30 things to do before 30

On Tuesday I turned 29. At midnight, I had a very brief moment of panic that this was the last year of my 20s. My 20s have been seriously amazing so it seems sad I only have one year of them left. I know age is “just a number” (after all, everyone still thinks I look 22), but I still feel like “being in my 30s” will mean a different set of expectations. I’ve heard about these before 30 bucket lists and decided to hold myself accountable to some goals by next year:

  1. Get my novel into the publishing process (i.e. find an agent)

    30 Things to do before 30
    About a year ago, I finished my novel. It was an awesome feeling and inspired me to take another path away from freelancing (and here I am in China!). I thought having a steady job would help me write more. It didn’t. I was working so much when I first got to Beijing, I completely stopped sending my manuscript to agents. Knowing how long the publishing process is, I don’t need to have a book on a shelf a year from today, but I’d like to be thick in the process instead of just sifting through a bunch demoralizing “no’s”  in my inbox.

  2. Finish a 2nd book

    30 Things to do before 30

    This seems ambitious. But it doesn’t have to be good.

  3. Visit all the wonders of the world

    30 things to do before 30
    I’ve hit 6 of 7. Here’s to Rio by next June.

  4. Pass C1 level of DELE

    This is the Spanish version of the TOEFL. The exam places you between A1 and C2 levels of language proficiency. By last summer, I think I was a weak B2 (high intermediate). Of course, it helped that I was living with my Argentine ex and we only spoke in Spanish. (Although, we did fight in English and as he isn’t in the picture anymore, we can safely I was doing 50/50 English and Spanish). Without moving back to a Spanish-speaking country, I’m a bit nervous, but I’m planning to start taking Spanish classes again next fall.

  5. Maintain weight

    30 things to do before 30
    I’ve lost 13lbs since February and an entire dress size. When I arrived in Beijing, my favorite work pants were so tight the top botton almost broke and I couldn’t wear them anymore. Last week, they were so big I still can’t wear them. The only clothes that still fit me are from high school and I’m down to the same weight from when I was 21. It just took more dedication to cooking, meal prep, and some self-control saying “no” to sugar, grease, and alcohol. I feel amazing!

  6.  Bike the coast of Vietnam30 things to do before 30I returned to Vietnam in April (blog post yet to come) and remembered just how much I love this country. I want to see so much of it, why not do it by bike?
  7. Finish Infinite Jest

    30 Before 30
    1079 pages of David Foster Wallace fun!

  8. Read the entire Harry Potter series in a language that isn’t English

    Spanish? French? Arabic? Chinese? Which will it be? (Spanish. Definitely Spanish)

  9. Finish another one-second-every-day video

    I do this every year and plan to continue. It’s the best kind of nostalgia to indulge in. Plus, if I’m reading all of Harry Potter in Spanish I’ll need an easy one.

  10. Visit Cambodia and Laos

    30 Things Before 30 bucketlist
    I’ve wanted to see Cambodia since the 7th grade. No better time than living in Asia.

  11. Apply for an MFA

    I really hesitated adding this to the list. Applying for an MFA is a huge undertaking. I don’t think I am at all ready. But I figured if I apply this year, I’ll be forced to truly sit down and work on a writing portfolio. Even if it isn’t great, I’ll have a foundation to apply again in 2020. Or maybe I’ll just test myself as a writer.

  12. Treat myself to getting my nails done

    30 things to do before 30
    I never used to get my nails done. I mean, really never.  I got my first manicure when I was 25. I’ve always been a biter (or a picker or a breaker). In Vietnam, I got my first manicure in years and when I glimpse my hands I feel extremely pretty. The amount of happiness this one small thing has given me is outstanding. I’m 100% a believer. Nails, nails, nails!!!

