The Quest List: Finding Joy, Purpose and a Sense of Accomplishment

In his book “The Happiness of Pursuit”,  Chris Guillebeau explores the idea that adventure, big hairy audacious adventure, is for everyone. The premise is that it may not be chasing happiness that brings us fulfillment, but rather the pursuit of a modern day “quest” that ultimately leads to that elusive “happiness” that we are all seeking. A quest is not some straight forward or boring “goal”. Pedestrian resolutions like “get in shape” or “meditate more” may we worthy enough ideals, but do not qualify as a quest nor do they bring about the same sense of purpose, focus, adventure and joy as something big, specific, and incremental.

While he doesn’t specify parameters for what types of activities qualify for a quest, he does offer a framework for the qualities that a good quest needs to have: 1. A quest has a specific end point. 2. A quest presents a clear challenge. 3. A quest requires sacrifice of some kind. 4. A quest is often driven by a calling or a sense of mission. 5. A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress towards a goal.

The author draws on not only his own personal quest to visit each and every country on earth, but the various quests of dozens of others he interviews about their own experiences. Quests cited in the book range from a date in all 50 states, to cooking a meal from every country on earth, road tripping solo across the US for a year, taking and publishing 1 million photos, bicycling the globe, and attempting long distance travel with zero money changing hands. A quest might also involve solving a problem like lack of clean water in the third world, or it might be a seemingly random collection of “bucket list” items which altogether create the quest.

After reading this book I realized that I have been carrying around a number of disconnected adventure ideas in my head and wanted to see them all on paper. I hastily started scratching the ideas in my journal and after seeing a pattern of the things I want to see and do, thought I would put it together here, so I can share my progress as I complete my quests. I’m sure this list will change and morph in time (it already has since I first made the journal entry). My list is a combination “bucket list” and individual quests. It’s a quest list of quest lists if you will. As I complete each piece of my quests I will mark them off and will link to any articles I write about each adventure.

Complete the Arizona National Scenic Trail Section By Section:

Since I work for the Arizona Trail Association as a Youth Outreach and Education Coordinator, one of the most common questions I get asked when talking to students is “Have you done the whole trail?” I would love to be able to say, “YES!” For most people, hiking the trail all the way through might take about 6-8 weeks. As a mom and someone with a job, taking that much time off in one chunk is a bit daunting right now. So, section by section it is! This isn’t really a negative though. There are many advantages to doing a long distance trail this way. The AZT is a multi-use trail, which means bikes, feet, or pack animals can be used to cover ground. I will mountain bike the sections that are best on a bike, hike the sections that are wilderness or national park, I intend to figure out a way to horseback ride a section, and if my knee holds up, I’d like to run a section. I want to have my little son involved wherever he can be. Whether just being there with his dad to pick me up at the end of sections, or joining me for some pieces. I’d like to get him involved.

Passages of the Arizona Trail:

Passage 1 Huachuca Mountains

Passage 2 Canelo Hills East

Passage 3 Canelo Hills West

Passage 4 Temporal Gulch

Passage 5 Santa Rita Mountains

Passage 6 Las Colinas

Passage 7 Las Cienegas

Passage 8 Rincon Valley

Passage 9 Rincon Mountains

Passage 10 Redington Pass

Passage 11 Santa Catalina Mountains

Passage 12 Oracle Ridge

Passage 13 Oracle

Passage 14 Black Hills

Passage 15 Tortilla Mountains

Passage 16 Gila River Canyons

Passage 17 Alamo Canyon

Passage 18 Reavis Canyon

Passage 19 Superstition Wilderness

Passage 20 Four Peaks

Passage 21 Pine Mountain

Passage 22 Saddle Mountain

Passage 23 Mazatzal Divide

Passage 24 Red Hills

Passage 25 Whiterock Mesa

Passage 26 Hardscrabble Mesa

Passage 27 Highline

Passage 28 Blue Ridge

Passage 29 Happy Jack

Passage 30 Mormon Lake (Solo Ride November 2016)

Passage 31 Walnut CanyonDONE (Solo Ride May 2016)

Passage 32 Elden Mountain DONE (These are the trails in my backyard. Have ridden and hiked countless times.)  

