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When I was in my 20s, I sat through a talk by late Zig Ziglar, a renown motivational speaker and author, as he described the power of writing down goals. Part of his talk was also about creating a bucket list of locations to see in one’s lifetime. I took this to heart, and wrote down my personal and professional goals as well as my own bucket list. The list included…

The Taj Mahal

Venice

Istanbul’s Mosques

The Great Wall of China

I have been fortunate enough in life to have now checked off each of these items. Many other sites around the world, such as Angor Wat, Machu Picchu, Egyptian Pyramids, remain on my list. However, my experience in China has caused me to rethink my bucket list.

Yesterday, our North Carolina delegation traveled to one of the locations along the thousands of miles of the Great Wall that is open for visitors. As soon as the group stepped foot on Wall, the students immediately picked out a point along the long stretch of the Wall to attempt to reach during our time at the site. The spot appeared in the distance to be miles from where we were standing and up a long 45 degree climb of steps. Challenge accepted! I eagerly tagged along, and I am thankful (albeit sore) for the time with the students hiking along the Great Wall.

I learned that not only are the four North Carolina students extremely bright and talented, they are also fun and not as fit as me (another friendly jab at them if they are reading this blog). We reached our goal along the Wall, dripping sweat and feeling the burn in our legs. Though there were points along the climb that we wanted to stop, these goal setting kids kept climbing and I was not going to be left behind. At one of the old guard towers along the Wall, the students recreated a scene from High School Musical and entertained the other tourist with full frontal flips (Raymond Goa has some mad gymnastic skills). At another point, the students acted out scenes from a Prom for the benefit of my camera. It just so happened that three of the students were walking on the Great Wall while their high school mates back home were attending their school prom.

So, back to my bucket list. This trip has caused me to edit my list from a mere enumeration of locations to a directory of the people and experiences that made the bucket list items more than words on a piece of paper. For example, when I think of those locations I have been able to visit, the list should have read like this…

To stroll the grounds of the Taj Mahal with my father-in-law as he describes his family’s experience during the partition of India

To enjoy dinner along the canals of Venice while staring into my beautiful wife’s eyes as she takes in the sounds of Gondoliers serenading couples

To sit with my daughters sharing a Shawarma outside the Blue Mosque as the sound of the Call to Prayers echoes out across the Hippodrome in Istanbul

To tag along with four great kids, discovering the burn in our calves, as we scaled ancient steps along the Great Wall of China

Matthew Meyer

Dr. Matthew Meyer is the associate vice president of educational innovations for the N.C. Community College System.