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Life List – My First 12 Months (2016)

A blonde women in sunglasses and a cowboy hat sitting on a brown horse in a countryside setting

Updated on March 27th, 2023

Some call it a Bucket List. However, the idea of “things to do before you die” was a little too close to home for me. It contains 117 things and if you would like to see the full list see my post What’s on my Life List. If you would like to know more about my reasons for compiling this list, please see About Me. Here, I give you the Life List – My First 12 Months (2016)”

My Life List


At the start of 2016, I felt it was time to refocus on what I wanted to achieve & where I wanted to go so I came up with my Life List.

If you would like to create your own Life or Bucket List, then don’t miss my post on Simple Bucket List Ideas for inspiration.

What have I achieved so far?

In the first year, I ticked 12 things off my list, so its clearly working – here are some details on the more interesting ones…

24. Learn Spanish

The one continent (apart from 45. Antarctica) that has always been on my list to visit is South America. To do this & enjoy it more I felt it was important to learn Spanish (as well as to challenge a long-held self-belief that I’m not good at languages). I started by taking a one hour class with a teacher once a week at home in the UK. This was enough to give me the (very) basics.

But I always had the ambition to combine learning a language with my passion for travel & tick another thing off my list. Due to the timing (everyone saying constantly that it has changed so much & will even more soon), I plumped for Cuba. Here I lived in Havana for 2 weeks & had 3 ½ hours of 1:1 Spanish lessons every morning. It was intense but hugely valuable & my Spanish came along so much in that time, enabling me to travel for the rest of the month on my own & effectively communicate (most people seemed to understand me anyway!). I have since followed this up in the Dominican Republic. To read all about the experience check out my blog post.

To learn more about travelling to Cuba see The First-Timers Guide to Cuba. If you’re interested in learning Spanish in Cuba or any other language anywhere else in the world I organised my trip through Apple Language School.

25. Visit Cuba (also ticks off 96. The Caribbean)
Cuba - 2 weeks in Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos & Viñales - Central America & Caribbean
A blue oblong banner with a red sign me up now button
Life List - My First 12 Months (2016), Back streets of Havana, Cuba

See above for my reasons for going but I will never regret my decision to go to Cuba & it was one of the most challenging & rewarding experiences in my life. I loved the country, I loved the people & I would love to go back & keep an eye on how things are changing on the ground (I left about a month before the death of Fidel Castro).

Life List - My First 12 Months (2016), Trinidad, Cuba

To read more about my experiences in Cuba see The First-Timers Guide to Cuba

47. Learn to dance

And while I was in Cuba what better place to learn to salsa?

On my first day in Havana, a woman asked me if I dance salsa.  When I said “No”, she responded, “In Cuba no salsa, no boyfriend!”. I wasn’t interested in getting a boyfriend. However, at least it gave me an understanding of how important salsa is in the country! Be aware that after that practically every conversation started with “Do you dance salsa?” & if I said “No” or “Poco!”, every Cuban man is a salsa teacher – so you’re in good hands(?!).

After 3 ½ hours of learning Spanish every day I used to go & lie in a darkened room for an hour & then walk to salsa lessons for 1 or 2 hours. I never became very good at it but loved every minute & it was a fantastic way to exercise my brain in a very different way. The casa where I stayed organised what was effectively 1:1 lessons for us. If you fancy a laugh at a very tall woman (with a much smaller man) & many more arms than everyone else appears to have, you can see the (not very impressive!) fruits of my labour on video…Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Sue Does Salsa!

59. Go on a yoga retreatCuba - On a visit to a Yoga retreat - Cuba, Central America and Caribbean, Caribbean
60. Learn to meditate
Yeotown - Learning to meditate, Life List - My First 12 Months (2016)

I ticked these 2 off over 5 days of Easter in 2016 by attending a detox retreat in Devon. It turned out to be less yoga (although we had at least an hour every morning), more hiking (2 ½ to 3 hours every day on the beautiful moors or along the coast) & detox but I have to say I felt amazing afterwards.

In terms of meditation – I wouldn’t say I was an expert & I don’t practice unless I am in a yoga class (or focus on my breathing to try & sleep) but we had the chance to experience a lot of different types of meditation & relaxation.

I visited Yeotown which is definitely not cheap but well worth it if you are looking for a full detox experience. Since then I have had some amazing experiences practising yoga in …you guessed it, Cuba! You can read all about it HERE.

