Fab 40th?
May 9, 2013 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me decide what to do for my 40th birthday! I am turning 40 in mid-August and would like (love!) to do something a bit special and experiential rather than receive something material. I’m also in a massive rut and would love to do something new and different that I haven’t thought of. I crave new experiences and ideas and these have been in short supply due to various personal and medical pressures over the last 12 months. I’ve had a few thoughts, but none of them have really made me think YES that’s EXACTLY what I want to do. AskMe, can you offer some inspiration, either around my existing ideas, or something completely fresh I haven’t considered?

There are a few difficulties and restrictions. Money is available but it’s not unlimited. I’m currently going through some serious medical stuff which is really sapping my energy, limiting my ability to do anything physically taxing, and is unlikely to be resolved by August (or indeed by next August). The medical issues are also expensive (although as I live in Australia only painfully, not catastrophically so thank goodness). Also, I live in a remote area, so most ‘experiences’ are a ten hour round trip somewhere else. And I’m committed to a lot of ten hour trips already because of the medical stuff. Fuel and accommodation do add to the expense quite considerably. The day’s drive each way also detracts from the time available to do the actual thing. Whatever it might be.

Things I’ve ruled out for reasons of medical treatment, resultant tiredness/mental fog and other associated issues like special diet:
Epic hike
Food and wine adventure
Overseas or interstate holiday
Class in something fun and visual (photography or printmaking)

Things I’ve ruled out for reasons of feeling a bit too same-y or to tied to the rut I’m in:
Local holiday
Fancy cooking class. I’ve always wanted to do this, but it just feels so… tied to my regular boring life where I’m (to my considerable dissatisfaction) the one responsible for cooking in our house. This sort of feels like something I’d rather do with my partner to encourage him to do more cooking!

Possibilities (but everything is expensive and takes a lot of time)
Week alone where I just have some space to… think to myself. Along the lines of Bill Gates “Think Week”. My god this one is attractive. My only worry is that I would ‘waste’ it. Would ideally be somewhere very very quiet, no tv, no phone, no email, no internet, no books. Just me and a pen and paper? But also somewhere where I don’t have to cook for myself.

Also, I’m already going on a week-long meditation retreat with my husband in July. Might this just feel like… more of the same?

Things I like:
Books, movies, alone time. New ideas, new places, travel. Art, design (to look at). Photography (to look at and to do). Board games! Low-key exercise and fitness – lots of walking, yoga, swimming, biking, short (5k) hikes.

Things I don’t like:
Planes and boats (I get horribly motion sick.)
Intense, physically competitive or dangerous stuff like sky-diving or bungee jumping.
Loud live music and concerts (although I do love music, prefer sit-down listen to Bach than stand up and headbang to Motley Crue.)
Crowds of people (I like people, but I’m a bit fragile at the moment and socialising is exhausting)
Gardening, cooking, cleaning and housework.

I really want to do something special, but I’m just stumped. Can you suggest anything fresh I haven’t thought of? Or a fresh take on something I have thought of but am not totally sold on?
posted by t0astie to Human Relations (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Celebrate 40 years on this earth by committing to helping 40 people. Set aside a week or two for this project.

Simple things:
Deliver a bag of groceries to an elderly person, include a few treats like fresh fruit or a specialty meat.
Observe a single mom at a store, struggling with her children, and hand her money, telling her that you saw it fall out of her purse. Walk quickly away.
Smile at everyone. Even when you don't feel like it.
Call a friend that you haven't spoken to in awhile and listen.

Simple things can have profound effects on you and the ones that you help.
posted by myselfasme at 5:55 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

This sounds like the perfect time for a spa weekend (or even just a spa day) with great massage, lovely food, low key walking and whatever other healthy spa-ish indulgence you wouldn't normally treat yourself to. If you can get a good friend or sister to join you even better.
posted by third rail at 5:57 PM on May 9, 2013

How about a floatation/sensory deprivation tank? I don't know what the availability would be for you locally, but there are loads of resources and directories for them online (though I'm not sure which of them is the most reputable). It fits with your love of alone time, I guess.
posted by nohaybanda at 5:57 PM on May 9, 2013

Best answer: If you're where your profile says, what about a balloon ride? Balloons move pretty smoothly, so there's not much likelihood of air sickness, and they are really quiet apart from the intermittent torch blast.
posted by gingerest at 5:59 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Learn to ride a motorcycle.
posted by workerant at 6:15 PM on May 9, 2013

How do you feel about diving? If you have never dived before, maybe that would be a do-able thing, that would be different and beautiful. I was going to suggest meditation get away, but you're already doing that! I would love a day or two in a nice hotel, and doing nothing more strenuous than getting massages, having baths, and reading in bed, but that isn't exactly a landmark celebration :)
posted by Kaleidoscope at 6:18 PM on May 9, 2013

What about a Bikram yoga retreat? That covers your love of yoga, will definitely leave you feeling renewed, and will give you plenty of alone time! I don't know how close the one I've linked to is to you, but it's in Australia and could be a nice new place/travel experience without being ultra-far away.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:29 PM on May 9, 2013

I know you say not receive, but what about hiring a chef to come for a week? And teach you and your partner? And also maybe a week of a maid and some spa treatments along with it?

