30 things I learned before turning 30

Recently I turned 30. And despite knowing this day would come for quite literally thirty years of my life when the day came, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting to feel.

The truth is, I put a lot of weight on turning 30.

I put the age high on a pedestal and counted down to it like it meant something. Like turning 30 would suddenly mean I was ‘grown’ and maybe at this point I would really ‘figure it all out’.

Spoiler alert: I haven’t.

Brooke Saward Book Club

But I have learned a lot of things before turning 30. I’m under no illusion that I’ve figured it all out, because really, who has?

And besides, I’d quite like to think we never really do figure out, hence our constant drive to carry on through the dark days, soberly wading our way through this thing called life.

Regardless, the day came and passed. I turned thirty years of age and nothing changed.

Yet in the wake of it, I’ve noticed a lot has changed. Not just now, but over the last decade. Here’s how.

30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30

1. Find your passion, make it your purpose

There’s a big difference between someone telling you to find your passion and someone asking you what your purpose is. The two sound similar on paper, but in reality are very, very different.

You can be passionate about anything. For me, it is travel. Adventure. The art of escaping. And while I love travel with every ounce of my being (and have since gone on to create a career where I can travel full time), if I didn’t find the purpose in it early on, my life would be severely unfulfilling.

The difference in having a purpose is for you to find meaning beyond yourself.

2. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do it well

My parents always told me growing up to find whatever I loved and do that. It was comforting to know they would support me no matter the career path I chose, but it was also mildly intimidating to not have any sense of direction.

Looking back on that, I realise I was able to find my own potential – quite literally. I went out there in the world searching for it and came back with clarity, focus, passion and purpose.

The truth is, it does not matter what you do. It matters how well you do it.

Since then, I have owned a travel media company (World of Wanderlust), a bakery (Charlie’s Dessert House), a Bridal Boutique (Little White), a social media content company (NORD) and have been teaching pilates for the last year. I love trying new career paths and am just as passionate about each one!

3. Love like you’ll never get hurt

Over the years of sharing my life online, I’ve had a boyfriend or two pop up in my Instagram feed. At first it was considered cute, then it was the cause for much inquiry. Regardless of public opinion, I kept loving hard or not at all. It wouldn’t have phased me to end up single forever, but when you connect with someone on an emotional level and the spark is ignited, the only way to find out if this is the love of your life, is to love like you’ll never get hurt.

Sure, when it doesn’t work out and your relationship ends, it sometimes feels like the world is ending too. But you bounce back, you realise it is better to have loved and lost than to never loved at all, and you become a better version of yourself for it. There’s no harm in trying.

4. Read everything, all the time

Friends laugh when they see my bedside table. At any one time, there can be a stack of up to fifteen books on there. And if you have been following my blog for a while, you will know I love reading. I especially love reading memoirs about people’s lives and see the world through their eyes. But I don’t just love reading memoirs. I love reading a variety of books (both fiction and non-fiction), thought-provoking articles on Medium, catching up on current affairs, reading business journals, etc. I love reading anything that allows me to open my world and learn more. And this has truly been a better way to learn than any paid education.

5. Health is wealth

It was only a couple of years ago that I started to feel somewhat like a sloth. There, I said it. Before this I had been travelling the world full time, so I never had to worry too much about my fitness routine or staying healthy – because I was in good health by default. I was walking a lot while traveling, often 20 kilometres per day, so I never had to worry about staying fit. And then the closer I got towards 30 as my travels slowed (ahem, a pandemic occurred), I quickly realised how active and healthy I had been the last decade by default.

A few months into the pandemic, I decided to complete my instructor training for pilates. I love pilates (like really love it) and thought this could be a great opportunity to further my knowledge, get fit in a strength sense (not just by being able to walk a lot) and put myself on a path to sustainable health. I’ve never felt better or stronger.

6. Master being present and you master life

People often ask me what is my mantra or what do I live by. If anything, it is the art of being present. Too often I have sat alone at a restaurant, watching on as couples scroll on their phones instead of talking to each other, or friends do the same in group settings and only lift their head when laughter erupts and something worth tuning in to is being discussed.

But I really think being present in all situations, in all settings, can change your life.

7. Never stop learning

Learning should never stop when you finish compulsory school and for those of you who have continued learning beyond the education system, you’ll understand exactly why! Continuing to learn is continuing to grow. And in the words of William S. Burroughs, when you stop growing you start dying.

There are many ways to continue learning, growing and evolving as you get older. For me, that has ranged from continuing my education at university to choosing to complete my pilates and barre instructor training and learn more about anatomy and the way my body works (and why). I’ve also continued to learn about a number of topics I’m passionate about, such as learning from a wine sommelier on Masterclass or learning to bake bread from Apollonia Poilâne.

