Travel Legends: John Goddard – The Ultimate Bucket List

The Ultimate Bucket List - John Goddard's 'Life List'I love my travel, and I’ve always had a hunger and desire for adventure, but it all pales into insignificance when you read about American adventurer, John Goddard. Way back in 1940 at the mere age of 15, while most of us were still many years away from discovering who we really are. John Goddard sat down at his kitchen table and scribbled down on yellow writing pad, what he describes as ‘My Life List’. Under that heading he proceeded to jot down 127 goals that he wished to achieve throughout his life. When you scroll through the list below, you will notice that John was not one for taking the easy path.

A generation later, John has achieved 109 of his original 127 goals, and in many cases’s he was not just satisfied with achieving his goal, but he actually excelled at the task.

John was the first man in history to explore the Nile River (1951) in it’s entirety, and then backed up this achievement with an ever greater one by becoming the first man to explore the entire length of the Congo River (1956). It was this journey that claimed the life of one of John’s best friends. John has also scaled many high mountains around the world, including the Matterhorn, where he refused to turn around, even when his professional guides decided it was to dangerous to go on.

Throughout his adventures, he has been bitten by a rattlesnake, charged by elephants and trapped in quicksand. He has crashed planes, and almost drowned twice in pursuit of his dreams.

John is also noted for his honesty where in his book ‘The Survivor – 21 Spine-Chilling Adventures on The Edge of Death‘ he admits his own recklessness in many of his adventures, and gives gratitude to the supreme force that miraculously allowed him to survive some of his great adventures.

A couple of Johns listed items were pushing the envelope a little, even by his lofty standards. Item 125 gets a bit of a laugh from myself, where he states he wants to go to the moon. I suppose you can forgive him as he was only 15, but I shouldn’t laugh to hard, as John is still alive (he’s now in his eighties) and if any could make it happen, he could.

John Goddard is one of the worlds true adventurers, a real life Indiana Jones, and I think he deserves his self proclaimed title as ‘The Worlds Greatest Goal Achiever’.

I’d like to know if anyone else out there has complied their own list? I’ve never actually had a ‘Life List’ or ‘Bucket List’ as there now called, but maybe I should sit down and pen one of my own. Anyway here’s John’s ‘Life List’, listed below.

My Life List, By John Goddard (* marks accomplished goals)


1. * Nile River
2. * Amazon River
3. * Congo River
4. * Colorado River
5. Yangtze River, China
6. Niger River
7. Orinoco River, Venezuela
8. * Rio Coco, Nicaragua


9. * The Congo
10. * New Guinea
11. * Brazil
12. * Borneo
13. * The Sudan (nearly buried alive in a sandstorm)
14. * Australia
15. * Kenya
16. * The Philippines
17. * Tanganyika (Now Tanzania)
18. * Ethiopia
19. * Nigeria
20. * Alaska


21. Mt. Everest
22. Mt. Aconcagua, Argentina
23. Mt. McKinley
24. * Mt. Hauscaran, Peru
25. * Mt. Kilimanjaro
26. * Mt. Ararat, Turkey
27. * Mt. Kenya
28. Mt. Cook, New Zealand
29. * Mt. Popocatepetl, Mexico
30. * The Matterhorn
31. * Mt. Rainier
32. * Mt. Fuji
33. * Mt. Vesuvius
34. * Mt. Bromo, Java
35. * Grand Tetons
36. * Mt. Baldy, California
37.Carry out careers in medicine and exploration
38. Visit every country in the world (30 to go)
39. * Study Navaho and Hopi Indians
40. * Learn to fly a plane
41. * Ride horse in Rose Parade


42. * Iguacu Falls, Brazil
43. * Victoria Falls, Rhodesia (Chased by a warthog in the process)
44. * Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
45. * Yosemite Falls
46. * Niagara Falls
47. * Retrace travels of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great


48. * Coral reefs of Florida
49. * Great Barrier Reef, Australia (photographed a 300-pound clam)
50. * Red Sea
51. * Fiji Islands
52. * The Bahamas
53. * Explore Okefenokee Swamp and the Everglades


