1,000 Cemeteries Project

Originally posted on Finch Lee on September 1, 2015


Chris Guillebeau has done it again. He’s written a book that speaks directly to my heart. If you have no idea who I’m speaking of, I suggest you run to your nearest bookstore and buy all of his books. Seriously. They’re awesome.

His latest book The Happiness of Pursuit (released in September 2014) is all about finding the quest that will bring purpose to your life. Sounds big and important right? Well it is!

Without something to work towards, we often find ourselves drifting from one day to the next. We sink into the monotony and get caught up in petty annoyances. Or at least I do but I highly doubt I’m alone.

That’s exactly where I was before I picked up Guillebeau’s book. Stuck in a rut that had me running in circles. How did I end up here? Hadn’t I made a promise to myself only two years back that I wouldn’t let that happen again? Well, that’s the thing about a rut, you don’t realize you’re in it until you do. I know that’s a silly thing to say.

I started to think about my own life. What was my quest? When I left Winnipeg two years ago, I set out to live differently. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant but I knew it didn’t include a full-time office job complete with pension and benefits. I also knew it didn’t include staying in one place.

I wanted to travel and explore. I wanted to learn and share. I wanted to publish my novel and earn my living as a self-employed person.

I still do and I know I will.

Now that’s all fine and dandy, but is that a true quest? In his book, Guillebeau uses the following criteria to define a quest.

A Quest….

  • has a clear goal and specific end date.
  • presents a clear challenge.
  • requires a sacrifice of some kind.
  • is often driven by a calling or sense of mission.
  • requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.

So although living differently is definitely a mission of mine, it’s awfully vague. If it was going to be a quest I needed to get clear on the differently bit.

I began by making a Bucket List. You know, that list of things you want to do before you die? That’s it. I started by adding some of the items I had already accomplished: travel to London, visit the British Museum and the Tower of London, live in Vancouver etc. There were a fair few already checked off. (Yay!)

Then I added those items I had yet to complete: publish my novel, live in the UK, visit the Necropolis in Glasgow etc.

At the end I re-read the list. It had a very clear trend. Places/people I wanted to visit, places I wanted to live and career goals. Interestingly enough two cemeteries topped my list of places to visit: the Necropolis in Glasgow and the Trinity Church Cemetery in New York.

Now might be a good time to mention that my novels are focused on the (Grim) Reaper. The majority of the scenes take place in cemeteries and graveyards all over the world. I write about  the moment before a soul reaches the afterlife. I write about the process. It sounds heavy and dark but there’s also humor and love.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I spend a fair amount of time in cemeteries. When I’m on holiday, I try to visit the local graveyard and snap a few pictures before I leave. Anyone see where this is headed? I quickly made a list of the number of cemeteries I had already visited.


Considering I’ve only been to five funerals (four of which I only attended the service at the church) it seemed fairly significant.

(These are photos from one of my favourite graveyards – Cille Choirill Church & Graveyard in Roy Bridge, Scotland)

What may have started out as research for my novels quickly turned into something more. I enjoy going to cemeteries. They’re peaceful, beautiful and full of history. I’m sure Freud would have something more to say on the subject. Perhaps it’s my way of dealing with my own mortality.  Whatever the reason it appeared I was already on a quest so why not make it official.

In addition to the other important quests I’m undertaking (traveling, publishing and becoming a nomad) I’ve decided to add visit 1000 cemeteries to the list. I plan on making a list of must-see cemeteries including the two I already highlighted and mentioned in my novels.

I’ll provide updates here and on social media using the hashtag #1000Cemeteries. I realize this is probably an odd thing for most people, but I’m confident this falls nicely into my live differently category. 🙂

*Note: Since writing this post I’ve visited more cemeteries bringing the total to 17 cemeteries!  WooHoo! Only 983 to go. *face palm*