1,001 Days Later

From September 2012 to June 2015, I tried to take on 101 different adventures. Here’s what happened.

1,001 days. The number has symmetry and the sound of the phrase has a poetic ring to it. When you divide it up into more conventional measures of time, then it becomes more awkward– two years, eight months, and twenty-nine days. In that amount of time, I’ve managed to donate blood, catch a fish, learn a little bit of Hindi, visit the Jelly Belly factory,  make crêpes, go a full year without paying rent, and go on a safari in Botswana, and accomplish dozens of other adventures.

I’d find myself sitting in an open jeep and staring at a pack of elephants with a couple of new friends from Iceland, thinking, how bizarre the situations I find myself in and how alive they makes me feel.

All this started on a day in September 2012. I realized at that point that it had been exactly 1,000 days since the day that I began to live life deliberately. I started pursuing people and places and stories, taking pictures every day, and seeing life as a gift. I looked back over the thousand pictures I had taken since. Those days had introduced me to the girl I started dating, pushed me to live a life of greater faith, and seen me through the end of college.

That September, I lived in Torrance, California, working for the organization Liberty in North Korea. I started thinking about what the next thousand days might hold. The past couple of years had brought about so many life changes. I did the math and noted that a thousand days from that point would bring me to June 2015. A lot of life changes would happen in that time period as well, I figured. But I didn’t want these changes to be passive. Like the changes over the past couple of years, I wanted it to be a deliberate transformation.

Of all the stories I’d come across, the ones that spoke to me most were stories of individuals taking on ambitious quests. Things like walking across the United States or reuniting trafficked children with their families. These stories gave me an indescribable sense of what it was like to come alive. But I had trouble picking a single quest for myself. My life was full of diverse interests, engagements, and curiosities, and I realized that’s what I had to work with.

I raised the number of days to sound cooler. I made a list of 101 things to accomplish in the next 1,001 days.

Some of these were quite ambitious, like visiting fifteen countries I had never been to before or living with orphans. Others were much more on the simple side, like paying for somebody behind me in line or going on a picnic in the park. Some were practical, like trying to finally read every book on my shelf (I had that terrible habit of buying at a much faster rate than I read), and some were things I had planned on doing with my life anyway… like getting into grad school.

Over the next two years and eight months, I had to fight to keep up my dedication to the 1,001 Day Quest. There were times when life would keep me occupied for months at a time. But, things still began to get crossed off.

While Matt and I were on a road trip to Oregon, we realized Seattle wasn’t that far away, and so I accomplished item number eight. That trip sparked the inspiration for my book, If Not For Second Chances, which allowed me to cross off number eighteen.

When I moved to Bakersfield, I heard a lot of jokes about there not being much to do. The truth is, I quickly got over that and found an awesome, local volunteer opportunity mentoring a boy (number twenty-three), attended a roller derby match (ninety-five), and learned some Latin dance (thirteen).

1,001 days inevitably passed. When they did, I discovered I was right about life drastically changing. I had called a number of different places home and now lived in Oregon. I had gone back to graduate school after two years away. The biggest change of all was that when the time ended, I was just two days away from my wedding day. My life would change even more, and I would embark on an even bigger adventure.

It wasn’t a total success, in terms of completion. Of the 101 things I had hoped to do, I had accomplished 81. I never did get that tattoo or make friends from all fifty states. At some point soon, I should probably reflect entirely upon those missing items and what I learned from those failures. Also… I promised $5 for every uncompleted item, so I suppose it’s time to donate $95 to LiNK!

But in another sense, these 81 successful adventures were a way bigger success than I could’ve ever anticipated.

I discovered quite a bit… from thirty varieties of ethnic food across California, to twenty local coffee shops, and ten independent book stores. And I learned a whole lot. From all the brainy new ideas I picked up watching 30 TED Talks in a month to the year’s worth of lessons learned I recorded.

Life got way more colorful as a result. I’ll always remember New Years of 2013, hosting a board game night at an IKEA. Or the pizza party thrown at Lizard’s mouth. Some moments were totally priceless.

There was item seventy-seven, visiting a refugee camp. I had a deep-down knowing that this was something I was supposed to do, something I needed to experience with my own eyes, and I had no idea how to get there. I had no connections, and a lot of the offers you’d find online for this sort of thing are sketchy or less-than-ethical. But, I was persistent, and discovered a family friend. We eventually found ourselves on a rickety plane to a small airport in Mae Sot Thailand, where two Karen refugees would pick us up and take us deep into their camp. As we walked through the shops, where the jungle got deeper and the huts more densely packed, I realized that a combination of patience, determination, and wonder could lead to some truly beautiful scenes.

