Turning 20 is a pretty significant milestone, more so than a lot of people make it out to be. Why? Because you’re no longer a teenager! You’re leaving the teens behind and heading into the big and scary 20s where things like full-time employment, mortgages, marriage and even kids start appearing (depending on what part of your 20s you’re in obviously) … scary how grown-up that sounds doesn’t it?
Well I’m heading towards that big day, and I’m not going to lie, I’m incredibly excited about it. It comes with a sad note though, it’s the first birthday I won’t be celebrating at home with my family, but it’s also an experience I’ll get to enjoy with all my new friends at university. Actually, I think having my 20th birthday away from home, and in the next, more independent phase of my life is quite symbolic of the gravitas of turning 20. Now I know everyone has a bucket list for life, but I thought there were plenty of fun things to tick off that you can (and should try to do) before you hit 20 so instead of a bucket list that you can tick off over decades, how about one for just the first two decades of life? So with that in mind, I’m sharing my checklist of 20 things I’ve done before my big 20th.
I hope you enjoy it, and as you read, make sure you tick off the ones you’ve done yourself 🙂
Travel outside your home country
Travelling is such a wonderful, eye-opening experience and I think everyone should experience travelling outside your home country if you have the opportunity. I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world with my family over the years – my favourite trips have probably been Florida (because Universal and Disney world and I’m a massive child at heart), the Maldives, India and Germany at Christmas but every trip is equally breathtaking and incredible (thanks mom and dad!). Travelling has a way of broadening our world view and allowing us to mature and reflect, so no matter what age you’re at if you get the opportunity to travel then grab it by the horns and go for it!
Learn a new language
Having more than one language under your belt can be incredibly useful (especially when travelling *cough cough*), but it’s also a really fun experience to learn a new language that interests you. I’m not saying you need to become fluent, but just learn the basics and some important phrases. You’ll be able to communicate with more people, and it’s cool to be able to say you speak more than one language. I’m not even close to being fluent but I ‘speak’ half of two other languages – Afrikaans and French. Afrikaans may have been forced on me through school, but French was a choice, and I’m so glad I chose it. I really love being able to whip out a fun phrase in either language, so I think everyone should attempt to learn another language.
I believe there’s nothing more important to do than give back, hence why volunteering is so high on the list. It’s such a humbling experience, it teaches you so many things, and it’s an empowering activity that also lets you give back to the community. I think everyone, especially young people, should experience it. What makes it even better is you can volunteer at a place that connects with your interests/passions – for instance, if you love pets or books (like I do) you can volunteer at an animal shelter or help out at a children’s home or underprivileged school. There are so many opportunities to give back, and I think it’s such a meaningful experience because it’s eye-opening and empowering.
See something live
Everyone should experience something they love live on stage. There’s just nothing more exhilarating than seeing your favourite band/musician or musical live – the recorded versions and videos just aren’t the same. Now I know not everyone is into big, live concerts (myself), so that’s why I mention musicals. I may have never seen a band play live, but I’ve seen some fantastic classical concerts and anytime I can, I try to see a musical or play (I don’t even want to try and count how many I’ve watched). Each experience is unique, and I’ve loved each and every one of them – it’s nothing short of magic.
Get your first job
There’s something quite triumphant about getting your first job. The obvious one is duh because it’s your first, but also because it’s immensely satisfying to be able to pay for things with money you earned and not just money donated to you (like an allowance) by your parents. A good work ethic is also super important for the future and getting a job pre-20 is a great way to practice being a good employee and getting some work experience under your belt while you’re still young. Plus, and this is just me, it feels really good to get up and do something productive and worthwhile in the day and get paid for it.
Take a road trip
Who doesn’t love a good road trip, especially when you do it with people you are close to and enjoy being around? Now I’ve been on a few road trips around South Africa, mostly with my dad and younger brother but sometimes my mom would join us and more recently, my boyfriend has been part of the squad – they were always such a fun bonding experience. Sure you get tired of sitting still, people are in your space, the car gets stuffy, and car games and tone-deaf singing can only last so long, but I wouldn’t exchange those trips for anything. It’s also great fun to actually see your country as you drive through it, and experience the different spots, as opposed to just flying straight over it.