99. Cambodia
Angar Wot temple, Cambodian and the water front of Stockholm, Sweden - Life List - My First 12 Months (2016)

A fascinating country with a tragic history – I visited on my way back from Australia. I have lots to share on my time in Cambodia but for starters here’s my First-Timers Guide to Cambodia.

100. Scandinavia

It has been pointed out that this is a huge area for 1 point. I visited Stockholm for a long weekend to shop the Christmas markets in November 2016. The weekend was fantastic but if you’re looking specifically for Christmas markets I would go elsewhere. There is a lot more to see before I feel I can truly say this is completed & it remains on the list!

Bahamas, Beach - Life List - My First 12 Months (2016)
111. The Bahamas

I felt it was a good idea to tick somewhere else off “on the way home from Cuba to the UK”. While looking into this it became evident that there aren’t many places you can go to on a direct flight from Havana. One of those you can fly in to is Nassau, so this is where I chose to spend 3 weeks island hopping. Why not check out my guide to the best off the beaten path spots in the Bahamas?

Sailing from Florida to Bahamas - Caribbean, Central America & Caribbean


What else have I done?
40. Learn to take better photographs

I took a 10-hour webinar course on how to improve my photography I but still need to work on changing the settings more often!

SueWhereWhyWhat learning to fence - Life List - My First 12 Months (2016)75. Learn to fence

In early 2017 I took an 8-week beginners course locally. I really enjoyed it but not sure my knees would say the same!

76. Outdoor Cinema

I’m a huge fan of Secret Cinema in the UK & last year they recreated Kellermans & screened Dirty Dancing. Fantastic!

86. Make my Grandma’s Pavlova
Grandma's Pavlova

My Grandma made an amazing Pavlova & when I found we still had the handwritten recipe I was keen to try it. I recreated the magic on Christmas day 2016 in a team effort with my sister & my nieces. As you can see we were very proud of ourselves (even though we forgot the cornflour!)

I’ll continue to give regular updates on how I’m doing against my list so please watch this space!

Interested to read more?

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This post may contain affiliate links. By using these, Sue Where Why What may receive a small commission. You will not pay any extra charges for this. My opinions, reviews & recommendations remain my own. For more information see my disclosure.

Life List - My First 12 Months (2016)

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  1. Hi Sue
    Ive been enjoying going through your blog, im goign to travel east aisa this year and some of the things you have done and that are on your bucket list.
    I noticed that you were carrying a DSLR around cambodia. This is something i have been debating myself. I enjoy photography but dont know if to take my camera or just a compact, i dont want it to be a burdon for me, but I also dont want to wish I had my photography kit. How did you find carrying your camera and using the DSLR?
    My parents are worrying that i will look like a torist with it on me, how did you manage it and theft?

    I look forward to hearing from you, I would appreciate any help you can offer me.

    Thank you


    1. Hi Sam!
      Thank you so much for getting in touch & really pleased to hear that you’ve been enjoying the blog – its all still new to me so every bit of feedback is hugely appreciated! Its a really good question about the camera & I guess my first piece of advice would be to think what your priorities are. If it’s to get the best photos from your travels, I would take your DSLR (that’s why I carry mine), if its to travel light, less risk & to get decent enough photos, then stick to your compact.

      To be more specific about the ins & outs of travelling with expensive equipment – the first thing is you need to be prepared to lose it. I have been lucky enough to not have this happen to me (in terms of equipment that is – wallets on the other hand, numerous times!) but I feel sick sometimes when I think about the cost of the stuff I carry around with me nowadays. At the end of the day if you do lose it.. its just stuff. Make sure you’re insured & have backed up the photos regularly. I have learnt many lessons & now have 2 memory sticks which each have the capacity of my laptop so I can back up & double back up. I keep them separately just in case. Top tip is don’t rely on the Cloud solely as this is then dependant on wifi which is notoriously unreliable while travelling (a hard lesson learnt). I recently heard of a woman I met in Namibia who was robbed & had her iPad stolen – 6000 photos gone! Heartbreaking!

      So how do you avoid that horrible situation? I don’t flaunt what I have. I decide each day when I’m exploring what is my objective. Great photos – take my DSLR & always either have it in a back pack when I’m not using it or slung around my body if I want it close by. Video? Just take my GoPro or travel light & be less conspicuous just use my iphone (& even then I don’t have it out for extended periods – quick photo & back in the bag).