Moments like these prepared me for the next step of life. A little more fulfilled. A little more patient. I can’t explain how, but these mini-adventures all had a hand in preparing me to be a better husband, and for all the adventures I’ll go on with my new wife.

More on that to come!


The List:

  1. See fifteen new countries (15/15)
  2. Find a job for one year before grad school
  3. Make a gingerbread house
  4. See Andrew Bird Live
  5. Eat thirty different flavors of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream… (13/30)
  6. Be published in another blog or magazine
  7. Completely downsize my wardrobe
  8. Visit Seattle
  9. Reunite with 10 geographically distant friends (10/10)
  10. Put down roots in a new city where I plan to live long term
  11. Read every book by Donald Miller
  12. Catch a fish
  13. Learn the basics of a Latin dance
  14. Audition for something
  15. Take a random class to acquire a new skill
  16. Start a modest map collection
  17. See major or minor league baseball games in five different stadiums (1/5)
  18. Write a book
  19. Earn frequent flyer miles
  20. Visit Latin America once again
  21. Make my own beef jerky
  22. Visit 5 National Parks (5/5)
  23. Find an awesome, local, volunteer opportunity
  24. Make lemonade
  25. Shoot a roll with a just-for-fun film camera
  26. Return to Europe, see at least 8 new countries (8/8)
  27. Learn how to drive stick
  28. Go on a safari
  29. Discover 30 great restaurants in California of 30 different ethnic cuisines (30/30)
  30. Make ten new friends from ten different countries (10/10)
  31. Run into the ocean at midnight
  32. Have friends in all 50 states (21/50)
  33. Go on a picnic in the park
  34. Live with orphans
  35. Paint a picture
  36. Attend a poetry read or spoken word performance
  37. Have a sit down lunch with 10 leaders (10/10)
  38. Watch a taping of a late night show or game show
  39. Go biking in Northern California
  40. Discover 20 new favorite coffee shops (20/20)
  41. Raise the funds for a life-saving mission
  42. Attend a Quaker gathering
  43. Own a French Press
  44. Watch 30 amazing documentaries (30/30)
  45. Visit 10 independent bookstores (10/10)
  46. Participate in a Color Run
  47. Visit fifteen new states  (15/15)
  48. Visit fifty new cities (50/50)
  49. Visit the Jelly Belly Factory
  50. Order prints of my pictures for a wall
  51. Read every book on my shelf
  52. See Band of Horses Live
  53. Throw a wine and cheese party
  54. Come up with 30 memorable dates for Deanna (30/30)
  55. Rap
  56. Pay for someone behind me in line
  57. Play board games at IKEA
  58. Start a modest tea collection
  59. Find a mentor
  60. Go on a camping trip
  61. Have a stargazing pizza party
  62. Mail a care package every month for a year (12/12)
  63. Make crêpes
  64. Intern or work for a social justice organization
  65. Find a bargain flight of spontaneity
  66. Catch up on all seasons of Dexter
  67. Go to a book signing
  68. Get in the habit of letter writing
  69. Visit the South
  70. Make my own popsicles
  71. Attend a weekend music festival
  72. Visit Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park
  73. Pay for someone else’s groceries
  74. Attend a stage production
  75. Get into graduate school
  76. Be in a wedding party
  77. Visit a refugee camp
  78. Climb a mountain over 5,000 feet
  79. Record something new I’ve learned each day for a year
  80. Study a language with a non-romantic script
  81. Pay no rent for twelve months (12/12)
  82. Go to a dueling piano bar
  83. See Vampire Weekend Live
  84. Go on a weekend retreat
  85. Go pescatarian for a month
  86. Watch 30 TED Talks in 30 Days
  87. Learn about the human rights issues in North Korea, Burma, and Tibet
  88. Go on a ski/snow trip
  89. Visit either Nepal or Mongolia or Thailand
  90. Study a new language
  91. Write 12 new songs (12/12)
  92. Give away 20 things
  93. Collect a patch or sticker of every country I’ve visited
  94. See Matt & Kim live
  95. Attend a roller derby match
  96. Donate blood
  97. Go on a trip with my mom
  98. Get a tattoo
  99. Take 100 portraits (100/100)
  100. Have a mission statement

PLUS– Goal #101, which I’ve kept secret for most of the time, was to propose to Deanna. That was the biggest success of them all.

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