40 things before 40 – the journey begins

Update: I wrote this post originally in April 2013, but rather that start from scratch I thought I would just add new things to my list here as I thought of them and cross off the ones I do. This post has new things since you first read it, so best read it again :-)

This week, with my 35th birthday looming, I have taken some important first steps in my 40 things before 40 project.

First off, I bought a new notebook. This is possibly the most important step, and I do sometimes wonder if I may not have just come up with the whole idea purely as an excuse to do this very thing. I do love a bit of cutting and sticking after all. However, despite having purchased said notebook, got it home safely, and stroked it for a little while, the novelty didn’t seem to wear off, so it was time to start writing in it.

Best felt tip pens at the ready.

40 things before 40

I am looking for a total of 40 things to do over the next five years, but I figure I don’t have to have them all decided until a year before the deadline, as I am known for being a tiny bit fickle and am sure to come up with new ideas along the way.

Here’s what I’ve got so far then:

  • Eat a meal in a Michelin star restaurant – I did this one on my birthday! Read all about it here.
  • Got to the opera – Done! I went to see Turandot originally and have seen a few more since. I’m not a fan, although I did like that with Turandot we came out into the restaurant for a different course between each act. That was fun.
  • Visit Auschwitz – Done. Read about it here and why I didn’t feel how I expected to feel.
  • Visit the Dark Hedges – Done! Read about it here.

dark hedges northern ireland

  • Ride on the Orient Express
  • Stay in one of the places from the Amazing Spaces programme. – Done! I actually can’t remember where it was, but I remember thinking ‘Oh this means that I can cross this off my list!’ I’m sure it will come back to me.
  • Drink a milkshake in an American diner – Done! See the evidence here.
  • Grow an avocado plant from a pip. – I’m really trying with this one but the damn things refuse to grow.
  • Solve a mystery Nancy Drew style (i.e. in matching hat and gloves) – I went to a mystery evening at Belle’s school and bought a Nancy Drew style hate to wear especially, so I think this counts?
  • Go to a festival on my own. I’ve thought about this one a lot and decided it’s not that important to me anymore. Although I have been to things like the Bath literary festival so maybe that counts??
  • Do a driving experience where you get to go off road and drive through rivers and things like that. (I like driving through puddles at the side of the road when it’s really rainy.) – I’ve done this one – evidence here.
  • Hang out in a 19th century Ottoman mansion and take a cruise up the Bosphorus

Istanbul hotel

  • Sing in public – did you not see my Mariah Carey at the 2017 taunton freelancers Christmas party??
  • Tell a joke at the Edinburgh festival (this one can be just in the street)
  • Cook a souffle – I’ve done this!

  • Visit every house I’ve ever lived in. I’ve decided I’m not that fussed about this one either. I mean, I LIVED in them all, so technically I’ve done it anyway right?
  • Swim (or splash a bit at least) outdoors in Iceland (country not shop) – this was a tiny bit late but I did it a couple of months after I turned 40 – the trip was a birthday present from my lovely sister and brother-in-law.
  • Fly business class – I’ve done this a few times now, only for work when someone else has been paying. It’s pretty nice being able to lie flat but I’m not sure it’s really worth it, unless you have more money that sense. You all arrive at the same time still.
  • Visit Sintra in Portugal. It’s a crazy multi-coloured fairy castle. What’s not to love? – I did this one just a few days before I turned 40!Sintra portgual

Image – Mapics/shutterstock

  • Take an open top bus tour in ten different cities (I am a sucker for these – all the best bits of sightseeing but sitting down!) – I’ve done London, Barcelona, Cambridge, Liverpool, Stratford, Bristol, Bath, Derry, Paris and Dublin. Hoorah!
  • Own one of those wicker baskets that fits on the stairs. (I know this is ridiculous, I’ve just always wanted one.) – My mum got me one of these for my 39th birthday! And very lovely it is too.
  • Live in a tree (even if just for a night) – So is this!
  • Make fresh pasta from scratch – yep!
  • Publish a book – this is happening! This is a weird one as I’d kind of decided it wasn’t something I wanted to do after all, and then TWO DAYS before my 40th birthday a publisher emailed me out of the blue. If that’s not fate then I don’t know what is.
  • Have a family portrait done – yep, we did this one! Courtesy of Life is Crawsome
  • Get a tattoo – done! 

  • Go to a make-up counter for a makeover and learn how to actually put on make-up like a grown-up – I’ve done this! Sometimes I even put the make up on…
  • Have something custom made – yes! I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding in August 2016 and had my dress made. 

  • Sleep overnight on a train in a proper bunk, Hercule Poirot style.
  • Buy a house – Done! Who’d have thought it!

I was tempted to add ‘become debt free’ but I fear it may rather conflict with the other 39. If you’ve counted, you may see that there are only 39 things on the list – I’m leaving one for luck in case anything else amazing occurs to me.

So there we go! Not long left now… If you can help with any of the outstanding ones then please let me know!




