77 Write for Squidoo & Yahoo
Things I Had Time To Think About
85. Overcome Imposter's Syndrome
86. Let Go Of the Past
87. Let Go of Infinite Possibilities
88. Examining "Ma" or Negative Space
89. Am I a 1 Marshmallow or 2 Marshmallow Person?
90. Redefine Myself As a Winner Not a Quitter
91. Take Personal Responsibility for Environment and Actions
92. Get Out of My Own Way
93. Be In the Now
94. Taking Gifts For Granted
95. Train Monkey Mind
Challenges That Came Up During My Year Off
96. Barcelona Apartment Fell Through
97. Budget For Limited Funds, Eating in
98. Close Chapter On Former Job, Adapt to New Job.
99. Adjust to Being Away From Husband For An Extend Period Of Time
100. Give up T.V. Cravings For Netflix, TV On Demand, You Tube
101. Help Eric's Mother Cope With Father's Parkinson's Disease
102. Distractions. Overscheduled, other job possibilities, real estate
103. Uncle Passed Away, Aunt Nursing Home, Randy Pausch, 100 Places Guy
104. Aging & My Own Physical Limitations Cumulative Injuries
#104 - Aging & Physical Limitations
Remarkable Things That Happened
Life is as Magical as the Meaning We Ascribe.
Elizabeth Gilbert's spiritual memoir eat, pray, love of her year abroad in search of pleasure, devotion & balance is captured in 108 delightful stories. Athough any of these 108 lenses can be read separately they are intended to be part of a larger series that will be turned into a book. As I create one Squidoo lens for each item, I'll add a link.
I'm drawn to this idea of trying to frame one's experiences tapping into the spiritual significance of 108. Some say the soul goes through 108 stages on the journey to find one's true self while others talk of 108 paths converging to an open heart which leads to the path of self-realization. Another interpretation relates 108 to feelings, 36 about the past, 36 in the present and 36 about the future.
One mathematical analysis 6 x 3 x 2 x 3 = 108 offers more elaborate considerations related to the 6 senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought in relation of 3 aspects of time past, present, future and 2 conditions of heart either pure or impure and 3 possibilities of sentiment being like, dislike, indifference. All these investigations offer ways of thinking about the past year.
Then again, if it all seems like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to you, other Buddhist scholars offer this very zen answer with this very simple way to look at it. While 108 does offer symbolic significance, the actual number is irrelevant. It is simply a number chosen like a road map to provide you with a way to focus.
What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? - What's On Your List?
John Mayer Song "Say" - From the Bucket List Soundtrack
John Mayer talks about why he took on the project to write "Say" for The Bucket List. Check out the interview here or watch the music video below.
The Future Belongs To Those That Believe In the Beauty Of Their Dreams
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Work Less & Live More
How to Plan A Gap Year - Whether You're 18 or 48
Are You Making a Living Or a Dying? - If You Only Get One Book On Financial Planning
This is the one book that helped my husband and I scale down from two incomes to one income so he could go to graduate school at Harvard over 10 years ago.
Using the information provided in Your Money Or Your Life I was able to switch from a corporate career to a career in gardening.
In light of the economy, this classic book which was originally released in 1992 was re-released December 2008 and the financial lessons still ring true today..
The Most Important Thing - Get Your Finances In Order
While it's all lovely to talk about pursuing your dreams, when you really get serious about taking a sabbatical or doing what you really want to do with your time, sometimes you need either extra funds or time off work. Don't immediately dismiss that you can't afford it. Vicki Robin, co-author of the timeless classic "Your Money or Your Life" talks about the various issues you'll face and how to overcome the obstacles to do so in this half hour interview.
Post Sabbatical Update - What We've Been Doing Post Sabbaticals
It's a tremendous leap of faith to quit your job to follow your bliss and hope everything will turn out alright. At the time, I didn't have a job conveniently lined up to return to.
I'm happy to report even in this difficult economy, I was able to not only find work in my profession of garden retail but by forcing myself to leave a job where I was no longer growing, to put myself in a situation where I could continue to learn.
Thanks to Bell Nursery for taking me on in 2008 as a garden merchandiser where I learned a tremendous amount from a fabulous Maryland based company who work with local farmers to bring high quality flowers and plants to Home Depot garden centers across several states.
For the 2009-2011 gardening seasons, I was fortunate to have found a job as a plant buyer for a well established Washington, D.C. florist and garden center and had a blast working with local growers to provide the best geraniums, petunias and pansies to grace gardens in Northwest D.C.
With both employers, I made it a priority to negotiate a seasonal work schedule which would allow me to spend time in Vancouver, Canada with my Mom, Dad, cousins, aunts and uncles. I've now enjoyed over 5 years of summers off.
Now in 2012, I'm happy to report that I now write full-time for Squidoo and quit my seasonal job gardening and am having a blast in Rome, Italy.
My Husband and I in Rome Near Campo Dei Fiori
Postscript | Fall 2012 - The Freshman 15
After spending 4 months in Rome, we came back to D.C. but then went to house sit for friends in Vancouver which meant I was home where my Mom & Dad could spoil my husband and I. Needless to say, after all the fabulous Italian pasta, cheese and pastries followed up by the spoiled-by-my Mom's cooking AND making the leap to write full-time + sedentary lifestyle = 15 pounds way heavier. If you've packed on a few extra pounds like me while on sabbatical, check out this low carb, high protein diet by Tim Ferris, author of . The 4 Hour Body
More Great Reading - Reference Sources About Sabbaticals
- What To Do In a Year Off If You're a Lawyer
New York Times
- Planning an Extended Trip Sabbatical
- How to Plan a Sabbatical
- How to Ask For a Sabbatical
Source: Your Sabbatical
- How to Take a Sabbatical From Work
- Escaping the Cubicle Corporate World
Source: Art of Backpacking
Find Out About Travel Hacking - Chris Guillebeau's Travel Hacking Cartel
Where to Go On Sabbatical - Ideas For Your Road Trip Or Destination Abroad
- Best Places For a Sabbatical
Travel + Leisure
- Volunteer Projects & Internships Abroad
- Get Inspired, Get Focused, Get Going
Three Month Visa Coaching Consulting
Voted Best Travel Blog
- Follow a Family of Six on Sabbatical
Six in the Word
- The Lost Girls
Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World
- Destination TBD
The Call of Adventure
- Teach English Abroad | Teach English in China
Still On My Bucket List
Learn to Play the Drums
Ride an Elephant & Camel
Visit New Zealand and Australia
Check Out the Galapagos
Visit a Rain Forest
50 Things to Do Before You Die - BBC Show
There was a BBC TV Special that asked viewers to submit their bucket list of 50 Things to Do Before You Die. I certainly share in some of the top picks which include dog sledding, swimming with dolphins and travelling on the Orient Express.
I'm not sure if the reality to see the Itarod is that it would be too cold or if it would be breathtaking. What do you think?
To Strive, To Seek, To Find & Not to Yield.
How to get started? I just came across this handy notebook the other day. You can either pick-up this ready-made workbook or
click on the picture for ideas on how to put together your own binder.
What would you do if you had time to do more of what you love and less of what you don't? Just do it.
Here's a list on 43things.com of other people who want to take a "one-year off" trip and have either done it or want to do it.
If your dream is to visit Washington, D.C. but all the attractions are closed because of the government shutdown, here's a Top 10 List of Things You Can Do.