8. Diversify the people you surround yourself with

Having friends of all backgrounds, ages and genders will help you better understand the world in which we live. Since spending most of my 20’s traveling the world, I have made friends from all over the world. Some of them are 10 years younger than me and some of them are 10 years older. Many of them are from diverse backgrounds and all corners of the world and they never cease to amaze me with their life advice and wisdom. Having new perspectives from people living a different life or lifestyle to yours will continue to allow you to see the world in a new light.

9. Always text back

We live in a digital world. That’s nothing new! But through the digitisation of our culture, we’ve become increasingly connected to people through a phone screen. This makes it easier to avoid people or forget to respond, and while it might not mean a whole lot to you, this can breed anxiety for the person you’re avoiding or not responding to. Be polite, text back, even if it is a final sign off.

10. What people say about you, says more about them

Deflection isn’t something I understood until my late twenties. And even if it is a bitter pill to swallow when you’re in the firing line of someone else’s negativity, you’ve got to see beyond them using words as weapons and realise what they are saying about you, says more about them. Quite often we can’t see our own flaws and faults but are quick to judge others. And you’d better believe this goes both ways – the negative comments you make about others often says more about your own insecurities. So speak with kindness and when others don’t do the same to you, unsubscribe.

Brooke Saward in Paris | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

11. Listen more than you talk

All of the best conversations I’ve ever had are not those listening to the sound of my own voice (but believe me when I say I do spend a good amount of time talking to myself – that’s what 10 years of travelling the world solo will do to you!) But instead, the best conversations I’ve had are those where I listen more than I talk, broadening my horizons and learning from someone who knows more than me about a particular topic.

And this goes both ways. People love to talk and share their knowledge, especially when they know the subject they are talking about. By listening, you learn more. But you also connect more with the speaker, who is happy to have a captivated audience.

12. There are worse things to be addicted to than coffee or wine

It is no secret to my friends and family (and probably you if you’ve been following me on Instagram for a while) that I love coffee. And I also love wine. As far as I’m concerned, it is coffee before noon and wine after that. But for a decent portion of my twenties, I felt bad for that. People would either be telling me I drank too much coffee, or I would be telling myself on a hazy Sunday morning that I drink too much wine. But the truth is, there are worse things to be addicted to. Live a little… and by a little I mean a lot.

13. Travel is the best education

After graduating university, I had no clear direction or clue of what I wanted to do. In fact, I can honestly say I realised this at some point during my university education. So after my graduation ceremony, I booked a one-way flight to London and took off for a year of travelling around the world solo.

As it turns out, I learned more in that year than I ever learned at school or during my years of tertiary education. That is why I can say with my hand on my heart, that travel is the best education. So for the entire decade that followed, I taught myself and let others teach me. I learned new cultures, customs, languages and local delicacies. By travelling the world, I discovered more than I ever could in a book or documentary. I lived it first hand.

14. Sometimes in life you have to start again

There have been times in my life so far where I have had to hit the restart button or at least, be willing to close one chapter to commence the next. This has been in relation to friendhips, romantic relationships, packing up a house and moving cities or countries, or closing a business down among other things. But every time I have closed one door, it has opened the next. Trust your gut and know when it is time to go.

15. Forgive but don’t forget

I’d be lying if I said all of my friendships have lasted a lifetime or all of my relationships have been faultless. Neither are true. But it will not serve you a purpose to hold on to negative energy or relish in the way someone treated you, no matter how poorly it was. There is strength in forgiving people, but also great strength in remembering. I guess the old saying is true: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

16. Turn notifications off on your phone

I wish I learned this sooner in life, but I’m glad I still figured it out at some point in my early twenties. These days we live in a hyper-connected universe thanks to the internet and social media. However, this isn’t always a good thing. One of the best ways I force myself to stay present has been turning off the notifications on my phone. I no longer receieve text message notifications, instagram notifications, email notifications, anything! Rather, I check my emails at the start of the day, middle of the day around lunch, and before I clock off work in the evening. I write back to friends as I wind down later in the day and they know if there is a matter of urgency, they can call me to get in touch. This has saved a tonne of downtime and saved myself from the omnipresent threat of procrastination.

17. You are what you say no to, more than what you say yes to

This is one of the first mantras I ever had and I came across it when launching my blog. These were the early days of instagram, when there were only a handful of what we now call ‘influencers’ using the platform and making a living online. I remember reading this piece of advice from a fashion blogger and constantly referring back to it over my years as a travel writer. Saying “no” to someone or something i sometimes saying “yes” to yourself – to your beliefs, morals, and values.

18. Happiness is a choice

The moment I realised I could choose happiness, was the moment I started feeling more of it. Over the years I’ve become quite in sync with my emotions (often before they arrive) and when I feel myself onboarding too much negativity, I simply switch off and tune in to something I love – like taking a walk with my dog, doing some pilates to focus on the movement, or simply opening a recipe book and baking something sweet. Whenever you’re not happy, choose happiness. Believe me, it works!