Self-care and self-love
Learning to look after yourself and love yourself are vital life skills in my mind, and the earlier you learn them, the better. Life is tough and stressful, and we can get so busy trying not to fall off the hamster wheel that we forget to take care of ourselves. While the hamster wheel isn’t spinning too quickly and out of control (serious adult life), I think it’s so valuable to know about self-care – taking the time to destress, take care of your health (mental and physical) and just know when you need to take a break and focus on you before you fall apart. I promise you, you’ll be so thankful you learnt about this when you still had the time.
Now onto self-love … society makes it quite difficult to love ourselves as we are constantly surrounded by the ideas of perfectionism and what the ideal person should look and act like. I hate to be the one to say it, but nobody is perfect, and that’s why we need to learn to love ourselves. You may not be thrilled about how you look, or aspects of yourself, but they are part of you, and each and every bit of you is beautiful and deserves to be loved by YOU. Also, learning how to love yourself early on will do wonders for your confidence because if you love you, no one else can take you down or make you feel lesser than.
I don’t care what it is, but I think everyone should have experienced the addiction to just binge-watch something before they turn twenty. It could be a tv series, a favourite movie series but allowing yourself to be addicted to a show and letting it consume your life for a short while is, in my opinion, a right of passage. For me, I’ve binge-watched a few things. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings marathons are somewhat frequent. I’ve also binge-watched Friends (multiple times mind you, at least six times), Lucifer, Gossip Girl and White Collar. While you might kick yourself for messing up your sleep cycle, it’s just so satisfying to watch it all in one go and then be able to sit back afterwards and say you did it.
Go on a roller coaster.
I’m not what one would call an adrenaline junkie, but nothing can compare to the feeling of racing along a roller coaster track with your heart in your mouth and your stomach in your shoes as you plunge, twirl and twist. It’s definitely something I believe everyone should try once (my boyfriend did, and even though he still isn’t a fan, boo-hoo, at least he tried).
I’m going to throw this in just because I can … if the chance presents itself, going on a roller coaster at Disney World (or Universal Studios) takes the experience to a whole new level. I’ve been to Disney and Universal 4 times – the first when I was eight and the last when I was 18 as my graduation present, and my boyfriend came with. Whether you go for a short trip or a long trip, you have to go, especially before you turn twenty – it’s perfect for kids, adults and kids at heart. They say it’s magical and where dreams come true and from experience, that’s not just a line from a travel brochure. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!
Do something outside your comfort zone.
I once read that “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and I can’t help but agree. While doing something outside your comfort zone can be quite nerve-wracking, the feeling you get afterwards definitely makes it worth it, and it can really help you grow and develop as a person to push yourself to do things a little outside your comfort zone. It could be anything – travelling alone, conquering a fear, facing a challenge, anything. Some things I did outside my comfort zone were travelling by myself last year, starting and finishing a running challenge (I can’t stand running) and one other thing that I’ll mention later. Take it from me, pushing your own limits may seem terrifying, but the rewarding feeling you get afterwards will make it something of an addiction, I guarantee.
Lose and gain some friends
As life happens, we all grow and change, and that usually has an impact on your friendships. Particularly after high school, as we all move into the next phase in our lives, our friendships shift, and we lose some old friends and gain some new ones. Now while this can be both a bittersweet and scary experience, it’s also such an important one to go through because it helps you define what you value in a friendship, you discover who your true friends are, and you learn to let go. Isn’t it crazy how you can grow and learn so much simply from adjusting and changing your friendship circles?
Eat with no shame
Ahhh what a delightful experience. It goes against every healthy lifestyle plan and what’s supposedly good for us, but you can’t move into your twenties without doing this at least once. There are many ways you can do this – you can have a binge or cheat day where you just stuff your face with anything and everything you enjoy since you’ve been good, you can enjoy a feast with your bestie, or drown your sorrows in far too much sugar and carbs after a crummy experience. I can proudly admit I’ve eaten with no shame on all three of these occasions. Yes, my stomach might have been very unhappy with me afterwards, but it was definitely an experience.
Pull an all-nighter
I think every single under 20-year-old has done this but if you haven’t, why not give it a shot? Some people pull all-nighters for studying, others do it for gaming, some do it for sleepovers just to say you did it and some do it to watch the sunrise. Now, this may not exactly be the healthiest of things to do, much like the previous one, but it’s certainly a learning experience. You’ll either learn not to put yourself in a situation where an all-nighter is needed or change your tactics, so it’s a more manageable feat. No matter what you do, you should, at the very least stay up all night to watch the sunrise – it’s a rather uplifting way to start the day.
