What’s that on the horizon? 30?
It’s a big birthday! Why does it feel like we should really know how to adult by 30?
This list is part “wish I had,” part lessons learned, and part fun things to do before 30! The list is in no particular order, and I tried to balance serious growth with more light-hearted ideas.
So far my 30’s have been equal parts challenge and heartbreak, with growth and gratitude. That’s life isn’t it? Sometimes good comes from the bad, but the bad still freaking sucks.
I can say that I don’t miss my 20’s (which is hopefully encouraging) and I am enjoying life on this side of the 3-0, despite feeling slightly panicked about my mortality.
1 – Get A Pet (or learn to take care of a plant)
Let’s start things off with what is probably an easy check mark for most people. Get a pet or a plant!
It’s an experience everyone should have in life, so why not before 30?
I can happily say that while I have never kept a plant alive, I have successfully pampered two cats.
2 – Travel as Much as Possible
Looking back, I wish I had travelled more in my early 20’s. I was so focused on paying to put myself through university and then actually finishing university, that 5 years came and went and I didn’t go anywhere.
My mid to late 20’s I travelled more and have no regrets, but here are some things that I wish I had done.
Everyone should take a solo trip before 30. I didn’t and I wish I had. The only reason I didn’t was because my mom said I shouldn’t, which is a bit ridiculous in your 20’s, so I wish I hadn’t listened!
It would have done so much for my confidence, and I’m sure I would have learned a lot about myself. Since I’m clearly NOT the expert Here is a list of 25 benefits of solo travel.
I wouldn’t hostel these days because I have a family, but I also didn’t hostel when I was younger, purely out of anxiety.
I wish I had put myself out there and forced myself to meet people. It’s an experience I’ve missed out on now, and probably won’t ever have (unless Jason and I decide to try it when we are empty nesters!)
A year abroad
People under 30 have more working holiday visa options than anybody else! Take the leap with either that, or as an international student, and spend some time in a new culture.
These opportunities are either not available, or considerably more difficult the older and more settled you get!
3 – Don’t Buy A House
Does a “Don’t” count towards a to-do list? I feel like I really have to include it, because buying a house, will be on a lot of people’s lists for 30 goals.
The conventional wisdom that everyone hears is “Don’t waste your money renting!” but it’s really not as cut and dry as that!
I wish that we had understood more about how interest works on a mortgage and ALL of the expenses of owning a home that do NOT build equity.
Interest on a mortgage is paid heavily up front, so even though we had a great interest rate of 2.7%, HALF of our mortgage payment went to interest.
So already the argument “your mortgage payment could be less than rent!” doesn’t hold much water. Half of your mortgage payment is EXACTLY like rent, because it is a payment that you will never get back.
Property taxes, which you do not pay as a tenant, can be quite expensive. Again, no equity here.
Insurance for a home owner vs. the small payment for “contents” insurance as a renter, are not even in the same ballpark.
We pay about TEN TIMES as much for insurance every month, as the ANNUAL payment for contents insurance at our rental. Another payment that provides no equity.
If your utilities are included at your rental, then that’s another expense you would have to add to make a fair comparison.
Now add to that, real estate is actually not a secure investment for the average person.
If you are buying a home to live in, and may need to sell it to live somewhere else AT ANY POINT, that is very different than being a real estate investor.
An investor can hold a property for years and years and years, ride the losses, and make money when it’s a good time to sell. (And also won’t need to buy a new home at that same high point.)
Basically, we bought a house thinking it would be a good investment. A check in the box. Doing what every responsible person does. WORST financial mistake we have made.
I have NO doubt that we would be miles ahead in savings if we had never bought our house.
I felt duped. WHY does everybody do this? Yes there are plenty of people with better stories, but we are not alone. Almost everybody I know who has sold a house recently, took a loss. That’s crazy!
At the end of the day real estate is a gamble, and if I could do it all over, I would way rather ride the lows as a tenant.