Or maybe invite a writer to come for a week and hire out the cooking and cleaning while you devote nothing but writing to that week? I'm sure there are people who may enjoy your remoteness and yet have something to offer you in return.

You know that feeling when you get your hair washed? Think of bringing that into your home for a week. Then what would you do if you didn't have to worry about anything else. It's maddening, I know, the thought of cooking and cleaning and keeping up with it while dealing with other issues. So economically, could you do it at home, and allow it to happen there?

I love to cook but I am an amateur. But would LOVE a chef to come and cook for me and teach me at home. Would LOVE a maid to come and do my bathrooms and kitchen. I have traveled and I have done parasailing, all awesome things. But if I were having health issues and not feeling the house love, I would be all over a personal chef, maid and maybe a visiting artist to help with my photography. An at home salon, if you will.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:31 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason 'fantastic party' has been ruled out -- are friends too distant? Something for just the nearest and dearest. Hire musicians and a caterer and somebody to clean up afterwards; it doesn't take all that many people to have a great evening, and that sort of thing might even be nicer with a smaller crowd.
posted by kmennie at 7:05 PM on May 9, 2013

Best answer: There is a book called The Gift of a Year which might get you thinking in the right direction. I read it a while back so can't remember details but basically you pick something you will do for yourself every day for a year. Maybe an art project or meditation or a walk if that fits in with your medical issues. It can't be too big since you are going to do it every day but the idea is that the cumulative effective is what makes it much bigger in the end.

Good luck picking something out!
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:47 PM on May 9, 2013

Do 40 surprise nice things for strangers. carry this plan out the week of your birthday. On your birthday, have a party. See if you can find a roof deck somewhere, get it catered, have a blast with your closest friends.
posted by superfille at 8:06 PM on May 9, 2013

For my 40th I rented a cool house in the desert (which is conveniently 2 hours away) for four nights. I'd initially just planned to go with my husband, but a couple of friends were able to come along for two nights. We cooked together, hung out in the hot tub at night looking at the stars, and during the day I wrote because that's how I wanted to ring in 40. It was very relaxing. If that's the kind of thing you're inclined to do, and can find somewhere neat to stay without having to travel so far (even just a great hotel), I say do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:12 PM on May 9, 2013

Week alone where I just have some space to… think to myself. Along the lines of Bill Gates “Think Week”. My god this one is attractive.

Do this one.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:19 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I came here to suggest a hot air balloon ride as well. Whatever you do, have a very happy birthday!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:23 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For my 40th I'm driving out to a secluded beach house with a hot tub and firepit in lieu of internet and tv and i am going to spend the week alone.

Nearly everyone I've told is jealous as heck, and 2 of my friends are stealing the idea.
posted by lilnublet at 9:10 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My magical 40th birthday thing will not be YOUR magical 40th birthday thing, but it may be a template for it.

For my 40th birthday, my partner and I spent the year visiting 40 wine appellations and blogging about it. We set the goal of visiting 40, which is enough to require real effort but not enough to be impossible (California alone has over 100, and with a focused visit to certain regions in the state it's easy to knock off 10 in a weekend).

While wine-tasting may not be your thing, it may be worthwhile to set up something for your birthday that's more than just one day. It gave us something to do throughout the year, something to look forward to and a blog full of great memories when it was over. And it meant that my birthday wasn't over in one weekend! Instead of having one mega-blowout it was like having little bits of birthday all year long.

You have mentioned that you like hikes and travel. I suspect doing all 7 walks of the Great Walks of Australia may be overly ambitious (and Freycinet/Tassie would by default require a plane or a boat to get there), but perhaps a series of 5k hikes in different places? 40 might be too many, but maybe one 5k hike per month in a different place for your 40th birthday year?
posted by rednikki at 9:10 PM on May 9, 2013

Response by poster: I'm not going to threadsit, but these are such fantastic ideas, thank you. I'm definitely open to more suggestsions, clever Mefites!
posted by t0astie at 10:06 PM on May 9, 2013

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