  13. Win an F45 Challenge

    30 things to do before 30
    F45 is the gym I’ve fallen in love with here in Beijing. It’s a worldwide chain. Each year they host four 8-week “challenges” for people to lose weight, lose body fat, get fit, etc…. I’m currently in the thick of the spring challenge and I’ve lost around 3.5 kilos (7.7 lbs). Since I’m competing with some pretty inspirational people, I don’t know if I can actually win, but the process has been really good regardless. I decided to throw it on the list. Why not?

  14. Get computer savvy

    I still don’t have a specific, measurable goal for this. But it’s 2019. I need to keep up with my generation if I want a job.

  15. Get skin under control

    30 things to do before 30
    Oh perfect skin, I mourn thee!

    After an allergic reaction in February, I’ve gone from moderately bad psoriasis to severe. I briefly got it under control in Vietnam but I’m still having some issues with my legs. Maybe this will be the year I find a drug-free solution.

  16. Revamp Freelancing Operation

    More details coming July 2019.

  17. Get to fluency in a 3rd language

    My Chinese isn’t anywhere close.

  18. Run a race

    I don’t think I’m ready for a full marathon but I’m considering doing another half. I loved doing the half in Chicago in 2014.

  19. Finish my journal

    30 things to do before 30
    Early morning journaling and breakfast in NYC

    Bedtime stories for when I’m old and have forgotten all the cool things I do.

  20. Add $$$$ to my Roth IRA

    I have an actual number for this. As I don’t have a 401k, I’m responsible for my own retirement and being old looks expensive!

  21. Join a club or organization (that isn’t a gym)

    I love making friends through f45, but a big regret is that I didn’t get involved in any other organizations here in Beijing when I first arrived. It’s so important to have life out of work and branch out of my social circle.

  22. Learn to cook

    30 things to do before 30
    Salmon Mexican Bowl

    This is also sort of a cheap one. I do know how to cook! I cook a few times a week now and know how to cook relatively healthy meals. Here’s to expanding on that, and learning to cook meals from different countries.

  23. Learn to braid my own hair

    30 things to do before 30
    I love French braids and there are 300,000 tutorials on Youtube. I really have no excuse.

  24. Get a plant and keep it alive

    To people with actual pets and children, we all mature at different times….Plus, I needed an easy one.

  25. Watch the Godfather

    This is one of those films I somehow never watched. I don’t do well with long films so I’ve been putting it off. Maybe having it on paper will force me to do it.
    30 things to do before 30

  26. Watch 12 (new) foreign films

    30 things before 30

    One of my favorite things about living in India was constantly watching Indian films which helped me understand and connect with Indian culture more. Many of the most memorable films I’ve seen are actually French, Lebanese, and Korean.

  27. Stay up until breakfast

    30 things to do before 30 bucket list
    Sunrise on the Mississippi circa 2014

    I don’t miss partying. I love getting up early for the gym or to watch the sunrise with a coffee and my writing. There’s nothing better than a 6 am summer run. But one of my best memories is staying up all night in New Orleans, watching the sunrise over the Mississippi River, and then going for beignets. Or those seemingly endless nights of dancing in the Budapest ruin bars. I’m way too old to do this every weekend, but I’m not too old to do it again before I’m 30.

  28. Get a professional certificate

    It never hurts to improve yourself professionally. I have a few ideas for this but haven’t settled on a single one just yet.

  29. Read 25 books

    30 things to do before 30
    Unfortunately, Infinite Jest only counts as one.

  30. Reunite with old friends

    30 things to do before 30
    (Right top: My family with Jayson in Xi’an, Right Bottom 1: Kelly and I on the Great wall, Right Bottom 2: Rachel and I in Medellin, Left: Me, Rohit, Sahil, and Kelly in India)

    Moving around, I have little sense of stability or permanence in my life. Meeting up with old friends allows me to indulge in past homes and memories. I plan for 29 to be a year of travel, new experiences, and hopefully a few adventures shared with friends.

You may also like...


  1. Wonderful list! Good luck!

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      Thanks! Some are a bit far-fetched. Let’s see


    Wow a really great list and very ambitious!! It makes me feel like a nap just reading it. Good luck!
    Loved seeing you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.