Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Inspiring Friend #5: Ali

I’ll admit that ever since I saw the movie The Bucket List, I keep a list of things I want to do before I die.  So far, I’ve been knocking off the low-hanging fruit, like “fire a gun” and “start a blog.”  Chances are, I’ll never get around to the more challenging items.  And after I’m gone, someone will come across my list and think, “Oh, how sad.  Look at all of the things she never did.”  This fear propelled me to start a second list of things I’ve already done, so that the person going through my belongings will then say, “Oh wait, she did do some cool stuff after all.”

In general, people spend a lot of time talking (or blogging) about their crazy, impractical goals but never actually go out and pursue them.  Instead, they wait and hope that, one day, they'll just happen to end up climbing a mountain or running a marathon.  "Someday.  When the timing is right.  Maybe next year.  Or the year after."  I find it inspiring when someone stops making excuses and does what they've always wanted to do.

One morning, my friend Ali was having brunch with some friends.  Out of nowhere, she set down her fork and said, "I'm going to quit my job and travel the world for one year."  And then, to everyone's surprise, she went ahead and did it.

Ali and I first met in college while studying abroad in London.  A few years later, we both moved to New York and started working in finance.  In fact, we were roommates while I was dating my husband.  I got engaged around the same time Ali decided to go on her around-the-world journey.  While I was preparing to settle down and make a huge life commitment, Ali was handing in her resignation, getting rid of her apartment, and putting all of her belongings into storage.  Literally days after my wedding, she set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Although she met up with friends and family along the way, it was mostly a solo mission.  She was tackling everything on her bucket list all at once: glacier trekking, surfing, exploring the Australian Outback, scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, skydiving, Full Moon Party in Thailand, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, safari in the Serengeti, cage diving with great white sharks, a 13-day trek to Mount Everest.  I was exhausted just hearing about it.

While Ali was traveling, everyone else was obsessed with the book Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.  Sure, it was a nice story, but it paled in comparison to the journey of my real-life friend.  Three countries?  That’s the best she could do?  The subtitle of Ali's memoir would be: One Woman's Search for Everything Across New Zealand, Australia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Portugal, Germany, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraqi-Kurdistan, Jordan, Israel, Nepal, India, Italy, Wales, and England."  Seriously, that's one hell of a subtitle.

Not many people would have the guts to take on such an itinerary.  She went to Iraq based on a single paragraph in her Lonely Planet guide book, entitled “If you wanna go, this is how.”  Throughout the year, she faced more than a few challenges, including visa issues, lost bookings, sketchy hostels, 36-hour bus rides on unpaved roads, religious festivals that shut down entire countries, and one very close call with a terrorist bombing.  And she still managed to fly back for the occasional wedding.

One year later, she came back for good.  She found an apartment, got a job, and resumed her normal life.  Looking at all of her pictures, I can’t help but feel incredibly jealous.  I would love to spend an entire year traveling.  It's already on my bucket list, right between "have a kid" and "find a career I love."  I’m sure I'll get around to it... someday.


  1. Ditto! She inspires me too! I can only hope that I will be lucky enough to go to half the places she went! Until then, I'll have to live vicariously through Ali's stories and pics. :)

  2. the bucket list was an awesome movie...since the day I saw it I have been coming up with my own :)