  1. 16 April, 2013 / 10:37 am

    Great list! Some of them are very brave, like singing in public! Yikes, I would never be that brave, but then I can’t sing. I love the idea of visiting every house you have lived in. I’m quite sentimental about that kind of thing so I’d love to do that too, especially my childhood home.

    You have got me all worked up about having a list to do before I’m 50 x

    • admin
      16 April, 2013 / 10:58 am

      The singing thing wouldn’t have to be a solo – I was thinking maybe I could join a choir? I have sung before, but only in school plays, never as a grown-up :-)

      The house thing I reckon could be a interesting. I have lived in about 30 different houses, although all of them in this country and quite a few in the same area! It would be good to have a record and some photos though I thought. Maybe it’s age, but I sort of want to do it as a legacy thing if that makes sense.

      You should go for it! Let me know what makes it onto your list :-)

  2. 16 April, 2013 / 11:03 am

    Dress up as Superwoman and help old people with their shopping bags!

    • admin
      16 April, 2013 / 1:42 pm

      Phahahaha! Love that one!!

  3. 16 April, 2013 / 11:13 am

    Brilliant! I now want to go to Iceland in my swimmers (the shop, not the country). Hear you on the Orient Express – can I come? (You could double that one with the mystery solving of course). Bestival is a good festival to go to solo, or so I hear. Michelin starred restaurant? -The Bath Priory for midweek lunch – bargainissimo :)

    • admin
      16 April, 2013 / 11:52 am

      I’m actually on the case with the restaurant one – my mum is taking me to the one in Westbury on Trym as a birthday lunch. Is it any good? It’s called Casamia I think.

      • 19 April, 2013 / 1:28 pm

        noooo go to a decent one that place is not great …

  4. 16 April, 2013 / 12:28 pm

    this is a great list – I snorted at the Iceland one! I always wanted to go on the TRans Siberian Express as a teen but not sure my old bones would take being cramped up in a bunk for 10,000km now. seeing your solving a mystery one has just prompted me to buy a couple of Sherlock Holmes accessories for an upcoming girls weekend!
    I look forward to following your progress….

    • admin
      16 April, 2013 / 1:43 pm

      I’ve always wanted to do that too, until I saw a TV programme about it… It my head it was much more Hercule Poirot luxury train travel!

  5. 16 April, 2013 / 1:53 pm

    Great list. I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland to swim in one of the thermal pools. I look forward to seeing what other goals get on the list.

    • admin
      17 April, 2013 / 11:37 am

      Thanks! I’m really looking forward to it too :-)

  6. 16 April, 2013 / 2:43 pm

    Looks like you plan to do a lot of travelling! :) Although originally from Poland, I have never visited Auschwitz…I really want to go there but it might get too emotional so right now I am just waiting for the “proper moment” .
    The Bosphorus is beautiful! I visited Turkey many times and recommend it to everyone. Especially that with Istanbul the time of the year to go there isn’t really a big deal – most of the times the weather there is perfect for sightseeing.

    • admin
      17 April, 2013 / 11:37 am

      Yes, I need some cheap things too I think! Good to know about the weather – in so many places it really can make or break a trip.

  7. 16 April, 2013 / 7:32 pm

    I think “win the lottery” might be an essential!

    I’d add something daft like learn to ride a unicycle. Some kind of skill with no obvious use aside from bragging that you can do it.

    • admin
      17 April, 2013 / 11:36 am

      I think it would Lorraine! I do need some silly things too to balance out the ones that involve going to another country!

  8. 17 April, 2013 / 5:35 am

    I just laughed and snorted so loud my husband jumped in bed. ‘…When I do things like accidentally book a holiday to Iceland through Groupon. *cough*’

    I hear you, sister.

    I’ve had a list like this for just under a year now, and the only things I’ve managed to cross off it is seeing The Beat (80’s group) perform live and try Tom Yum Soup. Unfortunately this did not occur in Thailand. I’m 37 in 3 weeks, it’s not looking promising #aimlowertryharder

    • admin
      17 April, 2013 / 11:34 am

      I have just downloaded the app you see – it’s all to easy…

      *rushes out to buy warm clothes*

      • 4 October, 2015 / 6:46 pm

        I’ve just found this post, googling for ideas for my own list (I’m stuck on 28…) and as I’m reading the comments I see Michelle G, and I think, oooooh that’s my name! That she wanted to see the Beat off her list, well, what impeccable taste, one of my favourite groups. And she is exactly the same age as me too!

        Yes. It’s my comment. I think number 29 could be to work on memory exercises?

        • Jo Middleton
          7 October, 2015 / 5:56 pm

          Hahaha! This made me laugh a lot! It’s exactly the kind of thing I do!! I was reading something about social media in a Mollie Makes recently and was thinking ‘this is jolly interesting’… I read a bit more, then thought ‘Hang on, this sounds familiar’… I’d only bloody written it. What a numpty. What’s on your list so far?

