The challenge: play at Dubai Tribeca Kitchen and Bar
Since opening three years ago, the bar’s Sunday night “Tribeca Sessions” – as its open mic night is known – has been offering home-grown music talent the chance to shine (www.tribeca.ae), and creative director Vesna Vrankovic says the vibe is laid-back, unpretentious and supportive. “There aren’t too many rules,” she says, adding that acts include singer/songwriters performing their own music, bands in an assortment of genres and even Michael Jackson impersonators. “Musicians usually perform four or five songs each,” says Vrankovic, “and what we’re looking for is originality and raw talent.” If you’ve got the voice and the nerve, get in touch with Abbo Abbondandolo (@abbomusic/@goplaytheworld) who is responsible for selecting the musicians.
Difficulty rating: 6
The challenge: catch a 30kg cobia
Of all the fish in Dubai’s waters, the one that Jameel Abedin, MD of Go Fishing Dubai (www.GoFishingDubai.com) likes best is the cobia, and to land one over 30kg would be a big moment for any sports fisherman. “Cobias don’t swim in schools, just groups of two or three, so it’s rare to catch one,” he says, “and to land one that’s a good size is even more rare because they’re such great fighters.”
For your best chance of bagging a cobia – also known as the lemonfish or black salmon – wrecks are a good place to start and they are most often caught when trolling with lures or live-baiting off a boat; catching one while shore-fishing is very unlikely. In summer, you’ll need to venture a little further out to optimise your chances – your skipper will likely seek out a deeper spot around 35-55km offshore. “It’s always good to keep the lines tight – as with any other game fish – and have a nice sharp gaff handy,” says Abedin, who warns that cobias have very sharp, spiky spines around the head and back, and like to roll like a gator when out of water. As for cooking your cobia – good luck. “It’s a very difficult fish to clean for eating,” says Abedin, “but if you can do it, it’s one of the best eating fish in these waters.”
Difficulty rating: 8
The challenge: compete in a triathlon
As fitness goals go, triathlons are hard to beat, involving serious sessions in the water, on a bike and wearing down shoe leather. Former Ironman triathlete Andy Sexton, founder of precision bike fitting experts Bike Science (www.bike-science.com), got into them when he was at uni as a way to up his running game, and found that triathlons helped him to train better and also see the world. The way to begin, says Sexton, is to work up to a duathlon (two runs and a bike ride) or aquathlon (a swim and two runs). “Unless you’re used to open water swimming, start small with a swimming pool event first,” Sexton says. As for training, he reckons you should aim for swimming twice a week, running twice a week and either commuting by bike or doing a spin class midweek, followed by a weekend bike ride. “The key is to find a group to train with,” says Sexton. “Someone to drag you to the pool at 6am.” With hard work, you could be fit to try your first triathlon when the weather cools.
Difficulty rating: 9
The challenge: pen that novel!
“The best way is to just start,” says bestselling novelist Amanda Prowse, whose latest book Anna: One Love, Two Stories was released to rave reviews earlier this year (www.amandaprowse.org). “Don’t procrastinate, don’t over-think, just do it. Start and see what develops.” Prowse suggests scribbling during your twice-daily commute or instead of watching TV, and says that even half an hour a day is enough to get you motivated. “The secret is to write about what you love,” she says. “And you don’t have to write a best-seller, you might start with a poem or a paragraph describing something you can see or imagine clearly. This is how you learn your craft.” And when you’ve finished your magnum opus? Prowse says you can look forward to feelings of immense satisfaction. “Writing is a very personal thing,” she says, “and so to complete a writing project is a huge achievement.”
Difficulty rating: 9
5. Instagramming your food
The challenge: make and photograph a recipe every day from your favourite cookbook
This is the basic premise of the 2009 American comedy-drama Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep, and top food photographer William Reavell, who also runs online and in-the-flesh courses (foodphotographytraining.com), reckons it’s a brilliant challenge to set yourself – especially if you choose a lengthy book (there are 524 recipes in the movie!). “Instagramming with your phone is a bit like taking a Polaroid,” says Reavell, “it’s fun and quirky.” He points out that while smartphone lenses are great for wide-angle landscape shots, without the right accessories that allow for pin-sharp close-ups the best shots will be overhead images so as not to make your dishes look too distorted. “Daylight is best” Reavell says. His final tip? “Cutlery and personal items on the table can confuse and create a busy shot.”
Difficulty rating: 7
The challenge: paraglide at Zighy Bay in Oman
Why this? Several reasons: firstly, it’s only a few hours away by car, and secondly, Paul Joseph, co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel (www.healthandfitnesstravel.com), a global leader in wellness holidays, says it’s one of the best things he’s ever done (and he’s done cool stuff in more than 70 different countries). “The sensation of being free as I was soaring through the sky was absolutely amazing,” he says, “and this is certainly something all types of travellers should tick off their bucket list. I was in the air for about 10 minutes and when you’re paragliding in to a luxury resort set amidst sandy mountains and turquoise waters, it’s hard to not feel like James Bond.”
Joseph says that he strongly believes that to travel is to take a journey into yourself. “In order to understand your head, your heart and the rest of your body,” he says, “you must commit to making travel part of your lifestyle. Exploring different parts of the world will push you out of your comfort zone and allow you to embark on emotional challenges and journeys which will aid your personal growth.”
