Thoughts On Turning 30 (And My Favorite Memories From My 20s)

thoughts on turning 30

Thoughts on turning 30, my favorite memories from my 20s, and what I’m most looking forward to about the next decade of my life. 

I’m writing this post on the last day of my 20s.

It’s an odd statement that brings up a lot of feelings, but I guess it’s a good sign that the one that’s the strongest is excitement.  

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was turning 20 in San Diego.

I still had another year left of college and I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. 

I remember thinking about how I had a whole decade of my 20s in front of me. 

On one hand, that feels like a lifetime ago because so much has happened since then.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to look back.

It always feels like time has a way of flying by.

I guess it’s a clear reminder of the elusiveness of life and how it passes by quickly, at least in retrospect. 

The one thing I promised myself back then was that my 20s would be for myself.

As cliche as it sounds, I wanted to “find myself” in my 20s.

I wanted to do exactly what I wanted to do without feeling guilty for not following the traditional path laid out for me as an American since I was little.

Graduate from college, get a good job, settle down and get married, buy a house, start a family, travel when you retire in your 60s. 

I turned down a stable life at 22 after graduation.

Instead, I moved abroad on and off for the next five years, chasing adventure, romance, and good stories that I could write about on this blog. 

I turned down a marriage proposal at 26 because I knew I wasn’t ready for that yet and I wanted more than what that relationship gave me. 

I moved to new cities on a whim and a gut feeling. 

I learned how to scuba dive, I went to culinary school in Italy, became a bartender, jumped out of a plane in New Zealand, and danced on the beach barefoot in foreign lands. 

I spent a lot of my 20s hesitant and unsure about a lot of things but also determined to live life on my terms.

I wanted adventure. I wanted passion. I wanted to simply live and to see how things came together from following my own path.

And live I did.

thoughts on turning 30 and favorite memories from my 20s

Even when change and the lack of stability made me anxious and uncomfortable, I leaned into it more because I knew it was all part of the process of growing up. 

I have so many memories from my 20s that I’m glad I experienced when I was young and malleable. 

And I still have so much to look forward to as I transition into a new decade. 

What I’m most looking forward to in my 30s is a bit different than what I was looking forward to in my 20s.

Most notably, I love the idea of adventurous stability in my 30s.

I will always have the curiosity of a child and a love for new experiences, but I also love the idea of finally following what some might consider a more traditional path. 

Although it’s a different kind of birthday this year with a global pandemic going on, I wanted to write this post to honor my favorite memories of being a 20-something and to talk about the things I’m excited for in my 30s. 

When I was in my early 20s, I never thought I’d be excited to turn 30.

Even in my mid-20s, it was an upcoming birthday that I dreaded and tried not to think about too much. 

But something changed in the past couple of years, especially since I transitioned into a more fixed life in San Francisco. 

And honestly, maybe it’s the optimist in me talking – but I think my 30s will be my best decade yet.

To celebrate my birthday, I’m going hiking in the sunshine with my boyfriend tomorrow on one of the recently opened hiking trails and eating burritos near the ocean.

I can’t think of a better way to ring in my 30s, even if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic. 

But, first – here are my favorite memories from my 20s and the things I’m most looking forward to in my 30s! 

 

10 Favorite Memories from my 20s

favorite memories from my 20s

It’s hard to pinpoint just 10 memories from my 20s that are my favorite.

The following memories are the big ones that come to mind, but some of my favorite memories are the ones that aren’t always the ones to write about.

Memories like hugging my mom for the first time again after spending two years abroad.

Or seeing my nana, papa, and grandma for the last time before they passed away.

Having long talks that went well into the night with my second-year housemates in our on-campus apartment. 

Celebrating my second year of running my own business with my sister after I got back to San Francisco after a long time away.

There are so many of these beautiful micro-moments that made up my 20s. 

So just keep in mind that these may be the big milestones I look back on fondly, but they’re in no way the exhaustive list of my only favorite memories from this decade.  

One thing I will say is that almost all of my favorite memories from my 20s weren’t the “accomplishments,” like graduating from college or starting my own business, although those are great too.

The memories that are my favorite are the ones that involve my closest friends and family and my community. 

They’re all about the people in my life and sharing life experiences with others. 

 

Studying Abroad in Florence  

studying abroad in florence, italy

When the plane touched down in Rome, I was a bundle of nerves.

The only other time I’d been out of the US was to Costa Rica after high school.

And that trip, although a fun experience, didn’t convince me that I was very good at traveling. 

I was hoping my summer in Italy would be different. 

I had visions of eating huge bowls of pasta, having a summer romance with an Italian, testing out a new language, and learning how to cook delicious Italian food at my culinary classes. 

Although I lost interest in having an Italian fling after my first “club” experience in Florence with aggressive local men, the rest of my vision for the summer panned out pretty much as I imagined. 