54. North and South Poles
55. * Great Wall of China
56. * Panama and Suez Canals
57. * Easter Island
58. * The Galapagos Islands
59. * Vatican City (saw the Pope)
60. * The Taj Mahal
61. * The Eiffel Tower
62. * The Blue Grotto
63. * The Tower of London
64. * The Leaning Tower of Pisa
65. * The Sacred Well of Chichen-Itza, Mexico
66. * Climb Ayers Rock in Australia
67. Follow River Jordan from Sea of Galilee to Dead Sea


68. * Lake Victoria
69. * Lake Superior
70. * Lake Tanganyika
71. * Lake Titicaca, S. America
72. * Lake Nicaragua


73. * Become an Eagle Scout
74. * Dive in a submarine
75. * Land on and take of from an aircraft carrier
76. * Fly in a blimp, balloon and glider
77. * Ride an elephant, camel, ostrich and bronco
78. * Skin dive to 40 feet and hold breath two and a half minutes underwater.
79. * Catch a ten-pound lobster and a ten-inch abalone
80. * Play flute and violin
81. * Type 50 words a minute
82. * Make a parachute jump
83. * Learn water and snow skiing
84. * Go on a church mission
85. * Follow the John Muir trail
86. * Study native medicines and bring back useful ones
87. * Bag camera trophies of elephant, lion, rhino, cheetah, buffalo and whale
88. * Learn to fence
89. * Learn jujitsu
90. * Teach a college course
91. * Watch a cremation ceremony in Bali
92. * Explore depths of the sea
93. Appear in a Tarzan movie (he now considers this an irrelevant boyhood dream)
94. Own a horse, chimpanzee, cheetah, ocelot, and coyote (yet to own a chimp or cheetah)
95. Become a ham radio operator
96. * Build own telescope
97. * Write a book (On Nile trip)
98. * Publish an article in National Geographic Magazine
99. * High jump five feet
100. * Broad jump 15 feet
101. * Run mile in five minutes
102. * Weigh 175 pounds stripped (still does)
103. * Perform 200 sit-ups and 20 pull-ups
104. * Learn French, Spanish and Arabic
105. Study dragon lizards on Komodo Island (Boat broke down within 20 miles of island)
106. * Visit birthplace of Grandfather Sorenson in Denmark
107. * Visit birthplace of Grandfather Goddard in England
108 * Ship aboard a freighter as a seaman
109. Read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (has read extensive parts in each volume)
110. * Read the Bible from cover to cover
111.* Read the works of Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Dickens, Thoreau, Rousseau, Conrad, Hemingway, Twain, Burroughs, Talmage, Tolstoi, Longfellow, Keats, Poe, Bacon, Whittier, and Emerson (not every work of each)
112.* Become familiar with the compositions of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Ibert, Mendelssohn, Lalo, Liszt, Rimski-Korsakov, Respighi, Rachmaninoff, Paganini, Stravinsky, Toch, Tschaikosvsky, Verdi
113.* Become proficient in the use of a plane, motorcycle, tractor, surfboard, rifle, pistol, canoe, microscope, football, basketball, bow and arrow, lariat and boomerang
114. * Compose music
115. * Play Clair de Lune on the piano
116. * Watch fire-walking ceremony (In Bali and Surinam)
117. * Milk a poisonous snake (bitten by diamondback during photo session)
118. * Light a match with .22 rifle
119. * Visit a movie studio
120. * Climb Cheops’ pyramid
121. * Become a member of the Explorer’s Club and the Adventure’s Club
122. * Learn to play polo
123. * Travel through the Grand Canyon on foot and by boat
124. * Circumnavigate the globe (four times)
125. Visit the moon (“Someday, if God wills”)
126. * Marry and have children (has five children)
127. * Live to see the 21st century


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Jason has traveled the world extensively during the last 20 years, with overland journeys on six continents and across over 90 countries. This site serves as a chronicle of the images and tales from these journeys, as well as offering advice and general information for other like minded travelers.

