Living with intentions

Make your actions count.

For anyone who has ever been involved in the Jesuit sect of Catholicism, the idea of living with intention is probably ingrained in your head. I may not be much of a believer in organized religion, but I do like the idea of making each of your actions count. This is something the Jesuits do right.

The definition of intention is to have aim or an objective. This idea fits perfectly in the idea of living to do. For myself personally, I know living with intention revolves around the little things in life. It’s easy to get into a rhythm that doesn't necessarily lead to moving forward, but having intention can help you move past this.

Like many people in my generation, I can get sucked into the black hole known was the World Wide Web. It’s so easy to come home from work, school or just wake up and flip on the laptop and zone out. 15 minutes can turn into hours, and that free time you had to read, write or pursue something you love quickly disappears. This is where intention can help you grow.

Living with intention doesn’t mean having no fun, and it doesn’t mean having no down time either. What it means is being aware of your actions and making them count, even your down time. This awareness allows you to monitor your time spent and become more efficient with those precious minutes.

Make your actions count and become aware of where your time is devoted. This small act can cause small changes in schedule, which will help you to become the person who achieves their goals in life. 

Make a soundtrack to your life

It’s going to be a movie someday anyway, so why not?

OK, your life may never be made into a television movie starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. But that doesn’t mean you can’t design your own soundtrack to fit your whole life just for kicks. We do it for weddings and funerals, so why not life itself?

To begin, I suppose you could start with whatever song was playing when you were conceived, though that might gross you out to even KNOW it to begin with. So maybe skip that one and go with something your mom played while you were in utero, or maybe something she sang to you as a lullaby. I’m racking my brain to remember anything like this from my own childhood but I can’t, so I have no ideas to share. You could use the one I sang for my daughter, “Tiny Dancer,” if you don’t have one. I don’t mind sharing and neither does she.

Next you might want to add something from your childhood, which, for me, is a mixed tape of Roxette, The Supremes, MC Hammer, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on tour soundtrack. Yeah, I wouldn’t listen to my life soundtrack if I were you. How about sharing some of yours and maybe I’ll borrow them? We can swap songs. In all seriousness, though, this should be something that helps you remember your life, so it’s better to go with what you really listened to or remember.

Your teen years will probably feature some of the most powerful, memorable songs for you. Don’t we all get through those years with the help of our favorite songs? Even though the late 90s/early 2000s were my teen years, I still identify more with oldies music—stuff from the 60s, 70s, and 80s—best because that’s what my parents mostly listened to. My boyfriend and I would just lay in my room listening to records—Journey, ELO, Kansas, REO Speedwagon—and ponder the meaning of life. Or just hold hands and wish we were alone and making out. There’s some country music that reminds me of that time, too. Of course, if you play some Radiohead or Nirvana or Beck or Marcy Playground, yes, it’s going to bring up some powerful memories, too.

Right now, as a mom, you might think that my life soundtrack revolves around Raffi or Ella Jenkins or the Laurie Berkner Band, and yes, we’ve listened to them. But my daughter often asks for Led Zeppelin, the Cranberries, or Adele in the car; she is six and already has some taste, in my opinion. It’s when she asks for “The Final Countdown” I get worried…

How about making your own Life Soundtrack and sharing it here at Living to Do?

Riding a bike through Southeast Asia

I remember going to get my motorcycle license with my Dad when I was 18. We both had on thick jeans, flannel shirts and heavy duty riding boots. We went to the mall a few minutes down from our house and met our classmates. After I got my license, I never bought a bike. Maybe it was because I didn’t have much time for work while in university, or maybe it was because I never put working toward a bike at the top of my priority list.

Part of my trip to Asia is to help me learn to execute and live with intention. I wanted to travel and live abroad, and one day I decided to do it. This is the same with any item on a bucket list. To make it happen, it needs to be at the forefront of your mind each day. It needs to be at the heart of your actions, and you need to shape your life to make sure you can achieve your goal.

My newest bucket list item is becoming a reality. I decided, on a whim, to buy my first motorcycle in Thailand and ride it through Southeast Asia. I knew the price I wanted, I knew the model and instead of getting discouraged while looking for it, I pushed through. I now own a Honda Win from a year that expired before I was born, and I couldn’t be happier. I know mechanical issues will pop up, and that I’ll probably get stranded. This is all part of the adventure I decided to accept at put at the top of my priority list. 

Revolving bucket lists

This past week I found myself spending time in Malaysia with an incredibly caring Muslim girl from Borneo (non peninsular Malaysia), and an adventurous, wandering soul from Chile. We spent time hashing out many ideas and questions we had about one another’s culture, but mostly spoke about bucket lists. We all had similar items on our lists, which surprised me, but when we talked about family and future, our lists seemed to change. The idea of fluctuation with age came into play, and I started to question if the list was less than static?

I’ve currently been traveling for almost two months, and I’ve been blessed to meet some great people. It’s been enlightening seeing how people out of their mid-to-late twenties continue to travel beyond the week or two of paid vacation. This gave me the hope that I could be a life long traveler. In the same regard, speaking with my Malaysian friend, she believes that after marriage and childbirth, she hopes to stop traveling to focus more on her family. 