19. Never sit still for too long

This could be in a literal sense (like sitting at an office desk all day) or a broader sense (like moving cities when you tire of the reality you’re currently in). For me, it is both! I am constantly moving, changing, and evolving. Some have seen this as flippant, but for me it makes total sense. Remember: if you’re not growing, you’re dying!

20. Better done than perfect

As a Virgo, I’ve always been a little obsessive with perfection. And when I say a little, I mean a lot! But when I began to realise the peace I could feel when I finished a job and moved on, I realised it was better to finish something, than to always strive for perfection.

Related: 20 Places to see in your 20’s

Brooke Saward in Paris | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

21. Capture everything

So much of my life has been lived online (a third of it, to be exact!) And one reason I’m so happy to keep sharing everything online, is because it gives me a constant time machine to step back into a particular day or experience. This relates mostly to travel, but can be beneficial in every day life too. I like to capture moments as often as possible, so I have a constant flow of memories to revert back to. It is surprising how quick the years past beyond your late twenties!

22. Keep a journal

Another great way to keep track of special moments (like starting to date someone new or the moment you buy your first home and what that feels like), is to journal. It always amazes me to look back at a particular time in my life or moment I have lived, and see how special a time it was. The highs, the lows, and everything in between. Not only is it a beautiful memory to return to, but also helps you to understand the present as you are living it.

23. Hard work trumps talent

For many years throughout school education, I was nurtured to believe talent is something some of us have, and some of us do not. Some of us will be put in a higher math class, while others will be taught run of the mill equations. But as you grow into yourself through your twenties, it becomes a little hard to ignore just how much hard work and persistence really pay off. Just because you’re not good at something straight away, doesn’t mean you can’t be through persistence!

24. Admit when you are wrong or at fault

I have to admit, I’ve never been great at saying “I am wrong”. But it certainly comes a lot easier the older I get and now at thirty, I think I can finally accept that I’m wrong (a lot of the time!) I have learned there is strength in accepting and admitting when you are wrong – even if it just makes the other person in the equation feel great. ;)

25. Prototype your life

This is something I did for myself back at the start of my twenties, and the close I got to thirty, I realised not a lot of people do this for themselves. Rather than thinking of your life as a means to an end (the end being an early retirement and plenty of cash to enjoy yourself), start thinking about that life of financial freedom and endless possibilities as a life you can achieve for yourself now.

For me, I always wanted to travel. So when I discovered it was almost impossible to become a travel writer, I started a blog and started writing about travel anyway. Within a year it was my full time career and before I knew it, my entire twenties were spent traveling and getting paid to write about it.

26. Have mentors (and be a mentor)

The importance of having mentors didn’t dawn on me until I was approaching burn out for the first time, biting off more than I could chew and burning the candle at both ends. I wish I knew it then, but eventually I learned that by having a mentor – someone who has done it before you and made all of those mistakes before – is a sure way to prevent avoidable mistakes or costly lessons. And whether you’ve learned the hard way or had someone there by your side mentoring you through your twenties, you can always become a mentor for someone else. Sharing your knowledge and wisdom is one of the most gratifying gifts we have on this earth.

27. Fear is already failure

I can’t count how many times people have asked me how or why I keep starting new businesses. Now as I approach opening another bakery, I was asked this question for the umpteenth time. Specifically, I was asked if I ever fear things not working out. And the truth is, I don’t think I do. If you are passionate about something, pursue it. And if you wish to be your own boss or build a brand, the one thing that will set you apart is fighting off fear and doing it anyway (side note: just be sure to put in the hours of research marketing before you take the plunge!)

28. How you do anything is how you do everything

This is maybe my favourite piece of advice for people. I guess it goes back to the CEO’s of the world always making their bed before they leave for work in the morning. There really is a lot of truth in the fact that how you do anything, is how you do everything. And how you treat one person – no matter their perceived inferiority – says everything about you.

29. It takes an army

Of all the businesses and wild ideas I’ve had, none of them have been tackled alone. Whenever you see a person’s success, you need to understand the sheer amount of people that have been involved in achieving said success! From the thirty or forty people who work for celebrities in their every day life, to small business success. It takes an army, so choose your team around you, nurture them, and remember you can’t do it all on your own!

30. You will miss your twenties

Now at 30, I’m already mourning my twenties. But the reality is, we’re all going in the same direction. We will never be as young as we are right now. So live a little! I can say, with my hand on my heart, that my twenties were the best years yet. But that’s only because I haven’t lived the next decade. There is so much joy to be had in constant reflection – evaluating the good, the bad, the outright stupid decisions you made that led you to a divebar in the East Village that one time! Your twenties are such formative years, but the best way to spend them is to enjoy them. Because you’ll never get them back. Here’s to a new chapter ~ the next chapter!

Brooke Saward
Brooke Saward

Brooke Saward founded World of Wanderlust as a place to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to see our world. She now divides her time between adventures abroad and adventures in the kitchen, with a particular weakness for French pastries.

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