All the hype is on 30, which means you should squeeze as much adventure as possible into your 20s before not-so-gracefully bowing out of the years of which you’re still expected to brush off your mother’s advice. Here are 30 things every person with a bit of wanderlust must see and do before they’re 30.
1. Jump off something.
Whether it be a tree by the river next to your childhood home or bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge in Zimbabwe. Take the leap.
2. See one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
This is a tough one, because at 30, well, you still have the bank account of a 29-year-old. The good news here is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be one of the originals — go for the Golden Gate Bridge (modern world), the Grand Canyon (natural wonder), or the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán Peninsula (USA Today new wonder), an affordable flight from most U.S. cities.
3. Party in Las Vegas.
No person should exit their 20s without doing something they regret in Sin City. The place was basically built for us.
4. Take a vacation that isn’t Spring Break.
You had your opportunity to drink beer upside down and insist you don’t need sunscreen while in college. Besides, you don’t remember anything from those trips anyway.
5. Attend at least one large celebration.
Mardi Gras, Full Moon Party, Easter Mass — I don’t care, as long as you have to throw elbows to get to the bar, or the alter.
6. Hit up a nude beach.
If for no other reason, use the time to look around and remind yourself of how young you actually are.
7. Spend several days with only what will fit in a backpack.
If you can brush your teeth with river water and comb your hair with a tree branch, you can most certainly figure out how to stop turning all of your white clothes pink.
8. Swim in the ocean.
This is a must.
9. Sleep somewhere where you have to light a fire to stay warm.
Kudos if you can do so without matches.
10. Do some sort of adrenaline sport.
Raft a Class five rapid; mountain bike Whistler in the summer; surf a wave larger than your torso — meaning: do something that scares you.
11. Hit up one of the Caribbean islands.
There are thousands to choose from. You’ll most likely visit more than one in your lifetime, get a good jump on it in your 20s.
12. Take one ultimate road trip.
It can be with buddies, it can be camping, it can be on Route 66, Route 1, or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Double points if you have a reliable car to get there.
13. Go somewhere alone.
At 30 you should be confident and worldly enough to wake up in a foreign country and know how to get yourself home.
14. Take a train somewhere.
There are no hidden innuendos here. It’s just nice to have the patience and maturity to sit still and watch the world go by.
15. Go to a music festival.
Hit up one of the big ones (Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury) and spend the weekend listening to good music, dancing, and having random song lyrics make you contemplate what you’re doing with your life.
16. Have one iconic Americana experience.
Think Dollywood, Graceland, and Branson.
17. Go to at least one of the Smithsonian museums.
The world’s “largest museum and research complex” includes 19 museums, galleries, and parks — the majority of which are free.
18. Summit a mountain.
I’m not talking Everest, but you should by now have stood on a mountain peak high enough that you’re worried about getting back down.
19. Be able to name your top five dream vacations.
It’s OK if one of them is “home.”
20. See a game at a classic ballpark.
If Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, or Joe Dimaggio hasn’t played in it, it doesn’t count.
21. Visit a neighbor to our north or south.
There’s a hall pass to be had for out of the continent, but by 30 you should have crossed at least one landlocked border.
22. Do something so adventurous that it requires a doctor’s visit.
Whether it requires a series of preventative vaccines before or a cast/splint/cream after, the goal here is that the adventure at hand was so extreme that you need to seek the advice of a trained professional.
23. Save pennies to go somewhere you really want to go.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but you should have to work for it.
24. Go to New York City.
Eat a slice of pizza, stand in the middle of Times Square, and ride the Subway to somewhere — anywhere. This trip is made even better if you can’t afford a decent hotel and book a hostel instead.
25. Sleep under the stars.
In your backyard, in a tent on safari in Kenya, or in the camping pit of an organized event — be extra proud if your experience was made significantly more successful by a can of bug spray.
26. Eat an iconic city meal.
Options include a cheesesteak in Philly, clam chowder in Boston, deep-dish pizza in Chicago, crabs in Baltimore, gumbo in New Orleans, BBQ in Memphis, and a beer in Milwaukee.
27. Know all of the best places to take tourists in your home city.
Philly’s “Love” Park may be just a point of congestion to locals, but trust me, your mother will love it.
28. Have one close encounter with a wild animal.
If this means you don a wetsuit and slip into a tank with dolphins, so be it. But let’s aim for something in the wild if at all possible.
29. Do something you can’t tell your parents about.
Go ahead and make some bad decisions.
30. Know a dance well enough that you could keep up with the locals.
Tango with Argentinians, Salsa with Cubans, Kathak in India, do a jig with the Irish, or line dance in Kansas.