She currently is a strong and independent girl who lives alone, while working away from her parents and home. She chose this life, which she thrives in, but hopes to return home and settle down. This was eye opening to me, but the more she began to explain, and the better I got to know her, this concept really made sense. It made me also reexamine where I want to be when I meet the right person, and whether wandering will eventually leave me.

I have a set bucket list and I look at it knowing that things will be added along the way. The question, now, is if with time it too will change.

Traveling for an Extended Period of Time

"What made this journey possible was taking the initiative to save and plan"

I’ve had the idea to travel ruminating in my brain for some time. In fact, for two years straight it was all I thought about. I went over different itineraries, thought about how long I could feasibly travel for, and even became as thrifty as I could. Nice dinners transformed to rice and beans, and the active life of a mid-twenty something became less and less outrageous. Each penny saved meant more time abroad.


For the first two years after my university, I worked, saved, and planned for my epic adventure. I wasn’t certain when it would actually come or if I would have the guts to quit work and go. As time went on, though, and my bank account started to take form while my job became less engaging, I knew the time was soon.

In May of this year I decided to leave my job and comfy life in Boulder, Colorado to travel for as long as my money will allow me. I’ve started my journey in Southeast Asia, and plan to stay here until December. After returning home for a wedding and Christmas, I plan to travel to India in January and February, then do some temp work in Australia, then continue to travel in Oz, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Indonesia.


What made this journey possible was taking the initiative to save and plan. I researched where  the most cost efficient places to travel are, what my budget needs to be, and where I can work and Couch Surf to save money. Though it seems like a dream, traveling, writing, and enjoying living free has become a reality. 

Create a life list

You’ve got one to-do list; how about one of what you’ve already done?

I am a huge fan of Laura Grace Weldon. She is incredibly inspirational in the homeschooling world; I am reading and loving her book, Free Range Learning, right now. Today Weldon shared a post on her blog about creating life lists that I thought would be very appropriate to share on our Living to Do space here.

When we make Living to Do lists, we list things we want to do in our lives—travel the world, touch a llama, make maple syrup, whatever (yes, these are all from my own list!). Laura’s life lists, however, are about the things that we have already done in our lives that make them so special as they are right now.This is so powerful to me because it allows us to acknowledge all of the amazing things we’ve already done. So what if you haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower yet? You’ve already had a child or saved an animal from death or heard an ancient tale from a grandparent or read a book that changed the way you view your life or…! There are so many things we can list about our lives that allow us to really see not only what we’ve accomplished, which is nice, but more importantly, what we value and how lucky we already are today.

Weldon suggests creating different lists for different themes—favorite movies, things in nature, and several other categories can be found at her website. I love that idea, but I also think you could make a general list of “100 Things I Have Done!” or “50 Moments That Moved Me.” I also think that we could all not only save time but also make more authentic lists if we did this list before we make our Living To Do/ Bucket Lists (now I tell you, right?).

That way, we can really evaluate what we’ve already done and decide if we really do need to drink champagne in Champagne, or if it’s really just a prosaic notion in and of itself and that drinking said champagne on New Year’s Eve beneath a warm, glowing Christmas tree with our partner, slowly kissing each other and tasting the sweet bubbles as Dick Clark makes his final countdown—and not even realizing it would be the last time we heard him as we luxuriously savored the beginning of yet another year together, celebrating something both well-known and brand-new again—is really enough already.

On the List: Sail across the ocean

I remember a day, a long, long time ago, when I was just a child.  It was on this day that I had what would be my first and only experience riding a vessel that road across water as opposed to earth or air.  I have always had a bit of fear concerning open water, being that I am not the best swimmer in the world, so taking part in an activity such as sailing (or even surfing) held little appeal.  Now that I’m coming along in years, I feel the need to revisit this experience.  And not just a simple whale-watching tour like I did when I was a young lad, but a full-fledged trip across the ocean, from the coast of one continent to the next.

I don’t know much about boats.  Well, to be honest I know absolutely nothing about them other than what I’ve managed to learn from watching pirate movies.  Consequently, I’d want to bring someone along with me.  That ruins the point of the trip in a small way, but it’s probably better than getting lost at sea (or not even being able to leave the dock).

My goal in being in the middle of hundreds of miles of open water would be to enjoy that beautiful solitude.  One can have similar meditations in places such as the wide-open desert, but I don’t think it would be quite the same.  The ocean is a potentially dangerous beast and can rise up to consume you at any time.  Add to that my fear of drowning and it could by quite cathartic.

I’d probably have to debate whether a simple sailboat or a yacht would be the best course.  While all the amenities that a yacht has could be much more comfortable in the long run, I’m afraid that I’d really just end up below decks playing X-BOX all day if that option were available.  Sure it would be safer, but the point of the trip would be lost.

I think everyone should spend some time at sea, especially considering it covers a large majority of our planet.  One of these days I shall find that boat and make my journey and perhaps even make it to the other side of wide open sea.  And when that time comes, I just hope that the ship’s captain is a cute, single lady instead of some old crusty sailor with a peg leg and a parrot.

