Growing up doesn’t have to be boring. I’ve just turned 30 and the idea of hitting that milestone gave me pause for thought, I won’t deny. I was one of those people who wrote a ‘to do before I’m 30’ list, albeit about two years ago. I’ve given it so little thought since typing it out that I can’t even recall what made the cut.
I guess, like many other folk in the same position, the act of writing a list was borne out of a sense of expectation – okay and maybe I like writing lists a little bit too much. By 30, you assume you’ll be pretty set on a direction in life, having spent your formative adult years pursuing your dream life. Turns out, it’s not that simple. Life happens, directions shift and priorities change. What I’ve figured out, pausing for breath at 30, is that there is no need to panic if by now you’re not where you thought you’d be. The important thing is not to feel entrapped by a number, not to feel defeated or to settle for feeling unfulfilled. Don’t let life pass you by.
Do something that scares you now and again, on a whim. It’s amazing how good it feels.
Undecided on how to make best use of my time away from the day job this summer I ended up in a part of the world I’d never even considered, a part of the world that was met with uncertainty from family and friends when I aired my plans and a corner of the globe which turned out to be pretty damn sensational.
In short, a trip to the Balkans with my housemate was an inspired choice.
So recently war-torn and with little by way of immediate cultural references for me personally – other than the names of well-known footballers – I had no idea what to expect of a trip that had only Serbia and Bulgaria definitively on our postage-stamp-sized itinerary.
Packing only a small, cheap backpack with a few changes of clothes, essential cosmetic items, a Kobo Mini, journal, pen, playing cards and mobile phone, off I went. A step into the unknown with little by way of home comforts and inbound and outbound flights booked on a shoestring with Wizz Air.
Day to day we lived by the seat of our pants, ending up in Bosnia and Montenegro along the way. Turning up in cities late some evenings with no lodgings and sometimes no reliable map, just the name of a hostel. Travelling with such reckless abandon was a thrill. Each decision was no longer mundane – from where to go for breakfast to how to decipher the menu when you got there – and every morning we would wake up and say ‘what do we feel like doing today?’ Sometimes we decided a place wasn’t for us and we hit the road again, jumping on a night bus to the next place. The general rule was that two nights in any one place was plenty. We only had 15 days.
I had never dived from a boat, swam in the sea where my feet can’t reach the bottom, never tried to hitchhike, slept rough or gone out for cocktails with a Japanese man. I never imagined sitting at a jazz festival in Serbia passing on my ‘worldly’ insights to an audience of teenagers. I’d never risen from my slumber at 4am to watch sunrise from an abandoned fort on a hill. That’s a random collection of experiences, all unplanned, and I lived them – just by saying yes and following gut instincts instead of thinking about why and what next. I can confidently say I’ve lived my life this way since returning home and you know what? It feels bloody good.
Sometimes we forget to just live life and get bogged down with details; turning 30 is just one example, but as I’ve found, sometimes just saying yes is enough to gain valuable perspective.