A lot of those lists of "places you must go before you're 30" focus on encouraging you to hit up big-name places and events throughout the world: Europe's cultural hot spots, southeast Asia, the Trans-Siberian Railway, Carnival in Brazil, Burning Man. And it's true, having more time to travel (and generally less of a desire for physical comfort or fancy bath towels while you do so) is often one of the benefits of being under 30.
But there are some destinations that you should consider visiting for reasons beyond getting good Instagram photos or becoming a well-travelled individual. The life period before you turn 30 is a chance for self-exploration, freedom, and becoming the kind of adult you want to be. And while you can travel the world all your life, some other places — many of them close to home —need to be visited a little earlier on. With that in mind, this list of places to visit before you turn 30 isn't just about far-flung locales or thrilling experiences; some of them are about getting to know yourself a bit better.
But even though it can be cool to set goals for yourself to reach before you turn 30, there's no need to obsess over getting everything cool in life completed by your last day of being 29. In most ways, 30 is a pretty arbitrary age: sure, people will start getting married and talking mortgages at parties, and your hangovers will be worse, but it doesn't mean that turning 30 will be The Death Of Fun. It just means that you can now get acquainted with aspects of adulthood that might serve you well in the future.
With all that in mind, here are nine places to visit before your 30th birthday, from locations far from your home to those inside your own underpants. You may not be able to send a postcard from all of them, but they're all important nonetheless.
1. A Foreign Country On Your Own
There is nothing quite like traveling on your own to express your independence, asset your feminism, and show off your ability to take care of sh*t entirely without help. That said, traveling on your own can be scary, and you should certainly never travel on your own to any places that makes you feel unsafe. But the experience of relying on yourself — and enjoying your own company as you take in new experiences — will give you a boost of confidence about your Olivia Pope "It's Handled" abilities. Young women in particular often need this confidence boost.
To get the most out of your solo trip, don't stick exclusively to tour groups, groups of people you meet in your hostel, or pre-scheduled activities; make sure to take time to set your own pace and make your own itinerary, too. If possible, try to travel on your own several times, and push yourself to do something different each time: travel widely around an entire region, say, or relocate to a new city for several months. Of course, this is an activity you can engage in long after you turn 30; but getting started on it early can help make sure that you don't feel that it's too late to start trying it later on.
2. Your Own Genitals
Some of the most important places to visit in your pre-30s stages don't appear on any maps — but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't prioritize familiarizing yourself with them. Visit your clitoris regularly, and you'll get to know the landscape and learn how it responds to different kinds of stimulation. It won't just help you have better sex (though it will definitely also help you have better sex) — investing time in getting to know your junk can put you more in touch with your sensuality, and make you more aware of what it looks like when it's happy and healthy — so if anything ever starts to go awry with it, you'll immediately know.
3. A Proper Gynecologist
I'd also personally add "a proper lawyer" to this list, but really, a visit to a gynecologist before you turn 30 is essential, particularly if you're sexually active. You can't just go to your childhood GP forever — a trained gynecologist can look out for problems or give you advice that a non-specialist might not think of.
Whether you choose to go to a gynecologist in private practice or step into your local Planned Parenthood, getting yourself acquainted with a personal gynecologist — one who knows the particulars of your medical history — is a really important resource for protecting your sexual health; so seeing the gyno is certainly one Grown-Up Thing that you should push yourself to do, even if you're scared or nervous about going.
4. A Poetry Slam
You can even stand up and reveal your own (possibly disastrous) attempts at free verse. Poetry slams, like many arts events (including open mike nights at music venues), are often crowded with the young, and exploring them while you're still young enough not to stick out too much can be exciting.
5. An Outrageous Music Festival
One of the great advantages of the seriously out-there music events worldwide is that they're essentially ageless. But you'll feel a lot more comfortable hitting one up at 40 if you learned the lay of the land at 25; call it sensible preparation. So don't settle down for a social life comprised exclusively of wine-tastings and visits to the art house cinema just yet; dust off your lycra, put on some pompoms and go dance like a lunatic.
Stockholm is one of the youngest cities in the world. A whopping 40.5 percent of the population is between 20 and 44, which means that it's basically one of the best places on earth to be when you're out of your teens and looking for energetic adventures. Everybody says Berlin is great for partying (and it is), but Stockholm's youth-heavy scene and general sophistication makes you feel as if you're walking around inside a particularly charming design magazine, complete with a lot of bicycles and seriously good coffee. (If you can't get there, Toronto is recommended as an equally youth-friendly hipster haven.)
7. A Political Protest
Now is the time to start being politically involved and stand up for what you believe in; and even if you don't necessarily believe that a protest will effect real change, it's worth it to turn up and engage with thousands of other people who feel passionate about the same causes that you do. It'll make you feel less isolated from humankind, even if you live in a tiny apartment and only ever talk to your landlady. Go fight for justice.
8. The Opera
No, I am not being pretentious. One of the big things people sometimes forget is that there are lots of discounts and cheap deals for people under 30 out there, even after you've finished college. So do your best to take advantage of that, you cheapskate, and get yourself some CULTURE.
Many famous opera houses and concert halls around the world offer ridiculous discounts to under-30s under the right circumstances; the Rudolfinum in Prague, for instance, offers a small amount of 5-euro tickets for folks under 30, and the Sydney Opera House offers serious under-30 discounts. Prices for cultural events like opera or live theater are often stratospherically high without discounts, so while you're in this age bracket, scour your local cultural events listings for things you might like — talks, ballet, a ridiculous German opera (I recommend Die Fledermaus, which is hilariously bonkers and involves a masquerade) — and go get those deals.
9. The Metropolitan Museum And/Or Louvre
Look, you're nearly 30. You might as well know a bit about art history, just like you might as well know a bit about classic film and good food and decent books: it's how you develop your own taste, and understand what you like and why you like it. I don't care if you decide you hate all modern art, think Renoir's a crock, poke your tongue out at ancient Chinese scrolls or personally insult Whistler's mother. Go to a world-class art institution with a lot to choose from, spend some time around beautiful things, and get yourself some opinions on them; this is all about you, so nobody's going to judge you for thinking a certain masterpiece is totally boring, or spending 40 minutes staring at the diamond collection.
And remember: turning 30 doesn't mean you have to stop growing, learning, changing, or even making a fool of yourself. It just means you get to do all of those things with a lot more self-knowledge.
Images: Catherine McMahon/Unplash; Giphy