Of course you will do whatever you want to do, and there are plenty of fun things about decorating and fixing up a house. For us it turned out to be an extremely expensive hobby, and I just wish there were more people out there validating long term renters.
Buying or renting, the result is the same. You choose a place that you like, and you live in it.
4 – Aim for Your Dream Future
If you could do ANYTHING, like anything at all, what would it be?
Why can’t you?
Why is it impossible?
But…people do it, right?
Unless you want to live on Mars milking goats for a living, your dream is probably not impossible.
(I mean, you could still contact Elon Musk about that, but that would be a later date for sure.)
If you always think “one day,” that implies at some point the opportunity will drop in your lap, but that is unlikely.
Take steps now, before 30, to make shifts towards your dream. There are some things that you will have to work really hard to make happen, but hard work can be done!
Maybe you won’t succeed and you will end up somewhere in the middle. That’s probably not worse than pursuing your “secure” career forever. At the very least, it’s the same.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
A little something I have to tell myself all the time: You don’t need more education.
I mean, maybe you do. For a lot of dream careers though, you just need to start.
Because education was so valued in my house growing up, I find that to be my default “first step” for anything I want to do.
I find a course, a certificate, an online school, like that will be the golden ticket. A practical way to get to an impractical career.
Unless your dream career actually requires more education, just start.
5 – Go to Paris
This really speaks for itself.
I also have a Slow Travel blog, so you should know that I am not into checking big ticket cities off, just to have a check mark.
Paris is such a travel stereotype that I don’t even want to like it. Unfortunately, it’s amazing and everybody needs to go.
The architecture is incredible. The history is incomparable. The landmark sights per meter has got to be some kind of record.
It’s just a great city to “be” in. There is a definite vibe and atmosphere about Paris. You need to walk the streets one day, and before 30 is a great time.
Sincerely, someone who would like for it to be overrated.
6 – Start Taking Calcium
I know this is boring, but this is one of my biggest regrets about my 20’s.
Have I mentioned that I’m a hypochondriac?
Did you know that you only add to your bone density until about age 30, and after that your bones deteriorate for the rest of your life?
Osteoporosis affects one in three women, and it kills.
The best way to prevent Osteoporosis is by getting enough calcium and vitamin D, either through diet or supplements. Easy really.
So do it.
Most of us DON’T get enough calcium in our diet alone. I wasn’t told any of this until I was 31, so while I still take my supplements, I just wish I had known sooner.
7 – Move Cities
I think everybody should move cities at least once by 30.
You really can’t fully appreciate how life could be if you stay in the same place forever.
Not saying you can’t go back, but actually moving is the only way to see if fear is keeping you in one place.
8 – Don’t Make Life Stage Goals That You Have No Control Over
Isn’t it funny that when we are younger we have a vision of our life, as though we somehow have control over it?!
You can’t control when you meet the right person, when you get married, or even when your first baby comes (if it comes at all.)
Don’t make goals for 30 that you can’t rely on yourself to make a reality. It may take a few years to reprogram yourself, so start now! That way you won’t have a crisis at 30.
A perfect husband. Two children: One boy and one girl, with an age gap that is just right.
Let go of your family plan and embrace whatever your family looks like. Maybe it will be just you and your plants.
THIS right here. Is possibly the biggest challenge of my whole entire life.
I love my family. I love my husband. I love our daughter. I love our one-child lifestyle.
So WHY OH WHY, do I spend so much energy trying to orchestrate the future??
Are we done having kids? Are we not done? Biological, or adoption?
Embrace different ways of thinking about family.
I have a tremendous amount of guilt when it comes to having an only child. Both my husband and I come from big families.
Providing a sibling for our daughter, or fulfilling other people’s expectations are not good enough reasons to have another child. Not even staying true to a vision of my own is.
I haven’t conquered this by 30. Hopefully you can!