Learn a creative skill
Creative activities are so much more than just unleashing your imagination into an art form. They are rejuvenating, relaxing, and a unique way of expressing yourself and your emotions. I’ve always loved the arts and anything creative, so I play the saxophone, I doodle and draw, and I love writing (that one might be obvious). What I love about all these very different creative activities is that they give me an outlet, a way to express myself and something to turn to when I need a way to relax or escape. That’s why I think everyone, especially people under 20, should learn a creative skill because it gives you an outlet that is uniquely you.
Learn to say no
This was that other thing I mentioned that was outside my comfort zone. For a lot of people, saying no can be really difficult. I’m one of those people who can never say no because I love helping people and just don’t have the heart to let them down. However, never being able to say no can be quite problematic because you end up sacrificing a lot of yourself and your own well-being to please others, and that’s never good. Learning to stand up for yourself and say no (not in a mean way mind you), can be so empowering because you’re standing your ground and putting yourself first.
Do something grown-up
You’re heading into your 20s, a whole new realm of ‘grown-up’. That’s why, while you’re still technically a teen, you should do something grown-up. You could try your hand in a casino, get a tattoo or buy yourself a drink in a pub/restaurant. Yes, I know, you can get a tattoo at whatever age and plenty of people drink underage, but there’s a different feeling to it when you do something grown-up when you’re over 18 but still protected by the teen title.
Even adults sometimes struggle with adulting, so it’s good to practice the skills while it’s not essential to getting through life. Some good ‘adulting’ skills to practice are learning to cook properly (and no, making instant noodles and toast doesn’t count), basic first-aid and how to do simple house chores like laundry. These may sound simple and like a waste of time if it’s not necessary, but they are soooo valuable when the time comes. I lived by myself for six months last year and being able to cook myself decent meals and not shrink my clothes was such a relief because it took a lot of stress off my plate that so many of my friends were experiencing, and you know that you can successfully be independent. Be proud mom and dad! I can look after myself!
Try an exotic dish/food.
You might think this goes with doing something outside of your comfort zone, but I believe food should always have its own category. Food is a very defining attribute to one’s culture, but that often means you don’t get to try exotic dishes if you don’t hunt for them. Whether you eat a cuisine you’ve never tried before, or taste a fancy dessert that your overseas relatives made, trying an exotic dish (or food from a culture you aren’t familiar with) helps expand your horizons and taste buds. You might just discover your new favourite meal – but you’ll never know if you don’t try things out.
Hike a mountain
I don’t know why hiking a mountain is a significant thing to do in your life, but it is. Maybe it’s the whole thing of persevering up a challenging slope and summiting a mighty peak in a physical sense instead of just a metaphorical sense? Whatever it is, I think hiking a mountain is a fantastic feat to achieve before you hit 20 (plus you’ll have the opportunity to take plenty of pictures with a great view to mark your success). However, if hiking isn’t exactly your thing (it can be very physically demanding plus it comes with wildlife, and that’s not for everyone), then any other type of hectic physical activity will do. It gives you a sense of achievement, plus it requires discipline and perseverance, which are great qualities to master at a young age. Two of my proudest achievements are hiking Table Mountain in Cape Town, and completing the 94.7km cycling challenge around Johannesburg with my dad. My legs felt it for the next few days, but the pride still hasn’t left me.
Visit a national park.
The last thing on this list is to visit a national park. Much like going to see something live or travelling outside your home country, it is an exhilarating experience, and you get to appreciate the magnificence of the natural world. In a world that is developing faster than any of us can keep up with, visiting a place that is preserving nature and wildlife in its most raw and vulnerable form can be quite a spectacle and an incredibly thrilling sight to behold, especially if you live in a concrete jungle and don’t have many places to experience nature. Being a South African, we have all the fantastic game reserves and going to the bush even for a day or two is one of my favourite holidays. You get to escape all the buildings and fast-paced technological life we usually lead and appreciate nature, wildlife and the simplicity of a part of the world we haven’t yet changed (that much at least).
Oh, my word that was such a long list. I’m so so sorry but hey if you made it to the end, thanks for reading!! I know this is quite a lot to get through, but each and every one of them is such a valuable and memorable experience. I had so much fun doing each and every item on this list, and I feel like each of them played a significant, impactful role in my life.
So, whether you’re turning twenty or not, how many of these have you ticked off your list? Have you had any fantastic experiences you want to share? If you’ve done any of these, which one was your absolute favourite? Do you think I’ve missed anything out that I should quickly add to my list before my 20th?
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx