Thirty, flirty, and thriving.
I remember that quote from the movie 13 going on 30; the story of an awkward teenager who wishes to fast forward her life until she was 30. Then, at 30, she becomes this beautiful successful woman with a high-flying job, fabulous clothes, and incredible apartment, and a smoking hot boyfriend.
Ok, so she had some drama and problems but, the first part sounds pretty good right? Like the ideal life for someone in their 3rd decade on this world.
Unlike the character in the movie, I had no desire to wish my teenage years or twenties away, but like most teens I definitely had plans for my future and ideas of what life would look like at 30.
Which, by the way, is literally nothing like my reality.
The Original Plan
If you had asked 15-year-old me where I saw myself at 30, I would have told you I’d have some kind of successful job and a family. I loved (and still love) kids and wanted to be a mom in my mid-twenties so I could run around with them as much as possible.
Twenty-year-old me still wanted the family, but was more specific on the job bit. After graduating high school I stayed in my hometown of Ottawa to study criminology and criminal justice at Carleton University. Thanks to TV shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, I became fascinated with the field. I took courses on criminal behavior, psychopathy, and homicide. Which, for some sounds a little morbid but I was captivated by these topics. I quickly envisioned myself graduating university and continuing on to do my masters and then maybe even my Ph.D in forensic psychology.
During my third year of university, in 2009, I applied for a semester abroad in Wales, UK which had some great criminology-related courses. I was accepted and couldn’t have been more excited. It was supposed to be my first time abroad, my first time on a plane, my first time away from home living on my own.
But then something happened.
The Trigger That Changed Everything
I was literally buying a suitcase (2 actually, hot pink ones) for moving to Wales when I got the call. My dad was sick and required emergency surgery. It’s something I’ve never shared here before, and I won’t get into the details, but surgery didn’t go as expected and my family’s world came crashing down and hasn’t been the same since.
So, I cancelled my semester abroad and spent the next nine months sharing my time between the hospital with my dad, school, and work (because yes, I worked all through university- I even worked 2 jobs at one point.)
That was my trigger.
As I watched my dad suffer through brain trauma and revert to past memories, my mindset changed completely. What if that happened to me? What would my past memories be? School? Work? Studying?
It really put things into perspective. I was so busy working and studying and thinking towards my (hopefully) successful future that I didn’t really have a present.
That scared me.
Taking a Risk
In 2011 I graduated university. My friends starting applying for jobs to begin their adult life but I went a different route. Despite having big education dreams, I’d also spent my university years getting distracted in class and searching far off destinations that one day I hoped to see. With a university degree in my name, I decided to take a break. To escape and maybe see a bit of the world. You know, just in case what happened to my dad happened to me.
Which is how I ended up moving to Galway, Ireland at the age of 22 with zero travel experience. And while it was scary as hell and I was honestly the worst traveller who made more mistakes than I can count, it was the best decision of my life and the start of something incredible.
Ireland was only the beginning. I came home with $11 dollars to my name and a fire to do it all over again. For years I’d work for awhile, save every penny, then quit and travel for months at a time. Basically until I ran out of money. I backpacked across Europe then moved onto South East Asia. I became better at getting on the right trains and showing up at the proper airport, but I still made plenty of mistakes that I turned into stories to share on my little blog that I had originally created for my family.
The more I travelled, the more I craved freedom. I hated being told what to do. I hated working for someone else. I hated not being able to determine my own schedule. I also learned more about blogging and working online. I saw friends and peers start to work with brands and companies, start to get paid, start making money. It didn’t take long to get me thinking: well, if they can do it, then why can’t I?
So I set a goal for myself. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted the freedom lifestyle of a digital nomad.
I’d been hobby-blogging and selling the occasional freelance story for four and a half years before I decided to take the plunge and see if I could make it work. If I really could work for myself, be my own boss, and be successful. I was scared to try but after visiting a Balinese magic man who confirmed that I would never be happy working for someone else, I decided that 2017 would be my year to see what I could do.
Well, I did it. Though not without a lot of learning curves along the way.
2017 was all about learning that press trips don’t pay the bills. 2018 was about branching out and considering different streams of revenue, and 2019 has (so far) been about trying to find a balance. It hasn’t been easy, but I can honestly say that I do work for myself and I am actually successful.
Psst. Want to know more about what my life is actually like as a full time blogger and travel writer? Read this post.
My Reality at 30
So here I am, fresh at 30 and my life isn’t anything close to what I thought it would be. I’m single, I live out of a suitcase for at least 4 months of the year, and I still call my room in my childhood house ‘home’ when I’m back in Canada.
Sometimes I wonder ‘what if’. What if I had stuck with my original goals, where would I be now? It’s hard not to think about it, I’m a pretty curious person, but honestly, if I could do it over again I wouldn’t change a thing.
Because, you know what? I’m really, really happy with where I am right now.
I may not have the material items or relationship that most people my age have, but I have thousands of beautiful memories. I’ve swam with humpback whales in Tonga and climbed the ancient temples of Bagan. I’ve explore the temples of Egypt and played Indiana Jones in Petra, Jordan. I’ve sailed through Greek Islands and scuba dived with bull sharks and WWII shipwrecks. I’m independent as hell, I know how to manage my finances, and I can take care of myself. My travel experiences have taught me more about living and taking care of myself than anything I ever picked up in school or from a ‘real’ job.
My life is strange and different to many. Most people don’t understand what I do or ask me ‘when I’m going to get a real job’. I used to defend myself but now I just smile and shrug, knowing that I actually make more money than most of them do and, more importantly, by doing something that I absolutely love.
I’ve also reached my 2 major goals: 1) visiting 50 countries by 30 (I actually closed out my 20s with 57 countries) and 2) becoming my own boss and working for myself (I have the registered business number to prove it).
Like everyone else, my 20s have been a mix of highs and lows. But, I wouldn’t change them because they led me here and my ‘here’ is pretty damn good. Not only am I happy with how my life is right now, but I’m also genuinely happy with who I am as a person. I don’t think you can ask for much more.
As for my 30s? Well, they’ve only just begun. While I’ve absolutely emerged from my 20s as a smarter and more confident woman, I’m still me. Turning 30 hasn’t magically made me any less clumsy or accident prone. I’m still a sassy and sarcastic goofball with a penchant for getting into trouble. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Maybe over the next decade I’ll slow down, maybe start a family and lay down some roots. Then again, maybe I won’t. Only time will tell.
I have no idea what the next ten years will bring. I have ideas and dreams; things like living abroad again (looking at you, Greece) and exploring more of Africa and South America. I have goals for my business that I know will take work and time but I’m happy to put in the effort. However, at the end of the day, I’ve learned that living in the moment works out better than planning for the future. At least for me. So, I’m just going to embrace it and see where I end up. After all, my 30s are really just my next adventure.