9 – Fall In Love
Forget what I just said! (Just kidding, don’t)
While you don’t have control over this, hopefully everybody has a chance to fall in love at least once by 30.
It might stick, it might not.
Put yourself out there and be open to doing life with someone.
10 – Get Married
Hi, me again, sounding like I’m contradicting myself – but hear me out.
I’m not saying add it to the list and marry someone – anyone – by 30.
I just feel like by 30, if you are already in a long-term relationship, it either has legs or it doesn’t. Time to evaluate if you think this is it, or if deep down you aren’t sure if there is a future.
Probably not my most popular thoughts, but I don’t think marriage is as big of a deal as people make it out to be.
Absolutely NOBODY gets married thinking that divorce is a quick and easy solution if things don’t work out, and yet it happens.
So, “I don’t believe in divorce” or “I only want to do this once” are neither unique statements, or a predictor of success.
If you are in a happy relationship, know each other well, and have compatible future goals, you aren’t going to get more assurance than that.
(Of course this is assuming you believe in marriage or have any desire to go there.)
According to therapists and stats, there really isn’t an ideal dating time frame that precedes marriage. Less than a year can be dicey. Anything from 2 – 4 years of dating is good, and longer than 5 years you may be hesitating for a reason.
Basically, if you want to do it, do it. Don’t let being in university, wanting to buy a house, or saving for a big wedding stop you.
11 – Have Kids, Or Don’t
Having at least one child is on a lot of people’s “before 30” lists, but I promise you it’s not a milestone that you need to rush.
Thank goodness everybody is getting older when they start their families, so we all have a bit more time!
We had adopted our daughter before 30, and I have no regrets about that, but the time after has been…complicated.
Stuck in a never ending merry-go-round with a now 9 year old who has no siblings, was never exactly my vision. I’m not ready to try and have a baby, even at 33. That’s okay.
If you feel rushed, you will be happy to know that my Doctor has told me that 42 is the new 35 as far as “high risk” pregnancy goes, so you still have plenty of time.
I promise at 30 you will not feel like an old mom, however old that sounds to you right now.
12 – Go Skydiving
This has to make the list of 30 things to do/see/experience before 30, because it takes a certain amount of guts.
I honestly don’t think I will ever do this now because I have a much firmer grip on mortality. Basically, I’ve turned into a wimp that thinks everything will kill her.
So do it before 30, in case you turn 30 and no longer want to take risks.
13 – See Venice
I could obviously make a long list of wonderful places to visit and take up every space, but I wanted to include only the few VERY popular places that are still amazing to visit.
It’s a bit snobby. It has some attitude. It’s expensive, and it’s busy.
…And there is nowhere else like it.
Now that may be up for debate. There are other cities with canals, other cities with charming narrow streets, and other places with plenty of history. Venice is just so… delicious.
Totally worth going, it’s a “must-see,” and it may as well happen before 30, because as everyone keeps reminding us, it’s sinking.
14 – Start a Garden
Gardening is a skill!
Here in Northern Canada, our growing season is so short that it has taken me years trying to start a garden, and I’m still bad at it.
One day I will grow more than mint and sage. One day. (Although I do mostly want to grow herbs regardless.)
Anyways, it’s just a life skill that had I known would take YEARS to grasp, I would have probably tried to start earlier.
I say that, and here I am not sprouting any seeds indoors when I should definitely be practicing with that.
15 – Live With Less, On Less
It might seem obvious to not go into debt if you don’t have to, but everybody does it!
After we bought our house it was a comedy of errors as we borrowed some money to renovate and on and on it went.
You already know I wish we hadn’t bought the house, but we wandered so easily into debt that will only ever get harder to pay off.
When we were younger we thought that one day we would make more money and it would be easier to get out of debt. Unfortunately that’s not really how it seems to work….for anybody.
Simplify your life and your money. Take this time in your 20’s to purge both your belongings and unhealthy spending habits, so that you can bring the best version of yourself into your 30’s.