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  • Francis

    Wow – AMAZING ! ! ! If this account is even Half true ? I must get on my knees and kow-tow to a Modern day ” HERO ” . Clearly I would be a lyer to say I wasn’t a bit Jealous ! But two things I’d like to Know .
    1.) What’s it like to be Born so rich that one need not work but be totally self obsorbed ?
    2.) What Exactly does Retrace the ” Route of Marco Polo ” mean to John ? It seems that just about every westerner that steps foot in China Claims Polos route to some degree ?
    lastly as they say ” A Jack of all trades and a Master of NONE ” if the shoe fits………………..
    Francis O’Donnell , Explorer , Award Winning PBS Documentary Filmaker , Emmy nominated Director of ” In the footstep of Marco Polo ” and Author of the compaign book of the same name ! Please visit

  • Jason

    Wow – Francis, John Goddard seems to have hit a raw nerve with yourself. I’ve heard of your documentary previously, but I have never seen it, and I will now make the time to sit and watch it. I’m not sure on what John Goddard’s financial upbringing was, but I feel that most things he has accomplished (or has said to accomplished as you point out) would be obtainable within a lifetime, to any hard working individual with the complete desire and dedication to achieve. I suppose his adventures took place in an era where it wasn’t as easy as it is today to document, so if you’ve got any further info on his claims, let me know as Im quite interested. I suppose your put out by the fact that he claims to have retraced the footsteps of Marco Polo, when you guys claim to be the first. Lets hope your comment creates a bit of debate and if anyone else has anything to add, don’t be shy. Anyway, I appreciate your comment and thanks for stopping by.

  • GlobalButterfly

    Coolest bucket list ever! This guys is my new hero!!!

  • Steve

    This guy is amazing. It really takes guts to do all of these things. I’ve done a few of these, but not as many as he has – of course, he has had a lot more time to do them. His list has given me some ideas of what I want to do now. It is really inspiring to read stories about great adventurers like this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jason

    It is one hell of a bucket list, I know. I reckon that also by making a bucket list, and putting it out there for all to see, puts more pressure on the composer to achieve the items listed. I have vague details in my head of what I would like to achieve before I die, but no real list. I should start working on it I suppose.

  • Jason

    I agree Steve. John Goddard has achieved plenty in one life time. Some people may not realize, but some of his items in relation to athletic achievements are also quite special. I’m someone that enjoys my running, and item 101 is to run a 5 minute mile. This is also a tough ask, and for most people not possible to achieve without a fair bit of natural ability, as well as many months/years of dedicated training. Even then, most will still not achieve the 5 minute mile.

  • Erica Kuschel

    I LOVE THIS MAN! How amazing that he set his sights to something that insane at that time. How amazing and inspirational! EEEEEE! This totally made my day.

  • Jason

    Steve, keep on pushing forward with your list. I believe if anyone creates a list of this type, the number one item should be, to remain fit and healthy. If you fail at that, then your pretty well stuffed when it comes to achieving the others. Especially if the list is as lengthy and diverse as John Goddards. Thanks for your comment.

  • Jason

    Thats spot on Erica. This was in the 1940′s, and when he was only 15. Quite bizarre, when you think about it. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Ant Stone

    Wow. What a list! Without the asterisks’ it would seem completely ridiculous, but he’s done it. What a feeling that must be. I know he hasn’t made them all, but still, what a great achievement.

  • Jason

    Ant, I agree that at first glance it seems ridiculous ‘Maybe going to the Moon is a little over the top!’, but he’s had a fair crack at getting them checked off, one by one. Some items are a little vague, but his exploration of the Congo and the Nile by kayak were massive feats. Considering they were achieved in the fifties. I appreciate your input.

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  • Jason

    Just checked out your list Celine. Congratulation on finishing your first marathon, something I hope to do this year. When you get the 30 items checked off, it will be time to expand it to the forty at forty list.

  • Elle

    That guy is out of control. Imagine being able to sit down with him and hear the stories he has. Very cool, thanks for sharing!

  • Jason

    Hey Elle, I believe John is still alive and it would no doubt be amazing to site and talk with him. He would be one of those people, you’d love to put around that imaginary dinner table. Thanks for stopping by.

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