Recently Taylor Swift wrote an article for Elle entitled ”30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30.”
Since it’s the eve of my 30th birthday, I thought I’d do the same. Recently I’ve been reflecting back to the person I was when I entered my twenties, and while I still feel young at heart, I’ve evolved into a completely different person.
The biggest thing that contributed to this growth was solo travel. In the past 10 years, I’ve been to 16 countries and I’ve spent three years living abroad. Rather than ticking as many countries off as I could, I’ve taken my time, getting to know the landscapes and cultures of each country.
Here are my 30 things I learned before turning 30, thanks to solo travel.
Don’t buy stuff in your twenties. I honestly have no idea where my wardrobe from the first half of my twenties has gone. I wish I’d saved all the money I’d spent on fast fashion and homewares and put it into a savings account for a backpacking trip around south-east Asia. I now barely have enough possessions to fill one room, and after I pay my bills whatever is leftover is spent on experiences. I’m so much happier because of it.
Don’t focus on how you look; focus on how you feel. When I was 20, I thought I needed lyposuction. I thought my arms were chubby and I had a pizza belly, and I was constantly jumping from diet to diet. In reality I was a UK size 8.
When I look back at photos of my twenties now, I wish I loved that body more. Not only was I wrong about having chubby arms and a tummy, but I wasted so much time and money trying to fix something that was never broken. It was my mind that was broken.
We judge ourselves based on what society deems attractive. We believe money-hungry corporations who tell us we aren’t good enough because they want us to buy their products.
Imagine if we all saw the truth? That’s a world I want to live in.
When I started travelling, I stopped buying as much make-up and beauty products so I could spend more on experiences. I was far happier.
Wear less make-up. Smile more. Grow old gracefully. Everyone is too concerned with themselves to notice your chubby arms, fictional or not, anyway.
If you practice something for 15 minutes a day, you’ll eventually be good at it. Since I started travelling in 2016 I’ve learned how to snowboard, play guitar, make money blogging, how to do a headstand, design websites, create graphics and much more.
I didn’t actually think I’d be any good at any of these things when I first started. I just broke everything down into small chunks, and practiced each for at least 15 minutes every day. We can amaze ourselves with what we’re acually capable of if we just keep chipping away at it.
I can now breeze down a black run and sing and play guitar at the same time. I get paid to travel and I even started my own creative business!
You don’t have to be 100% vegan, but you do need to reduce using animal products. I grew up on a dairy farm and there was a time I wouldn’t eat a meal without chocolate or meat. I’m now a part-time vegan.
How’d this happen? Well, travelling made me care about the environment. I also believe animals shouldn’t be used for their products. While I don’t envision myself as being 100% vegan in the future (I mean, who knows, maybe one day) I purchase vegan products whenever I can.
Whenever I can substitute a meal for a vegan one, I do (I actually prefer vegan haggis now). My make-up and beauty products are all vegan.
The more pressure we put on companies to use more ethical practices, the more likely they will. If you can reduce your animal product use by 20-50% over your lifetime you WILL make a difference to the environment.
Over everything, the good people in our lives are what matter. I’m a big-picture thinker, and if there ever were to be a zombie apocalypse or I had 100 days to live, I would spend it with the people I love. No job, hobby, activity or commitment should ever come before another human being.
I want every interaction I have with others to be a good one. If you’re having a bad day, never take it out on a customer sales representative (I can almost guarantee they don’t write the company rules). Be kind to other people. You just don’t know what people are battling with.
Support small businesses and entrepreneurs. Whenever someone shares a blog post I write I get a thrill (feel free to share this one on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn if you enjoyed reading it!).
It’s not often I get paid to write on my blog. I make money by earning small commissions from companies when I recommend their products and from having advertisements on my blog. So everytime someone clicks onto my website, I get a couple of cents. The more people that read my blog, the more money I make so I can continue writing content for everyone to enjoy.
Stop buying gifts for people at the mall- make a purchase from a friend who has started a small business. You are putting food on their table, helping them pay their bills, and spend more time with their family. I use this rule whenever I travel. I won’t buy from department stores, I hunt out markets and shops in smaller towns.
