Over the past couple of years, we’ve all had more than enough of restrictions, staying home and being just that little bit (or possibly a lot) worried about the pandemic. During that time, many of us have escaped our everyday reality with imagining the things we would most love to do or achieve in our lives when the world gets back to normal. We certainly have!
We’re sharing with you some of the items on our carefully considered Bucket List, you might find them inspirational.
TAKE TO THE WAVES
Boating, in this part of the world, tends to conjure up images of motor-powered yachts, from small to immense, slicing their way through the waves. Even the traditional dhows have engines these days. But the lure of the sailing boat is what’s captured our hearts. Gliding gently and silently into the sunset as the wind ruffles the sails. A pretty picture, no? However, for our bucket list, gently gliding could not be further from our minds. We’re all about action and one of life’s really big adventures, in the form of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. A biennial race that takes paying amateur crews on one or more legs of a circumnavigation of the globe. Eleven specially-designed identical yachts take part with professional skippers and other qualified people, alongside the volunteers, on a 10-month journey.
The beauty of this race is that you don’t have to be an experience sailor to take part. There’s a four-week training period for volunteers carried out aboard the yachts they’ll be crewing and the vessels carry a double crew including the professionals.
A great way to get started is to check out www. clipperroundtheworld.com and maybe think about booking some lessons in our somewhat milder waters to get a taste for sailing sans motor – it’s actually a great fitness activity and a good way to meet new friends.
So, this year, we’ll be heading to Regatta Sailing Academy, clutching our motion sickness pills and taking a step towards the adventure of a lifetime.
Did you spend your childhood with your head in a book or engrossed in an electronic reading device? Did you make up stories, probably never sharing them with anyone? All common things for kids, right? But, did that obsession with storytelling carry on into later life? Always scribbling story ideas on scraps of preciously preserved paper or, more likely these days, making notes on your phone that you keep meaning to develop? Then you, my friend, are a frustrated writer!
Now, we may make our living writing the words you see each month but that doesn’t stop us dreaming of becoming published authors – you know, the next J.K. Rowling or E.L. James (only better written, of course).
But seriously, never mind the book tours, celebrity and multi-million-dollar publishing deals; for us, the candle of that childhood dream still burns bright after all these years and we would love to see our names on the cover of a bona fide book.
And it turns out that, these days, there’s an alternative to the traditional hunt for an agent and publisher. Options such as self-publishing on Amazon and other websites is now both common and, potentially, quite lucrative.
If you share our dream start out by joining a writers’ group to instill discipline and get feedback. Carve out some time each day to write. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, it’s a start and will become a good habit. And never, ever stop scribbling down those ideas – you just never know what might become the next blockbuster. Meanwhile, we’re scanning lists of publishers and promising to get that already half written book out of the note pad and onto our screen.
BAILA FLAMENCO EN MADRID
Hands up all those who’ve ever watched a dance movie or performance and wished they could move like that. Whether it be the suppressed energy and forbidden ambition of the ballet in Billy Elliot, the classic disco moves of Saturday Night Fever or watching Kpop heroes Omega taking on super-hard dance challenges on Tik Tok, there’s a dance (and a dance video) for absolutely everyone. For us, it’s the passion of Flamenco. The drama and sinuous rhythm of the music matched to the stamping and tapping of the dancers’ feet, the women’s dresses, the castanets, guitars and eloquent reminiscence of times almost past. In 2010 flamenco was recognised by Unesco as part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and references to the music date back to 1774. It originated among the Gypsy people of southern Spain and went on to become a worldwide phenomenon.
These days, the Spanish capital, Madrid, is recognised as the home of the world’s best flamenco and we’d love nothing better than to visit and experience this musical art form ourselves. But we know that this inspiring but technical dance style is not one to be emulated without significant study and practise.
Of course, the obvious step is to take classes but if, like us, you can’t find a flamenco class locally or simply can’t fit regular sessions into a busy schedule, we suggest beginning with any form of dance to get your body moving from following flamenco videos online to joining in a salsa class at your local bar or even just shaking your booty around the kitchen at home.
