FOXBOROUGH (AP) — Shannon Barbato was looking at her calendar last month when she realized she was exactly 40 days away from her 39th birthday.
“It was like fate,” said Barbato, who, in that moment, decided that in the next 39 days leading up to her birthday she would do 39 things she’d never done before.
“The whole point is, why wait?” Barbato said.
So, with no plan, Barbato began her adventure to 39 by writing down what she called a “mini-bucket list.”
Barbato’s firsts ranged from the exhilarating, like learning to ride a motorcycle, to playful, like flying a kite. She even did things that might draw cringes from others, like getting up and singing in front of a large crowd of strangers.
Barbato, who runs her own fitness bootcamp and outdoor fitness classes, likes making her challenges active ones.
Last year, before her 38th birthday, Barbato decided to run 10 miles a day for the 10 days before her birthday on Aug. 10, logging a total of 100 miles.
“You need to do things now, and not wait,” said Barbato, who turned her Facebook page into a place of inspiration for those who wanted to watch her journey play out.
Pictures and videos document each day’s adventure, along with inspirational quotes and pictures to remind others to live in the moment.
It has generated quite the audience. Barbato said she has received emails and messages of support.
“They’d say, ‘I can’t wait to see what you’re doing tomorrow!'” she said. “It motivated me to keep going.”
Barbato didn’t just gather fans along the way, but followers.
She said that after she went skydiving, a friend was inspired to go, as well. And, as another first, Barbato bought a coffee for a stranger behind her at Starbucks who, in turn, said they would do the same for someone else.
Barbato said the most exhilarating thing she did was fly a hot air balloon on Day 3 or skydive on Day 30 because she is afraid of heights.
“Those were things I never thought I would do,” she said.
For the big day, itself, Barbato took a risk, although a slightly different kind than she had been taking.
She spent the night with her parents – who she hasn’t spent a birthday with since she was younger – at Foxwoods Casino and played roulette, betting $100 on red. Like the rest of her 39 days, the risk had a big reward: She hit three times.
And what about next year for the big Four-Oh?
Barbato says she’s planning on going even bigger for that milestone. But for that to happen, she’s going to need more time.
Right now, she’s deciding between two exciting options that will take place over 40 weeks, rather than 40 days.
Barbato is hoping to either visit 40 places in the United States she’s never been. Or, since she enjoyed her trek up Mount Washington on Day 35 so much this year, climb to the top of 40 mountains.
“Forty peaks in 40 weeks,” she laughed.
Here’s what Barbato did on the run up to her 39th birthday:
1) Indoor skydiving
3) Hot air balloon
4) Trapeze school
5) Ultimate kart racing
7) Saw tall ships
8) Segway tour
9) Firearms lesson
10) Supported “Birthday Wishes” charity
11) Indoor rock climbing
12) Ballroom dancing
14) Purgatory chasm
15) Mechanical bull
16) Helicopter lesson
17) Newport Cliff Walk
18) Intro to motorcycling
19) Fly a kite
20) Horseback riding on beach
21) Farm volunteer
22) Piano lesson
23) Improv show
24) Laser tag
25) Sing with a band
26) Guitar lesson
27) Mount Monadnock
28) Skeet and trap shooting
29) Wine making
32) Blue Man Group
33) Duck Tour
34) Salt water fishing
35) Mount Washington
36) Ride Codzilla
37) Hang gliding
38) Buy a stranger coffee
39) Gamble at Foxwoods
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.