You’ll never regret climbing that mountain. I always get nervous before I go for a hike. Even after solo hiking the Scottish National Trail, Britain’s toughest hike, I still have to give give myself a pep talk as I strap on my hiking boots.
Why do I get nervous? The honest conversations I have to have with myself (you can’t hide from yourself in nature), the risk of injury, and any negative scenario my anxiety likes to conjure up. Despite my initial fears, I’ve never regretted going for a hike. I may walk in feeling shitey, but I always come back on a high, difficult thoughts and situations more or less solved in my head. My only regret is that I don’t go hiking more often.
Worrying is the most pointless emotion ever. We never know what will happen in the future, but a handy thing I’ve learned is to come up with a plan for each scenario. This helps to calm my mind, and that no matter what happens, I have a plan.
The uncomfortable makes life more comfortable. I’ve spent several months living in a van, solo-hiked the length of Scotland, and been so broke while travelling I had to get food from a food rescue. What have I learned from these experiences? The more you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, the more grateful you are for when things go right.
I believe gratitude is the foundation to happiness; and the best way to curate gratitude is to challenge yourself frequently.
Also, there is no better feeling than accomplishing something difficult.
Your twenties are for having fun. During the first half of my twenties I was trying so hard to be an adult. I had several serious relationships, I was looking into buying a house, I had a dog and a cat, and I chased several careers down the rabbit hole.
I was racing to grow up and I never stopped to question it. It wasn’t until everything fell apart, that my life started to come together. I chose to spend the remainder of my twenties going on adventures, so that when I settled down I’d have epic memories and zero regrets.
It scares me to think I could still be in my home town, married with kids, and that I would have missed out on all this living.
One of the biggest fibs we’re told is ”Save a bunch of money and retire early- THEN travel!”
You won’t be able to do half the things you’re capable of than if you were in your twenties. So get out while you still can; get drunk, have fun, see the world, kiss a beautiful stranger. Enjoy your twenties! Settle in your thirties, or forties. Just live first.
Every female should listen to ***Flawless by Beyonce. Every. Single. Morning. Because if any song is going to set you up for a successful day, it’s that song.
Date yourself. Once upon a time when I (unsuccessfully) jumped from relationship to relationship, I had a revelation: what would happen if I put all the love and energy I had put into relationships into myself? What would happen if I ‘dated myself’ for a while? The longest relationship you’ll have is the one with yourself, and you can’t exactly break up with yourself.
So I took myself on movie dates, I got dressed up, curled my hair and everything. At first I felt like a bit of a dick, but then I realised no one realised or cared I was at the cinema by myself. Eventually I got so comfortable with my own company I actually preferred it. This gave me the courage to go travelling solo, which allowed me to develop an even closer relationship with myself. So spend some time filling your own cup, and keep that baby topped up. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.
We have too much stuff. Living in a van and hiking the length of Scotland with all the things I needed to survive in my pack taught me that we need very few possessions to live and be happy.
A pair of jeans could last many of us a lifetime if we bothered to patch up any holes, rather than buy a new pair every 6 months due to boredom.
A simple grocery shop is a nightmare; all that plastic and packaging that gets discarded without a second thought is actually terrifying.
The world needs to wake up. The consumerist culture we live in exists because a few people wanted to get rich by exploiting our ”flaws.” The need for more, more, more only temporarily satisfies the ego.
Consumerism is destroying our happiness, and our planet. Buy less, and you’ll appreciate what you have more.
Your scars are probably not your fault, but it is your responsibility to heal. Just because someone cheated on you, it doesn’t mean your new partner will. Just because your best friend in high school ditched you for someone else, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to screw you over. Living in fear of what ‘might’ happen is exhausting, and will cause more damage to yourself than if your worst fears were to come true.
You cannot control the actions of others, but you can control how you react.
There are some real assholes out there, but there are also many amazing people who want the best for you. Many of these amazing people are travellers- these people usually have positive relationships with themselves and don’t feel the need to hurt others.
So trust someone until they give you a reason not to trust them. Don’t let an asshole’s actions define you. Forgive and let go (for YOU). Use hurt as fuel. Travel and surround yourself with good people.