Before you know it, restrictions allowing, you’ll be booking your flights and getting immersed in the world of Spanish dance.
BEST FOOT FORWARD
We have to admit that this one’s smacks of ‘New Year, New You’ but it’s honestly been a long-held ambition to compete in a triathlon. Yes, we’re desk jockeys who can raise a sweat just coming up the stairs to the office but this is something that’s been on the radar for several years. We simply love the idea of being among the wetsuit-clad hoards throwing themselves en masse into the region’s somewhat chilly winter waters to complete the swim part of the challenge then exiting the water to bike or run the next stage.
However, there’s the small inconvenience of our current fitness levels, or lack thereof, to consider. So, how to begin? Well, first things first, if you’re a non-swimmer, then you need to learn. The distance for a mini or super sprint triathlon can be as low as 400km for the swim but, trust us, that can feel like an awfully long way if you’re not a particularly strong swimmer. So, learn and then swim regularly building up your distance. Most of us have ridden a bike at some stage but how many could set out cold and take on a 10km ride in the morning? Yeah, but no! Get yourself a comfortable bike, join a cycling club to make sure you have regular sessions and get pedaling.
Not a runner? Then we recommend the Couch to 5k running programme which was developed by the UK’s National Health Service and has been taken up by would-be runners all over the world. You can find details at www.nhs.uk and there are loads of apps you can download to help. It’s also a good idea to join a local running group such as Qatar Running Club for regular meets and details of events. Put them all together and get ready for the run, ride and swim of your life.
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
If you’ve ever watched TV or online documentaries of African wildlife, from the big five – elephants, lions, leopards, rhino and buffalo – to their slightly less famous but still wonderful counterparts, such as giraffe and impala, you can’t help but be enthralled by these amazing creatures. And, if you’re anything like us, at least one item on your bucket list involves getting up close and personal with some of them. Of course, you could go on a safari, which are available with varying levels of comfort and luxury and daily or twice-daily game drives. But, if you really want to get to know these incredible animals, then imagine volunteering at a sanctuary or game reserve where you are sure to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience while learning more about these creatures, their habitats and the people who live alongside them.
Harnas Wildlife Foundation, in Namibia, has a great backstory and a good reputation. Or check out wildlifeact.com for ethical projects across the African continent.
To get involved closer to home, you could begin by sponsoring an animal on any of the volunteer projects which will usually get you updates on your refuge resident as well as species-specific info. Or try volunteering at a local animal sanctuary such as Bahrain Animal Rescue Centre or the BSPCA to get a feel for what it’s like to actually be around animals. You can find information for both on social media.
This one might be the most important to achieve. Because it’s about giving back to Mother Earth. The Emissions Gap Report 2021 indicated a global rise of 2.7 degrees in temperature by the end of the century, which is well above the goals of the Paris climate agreement and is expected to lead to catastrophic changes in Earth’s temperature. So why not play your own little part in making a change. Your carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases you produce as you live your life. You can use an online website carbonfootprint.com to find out how much you’re doing and what happens if you take some steps. Calculating carbon footprint includes approximately how many kilometres you travel by car, bus, train and plane, the energy usage in your home, your spending on shopping and the composition of your diet.
Some of our suggestions to reduce your carbon footprint? For starters eat low on the food chain. This means eating fruits, veggies, greens and beans. Opt for organic and local products that are in season. This will reduce transporting food from places far away — reducing the emissions caused by trucks, ships or rail.
Avoid buying fast fashion and instead opting for recycled, sustainable clothing is also a step forward. To directly impact the environment positively, you can also pledge to planting trees, two trees every week. This would result in you planting 104 trees in one year alone.
ADVENTURE AT ALTITUDE
If adventure is one of your pursuits, then hiking Mount Kilimanjaro should definitely be on your list. It’s tough, long and challenges you to the core in the most beautiful way. You’ll get to experience so many different backdrops in one hit. The journey from the base to the peak is quite similar to travelling from the equator to Antarctica in a matter of a few days as the path spans over five distinct ecological zones, from rain forest to the frozen zones, with temperatures almost below freezing. Layering up and layering down is just a part of it whilst trekking through it.