It’s not like a missed opportunity here means the chance is gone for good.
At any point we can all decide to do better moving forward, but to do it in your 20’s would be smart.
30 is a huge growth period in terms of looking inward and focusing on the few things that matter. It would be nice to do that without all of the clutter from your previous three decades on this earth!
Annnnd just as a rule, it’s easier to be less attached to money when you NEED less.
Money is nice, but living on less leaves you more opportunity to live simply somewhere else, and that’s my end goal, to be open to life’s opportunities.
16 – Start Wearing Sunscreen
We all know that we should… but how many of us really wear a proper SPF every day? About 12% according to this study, which also finds that 62% of people DO use an anti-aging product daily. Talk about backwards!
What you do (or don’t do) for your skin today, will start to show in your late 20’s or early 30’s.
So get in the habit now!
17 – Practice Speaking Life Into People
This is really a whole area in which I have grown a lot.
If you notice good things about people, tell them!! Why is it that we feel like we can’t shower people in compliments?
Now I will tell you that people won’t always receive your praise in a way that you expect. I’ve actually had my love ignored a fair bit. But that’s okay! We are speaking life into the world and into people because it’s a good thing to do, and maybe our words will stick with someone. We don’t do it to get anything in return.
Take time to listen
Just being real here, sometimes I get pretty busy being the main character and I don’t stop to ask people what is going on with them.
Thankfully I’m pretty nosy, so it’s not difficult to be interested in someone’s challenges, if I would just remember to ASK!
I’ve been trying to simply message people when I think about them, and I will say exactly that: “Oh you just popped into my head today so I thought I would see how you’re doing.”
Just like praising people, sometimes they ignore me, but that’s okay! I know if someone did that for me, even if I forget to reply, the words would make me feel loved.
Accept that there is room for everyone in this world
Oh good, more old “Yikes” thoughts from me. I used to be soooo competitive and jealous.
Someone’s success or lack of success, in NO WAY affects your own.
There are a lot of people in this world, and there is plenty of success to go around.
You have a place that you and only you can fill, with your unique skillset and personality. Your star might not be the highest in the sky at this moment, but the earth rotates. You just keep on shining.
We are all on different journeys, so your trajectory may not look like other people’s. That doesn’t mean you’ve missed the boat.
18 – Disney
I did not make it to the most magical place on earth before 30. Whomp whomp.
I would like to say if you haven’t gone, then you definitely should, but I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’m not sure what else to say about this, it’s a bucket list item.
19 – Master Your Skin Care Routine
This is about more than just aging (although there is that too!) Finding out what works for YOU and your skin, is a science.
Once you’ve got it down, stick to it. It will be easy to spot changes in your skin and adjust accordingly.
Need another good reason?
Studies show that people who have a skin care routine have better mental health! Taking that time for you every day to slather on your potions will help fight off anxiety and depression. Say no more!
20 – Reduce Your Footprint
A lot of my 30 before 30 are just good habits that I wish I had mastered sooner!
When it comes to reducing plastic and other household waste, it takes practice and getting used to.
If you start in your 20’s, think of how much waste you will save!
The best ways to reduce your footprint are to:
1.) not buy the trash in the first place, and
2.) re-use everything you can
At first I got overwhelmed with the idea of cutting plastic, because once you take notice, it’s really sad how much plastic you have no choice but to buy! Peanut butter jars, berries and grapes, cereal, and the list goes on (and on.)
Let’s be real, it’s still overwhelming!
Like a lot of things in life, my policy has become “something is better than nothing.” So make simple changes that you can be consistent with.
For me these have been:
Running plastic containers through the dishwasher and either re-using or recycling.
I used to hate doing this because it felt like a waste of time, but it’s the right thing to do. Lots of containers I will give to my daughter to store her treasures in.
Some produce clamshells make good lunch containers, as do the bigger produce bags with the vent holes. (Like from grapes.)
