30 Things to Do Before 30

One year ago, I sat down and challenged myself to complete a list of 30 Things to Do Before 30. Moments ago, I rang in my 30th birthday in a world much different than then one that welcomed me into 29.

As someone that doesn’t do much party planning and tends to limit my expectations for birthdays, I actually had big ideas for my 30th. I truly believed I would be celebrating in style in Beijing, perhaps finally bringing together my “work friends” and my “gym friends,” two social circles that made me love living in China and, honestly, some of the best friends I’ve made while moving around in my 20s.

But, as you know, a global pandemic broke out in China. Then spread around the world. I haven’t been back to Beijing since I left for my “vacation” in December. And yet, I’m really excited to celebrate my 30th in Malaysia. I’ve been having a low-key lockdown BLAST here. Although I definitely could not have predicted a year ago what I’m doing for 30, let’s just say my new plans may even be better than the original.

One of the reasons I’ve been so happy the last few months is because, while I didn’t achieve all of my goals, I did pretty well. Let’s take a look:

  1. Get My Novel Into the Publishing Process (i.e. find an agent)

    Well, sort of! When I wrote this list, I hadn’t picked up my manuscript in nearly a year. When I finally did, I was horrified. It was BAD. Truly horrendous. A masterpiece of utter crap. So, instead of doing a couple of quick edits for a month as planned, I dove into a full remodel. Between changing 80% of the book, working and traveling, I’ve only just finished. A year ago, I thought I could start querying agents by September. In reality, I only started querying in May.

    But, I did get a full manuscript request from an agent! This is essentially like sending out your resume and being called in for an interview. It’s the first time that’s happened, and it means something went right. It very well might lead nowhere. But, you know what? I’m considering this a win.

  2. Finish a 2nd Book

    30 Things To Do Before 30
    No. Nope. Not even close. I did start my second book. And I did a pretty hefty amount of research for it. As I said, I spent far more time than expected on my first manuscript. So finishing the second book will be a goal for 31!

  3. Visit All the Wonders of the World

    I’ll be honest, even without a global pandemic, I wasn’t going to make it to Brazil this year.

  4. Pass C1 Level of DELE

    Another no. The DELE is the Spanish proficiency exam. While I never got officially tested, I did start taking regular Spanish classes again! So I’m feeling a lot better about my Spanish. A no for the list, but a SI for my Spanish.

  5. Maintain Weight

    30 Things To Do Before 30
    Ding! Ding! Ding! Despite the pandemic, I’m still quite happy with my weight.

  6.  Bike the Coast of Vietnam

    30 Things To Do Before 30
    Hard no. While I did go back to Vietnam, my plans to bike the coast were shaky even before the pandemic. Too busy with work!

  7. Finish Infinite Jest

    Another no. My copy is currently locked in an apartment in Beijing. So we will have to wait until I can rescue all my stuff from China.

  8. Read the Entire Harry Potter Series in a Language that Isn’t English

    Ha ha ha! Right…

  9. Finish Another One-Second-Every-Day Video

    This one! I did this one!

  10. Visit Cambodia and Laos

    I was planning on visiting after my “two-week trip” to Malaysia in January. But the world fell apart and two weeks in Malaysia have turned into 5 months. But I have no regrets! Malaysia is great!

  11. Apply for an MFA

    Again, this one was ambitious from the beginning. One day…

  12. Treat Myself to Getting My Nails Done30 Things To Do Before 30

    I’m a bit of an addict now actually. Although all the salons being closed for three months means I’ve learned to take care of my nails solo.

  13. Win an F45 Challenge

    30 Things To Do Before 30
    Technically I won two!

  14. Get Computer Savvy

    I had no way to measure my success here. But I’ve mastered Zoom and “portrait mode” on my iPhone 11. So we’ll call it a win!

  15. Get Skin Under Control

    30 Things To Do Before 30
    Yes! Sunlight to the rescue. Gooooddbyeee psoriasis!

  16. Revamp Freelancing Operation

    This went SO much better than I expected it to.

  17. Get to Fluency in a 3rd Language

    Last summer I did a lot for my Chinese. And then…..I just sort of…..stopped.

  18. Run a Race

    The only race I’m running is binging Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

  19. Finish My Journal

    30 Things To Do Before 30
    I’ve been so good at journaling! I wrote myself through three!

  20. Add $$$$ to My Roth IRA


    30 Things To Do Before 30
    Financial success Gwen

  21. Join a Club or Organization (that isn’t a gym)

    How sad that the only “real” new organization in which I’ve gotten involved and made friends is F45 Kuala Lumpur.

    I gave myself a point for joining an online writing group but it isn’t at all what I wanted.

    I had big plans for this. I wanted to join a running club and I’ve been dying to join a writer’s group or book club. Maybe I’ll find one when things “go back to normal” in Kuala Lumpur.