Just when you start thinking it’s getting cold, the weather will change tremendously encouraging you to strip down to shorts. This is the beauty of this place. Navigating slowly through the steep and treacherous mudslides — rock by rock and step by step.
We’d be lying to you if we said hiking ‘Kili’ is easy. Because it’s not. You’ll have to be prepared for at least three to eight hours of hiking a day for five to 11 days straight, so you will definitely need to get in shape. On your feet and let’s go!
BRING ON THE BAND
It’s time to stop pretending to pin a favourite guitar solo in the shower. Step up and take the lead. Whether you dream of swaying crowds of people or playing something for your own self enjoyment and peace, a musical instrument can for sure help you express your thoughts in a way better way. All it’ll require of you is a little patience and voila! You’ll find the hidden artist in you. Start with online courses first and get familiar with the type of instrument and its levels before joining a class physically. With online courses you’ll start with the basics, going from learning how to hold the instrument and then to playing easy scales and chords. It’s always a good idea to begin by producing or reproducing simple rhythms to get familiar with keys and which string makes which voice when struck with a specific force or pressure.
If you master that quickly, then this is just the first level of many different advanced-level journeys. Also, don’t just practise solo. Whatever you learn, play it for others, in front of others — so they can give you honest feedback and root for you to do even better.
It is totally okay if you have no prior knowledge of music notes. You only need to practise for half an hour each day to see major improvements. So, are you set to surprise your friends with a little performance the next time you all gather?
HEAD TO THE HIMALAYAS
Meditation and retreat together is a proven process for training your mind to focus, directing your thoughts, increasing awareness of yourself and your surroundings and connecting with your higher self. What better than sitting, breathing and going for inner and outer adventure that could lead to a life transforming experience of growth and self-discovery.
The best way to maximise relaxation is by getting closer to nature. Breathing in and out in a fertile valley that provides isolation from the rest of the world in an idyllic, utopian environment of sorts. Biting organic apricots, cherries, grapes, plums and peaches while absorbing the breathtaking year-round scenery is something you need to start your year. Off-grid destination for American and European backpackers since the 1990s, Hunza, located in the Himalayas (northern part of Pakistan) is a place to be this year. Even arriving there requires you to slow down. Rough passages and steep ridges will excite you to forego the Jeep and trek through on your own two feet.
Serena Hotel in Hunza offers detoxifying hydrotherapy spa treatments overlooking the valley for a perfect getaway. There are several meditation sessions offered there as well, on an open-air terrace that works really well to help connect your energies. It’s a proven thing: all the stress and negativity that you take with you will be washed away effortlessly, leaving you with a feeling of just being. No wonder, the Hunza tribe, one of the most mysterious tribes on Earth, lead the happiest and healthiest life with an average life span of 100 years.
PICK UP A PAINTBRUSH
Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Even if you don’t, give it a chance. Try your hand at canvas and pursuing painting as it has massive potential to promote positive mental health. Painting helps to let it all out and express yourself and your emotions. Such creative activity can enable a person to process the stress and strain more successfully, whilst also giving a creative, calm perspective to situations.
So where to start? When it comes to paints, there are many different types you can choose from. However, three main options to consider are watercolours, oils and acrylics. It’s all about flexibility and looking for what works for you. However, if you’re new at it — try oil paints. A little expensive and they take time to dry out but once dried you can always repaint and add layering. So, there’s room for mistakes and redoing everything all over again. But also, there’s nothing that’s a mistake in art — art is just art.
Once you’ve got all the relevant materials, putting everything on canvas might still be a task you can’t quite get a hang of. You can draw inspiration from your surroundings. From a vase of flowers on your credenza to the outside view you see. Something simple could make such a stunning minimalistic piece of art. Don’t strive for perfection at once, but just try to explore your colour palette and what you like to make out of it.