Some could even be used for Kon Mari!
I have a rule that easy to rinse plastic zipper bags (the kind from shredded cheese, etc) are always reused at least once.
Same goes for single serve plastic drink cups from fast food restaurants. Yes, reusing a plastic item once or twice might not fix the problem, but at the very least, it keeps me mindful.
Making product switches to reduce plastic:
These are just a few of the changes I’ve made
- Buy fresh produce instead of the convenient frozen bags
- Buy regular cream cheese in the foil instead of the spreadable kind in the plastic tub
- Buy large yogurt instead of single serving cups
- When it’s possible, buy the cardboard or paper version of a package (pasta, laundry soap, etc.)
This isn’t meant to be preachy, everyone has their own tolerance level for waste and recycling. For me, I just didn’t realize how wasteful I was, and now I’m taking slightly better care of the earth.
Had I started years ago I would have not only saved a lot of waste, but I would be better at it by now.
21 – Buy Quality Stuff
Just like reducing my footprint, buying quality items was a lesson learned by 30.
I don’t buy anything on sale unless I already need it, waited for said sale, or I know I can use/wear it lots and lots.
Buying one good quality item is not only less wasteful, it’s actually a better use of your money in the long run.
Sometimes I have to load up my online cart and wait until the next day so that I don’t impulse buy. That usually does the trick.(Here’s a post about how I justify spending money on my treasured Lululemons!)
22 – Chill Out
Maybe this is just a me problem, but I have had periods of my life where I was way too high strung.
I took a lot of things too seriously, and now I cringe at the thought.
Try to master relaxing and taking some deep breaths, so that one day when you’re making a caesar salad in your 30’s, you’re not suddenly reminded of what a knob you used to be. That is all.
23 – Learn to Enjoy (and cook) Healthy Food
The only way that anyone can stick to healthy habits is if they find ways to enjoy them. Taking good care of yourself before 30 sets the tone for the future for your health.
Find some simple dishes that you truly enjoy and can make for yourself regularly.
Then you might actually want to cook instead of waiting 45 minutes for a pizza!
(I said “might”…like if you were really hungry)
24 – Find Exercise You Enjoy
Ditto the healthy cooking and eating. Find exercise that you enjoy so that it doesn’t feel like a chore!
Everyone has seasons of not putting effort into their fitness, but you always have something to go back to if you have found something that you enjoy.
25 – Make New Friends
Is this a tragic thing to have on this list?
How is making adult friends so difficult? We can’t possibly ALL have nothing in common with each other, can we?
Making friends is another skill that clearly I don’t have, and definitely should have been honed by 30.
Instead of waiting for the next job, life stage, special event, I should probably be more proactive about finding relationships. Add it to the list for 40.
26 – Practice Being Adaptable
This is something that I have been reasonably good at, and it has served me so well!
Don’t be scared to move cities, change jobs, or leave a goal behind for a new one. That’s adaptability, and learning to change with your environment.
Learn the new platforms, trends, lingo, and styles. At the very least, it will help you feel cool into your 30’s.
You will only turn into someone who is out of touch if you don’t bother to stay in touch.
27 – Learn to Love Yourself
Ah. What a tricky thing to do.
If you aren’t at a place where you are ready to accept yourself inside and out, then the good news is, you can do something about it.
I have found exercise to be so good for my mindset and confidence, and not because I saw any major changes.
I learned to appreciate my body for what it does, and what it looks like, NOW.
When I dropped my expectations and perfect vision, I was finally able to appreciate myself for who I actually am. That’s not just physical, I’m talking about me on the inside too.
The internal transformation really came with having to make choices that I knew people would either openly dislike, or not understand.
It was something I had to do. I’m glad now that I was forced to own some stuff, because when you have to stand behind your choices, you need to have a certain level of confidence.
Now maybe not everybody will be thrown into a situation like that by 30, but there are certainly other things that you can do.