I lived in a tiny Florentine apartment with pink appliances near the Duomo with three other American girls.

I walked to my culinary classes at Apicius Culinary School on the other side of town every morning.

I’d weave my way through the Florence markets, hearing a single accordion playing in the distance and local vendors calling out to me to see if I’d like to try a taste of limoncello.

Each day would be full of new challenges – like avoiding getting run over by a rogue scooter or trying not to twist my ankle on the uneven cobblestones. 

I learned the difference between a trattoria and an osteria and immersed myself in Italian art and architecture. 

I noticed how slowly people enjoyed their food and how much locals appreciated the little things in life.

It was something I felt was often passed over and not valued as much in American life, with our fast food culture and need to always be on the go, especially in cities. 

I fell in love that summer, not with a person, but with travel.

After my program ended, I went on a bus tour all over Europe with other 20- and 30-somethings for a few weeks.

I made friends with Australians, Kiwis, Brits, and other Europeans for the first time in my life. 

I saw in detail how many possible ways there were to live a happy life.

My world expanded in ways I never could have imagined before I jumped on that plane from SFO.

My travel bug dug in deep and I knew after that summer that travel would become a lifelong passion and pursuit for me. 

 

Moving Abroad to Australia by Myself

moving abroad to Australia after college

When I arrived in Melbourne, I wasn’t sure if I had just made the biggest mistake of my life or embarked on the biggest adventure yet. 

Maybe it was a little bit of both. 

I landed in Australia with exactly enough in my bank account to last me a couple months, no job lined up, and knowing exactly one friend who I had met in Europe a year and a half ago.  

I had found a last-minute sublet from a friend of a friend of a friend from college.

I would be living with two Australian guys and figuring out my new life in Australia one day at a time. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I got used to crossing the street and having to look in the opposite direction for cars.

I became partial to flat whites and walked for eight hours a day around the city – applying to jobs and getting lost in Melbourne’s colorful streets. 

I felt alive and happy and I had just enough optimism where I wasn’t too worried about not finding a job in time. 

Within two weeks, I found one part-time bar job.

And then another part-time bar job a week after that.

The latter only lasted for a few weeks and I replaced it with an early morning barista job on the weekends. 

I’d spend my weekend nights pulling pints, get a few hours of sleep, and then wake up before sunrise to make it to my early Sunday morning barista shift.

I hardly slept but I was 23, living abroad in Australia, and creating a life for myself from scratch. 

I was originally only planning to be in Australia for six months.

I was going to head home after backpacking through Southeast Asia with a British friend I’d met my summer in Europe. 

Instead, I came back to Australia and moved to Sydney which I found to be a better fit for me than Melbourne. 

I found another bar job during my first week in the city and met Claire, a Canadian and the only other North American who worked at the bar. 

We became fast friends and then inseparable with our inside jokes and late nights, staying out until the sun came up with Sydney’s late last calls. 

The bar crew became my family while I was in Sydney.

It was a job that I looked forward to going to because I got along with all my coworkers so well and we always had a blast.

I learned everything there was know about craft beer, dated a variety of Australians, and spent every weekend exploring a new part of Sydney – usually by myself. 

I spent the summer volunteering at festivals all over New South Wales and Victoria.

I had to hitchhike to and from the Australian bush for the first festival I volunteered at. 

I found myself at a three-day rave in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by druggies. 

I stayed sober and danced the days and nights away, making festival friends and people watching, a lot

Sydney is where I found my stride and realized how much I loved living abroad and being the token American. 

I ended up staying in Australia for a total of 10 months.

Right before my visa expired, I traveled up the East Coast and saw a completely different side of the country. 

I couchsurfed up the coast to save money, staying with strangers, and making more new friends.

I played with koalas and kangaroos in Brisbane. 

I hopped on a liveaboard for a few days, scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, and explored the Whitsunday Islands.

I discovered some of the most beautiful places I’d ever been to. 

By the time my year down under ended, I had fully leaned into my independence.

I knew that I had irrevocably changed as a person in the best way possible.  

Related: Recap – A Year in Australia and Southeast Asia 

 

Skydiving in Taupo 

skydiving in taupo, new zealand

I knew my weekend in Taupo, New Zealand would be an adventurous one.

I was planning on hiking the Tongariro Crossing with two of my best guy friends from the bar I worked at in Wellington. 

We were not only tackling an eight-hour mountainous hike, but we were also attempting to do it in the middle of winter. 

For the first time, I learned how to use crampons and an ice axe and slipped and slid my way through the snow and ice for the better part of a day.

But there was another reason I wanted to go to Taupo that my companions didn’t know about. 

Taupo is the skydiving capital of the world.