Drive a motor home across the country

Decades ago, I had an encounter that I still vividly remember. I was at the gas station, and as I stood there waiting for my tank to fill, a truly enormous motorhome pulled up to the other side of the pump. It was the size of a tour bus, and when the driver hopped out, I assaulted him with questions. Actually I think I might have just said "WOW."

This was back in the late 90s, when the internet was still evolving. I was blown away, therefore, to learn that he was a telecommuter. He pointed to the satellite dish on the top of his motorhome and explained that it provided a satellite uplink for his email and web surfing. He received his paychecks via direct deposit, and spent his life driving around the country, with a new office location every day.

Some 15 years later, I still remember that dude, and I feel a twinge of jealousy. Last night I watched the first episode of "Stephen Fry In America" on Netflix Streaming, and it revived my old fantasy: to drive to every state in the continental United States. (A list that includes Alaska, but not Hawaii.)
The bottom has really fallen out of the motorhome market in the last few years. Motorhomes are the quintessential luxury item. And when financial times are tough, the first thing people sell is their motorhome. Plus the rising price of gas has made motorhomes increasingly less attractive as a vacation option. 
This means that these days, you can pick up a real land schooner for a pretty good deal. I found a used 31-foot motorhome on Cragislist for about $50,000. Which isn't that much money, given the price of a new car, and the fact that it literally has three times as much square footage as my cottage home!
I did some rough calculations and figured that it would be a minimum of 8,000 miles of driving to visit all 49 states. Your average motorhome gets about 10 miles to the gallon, which (at $3.50 per gallon) means that the trip would cost about $2800 in gas money. That starts to seem downright affordable, compared to rent or mortgage payments!
Realistically these numbers would end up higher, because you would probably do a certain amount of back-tracking. And it might take longer than a year just due to logistics: you would not want to be in the South during summer (so hot at night!) and you would not want to be in the Rockies or the Plains states in winter. And you would probably want to return to home base once or twice to see your family for holidays and such. But what an adventure it would be!

On the List: Underwater Shipwreck Exploration

Deep beneath the surface of the oceans and seas lie some of the most amazing remnants of history that will never been seen by most human beings.  Even those that would like a look can rarely get the opportunity to explore the world of underwater shipwrecks.  The skill involved to go diving and the sometimes extreme regulations on who can dive and where is enough to discourage most interested parties.  Still, if one knows where to look, shipwreck diving can be an adventurous experience and definitely deserves to be on everyone’s bucket list.

Unfortunately, most of the best wrecks are strictly off-limits.  They are considered archaeological sites and unless you work for the companies in charge of excavating and preserving them, you are highly unlikely to get a (legal) chance to view them.  On the plus side, there are several wrecks, including full graveyards of ships, which are serviced by tour groups that allow people the chance to not only find some of the coolest sites but provide them with 

everything they need to explore them.  Often these tours have glass-bottomed boats, so people with less inclination to get into the water can enjoy the show as well.

The joy of underwater wreck diving is motivated by more than just seeing a sunken ship up close.  One gets to explore the chambers of the wrecks as if they were any dry-land ruin.  Also, many forms of sea life make their home in and around the wrecks, adding one more exciting element to the journey.  Not to mention the wondrous landscape of the ocean floor.

While it might seem more exciting to just find a wreck and dive it yourself, the tours are probably the best way to go unless you’re 

a professional.  Figuring out where to find a site might be easy enough, but soloing a dive into an unfamiliar area can be quite dangerous.  Danger can be a welcome addition to a bucket list, but sometimes it’s better to just experience something and leave the death-defying for another day.

If you’re not afraid of the water, look toward some wreck diving in the future.  Once you’re lost in the dimly lit depths of water and ruins, you’ll hardly be disappointed with what you find.

On the List: Living in a war zone

My next entry on the bucket list is something that most people spend their entire lives trying to avoid - exposure to war and tragedy.  In my defense, however, I insist that no human being can truly experience the totality of existence without living in a region whereby they must look directly into the eye of the horrors than men are capable of.

Most of us here in the United States (and the Western world in general) have it pretty easy.  Food is readily available, shelter is rarely a problem and, even in the midst of a recession, we can always find at least a poorly paying job in order to keep ourselves alive.  I am not arguing that we don’t have our own degree of strife, poverty and violence, but it is simply not at the same level that people in war zones or famine-stricken countries have to deal with.

My goal in going to a war zone (or other aptly suffering area) would be to document my experience.  By living side-by-side and experiencing the same hardships

 that some others do, I would hope to gain a true understanding of it.  In understanding I might be able to capture its essence on film and relay the truth of the matter to the rest of the world.  Communications being what they are today, it’s not hard to distribute such things across the face of the Earth.

It’s definitely not without its risks, but few of the greatest things that one can do in life are risk-free.  Helping my fellow human beings by documenting their plight and, if lucky, bringing attention to it, would be an act worthy of living for.  And, if fate chose to make it so, worthy of dying for.  It may seem idealistic or even foolish, but at least one mark that every human being should make 

on the world is one that helps the world move forward and become a better place for all.