Listen to podcasts about building your confidence and self acceptance, go to therapy, practice being unabashedly yourself on social media, read books, etc.
Set healthy boundaries and stick to them.
For people lacking confidence, we often also lack a backbone or a lot of conviction.
Setting boundaries with people that we care about, or people who we perceive to be more powerful (like your boss) is another great way to build confidence.
With boundaries you need to stick to them because you know that it’s healthy for you. That means no matter the consequence, you have decided to choose you.
That’s a very powerful message to send to your own damn self.
28 – Forgive Yourself and Let It Go
We all make mistakes. Some big, some little, some ginormous.
Some are hard to get over, long after we know that nobody else remembers them.
There are people who have a “no regrats” attitude, and that’s great.
I think having regrets and learning to work through them is much better for growth. That internal work does need to happen at some point, so learn how to deal with your guilt and regrets in your 20’s.
I used to feel guilty about deleting songs from my playlist, like that was somehow a betrayal to both the artist, and past me. So you could say that I’ve come a long way.
29 – Experience Vienna
When it comes to “big” European destinations that NEED to be visited, Vienna may not be at the top of most lists.
It is one of the nicest all-around places that I’ve been to, and everybody should go!
It is totally beautiful! As postcard perfect as Paris, with much more manageable crowds and nicer people.
It has repeatedly been named the world’s most livable city.
It has such a happy and relaxed atmosphere. Vienna is a really nice place just to walk around in.
Not to give everything away but the transit system is just to-die for, and sometimes it’s the simple things, isn’t it?
30 – Take Charge of Your Mental Health
It’s easy to bop through life and not have to really take stock of your mental health and well-being because, well, you’re busy.
When I first realized that I should get medication for depression and anxiety, I had already been dealing with it for YEARS. I just didn’t realize.
I started to get worried when my memory, which has always been exceptional, just left completely. By the evening, I couldn’t have told you what I did in the morning. It would feel removed, like a totally different day.
I thought at the very least that I was severely anemic because I had NO energy. Like none. Picking up a newspaper off the floor to put it in a recycling bin 6 feet away was too hard.
It’s a slippery slope. I’m sure if I woke up one day with all of these symptoms I would probably have been very alarmed. It was a slow build, and I brushed it all off.
But I wasn’t depressed.
My mood: That was okay. I felt overwhelmed for sure, but there were a lot of very valid reasons, so I assumed I had a physical issue.
It was depression and anxiety.
Did you know that depression and anxiety are illnesses, plain and simple? Not “just” mental illnesses.
Here is a really interesting medical article about the causes of depression and some of the effects.
Depression is caused by chemical imbalances, but as that article mentions, it is a lot more complicated than that.
The point is, it’s real and it’s a physical imbalance. For some people, therapy and taking a walk, isn’t going to cut it.
Here are just a few of the physical symptoms of depression and anxiety:
- Body Aches and/or muscle tension
- Back problems
- Stomach and other GI issues
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Vision issues
Depression and anxiety don’t necessarily mean that you feel really sad and scared and want to hide under a blanket. It could be that nagging pain you’ve been ignoring.
At my very worst, I struggled with simple motor planning.
One day I made soup, I stacked the bowls beside the pot, and I stuck the ladle in… And that’s where I got stuck. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get the soup from the pot to the table. Scary, right?
I let it sneak up on me and go way too far.
Take the time to establish healthy coping mechanisms now, and speak to your doctor if you have concerns.
I hope this gave you some ideas for your own “before 30” bucket list!
Besides the fact that the late teens and early 20’s crew now want to make you feel old, your 30’s are great!
If nothing else, I am a lot more calm and patient these days, which are good qualities to have.
I do really appreciate my newfound confidence as a 30-something. I really did think my inferiority complex was permanent, and I’m soooo happy to say that it’s not.
If any of this resonated, stick around, and let’s be friends!