In the weird way my anxious brain works, I didn’t want to tell my friends because I didn’t want to chicken out if they wanted to do it with me.

So, I decided to see if I could do it by myself. 

I told my friends I wanted to stay an extra day by myself and spent the morning agonizing whether I should actually jump out of a plane or not. 

I called one of the skydiving companies just to see if they had any openings for the day.

They had one in an hour if I wanted to sign up. 

With a lot of effort, I shut off my brain and tried not to overanalyze what I was about to do. 

The next couple of hours went by in a blur.

I was picked up, signed a bunch of waivers, and handed over my credit card.

I was given a high energy Kiwi instructor who liked to joke a lot, which was probably good since I was trying to get my nerves under control. 

It was just me and one other couple who were skydiving.

We were handed oxygen masks since we were going up to 15,000 feet to jump.

I was told I would be the last one out of the plane, of course.

After watching the two people in front of me disappear out the door, my instructor and I started crawling towards the opening of the plane.

There was no going back now. 

I had somehow still kept my brain from overthinking too much in the past couple of hours, and then we got to the edge of the plane. 

I made the mistake of taking a quick glimpse below and immediately felt dizzy. 

And suddenly the ground fell out from beneath me.

We were airborne…and I couldn’t breathe?

I was gasping for air, not realizing I was only meant to breathe through my nose, not my mouth when you’re free-falling. 

Everything I had been taught about keeping my body in the shape of a banana flew out the window (literally) as soon as we jumped.  

My instructor wrangled my body to be more aerodynamic and started headbanging and mouthing the words to Bohemian Rhapsody.

After a minute-long free fall, the parachute came out and we had a beautiful and leisurely glide down to Earth.

The juxtaposition of the fast and furious free fall with the peacefulness of the parachute glide was probably one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had. 

When I landed, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud of myself. 

I was on an adrenaline high for a week after.

I learned that I was definitely not the most graceful skydiver, but I did it and that’s what counted. 

RelatedSkydiving in Taupo – Learning How to Fly in the Skydiving Capital of the World 

 

New Zealand Road Trip With Kelsey 

new zealand road trip with kelsey

A couple weeks before my friend Kelsey arrived in New Zealand, my parked car got totaled by a drunk driver.

I had bought a used car in New Zealand specifically for our upcoming road trip.

I used a good chunk of my bartender savings to make this happen, with the idea that I’d sell it once I left the country. 

I remember getting the call from my housemate while I was finishing up a long shift at the bar, letting me know that my car had been totaled.

The driver apparently tried to drive off after hitting my car but my housemate stopped her before she could, thankfully. 

It took months before I ever saw any money come through from the woman’s insurance company for my totaled car.

I hoped for the best that the insurance company would eventually pay me back and found another affordable used car with what savings I had left. 

Luckily, all of the drama with sorting out a car for our road trip wasn’t a premonition for what was to come.

Our road trip is still one of the best road trips I’ve ever been on. 

We spent two weeks driving the North and South Island of New Zealand. 

Kelsey was a friend from college and it was only recently that we had become close friends.

We had been in the same sorority for half of college, but it wasn’t until after graduation that we really got to know each other and hangout. 

She had come to visit me in Australia the year previously, but New Zealand was a different kind of adventure. 

With the epic backdrop that New Zealand is so good at providing, we had the trip of a lifetime that only deepened our friendship. 

We went zorbing in Rotorua, explored hobbit life at Hobbiton, jet boated in Queensland (and Kelsey even went bungy jumping), and we took a boat around the magical Milford Sound. 

We tackled our first multi-day trek through Abel Tasman National Park and dealt with horrible hostel mates and sleeping in our car for a night.

There were some tears, a lot more laughter, and a whole lot of us getting outside of our respective comfort zones. 

Our trip was only for a couple weeks but it felt longer because we experienced so much around New Zealand in such a short amount of time. 

It was a trip that solidified how great we are as travel partners.

And it was only the beginning of the many trips Kelsey and I would have around the world throughout the upcoming years. 

RelatedMy New Zealand Road Trip

 

Having the Time of My Life in Thailand After a Breakup  

having the time of my life in Thailand after a breakup

I was in a daze as I looked out at the water with tears in my eyes.

A fish kept jumping up from the surface and flopping back in with a quiet splash. 

My boyfriend of three years had just broken up with me.

We were living on a tiny Thai island and I had just finished up a two-week trip to Vietnam (where I met up with Kelsey).

It had taken me two full days to get back to our little island, it was that remote. 

But the day after I got back, my boyfriend already had his mind made up. 

I was in shock and suddenly at a loss for what to do. 

I couldn’t stay on the island with how small it was.

Also, he had a job there as a scuba instructor.

It was clear that I was the one who had to go. 

I found a last-minute ferry to Koh Chang the next day, a nearby, much larger island, where I could figure out what to do next.