          • 7 October, 2015 / 6:46 pm

            Glad to see it’s not just me then! List includes – Hot air balloon… Food challenge (sans picture)… Learn a new lingo… Remarry hubby… Ghost hunt overnighter… all being well that’s next month with my other ‘about to turn 40’ school friends. Oh and see Lawson in concert, and meet a celeb. Guess who’s got Lawson VIP tickets for next month? Two for the price of one! Lawson indeed, I’m old enough to be their Mum. Fanmomming lol. Finally taking part in NaNoWriMo… New glasses, expensive ones not the 21st century version of NHS ones that I’ve had to ensure for 34 years… Deleting Facebook. Oh and lose half my body weight Nothing too radical . The problem is I’m a boring sod, I’m not a thrill seeker at all. I don’t have a passport. And I’ve been a Mum for so long, since I was 19, that I genuinely don’t know who I am or what I want to do, when I finally challenge myself to do it? Meh.

          • Jo Middleton
            8 October, 2015 / 10:19 am

            I totally know what you mean Michelle about the not knowing. I’ve been a mum too since my teens and that definitely has an impact – we’ve spent so long thinking about other people that we’ve not had the chance yet to discover us!

  9. 19 April, 2013 / 1:27 pm

    Loved this …I am now over 50 so need to create my own…I have done 4 of yours guess which ones lol ! Great blog ….I could help you sing…

    • admin
      25 April, 2013 / 11:05 am

      Oooh, well I’m guessing maybe the singing one? Opera? Probably not the Ottoman mansion one…

  10. 24 April, 2013 / 9:57 am

    I don’t think I’ll be getting much done before turning 40 with two pre-school kids in tow but I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. A lie-in would feature high on the list too!

    • admin
      25 April, 2013 / 11:05 am

      When you have young children a lie in feels like the ultimate goal!

  11. 2 May, 2013 / 5:35 pm

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  12. 14 June, 2013 / 8:26 am

    I stumbled across your blog whilst looking for inspiration for my own ‘things to do before I’m 40’ list, which I only decided to do yesterday. I’m afraid I’m much nearer that age than you though! I really like your list and I’ve even pinched one of your ideas – singing in public – hope you don’t mind. Looking forward to reading about how you’re getting on.

  13. Georgie
    29 June, 2013 / 8:45 pm

    I’ve just turned 36 and feel the need to do something, this is such a great idea!

    I would highly recommend adding a skydive! I never thought I would do it, but my husband managed to get me to jump out of a plane at 12000 ft. He became my fiancé afterwards at the time, as he proposed to me when I landed.
    But anyway, it’s just so incredible and anyone can do it. Personally it’s less scary than telling a joke at the Edinburgh Festival ;).

    I look forward to reading about your adventures. Xx

  14. 8 July, 2013 / 11:35 pm

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  15. 9 September, 2013 / 2:45 pm

    What a great list! Don’t fret if you don’t finish it, there’s always 50 things before 50.

  16. 16 February, 2014 / 9:03 pm

    I googled 40 things to before forty and I’m so glad you’re list came up.

    I absolutely love the idea of visiting the houses I’ve lived in. There’s only been 4 before the one I’m in now, 2 of which are local but other 2 are miles away. So this will be done.

    Thanks and good luck

  17. 21 February, 2014 / 11:12 pm

    Wonderful list! Auschwitz is fantastic!

  18. 28 June, 2015 / 8:11 pm

    I absolutely love this post. I have only just turned 30 this year but am already stressing about the next ‘big’ birthday. I am going to start my own list and make it a much more fun way of counting down the next 9 (and a bit!) years. Thanks for sharing!

  19. 8 January, 2016 / 10:10 pm

    Haha I also manage to ‘accidently’ book holidays through Groupon. The latest one is Budapest.. You’ve got a great list there. I like the idea of visiting all the Counties in the England.

    • Jo Middleton
      11 January, 2016 / 3:24 pm

      The counties one was really fun. I know loads of people dream of travelling all over the world, but we live in such an amazing country, it seems a shame not to make the most of that first at least.

  20. Laura Walker
    19 April, 2017 / 10:52 am

    Love this I’ve started a bucket list with my husband and we have made a start already. He has done a driving day and we have both done clay pigeon shooting.

    • Jo Middleton
      19 April, 2017 / 11:09 am

      That’s very cool! What else is on the list?

      • Laura Walker
        23 April, 2017 / 9:16 am

        My husband wants to do the big zip wire when we go to Wales in July, (we get each other experiences/one from the list as birthday/Christmas gifts now). I’m pregnant and terrified of heights so off the list for me! I do like the idea of visiting all the counties

  21. 22 March, 2018 / 6:00 pm

    I love your list and how many dones you’ve achieved. I’m the other side of 40 and can only tick off 1 ( take a decent photo) with plans to try home made lemon curd at some point!

    • Jo Middleton
      22 March, 2018 / 9:20 pm

      Definitely give my lemon curd recipe a go, it’s super easy!

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