      If you have a suitcase which locks its great for keeping all your valuables together if the room safe is nonexistent or won’t do (personally I don’t like hotel safes much). I recently bought a TSA lock which I love (attaches to my backpack / bags zip) – you can open just with a credit card ‘key’ & again I keep a few in different places just in case. I figure its a lot harder to steal if you have to take the whole big bag (not impossible of course but if someone is that determined they’ll get it anyway).

      The next thing is travelling with your stuff – public transport etc, especially when you’re on the move from place to place, literally carrying all your possessions. Top tip here is fairly obvious to keep valuables in your hand luggage. But also keep this close to your body. I have a friend who had a bag taken from by her feet in a bus & ended up in Machu Picchu with a disposable camera as her big one had been stolen. Ideally you have 2 seats to yourself on a bus. Always keep your bag on the seat by the window & your body in between it & the aisle. If you are unlucky & have to share keep it on your lap. If you’re going to sleep use it as a pillow. Also whenever I am sat at a table I make sure I am in contact with my bag – wrapped around my leg, hanging off my knee etc so I mostly know if anyone is tampering with it.. in theory at least.

      Again – never flaunt what you have. Now I’m blogging a bus trip would be the best place to write on my laptop but I don’t want anyone to know it’s there & keep temptation away. So instead I write in Notes on my phone or an actual notebook. My camera is always at the bottom my hand luggage bag.

      Finally, if you want to take your DSLR to take photos of the beach etc – make a separate photography trip. Take your camera, take the photos, take it back to your room, go out & relax. If this isn’t possible then take the photos & always make sure you are aware of who is around. Never stop close to where you have been using your camera, put it back in your bag securely, move on & when you next stop check that you can’t see anyone familiar. My husband used to have a saying “Why do dodgy people people always look dodgy?”, if you’re suspicious at all don’t stop.

      Particularly travelling solo you do need eyes in the back of your head but actually I’ve had more things stolen when I’ve been with people as you let your guard down. In my opinion the universe has a way of telling you when you’re getting complacent! My other top tricks are to always be super aware of your surroundings. I don’t like anyone walking too close behind me & will often stop in my tracks & pretend to look at something so they are kind of forced to walk on by if they’re trying to be surreptitious. If you have a backpack on your back make sure as much of your valuables are either in an inside pocket or at the bottom of the bag & that the zips are together at the top (further to go to get in). Hard lesson learnt on having my wallet stolen on Day 1 in Nairobi!

      The final bit of advice would be to do everything with confidence – even if you don’t have it, look like you know what your doing. For example, I never walk & look at a map, same could be said for getting the camera in & out. Its distracting for your attention & also makes it very obvious that you’re a tourist. I walk confidently in the wrong direction, stop (always with my back to a wall, on a corner or bench etc, check the map & walk confidently back in the right direction!)

      Basically I think I’ve been quite lucky (touch wood!) but I also believe that if you follow a few simple rules like these you can rely on other tourists to be easier victims. Harsh, I know, but at the end of the day if you make yourself a harder target they’ll go for someone easier.

      I hope this has helped & if you want anything else or any more information on anything I’ve said please let me know! Enjoy your trip in Asia & keep in touch! In the meantime safe travels (& send some of your photos!)

      Sue x

  2. Hi Sue

    Thats fabulous thank you so much .

    Have you done any safari, My other photography thought is to take my 18mm to 55mm lens and a macro lens at the most. Dad says telephoto lenses are good for animals etc, i could just use my compact for this.

    The safety advise is really great thank you so much, I’m going with my partner so to be aware of letting our guard down together is a great tip!!

    Thank you.


    1. Hi Sam,

      I have in fact done a few safari’s & if this is in your plan I would definitely recommend taking your DSLR. My first safaris were across Africa on a 3 month overland trip over 20 years ago & all I had was a ‘point & click’ camera. Nowadays I have my DSLR & its a completely different experience.I use the zoom to double up as binoculars & it means you can see better & capture the moment at the same time. If you look at My Gallery you’ll see some of my photos from Borneo & Namibia with my DSLR. If you don’t take your DSLR, I would be concerned that you’ll regret it. But like I say make sure you back up regularly & stay aware of your surroundings for security purposes. But mainly enjoy & remember to remove the camera from your face occasionally & enjoy the moment 😉 Happy travels. Sue

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