I spent the next week in a daze.

I volunteered at an animal shelter, went on jungle hikes, swam near waterfalls, and spent a lot of time staring out at the ocean.

But I just felt hollow. 

I ended up in Bangkok for another week, undecided if I should just fly home to California from there or continue on with my life in Asia. 

I looked at a map of Thailand and remembered how much I still wanted to see.

I didn’t want my ex to ruin that for me.

Since I wasn’t quite ready to leave Thailand yet, I booked a one-way bus and ferry to Koh Lanta – an island in the Andaman Sea that was meant to be good for expats. 

After a short stint in a lonely and overpriced bungalow by myself, I ended up in a large hostel near the beach. 

That’s where I met Pascale, a friendly Canadian from Montreal who I immediately clicked with.

We started hanging out regularly, going on day trips together, grabbing dinner with our hostel group, and going to Day-Glo parties on the beach at night.

I started working as little as I needed to make ends meet and gave into just having as much fun as possible every day.

One night, me, Pascale, and our other American girlfriend decided to go to a half moon party on another part of the island. 

We were some of the first people there and we immediately started painting crazy patterns of Day-Glo all over each other. 

The music was great, the moon was bright, and everyone was ready to have a good time.  

At some point in the night, I felt someone behind me and a quiet question followed – “Where are you from?” 

I turned around and found a tall and handsome French guy looking intently at me with a smile. 

It was the start of what would turn into a four-month whirlwind romance, but that’s another story

Soon after that, I traveled with Pascale to Koh Phangan Island for the Full Moon Party, which the French guy and his friends just happened to be going to as well. 

With my budding romance and my new best friend, I felt more alive than I’d felt in years.

I realized how unhappy I’d been in my previous relationship and how grateful I was that my ex ended it when he did. 

The group of us spent the week on Koh Phangan.

We danced under the full moon with plastic buckets of alcohol and the sand between our toes.

We partied in the jungle with flower crowns on our heads and celebrated Songkran – riding around the island on scooters and soaking each other with American-sized water guns. 

One night, all of us ended up at a luxe private bungalow with a group of hilarious English boys.

I remember riding back with my arms wrapped around the French guy and resting my head on his back.

Taking it all in, appreciating my new freedom and the beautiful life I had in front of me.

It’s crazy how much can change in just a few short weeks. 

I spent another month in Thailand after the breakup, living every day as full as possible with an open mind and a sense of adventure.

That month I had some of the most fun I had in all of my 20s.

It was the best remedy for a still-recovering heart. 

Related: Why a Second Visit to Thailand Changed My Mind

 

Finding Myself Again in Greece

Finding myself again in Greece

After Thailand, I spent another couple of months traveling around Southeast Asia.

It was in Laos that I realized I was starting to feel burnt out with my life in Southeast Asia and that I was ready for a change.

I still wasn’t ready to go back to the US, so I looked for the cheapest flights from Asia to Europe.

I found a flight from Singapore to Athens and booked it immediately.

I decided to spend the rest of the summer on Crete, for no other reason than it had affordable accommodation and it looked beautiful. 

I was ready for a slower pace and to have some time for myself again. 

At this point, the romance with the French guy was starting to fade.

He visited me for a week on Crete where we clearly saw how incompatible we were without the magic of Thailand. 

I was alone again and also very broke. 

After months of focusing on fun over work, my bank account had dwindled to an amount that gave me heart palpitations whenever I checked my balance. 

On top of that, after the distraction of my whirlwind romance ended, I realized how much I was still working through emotionally from my breakup, even if I was ultimately glad that it happened.  

I was as close to rock bottom as I’d ever been.

But on the upside, I was living on a stunning island in Greece and I had all the time in the world (or at least until the end of the summer) to figure my life out. 

I spent the next couple of months focusing on myself and my female friendships and decided to take a break from romantic escapades for a while.  

I found new clients that helped me build my bank account up again.

I took road trips with my new friends around the island.

We spent our off days from work on pristine beaches next to sparkling aquamarine water that can only be found in the Mediterranean. 

I ate my weight in Nutella croissants, started writing again – something I hadn’t done in months – and really thought about what I wanted. 

I realized what I missed more than anything was a stable community.

I think part of the reason why my breakup was so heart wrenching was because my ex had become so much of my life.

As a nomad without a clear direction, my time was mostly filled with just him and travel. 

I was surprised by how much I craved the idea of “home.”

I missed my family.

I missed being around people who knew all the best and worst parts of me. 

I realized that I was finally ready to settle somewhere and to build a more fixed life.

My summer in Greece is where I found my strength again.

It’s where I started to pull myself up again on my own two feet.

With no one to fall back on but myself, I had no choice.

It was the best summer I could’ve given myself.

I arrived back in California, tan from the Greek sun, and ready to build my life up again.

Related: 12 Reasons Why I Love Crete, Greece 

 

Backpacking Through India for Two Weeks 

backpacking through India for two weeks

I was in Montreal in the middle of winter visiting Pascale.

It was January and I was nowhere near as prepared as I thought I was for winter in Quebec.

Before this trip, I didn’t know that nostril hair could freeze, but this trip gave me that insight.

And also that cute boots from H&M are not a good choice for extreme winter conditions.

We were working through a bottle of wine, catching up, and staying warm from the snowy wonderland outside.

It felt like no time had passed at all since we said our goodbyes in Thailand the previous year.  

Pascale had an upcoming trip to the Philippines, but she was bummed because it was meant to rain for a good part of the time she was going to be there due to unexpected weather.   

I forget exactly how we got from there to applying for Indian visas, but after a bottle of wine we both had valid travel visas for India and we were planning a two-week trip around Rajasthan. 

Both of us had always wanted to go to India but hadn’t tackled that milestone yet.

We’re a deadly duo when we’re together and just crazy and spontaneous enough to book a trip to India with little to no planning while tipsy.   

Pascale changed her dates for her trip to Asia so we could travel India together.

By the next night, we had bought roundtrip flights to Delhi that were leaving in a couple weeks. 

We already knew it was going to be an adventure, but India was truly one for the books. 

We traveled from Delhi to Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur.

We stumbled through learning how to take local trains.

We discovered how much we both loved chai. 

We enjoyed the dry sense of humor and playfulness that so many local Indians have.

We fell in love with Indian accents.

We crashed an Indian wedding and bought overpriced saris. 

We rode camels and slept in the desert.

We had SO much good Indian food and only one of us got slightly sick on our last day in the country (hint: it was me).

We learned just how difficult it is to send off a package in India and how it’s really not worth the effort. 

We learned how to barter with tuk-tuk drivers and local vendors (Pascale was much better at it than me). 

We got matching tattoos in Hindi on our last night in Delhi before we both flew home. 

Our trip to India was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. 

It was one of my favorite trips in my 20s.

It gave me a deeper appreciation for my friendship with Pascale, for Indian culture, and just how colorful life can be. 

Related: Two Weeks in India – An Itinerary for Rajasthan 

 

My Summer in Portugal 

my summer in Portgual

When I left Greece, I knew I wanted to find a home base but I wasn’t sure exactly where yet. 

I wanted to try out a few different places before I made my decision because I wanted it to be a permanent home.

This was partly why I went to Montreal a few months previously and Chicago before that.

I was on the lookout for a place to call home. 

Next on my list was Lisbon, a city I’d heard great things about from numerous expats.

It’s also one of the easier European countries to get a longterm visa for. 

Although I didn’t end up loving Portugal enough to make it a permanent move, my summer there was one of my favorite memories from my 20s because of my housing situation. 

I found an apartment near the city center on Uniplaces, which is basically a short and longterm housing website that was originally created for students but can be used by anyone (usually under a certain age). 

I was going to be put with a random group of people for the summer.

I knew no one in Lisbon when I arrived and I had no idea how my housing situation would go, but that’s my usual style when I move to a new city.

I just figure things out as I go. 

And things couldn’t have worked out better in terms of who my housemate were. 

I lived with three other women that summer – Elisa from Italy, Gabi from Peru, and Cami from Mexico. 

After our first night of getting to know each other over wine at what would become our favorite local restaurant in Lisbon – By the Wine – our friendship was solidified. 

We celebrated birthdays together, shared a love for all things ABBA and Mamma Mia, took day trips around Portugal, and would try out new foodie and wine places together every week. 

We had hilarious nights out, so many dinners, and endless sunny days near the water.

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect summer, especially since I had a feeling it would be my last longer stint abroad for a while. 

And honestly, my summer probably could’ve been anywhere.

It wasn’t Portugal that made it such a special memory but the female friendships I created with such a badass group of women. 

It was one of my favorite living situations in my 20s and reminded me again just how important strong female friendships are.

And how they can make you feel at home anywhere. 

Related: 20 Things That Surprised Me About Portugal 

 

Moving Back to California and Building Up My Community Again 

moving back to California and building up my community again

Another positive outcome that came out of living in Lisbon for the summer was the realization that California is home to me.

Lisbon has a lot of similarities to San Francisco, which is another reason why I chose to live there.

However, instead of those similarities making me feel at home, they just made me realize how much I missed San Francisco and living in California. 

As soon as I realized that I thought of California as home, I had no doubt that’s where I wanted to be. 

The one downside is that I wanted to be in San Francisco.

It’s where a lot of my family and closest friends were based and since I was craving community it made the most sense as my new home base.

But it would also be the most expensive city I had ever lived in. 

After years of living abroad in countries like Greece, Portugal, and Thailand where monthly rent rarely goes above $500 a month, I knew living in San Francisco would be an adjustment. 

Luckily, things just worked out. 

I found an affordable (for San Francisco) apartment in the Haight.

And most importantly, I started working with a local client that significantly increased my income and allowed me to live comfortably in the city. 

Once I had the basics covered, I focused on building up a community again. 

I accepted every invitation that I could fit into my schedule.

I had weekly brunch and lunch dates with multiple friends. 

I went on weekend camping trips with girlfriends, dominated weekly trivia nights with my sister, celebrated birthdays and went to happy hours every month. 

I tried to be a good sister and a good friend.

I built up those relationships again that had weakened over my time living abroad. 

Building up my community in a more permanent place was one of my favorite memories from my 20s because it’s something that I lost and then craved for a good chunk of the decade. 

One of the biggest lessons I learned about myself in my 20s is how important community is to me and my happiness. 

To be able to finally give myself a community again and to feel part of something bigger than myself was one of the best feelings. 

I still feel grateful every day for the community I have in San Francisco (and around the world from the friends I’ve made through my travels).

And I don’t ever want to lose that again. 

Related: I’m Moving (Back) to California

 

Celebrating My Birthday in a Different City Every Year of My 20s

celebrating my birthday in a different city every year of my 20s

I made a promise to myself just before graduating from college that I would spend every birthday in a different city throughout my 20s. 

My inspiration actually came from another blogger who had been doing it for years, and it sounded like a fun way to ring in each new year. 

And minus my 20th and 21st which were both spent in San Diego because I was still in college, I managed to achieve my goal. 

To recap: I spent my 22nd in Las Vegas, my 23rd in Melbourne (Australia), my 24th in Wellington (New Zealand), my 25th in Veneta (Oregon), my 26th in Chicago, my 27th in Don Det (Laos), my 28th in London, my 29th in Montreal, and my 30th in San Francisco. 

I loved having a new city to look forward to for my birthday every year.

It made every birthday in my 20s special and unique in its own way.

And my birthday trips are easily some of my favorite memories from this decade. 

From kayaking through rapids, holding baby goats, and sneaking into Cambodia for my 27th birthday to going solo to a music festival in London to see one of my favorite bands live (The xx) for my 28th, to celebrating with new friends while I was working in Australia and then New Zealand for my 23rd and 24th – I’ve had so many ridiculously fun birthdays in my 20s. 

And honestly, because I loved celebrating my 20-something birthdays in a different city so much, I’m thinking of carrying that into my 30s too. 

Related: My 28th Year: On the Places I Once Called Home 

 

Other Favorite Memories from my 20s

  • Road tripping through Iceland for a week with my friend Urvi and then doing a southern US road trip together a couple years later.
  • Hammock camping around the US for a summer. 
  • Backpacking through Morocco with my friend Chenee. 
  • The day after I got LASIK done – waking up and being able to see clearly for the first time. 
  • Moving into a beautiful old Victorian (and rent-controlled apartment) with friends in San Francisco.
  • Living in Mexico for a month and a half where I recentered myself, became more serious about my goals, and made more female friendships. 
  • Spending a fancy girls weekend in Mendocino with my friend Carrie.
  • Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the Whitsundays. 
  • Girl’s trip to Paris with my sister and two of my closest girlfriends (Kelsey and Carrie). 
  • Deciding to get serious about my blog (finally). 
  • Mother-daughter trip to Morro Bay. 
  • Celebrating my brother getting married on New Year’s Eve. 
  • Being a puppy au pair in the East Bay for a few months.  
  • Really there are way too many favorite memories from my 20s to fit into one post.  

 

10 Things I’m Most Looking Forward to in My 30s 

Being More Clear About What I Want in Life 

being more clear about what I want in life

I spent a lot of my 20s unsure about a lot of things – my career, my dating life, where I actually wanted to live. 

I’m glad I did though.

Although it may have been exhausting to go through so many big changes in my 20s, it’s great that my 20s were full of exploration.

I didn’t have this set idea of what I wanted for a lot of the past decade.

But this allowed me to go with the flow more and to experience a lot of new things. 

I’m glad I gave myself space and the time to be unsure so I could learn what I really wanted in my life. 

There are still going to be things I’m unsure about in my 30s, but I’m so much more clear about what I want in life now than I was for a good chunk of my 20s. 

I was talking to one of my clients yesterday about turning 30 and he said it really is the best decade because it’s when you’re finally weaponized. 

You’ve learned a ton of skills, gone through a decent amount of life experiences, and lived the ups and downs of being a 20-something.

It’s now about implementing those life experiences and doubling down on what you want to make of your life.

Related: 27 Things I’ve Learned About Life and Travel

 

Being More Intentional With Dating 

being more intentional with dating

This is an add-on to being more clear about what I want in life, but one area that I’ve really started to tune into more recently is my dating life. 

It’s crazy when I look back and realize that I spent seven years of my 20s in a relationship.

Even crazier is how long I stayed in those relationships past their expiration dates.

I have nothing but gratitude for my exes and the relationships we had together.

They pushed me to grow in all kinds of ways and helped shape me into who I am today.

But it’s safe to say that I wasn’t intentional about dating through most of my 20s.

I would usually meet someone, feel a spark, and not think too hard about the logistics, the red flags, or how they really made me feel after we stopped hanging out (not during). 

The truth is I love being in love.

I love romance.

I love that rush you get when you get to know someone and everything is new and exciting.

I think everyone does. 

However, I realized as my 20s went on that the rush wasn’t actually the best part.

The best part was after the honeymoon period when you get to see all the sides of a person and deal with the many real-life situations together that are just part of being human. 

The best part is building a life with someone that is real and raw and layered. 

I spent a lot of my 20s focused on keeping the honeymoon period alive as long as possible, instead of looking for a real match that would show up for me in the ways I truly wanted. 

After my last relationship inevitably ended, I had a wake-up call.

I realized with painfully stark clarity that I had been following the same relationship pattern for most of my 20s. 

One that involved a lot of avoidant attachment styles and emotionally unavailable men.

I knew that I either had to swear off dating for good or something had to seriously change about how I approached it.

It was time to figure out what I really wanted and to get clear on what I needed from the person I dated. 

So I found a dating coach.

I read books on attachment styles, partnerships, and love.

I signed up for a dating course. 

I went back to the basics and started to form a clear picture of what I was actually looking for.

And what I would and wouldn’t accept.

I realized what my boundaries were and actually started to use them. 

It took me until the end of 29 to start dating more intentionally, but I’m excited to continue this into my 30s.  

 

Waking Up Early, My Morning Routine, Exercising, and Self-Care 

waking up early

One thing that I started paying more attention to towards the end of my 20s was self-care and taking more time for myself.

As I become more financially stable in my 30s, I only want to invest in this more.

In my 30s, I want to start getting regular deep-tissue massages (once it’s safe again) and facials (once a month). 

I also want to continue to take care of my skin and even see a dermatologist to understand my skin type better. 

In addition, I finally have a clear morning routine that I’ve been implementing every day.

A couple months ago I read The Miracle Morning and I’m now just finishing up the 5 AM Club.

These books inspired me to nail down my morning routine and actually stick to it.

I’ve been waking up at 6am for most of the past two months and doing an hour-long routine that involves meditation, working out, affirmations, visualization, journaling, and reading to learn something new. 

It has helped my mindset and productivity so much, I only wish I had started doing it sooner.

 

Reading More and Leaning Into That Student Mindset 

reading more

I’ve always been an avid reader but I usually go through phases where I read a bunch and then take a few months to get through one book. 

Now that reading is part of my morning routine and I also want it to be part of my evening routine, I plan to read even more in my 30s than I did in my 20s. 

Reading is one of the best ways to grow your knowledge and continue having that student mindset.

Even if I’m able to learn one new thing every day from the books I read, just think of how that compounds over time.

And how much knowledge I’ll be able to utilize by the end of my 30s. 

In my 30s, I plan to get to the point where I’m investing in my learning – either through books, podcasts, or courses – for at least one hour each day. 

I also plan to start investing in mindset, health, or business retreats every year.

Basically, anything that supports my growth, productivity, and wellbeing, I’m 100% down.

 

Exploring Every Inch of California and Reaching 50 Countries 

Girls Mendocino Weekend - How to Get Around

I traveled a lot in my 20s, reaching 38 countries, and living in 10 different cities.

Although international travel isn’t as much of a focus on this blog anymore or in my life as it was for most of my 20s, it will always be part of my life. 

In my 30s, I plan to reach at least 50 countries – so 12 more from where I’m currently at.

I’m especially looking forward to backpacking through South America in the near future and traveling more of Africa.

There are so many places I still want to see around the world, and I’m excited to see more cultures and have more adventures throughout my 30s. 

In the same vein, I want to explore even more of my home state.

Now that The Atlas Heart has become a California travel blog, I want this website to be the go-to resource for California travel. 

I’m looking forward to exploring as much of the state as possible in my 30s and to write about those adventures on this blog as I go.

And to update my California Road Trip Guide as I continue to see more off-the-radar destinations around the state. 

 

Being Financially Secure and Paying Off My Student Loans (And All Debt) 

financially secure and paying off all debt

I think one of the best parts of your 30s is no longer being a broke 20-something.