It doesn’t cost anything to make someone happy. Halfway through my hike of the Scottish National Trail, I met a man in a bothy. I jokingly said I wish I’d brought a bottle of wine to celebrate reaching the half way mark. The following morning he told me to sit by the window and wait. He disappeared outside the bothy, crouched outside the window and suddenly sparks were flying through the air. He had lit a firework for me- my very own small celebration.
He came back inside and saw my wide smile, and said these words I’ll never forget: ”It doesn’t take much to make someone happy.”
I try and create small, random acts of kindness whereever possible. Whether it just be complimenting someone, buying them chocolates ”just because” or writing someone a nice note and sticking it to their computer- creating happiness is cheap and often free- and joy is the greatest gift we can give.
Know your value, and then add tax. I actually first heard this saying on Breeny Lee’s YouTube channel (she’s fantastic- check her out). I’m a perfectionist and can be quite critical of myself, and sometimes I forget that I’m a good person. For some reason (and I don’t know if this is a cultural or gender thing) I undervalue myself. I’ve stayed friends with people who don’t care about my wellbeing, dated emotionally abusive men, and stayed in jobs where my skills go unnoticed.
I deserve good friends. I deserve a great guy. I deserve to be happy. Not only do I deserve these things, but I want them too [and I’m happy to say that at 30, I have all of these things *warm fuzzies*]. During my twenties, it felt like I had to learn this lesson over and over until I got it.
I no longer work for free, or let emotional vampires into my inner circle. I charge what I’m worth, plus some, in every situation. Why? Because I have invested so much in myself during my twenties, and I have a lot of value to give. If you respect yourself, others will respect you. If you don’t value yourself, why should anyone else?
The most incredible thing you can witness happens twice a day, and it’s free. At least once a year, make the effort to wake up early one morning and hike for the sunrise. Do the same for sunset too. You won’t regret it.
If you make a mistake, accept responsibility for it and apologise. People will respect you far more if you admit you’re at fault and apologise. When I was living in Canada, a cop caught me texting and driving. He was quite far away from me at the time, so I could have denied any wrongdoing, however I accepted responsibility and apologised, and he let me off with a warning!
If someone asks if you’re responsible for something and you are, you’ll look like a complete fool if you try and cover it up or make excuses. You’ll earn much more respect by being honest and saying sorry.
Stop complaining, and be grateful for what you have. Still unhappy? Change it. I look back to the more dramatic years of my twenties and cringe. I was a chronic complainer. I thrived off drama. One of my favourite passtimes was getting together with a friend and having a good whinge. Then I started to lose friends.
When I started travelling I visited countries where poverty and war was once an every day occurance. I met a family in Fiji who were so excited because after years of saving, they finally had a microwave. This gave me perspective. I was very lucky to have grown up in New Zealand.
I learned you will find peace and happiness if you have a grateful attitude. If you just can’t be grateful for a situation, for example a job or relationship, then change it. You’re not without decision. Look for resolutions, not excuses to continue being unhappy.
If you sit with your unhappiness, you will only attract more of it.
You are so damn lucky to be alive- so live.
Whisky is basically medicine. It has so many uses. Toothache? Gurgle it for 30 seconds on the sore area. Hiked a mountain? Reward. Spotted a cute guy? Dutch courage.
The only thing whisky cannot cure, are the things that have no cure.
Women are born disadvantaged, not biologically, but socially. For many years I believed that I should leave certain things up to men- carrying in the shopping, driving to a destination, making decisions. Finding that ‘balance’ to speak your mind without being classed as emotional or crazy is incredibly difficult (I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve been called ‘crazy’ when speaking my mind in a calm manner).
I have to constantly remind myself I am justified in having an opinion, and that I should speak up more.
But there is a beautiful shift occuring right now; women are challenging social ideologies, standing up and saying #MeToo, becoming world leaders, and showing love and empathy is strength, not weakness. Women fucking rock.
Delete Facebook, Instagram and Twitter apps from your phone periodically. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get done and the quality of sleep you’ll have.
If you want to meet the right partner, you have to have love and respect yourself first. It’s not your partner’s job to fix you. It’s not someone else’s job to complete you. It’s your partner’s job to compliment you (and I’m not talking about flattery here). Your partner should add to your already incredible life.