Difficulty rating: 4
The challenge: plan and host a five-course meal for 20 friends
The goal here, says Shashwat Shivam, former chef at Jodhpur Royal Dining in Downtown Dubai, is to prove to yourself how you can run a team and push yourself beyond your limits. In the run-up to the event, plot out the logistics: “Your dining area should be big enough; the kitchen should have the appropriate amount of tools; the menu should be set and should describe you as the host,” says Shivam, who adds that you need to make sure you have all the crockery and cutlery and plating-up space you need, too. Next, make sure you can get all the ingredients according to the menu you’ve put together.
“It will be virtually impossible to do everything alone,” says the chef. “Apart from the host, two additional cooks will be needed, and for service I would recommend three servers. In addition to this the host will need a person for dishwashing.”
Make sure you brief the team well in advance, and for an early win, why not serve a cold starter on dry ice with hot water? Shivam says it will deliver “a smoky effect that will be very appealing.”
Difficulty rating: 8
The challenge: start a crowdfunding campaign
Jeff Woolf OBE is the inventor of the Morpher folding bicycle helmet (www.morpherhelmet.com), and has raised more than £1m (Dh5m) on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. If you’ve a great idea for a product, he says, the best way to see if it’s got legs is to speak to family and friends. “Ask them to be ruthlessly honest,” he says, “They mustn’t worry about your feelings as it is better that your feelings get hurt than you get hurt by a bad campaign for a product that is not worth launching.”
If they like it, make an exciting video that gets the message across in a way that people will relate to your story – “a well-written and punchy pitch deck/business plan is essential,” says Woolf – and then choose a crowdfunding platform you like. If interest seems slow, the inventor suggests pushing like mad on social media, sending emails to your contacts and promising to yourself that you just won’t give up.
Difficulty rating: 9
9. Interior design
The challenge: keep your coffee table clutter-free for a year
Interior design ace Brian Woulfe, founder of Designed By Woulfe (www.designedbywoulfe.com), says that your living/reception rooms are probably where most waking hours are spent while at home, and at the centre of these rooms is almost always a coffee table. “Unfortunately, this often becomes more of a shelf than a central display for artfully-styled books and space for a latte,” he says. It’s such a waste, especially when your coffee table, he asserts, could be an exciting platform for design, and experimenting with colour and style. “Try stacking two or three chunky coffee table books on subjects that interest you,” he says. “Also, a candle or diffuser adds instant charm to a space, and its rightful place is on a candle plate in the centre of your coffee table.” Add a low-level flower arrangement in colours that reflect the ambience of the room, and if you find the clutter creeping back onto your new surface, Woulfe says you should invest in a layered coffee table with drawers underneath.
Difficulty level: 5
10. The idea of mindfulness
The challenge: master Mindfulness!
“Mindfulness embraces focusing on the present moment, accepting our thoughts, feelings and emotions, and interpreting our experiences in the moment,” says Tanya Dharamshi, a Counselling Psychologist at the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai (priorygroup.ae). Many people know the theory by now, but how many of us have dabbled in Mindfulness and then quit – or never even get round to starting? Dharamshi says that a good way to change all that is to begin slowly. “It would be a challenge to sit still and focus on your surroundings for 30 minutes the first time around,” says Dharamshi, who instead suggests just two or three minutes of mindful meditation a day initially, and increasing this over time. “Mindfulness does not only encompass meditation, it is also about being aware of your sensations,” she says. “An example of this is when taking a walk: a mindful walk would involve a greater awareness of the sensations of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste along the way.” With time, Mindfulness will become a way of life – and you’ll be all the better for it.
Difficulty rating: 6
11. The environment
The challenge: join the 30 Wears campaign
All of those Dh20 T-shirts you bought, wore twice and binned – if you ever stopped to ponder the criminally-underpaid people who made them and the landfill you’re contributing to, you’d likely think twice next time. Or sign up for the 30 Wears campaign, which Trewin Restorick, CEO of the environmental charity Hubbub (which launched a challenge to recycle more than three million coffee cups in London) says is well worth lending your name to. “It’s great, because it highlights a hidden environmental problem in a way that is simple to understand,” he says. “People often don’t connect the fashion industry to damaging the environment, but it actually creates more carbon emissions than that of international flights.” The 30 Wears campaign encourages people to think, “Will I actually wear this 30 times if I buy it?” If the answer is yes, go for it. And if not, then don’t. “This will make you feel good about yourself and will have other benefits, such as saving money,” says Restorick. “Most importantly, it will help you look at the world differently.”
Difficulty level: 6
12. Bird watching
The challenge: do a “Big Year”
There’s a comedy film about this starring Steve Martin, and as many “twitchers” will know, doing a Big Year means clearing 12 months from your calendar and scouring the world to see how many different species of bird you can see. Record-breaking Brits Alan Davies and Ruth Miller did it in 2008, chalking up 4,341 species from the 10,000 or so that exist. “It can take a huge amount of commitment to do a Big Year,” says Davies. “Our Big Year covered the whole world, so we had to commit to spending the entire year travelling, visiting 27 different countries in 12 months.” As for the cost – how long is a piece of string? “It depends on where and how you travel,” says Davies. “If you read a book by Kenn Kaufman called Kingbird Highway, you’ll find that he did a Big Year with just a dollar a day to spend. We spent rather more than that!”
An easier alternative is to do a Big Year that encompasses a smaller geographical area, such as the Middle East or – smaller still – the UAE. “You might want to take a look at surfbirds.com where people log their Big Year lists to give you some ideas,” says Davies, who now runs tours for twitchers (www.birdwatchingtrips.co.uk). Big Years normally run during a full calendar year, so use from now until Jan 1 to prep your once-in-a-lifetime trip – or say, ‘What the heck!’ and start tomorrow.
Difficulty rating: 10 for a global Big Year, 5 for a local one