Passage 33 Flagstaff DONE (Also ridden repeatedly from home. Plus Peaks to Parks ride 2015)

Passage 34 San Francisco Peaks DONE (Peaks to Park 2015 and 2016)

Passage 35 Babbitt Ranch DONE (Peaks to Park ride 2016)

Passage 36 Coconino Rim DONE (Peaks to Park Ride 2016)

Passage 37 Grand Canyon South Rim DONE (Peaks to Park Ride 2016)

Passage 38 Grand Canyon Inner Gorge

Passage 39 Grand Canyon North Rim

Passage 40 Kaibab Plateau South

Passage 41 Kaibab Plateau Central

Passage 42 Kaibab Plateau North

Passage 43 Buckskin Mountain

Backpack in every US National Park:

This one is going to require a little bit more research as I don’t know for sure if every National Park is backpackable. I know many National Monuments are not. Any National Park that does not have an option for backcountry travel  will be subbed out for some equally interesting activity. At this time, my list is just US National Parks, not National Parks elsewhere in the world and not National Monuments. I may add some of those to the list as time goes on incidentally, but right now it isn’t part of the primary plan.

US National Parks according to Wikipedia as of 11/1/16:

Acadia National Park, Maine

American Samoa National Park, American Samoa

Arches National Park, Utah

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Biscayne National Park, Florida

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Channel Islands National Park, California

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Death Valley National Park, California

Denali National Park, Alaska

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park, Florida

Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Have done, but will do again as part of AZT)

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Isla Royal National Park, Michigan

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Katmai National Park, Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kobuck Valley National Park, Alaska

Lane Clark National Park, Alaska

Lassen Volcano National Park, California

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mount Ranier National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park, Washington

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Pinnacles National Park, California

Redwoods National Park, California

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Sequoia National Park, California

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Virgin Islands National Park, US Virgin Islands

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Wrangell- St. Elias National Park, Alaska

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho

Yosemite National Park, California

Zion National Park, Utah


Visit Every Spanish Speaking Country and Improve My Spanish in the Process:

I love international travel. Seeing new places and meeting new people. It also bothers me to be essentially monolingual. There was a time that my Spanish was getting pretty good. Almost conversational. But I haven’t practiced in much, much too long. One way to get my fix from both of these goals is to visit every Spanish speaking country in the world. I was surprised to learn that there are four countries in South America that do not list Spanish as the official or dominant language. I knew Brazilians spoke Portuguese, I did not realize that Guyana, French Guyana, and Suriname are not Spanish dominant either. I will likely end up adding these non spanish speaking South American Countries to my travels too, but for the purposes of this specific quest list I’ll stick the the official Spanish speaking ones.

Spanish speaking countries:

Mexico DONE (Yucatan 2007, Chiapas 2008)











Dominican Republic



El Salvador


Costa Rica

Puerto Rico



Equatorial Guinea

Get My Family Traveling Internationally:

I believe that international travel, like outdoor adventure, is good for children. It is a blessing for them to see how other people live, work, eat, and play. It makes them more grateful for their blessings and shows them all that is possible in the world. My spouse is my favorite adventure partner, however, he just isn’t sold on the international travel idea just yet. He has, however, agreed to try a couple of places in the world that feel doable to try out this long distance travel thing and see how he likes it. The two locations I’m listing here are the two he has expressed interest in visiting. I’ll add to the list if I get a thumbs up to do so.

Bahamas (for diving and snorkeling)

Norway (visiting family and beautiful mountains)

Learn To Set Climbing Ropes and Climb Outdoors:

This is less specific, I know. But I see my son taking to climbing readily and climbing seems like a very approachable weekend and after work activity for families. I also have some half baked ideas around mountaineering, which may need to get developed a bit more before I make a quest list out of anything.

I have several other thoughts and ideas brewing, but they are all much too unformulated and nebulous to really put them into the list just yet, and to be honest, this list as it is written hold plenty to work on! I will edit, add to and subtract from the list as things shift and will link to any articles I write on these expeditions as I go.

Are you feeling inspired to write out a quest list of your own yet? I highly recommend the book “The Happiness of Pursuit” if you want more inspiration to develop your own personalized quest list. There are so many ideas there for adventure in every shape and size, some of which doesn’t even require leaving the house!

What are some of your big audacious adventure goals? Leave a comment and let me know what stokes your wandering soul!

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