If you’ve spent some time being single and have learned to enjoy your own company, you will be far happier in a relationship. It turns out that not being in a relationship helps you to have a healthy relationship with another human (oh the irony). The thought of being alone is actually scarier than the reality. Quash that fear by spending time with yourself. Date yourself. Learn to like yourself. Treat yourself like you treated that ex that you fell head over heels in love with. If you love yourself you will naturally respect yourself. You will know who you should let into your life.
You have to tell people what you want to get what you want. People aren’t mind readers. Especially men. If you’re annoyed about something, and someone asks ”what’s wrong?” just be honest.
Sometimes it’s best for your sanity to let that friend go. Your twenties is a time when you make the most connections, so it’s common to see a lot of friendships come and go.
I had many friendships that were built on drama and as I grew up a little, I realised I didn’t want friendships based on gossip or one-way relationships where all I did was listen to other peoples problems.
We don’t all grow at the same rate; sometimes people just outgrow each other, and that’s okay! Just because you’ve been friends for 20 years doesn’t mean you have to be friends now. After all, how much have you changed since then?
Everyone is on their own journey, but make sure you surround yourself with people who are actually happy for you when something good happens in your life.
Use anything bad that happens to you as motivation. When I got fired for the second time in Canada, I decided enough was enough, and I started my freelance business. I was upset about being let go from my job, and creating a freelance business with only $200 in my pocket was terrifying, however it led to my current career: getting paid to travel.
Here’s the thing not many people realise: you have the choice to let bad situations overwhelm you, or empower you.
This is advice I’ve listened to my entire life. I’ve turned making pain into success a habit. Whenever something bad happens, I get excited about how I can turn this crappy situation into something even better for me- and it works every time.
The only person not making mistakes is the person who is doing nothing. Anyone who has achieved any level of success understands that you need to make mistakes. Mistakes help you to learn, learning allows you to grow, and continuous growth leads to mastery.
The mistakes I’ve made in my life have helped to shape me into the person I am today. I’m so glad I started several businesses that failed- I learned so much and gained many skills so that by the time I started blogging I was able to grow a successful business. Mistakes are completely normal and should be expected!
It is easy to sit back and judge others for their errors; it is harder to keep pushing on when you’re confidence has been shattered, but guess which is the path to success?
Don’t allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence. This is possibly the lesson that took me the longest to learn. If you are confronting someone or being confronted about something uncomfortable, don’t get your heckles up.
If you want someone to listen to you and understand where you’re coming from, raising your voice or swearing will immediately put the other person on the defensive. If someone feels attacked, 9 times out of 10 they will fight back or walk away.
If you want to resolve an issue, keep your voice low and have open body language. You’ll look like an idiot if you lose your temper, but you’ll earn respect if you keep your cool.
Give it time. Everything will eventually make sense. There’s a reason you didn’t get that job. There’s a reason you met that person. There is a reason that bad thing happened. It may not make sense now, but eventually it will.
When I first tried to move to Scotland, I was denied entry (long story). Five years later, when the time was right, I successfully moved to Scotland. Even though it was horrible at the time and I didn’t understand how life could be so ”cruel”, I’m so grateful I moved here later rather than earlier. I wouldn’t change a thing about my past, because it led to the life I live here. And my life in Scotland is pretty damn great.
I’ve got this, thanks. When I was hiking the Scottish National Trail I met another hiker. When I told him that I was hiking to Cape Wrath he smirked and said ”You realise the terrain is really rough up north, right?”. I immediately started to doubt myself: What if I’m not experienced enough to do this? Do I have the right equipment? What if I die?
This man had known me for 2 minutes and he’d managed to put all these doubts into my mind. The truth was, he didn’t know a single thing about me. I’d known myself for 29 years, and if anyone had the ability to judge my capabilities, it was me.
For all he knew, I could have been climbing mountains and going on month-long expeditions since I was wee. He knew the dirt beneath his feet better than he knew me.
I realised I was the only one capable of judging my ability. Don’t let the judgement of others stop you from trying. No one knows your capabilities better than yourself.