  22. Learn to Cook

    30 Things To Do Before 30

  23. Learn to Braid My Own Hair

    Technically I now understand how to french braid. But understanding isn’t doing. I’m still at a loss for how other women keep it together so flawlessly. Mine looks like I braided while on hard drugs.

  24. Get a Plant and Keep it Alive



    30 Things To Do Before 30
    This is my plant.
    I might have only bought it two weeks ago, but it is alive.
    So it counts.

  25. Watch the Godfather

    I can’t believe I went 30 years without watching this movie! It’s so good!

  26. Watch 12 (new) Foreign Films

    This was my favorite of all my goals. Blog on these films coming soon!

  27. Stay Up Until Breakfast

    This was just stupid.

    When I was 23, a group of us went to New Orleans and couch-surfed with a dude and like 5 other travelers. One night, we all went out to various clubs– including a weird vampire bar– and stayed awake all night. We watched the sunrise from the Mississippi River and then got beignets. We didn’t get home until 10 am. It’s one of my favorite memories.

    During my “final year of my 20s,” I had some good parties. I went to a crazy good wedding in New Delhi, I went to a backstreet boys concert in Macau, I went for midnight runs along the beach in Vietnam, I danced until 4 am here in Kuala Lumpur.

    The thing about memories is you can’t plan them. That night in New Orleans? I was actually kind of in a bad mood….Why? I was TIRED.

    Actually, I stayed up all night two nights ago. It was vastly different than at 23. At 29, I edited essays, watched Ru Paul, and worked on this blog. Growing up….

  28. Get a Professional Certificate

    Meh. I considered taking an IELTS or TOEFL teaching class, but they don’t really exist. Likewise, my memoir writing class offered a certificate, but why pay $100 for a piece of paper?

    I didn’t get the certificate but definitely learned some new skills this year.

  29. Read 25 Books

    30 Things to Do Before 30

  30. Reunite with Old Friends

    I went back to India and met up with lots of people, Sarah and Jersey came to Beijing, my family and I toured Vietnam, and I met up with Molly in Malaysia! Check Check Check Check!30 Things to Do Before 30


    So how did I do?
    Completed: 18/30
    Few that I “didn’t complete” came from sheer laziness (some! But not all). A lot of these simply stopped piquing my interest (i.e. I heard Infinite Jest really isn’t worth the time…). For those others, however, I hope I have an even more productive entrance into my 30s!

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  1. linda Smith-Christmas

    Congratulations on the call for your full novel!!!!!!

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      Thank you! I haven’t heard much besides this but it still feels like a step in the right direction!

  2. 1. Glad to see you finally did it – been waiting a while to read it.
    2. Seriously Gwen! Already? Good luck.
    3. I have not met or even seen another person travelling around as much as you do. Do not become a Wonder of the World yourself. You are already hard enough to find. haha 🙂
    4. Well, why worry about a piece of paper, right? I’d be looking forward to listening to a Spanish song from you.
    5. This one is an A+. Your body grows younger with age.
    6. Ah. You were there Gwen! Come on.
    7. The Pandemic.
    8. Yeah, right. What were you thinking while coming up with this idea?
    9. Yes, you did – I was not included . . . 🙁 haha.
    10. Another one goes down to Pandemic.
    11. Okay – that day, I shall search what MFA is.
    12-16. Congratulations on your new successes. Keep adding up.
    17. And then you left China for good. . .
    18. Another one to Pandemic, I guess. No sports going around.
    19. All the more proof of a colorful life filled with so much to keep remembered.
    20. Always a plus.
    21. Yes, you will. You have so much potential to plan for big things.
    22. So, we learned in the same year. haha.
    23. LOL. There should be somethings that you cannot do. I take it as a plus, too.
    24. This is gonna be harder one, but remember it will only leave you alone when you let it.
    25. I couldn’t believe that either, when I read “30 things to do before 30”.
    26. Well – well. This should be interesting. I can already guess a few.
    27. Perhaps, our favorite memories will always be the ones that were never planned. Just reading about your memory and the vehemence behind those words – “the vampire bar . . .”, “the Mississippi river . . .”, “watching the sunrise in an exhausted state, wondering what got you there . . .” – I can only imagine how intense that memory can be. How could something replace that? And even if something did, how could that be a win-win? Keeping it intact for all those years is perhaps the biggest of your wins.
    28. They do actually exist in some countries – I am sure you can find one in Malaysia, too.
    29. That was too much to start with, wasn’t it?
    30. I hope you add this to the next year’s list as well.

    Planning a year and then living up to those plans while moving around all the time, and in the midst of a global Pandemic. Hats off for you, my dear. You are wonderful.

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      I love that you left me a step-by-step comment 😀
      I haven’t decided if I should make another list or not. It seems a bit self-indulgent to make them every year and force everyone to get involved in my goals. haha!

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