Toronto couple had year of 365 new firsts in 2012
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John Loerchner and Laura Mendes’s 2012 New Year’s resolutions: visit Machu Picchu, learn to trapeze, make green eggs and ham, eat like a caveman for a week, dance naked in the rain.
And it went on — hike in a cloud, eat cactus, get scuba-dive certified, throw a spaghetti fight — for a total of 365 new things to learn, make, experience in 365 days. A whole year of firsts.
And the young Toronto couple has done it, almost.
“By Jan. 1, we’ll have, plus or minus, about 20 left,” predicts Loerchner. “The project is designed to come down to the last day, which is Jan. 13.”
The countdown didn’t start until mid-January, 2012, because creating a list of 365 firsts they could both agree on took several weeks, not the few hours sipping wine they originally figured.
While they aimed for one new thing a day, they often got too busy running their company, Labspace Studio, a creative agency that does digital marketing and branding and stages art shows. So they planned strategically and ticked bunches off the list when they could.
In one weekend at a farm, they learned to milk a cow, make butter, pluck a chicken, roast the bird on a self-made spit over an open fire, drive a tractor and dig with a backhoe. They accomplished 13 new things, including Mendes’ most-dreaded: eat a bug. They collected crickets, froze them, then roasted them so they’d be crunchy.
“Then we dipped them in chocolate, which is probably why they weren’t so bad,” says Mendes.
The couple, who met at the University of Toronto, both turned 30 in 2012, another reason for their over-the-top, do-it-now vow. “It started with me simply saying, New Year’s is coming and I need a resolution,” explains Mendes. “And John said, ‘Let’s do it differently, make a list of things we always wanted to do and turn it into a fun challenge.’ ”
They blogged about each endeavour, complete with photos and videos, at 365thingsin365days.com. “That gave us the extra push and made us feel accountable,” says Mendes, sitting in the small Leslieville home that doubles as their office. But the blog proved time consuming and they’re chronically behind in their postings.
On this day, their first-time-ever assignment will be either to take a tango lesson or mail a package with a small holiday gift to a stranger. They’d pick the lucky recipient randomly, zooming in with Google maps. “That’s the digital equivalent of spinning the globe and putting your finger down,” says Loerchner. “We might make it a chain, a pay-it-forward idea.”
As they approach the finish line, they still have to climb with an ice axe, go snow shoeing, go dog sledding, make an ice sculpture — and kiss under the mistletoe. They’ve already kissed on a bridge at sunset and upside down like Spiderman.
The favourite so far? A five-day hike along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, something they’d long talked about.
But a close second and third: scuba diving in Belize and taking a cave tour of a Mayan holy site. “That was straight out of Indiana Jones,” says Mendes.
Some to-dos turned out to be duds. “Deep-fried pickles, at least the ones we made, taste terrible,” says Loerchner.
Despite following a YouTube video, the basket they tried to weave looked like a hurricane-ravaged bird’s nest.
A canoe trip to the Toronto Islands was cut short when waves nearly swamped the boat.
“That was the big thing we learned,” says Mendes. “It’s OK to fail. The important thing is to try.”
An unexpected bonus was spending time with friends and family whose talents they tapped. An artist friend taught them origami. Loerchner’s mother guided them through jam-making and pie-baking from scratch.
Although attempting a feat-a-day has been occasionally stressful, they haven’t had any big fights. “If anything, it’s brought us closer together,” comments Mendes.
So while camping at Bon Echo Park, which was on the list, they did something not on the list: They got engaged.
“That’s also another first,” says Loerchner with a smile.
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