I spent a lot of my 20s just having enough in the bank to buy that next plane ticket and to pay my monthly expenses.

I didn’t care that much about saving for the long term or having an emergency fund.

In my 20s, I cared more about experiences than putting money in the bank. 

My mindset around money has changed a lot in the past couple of years.

And especially now that I’m living in San Francisco as a travel blogger (not an easy feat), I’m looking forward to finding more financial security in my 30s.

I started reading books on investing for the first time last year.

I still have a lot to learn but I’m working on becoming more financially secure for the longterm.

I’m also working on building up my business to a place where it’s very financially successful. 

Money isn’t everything, but there are a lot of ways I want to provide and give back in my life.

And I’m sure there are going to be various opportunities for growth that I’ll want to take advantage of when they come up – whether that’s finding a mentor, investing in retreats, or hiring more people for my business. 

Those would all be very hard to do without some money. 

I’m already imagining what it will feel like when I’ve paid off all of my student loan debt.

I get closer to that goal every month and I know just how amazing it will feel to have no debt for the first time since I was 18. 

 

Building a Million-Dollar Business 

building a million dollar business

This goes hand-in-hand with becoming more financially secure in my 30s, but I’m looking forward to creating a million-dollar business within this decade (preferably before I’m 35). 

A million-dollar business may not sound like a lot for those in the tech industry, but it’s the milestone I’m working towards for my California media company that’s based around my blog. 

And the way I want to reach this milestone is by providing tons of value to those around me – whether that’s helping other newbie bloggers create a six-figure blog or giving local travel tips to those who are visiting California for the first time.

And on top of finding financial success and creating a ton of value, I’m looking forward to leaning even more into a good work-life balance. 

I’d much rather work 30 intense hours per week than 60 busy hours that aren’t that productive.

I’m learning the art and importance of rest and taking regular breaks between intense focus periods of work.

I plan to only get better at this and to really enjoy the process of reaching my goals in a methodical and organized way as I move into my 30s. 

 

Buying My First House and Starting a Family 

buying my first house and starting a family

A big milestone that I’m looking forward to in my 30s is building a life with my person.

I’m looking forward to buying my first house, getting married, and starting a family (dogs included!). 

This is something that I wasn’t sure I wanted in my early 20s, but it’s one of those things that I’ve become more clear on in the past few years.  

There’s no rush right now, but I’m looking forward to taking this leap and starting this next stage of my life when the time is right.

I’m excited to be a mom, a wife, and to start my own family.

I’m excited to build a home. 

 

Giving Back to My Family and Continuing to Build a Great Community Around Me

girls trip in paris, france

A lot of my 20s were focused on me and my life, but I don’t want my 30s to follow the same mindset.

I’m looking forward to giving back to my family and continuing to build my community this decade. 

One of the reasons why I want to be more financially secure, besides the peace of mind aspect, is so I can give back. 

I want to take my dad on his dream trip to the UK, all expenses paid. 

I want to help my mom buy a nice house in Morro Bay. 

I want to be able to foot the bill when I’m out at a nice dinner with a close friend and not worry about whether I have enough in my bank account to cover it. 

I want to be able to pay for my kids’ college tuition because I know how it is to have tens of thousands of dollars in debt when you graduate. 

I want to be in a position where I can be generous and give back where I can.

I’m also excited to keep building a great community around me.

This doesn’t necessarily mean having more people in my life (although I’m always open to new friendships), but nurturing and deepening the relationships I already have. 

And also being selective about who I give my time to and who I keep in my life.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much power I have in deciding who to keep in my life.

And ain’t nobody got time for negative or petty people, or people who always seem to carry drama around with them. 

I’ve already started to feel more in tune with my community in the past couple of years since I moved back to California, and I’m looking forward to building onto that even more.  

 

Having the Freedom to Live My Life Exactly How I Want 

being able to live my life exactly as I want

This is one of the things I’m most looking forward to about my 30s – having the freedom to live my life exactly how I want. 

I don’t mean this in the way I did for my 20s – I already found freedom in my independence through travel and that’s not going away anytime soon.

In my 30s, I’m looking forward to building a life where I can achieve all the above things – giving back to my family, having financial freedom, and working on a business that is meaningful to me. 

I’m looking forward to creating a life that gives me the freedom to live it as I want, responsibilities and all.

I’m looking forward to all of it. 

——–

heres to 30

Here’s to 30 and to chasing big goals, milestones, and achievements.

Here’s to building a life that I love.

Here’s to community and giving back.

Here’s to appreciating the people who mean the most to me and creating more memories with them. 

Here’s to accepting the past and staying focused on the present. 

Here’s to a decade full of growth and change and happiness. 

Here’s to my 30s – full of adventure, love, and raw beautiful things. 

x Mimi 

Mimi McFadden
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