18 April 2014

Reverse Bucket List

Expat life has the potential to be very exciting, to give us all opportunities we never dreamed of.  My husband and I still pinch ourselves, regularly, that we live freely and happily in the middle of the ex USSR and can talk with local friends about their experiences of the time.

We are in limbo at the moment, however, with just a few months to go until we say goodbye to Kazakhstan and start the next phase of our expat adventure.  Such times inevitably lead to future planning - thinking of the experiences to come.  Today I was reading Amanda Van Mulligan's Life with a Double Buggy blog and she has prepared a reverse bucket list - a list of all her experiences to date.  I thought it was a fascinating post as were many of the others on the blog link up so I thought I would add mine to her blog link up.  This is my list to date:
  • ·         Lived in 7 (soon to be 8) countries and moved internationally 9 (soon to be 10) times.
  • ·         Lived in over 25 different homes (not including university and school).
  • ·         Adopted pets in 5 different countries.
  • ·         Maintained close relationships with family stretched over a minimum of three different countries.
  • ·         Went to boarding school on my own age 11 and watched my family fly off to start a new life in Nigeria.
  • ·         Flew to Nigeria for the first time alone four months later having had no post delivered desperately hoping my mother would be able to meet my plane and that I would recognise her (I was worried she would be so tanned I would not know her).
  • ·         Survived a shoot-out/armed robbery in Lagos airport.
  • ·         Lived through an attempted coup.
  • ·         Speeding through the Niger Delta.
  • ·         Visiting orphanages in Nigeria and seeing, first hand, how very very lucky my childhood was. 
  • ·         Been on safari in Jos (Nigeria), not to be recommended as a top tourist destination!
  • ·         Visiting Benin (the country) and Benin (the city).
  • ·         Spending weekends in paradise (some holiday villas 2 hours from our home in Warri), walking through the gardens and swimming in the river.
  • ·         Cycling on a raised path through the swamp.
  • ·         Learning how to kill giant cockroaches, avoid scorpions and teaching the cat to kill snakes. 
  • ·         Watching local witch doctors perform ceremonies.
  • ·         Visiting Moscow and Leningrad (as it was) and travelling between them by train.
  • ·         Going to the Circus and Ballet in Moscow and seeing the Hermitage and Aurora in Leningrad.
  • ·         Learning to integrate almost seamlessly in the UK and to understand British humour.
  • ·         Persuading my parents that, if I could fly around the world on my own I would be safe on solo trips to London.
  • ·         Volunteering with my local lifeboat and old people’s home in the UK for community service experience.
  • ·         Moving to eastern Turkey in the 1990’s when the situation was extremely volatile and daily life was very dangerous.
  • ·         Convincing Turkish Airlines that they absolutely could let two young girls fly into our local airport and that we were not tourists.
  • ·         Making my classmates in the UK laugh when a car backfired and I threw myself under my desk thinking it was the start of an attack. 
  • ·         Driving to Nemrut Dag and Eski Kale and seeing the Ataturk Dam close up.
  • ·         Enjoying a picnic on the shores of Lake Hazar and exploring Catholic Churches and Syriac monasteries on the Syrian border.
  • ·         Exploring Istanbul – the most beautiful city in the world - for the very first time.
  • ·         Shopping for carpets in Diyarbakir’s old town.  Crossing the Berlin/Bagdad railway every day and eating meals while looking out over the purported Garden of Eden. 
  • ·         Touring remote villages helping to spread the word about the importance of education for girls.
  • ·         Learning (and forgetting) Turkish.
  • ·         Going to university in the UK and meeting my husband there.
  • ·         Spending my first summer from university visiting friends before taking our dog from the Netherlands to our new home in Venezuela.
  • ·         Exploring the Venezuelan Andes, Coro peninsula and Lake Maracaibo.
  • ·         Being volunteered to work as a translator from Spanish for English, Dutch and German kids at a holiday camp despite not speaking a word of Spanish (I learned quickly).
  • ·         Learning (and forgetting) Spanish.
  • ·         Visiting the Venezuelan Supreme Court.
  • ·         Qualifying as a solicitor and working in London.
  • ·         Getting married in Durham Castle.
  • ·         Getting our very first dog for our new family.
  • ·         Learning to scuba dive, getting my Nitrox, Deep Diver and Divemaster certificates.
  • ·         Taking a case to the House of Lords (now the Supreme Court) in the UK.
  • ·         Buying our dream first home.
  • ·         Having our beautiful children.
  • ·         Driving around Europe for weeks at a time with no plan– just to see where we would end up.
  • ·         Being elected as a local councillor.
  • ·         Standing for election to the UK parliament.
  • ·         Gaining accreditation as a social and commercial mediator. 
  • ·         Moving to Astana, Kazakhstan.
  • ·         Learning Russian.
  • ·         Visiting Lake Borovoye and exploring the Kazakh Steppe.
  • ·         Buying a car in Kazakhstan.
  • ·         Being sent from Kazakhstan to Germany for an emergency operation (and back again in the space of two days).
  • ·         Dealing with pregnancy in two (soon to be three) foreign countries.
  • ·         Getting beaten up in Kiev airport.
  • ·         Meeting NASA astronauts and Space Station personnel in Karaganda.
  • ·         Exploring Almaty in the snow.
  • ·         Coping and enjoying life in the second coldest capital in the world.
  • ·         Visiting museums commemorating the Gulag.
  • ·         Exploring the silk road cities of Kyrgyzstan. 
  • ·         Spending Christmas in various places around the world including Lebanon and Angkor Wat.
  • ·         Getting recognition as a public speaker and local government expert. 
  • ·         Looking forward to all the experiences to come and thinking about all the things I have left off this list to prevent it becoming longer and more self indulgent than necessary. 

Expat Life with a Double Buggy


  1. Wow, what a list! Such a wonderful life, thank you for sharing!

  2. I feel quite exhausted after reading that :) Might need to lie down :) There's never a dull moment is there ... Thank you for sharing - and just think what amazing additions to the list are to come. You may have seen nothing yet!!

    1. Can we see Nellie's let. I imagine it is pretty impressive for such a young dog.

  3. Amazing. I loved the one about throwing yourself under your desk in school in the UK. I also think the one about keeping in touch with family is really good. I'd love to see some photos of the second to last one in your list. Where did you speak publicly and about what? Did you write any blog posts about that? What are the links. I loved reading your list. Thanks also for commenting on mine.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment. Due to my experience and involvement in politics in the UK I was asked to speak at several Political and Economic events here in Astana. Mostly giving details of the British experience good and bad on certain areas such as youth participation in democracy, social media and politics, budgeting and planning etc. I am hoping to be able to keep this up in Malaysia. I only have one photo of me speaking in recent years (lads from my time in Politics) but it was a 'fun' speech at a Burns Night not a 'professional' one. I miss the politics, if we had not moved I would have stood in next years UK general election but there is time to take it up again when we return.

  4. Love this idea! I've always been a little bit creeped out by the idea of a bucket list, but like this idea of reflecting on all of the things I have already done to inspire future adventures. A much needed fresh perspective now and then!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it - are you going to write one up? I am always fascinated by the backgrounds to people's lives.

      All the best

  5. Amazing list and ooohhh you got married in Durham castle,

    1. Hi Annabelle. We were very lucky. We both went to Durham and Castle was my husband's college.