Today, I leave my crazy 20’s behind and embark on my next adventure of being 30.
It sounded scary for a while, approaching the realm of true adulthood (sorry – what’s that again?), but as it got closer, I knew that it would be like turning 18, or 21: it doesn’t really feel any different.
I’ve done a hell of a lot in 30 years. After growing up in Orkney, I spread my wings and left the islands at 18 to move south. It was always my plan; I wanted to be a writer or a journalist, and Orkney offered slim pickings for that sort of career. I wanted to follow that dream and find myself on the other side of the world every now and then.
What I didn’t expect was to follow a boy all the way to a small town near Brighton – literally about as far away as I could get in the UK – and after a couple of years (in which time I did become a qualified journalist and also spent a summer working on a kids’ summer camp in the USA!) we somehow landed ourselves with a business. It was like a really unexpected baby.
A year later, he left (for the best, really) and I found myself trapped, barely 21, with a business on my own, in a place I barely knew, 800 miles from home, and while I struggled to keep my head above water sometimes, it was real life experience that has given me a solid work ethic and management qualities that I never thought I had.
But it sure did put all those journalism and travel plans on the back burner for a while. Owning a brick-and-mortar business is a huge commitment. You don’t get paid for not being there, and you can’t do much work from anywhere else. Whenever I did go away for more than a couple of days, it was always a disaster. I got phone calls on almost every day off I had in five years. I dared to go home for six days once, during which time my shop almost got shut down by authorities. Like, I’m not even kidding. The place was a complete nightmare sometimes.
I did manage to get away; in fact, I visited over ten countries in the time I owned the shop, and I took loads of day trips to places like Munich, Copenhagen, Paris, Milan and Belgium. It was actually my only way to completely disengage from the business, because it meant I couldn’t take any calls. I lived for those days.
Cut to 2014, and not only had I successfully cultivated a viable business out of a dying shop, but I sold the shop for a profit. I had a hell of a lot of achievements in that place, and I am proud of them all. Through the struggles and stress, I empowered myself to deal with it. I was nominated as Business Person Of The Year. I tripled the shop’s takings. But I won’t lie when I say it was a relief to move on.
And so, like I said in my last post, my 20’s were very much split into two: “shop” and “travel”.
At 26, I flew to Asia on a one-way ticket, travelled for 3 months, moved to Australia where I worked for a year, visited New Zealand, Hawaii and Canada, and came home after 18 months with no money. At 28, I volunteered in Portugal and visited Italy and Spain. And at age 29, I flew to Canada to spend six months in Vancouver, followed by over a month of road tripping North America. I won’t bore you with the details; you can find allllllll the posts on the blog!
But in a nutshell, that was my 20’s. And I really think I’ve learned a hell of a lot. So here are ten of them.
1. Embrace your individuality
You don’t need to be a carbon copy of everyone else, despite what social media may tell you. I’ve always thought of myself as “different”. I never wear make up. I rarely wear dresses. I find ridiculous things funny. I have an unhealthy collection of rubber ducks. I have my quirks and quite frankly, I’m glad I’m not the same as everyone else.
It’s easy to criticise yourself, but the truth is whatever is unique about you is what makes you you. And that’s important, and I’m glad I realised it while I was at school otherwise I think it would have broken me.
In the words of Kurt Cobain, trying to be someone else is a waste of who you are.
2. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks
This is a hard one for me. I worry that I’m not good enough, I worry in case people don’t like me or that I come across as stupid, but one thing I DON’T worry about any more is what people think of my looks.
I used to assume everyone was watching my every move, waiting to pick up on the one thing I did wrong, or silently judging something they’ve noticed that I haven’t. But every year I get older, and I realise that actually, people don’t care. And frankly, I don’t give a doo-dah if they do, because I have enough amazing people in my life.
And the more I realise that, the more confident I get, and that usually shows.
3. You don’t need to be good at everything
Oh, if only we were perfect, huh? If only I could take great photos AND look great in photos AND write well AND be great at graphic design AND know how to promote absolutely anything AND code HTML AND do business taxes AND run a marathon AND knit a sweater AND be able to cook like a professional chef AND be able to build a house from scratch.
Well – so what if I’m not a model?! And can’t cook delicious meals from scratch? Does that impact me as a person? Of course not. Stop putting pressure on yourself to be good at absolutely everything. Concentrate on your strengths, and become a master of something. There really is no need to be able to do everything.
4. Don’t take yourself too seriously
No one gets out of this life alive anyway.
And honestly, I’d much rather be fun and be able to laugh at myself than be miserable about all of my flaws. Nobody is perfect, so don’t even try to be, and nobody has a perfect life, so don’t stress so much when something goes wrong.
Cor, I wish I’d been able to tell my 13-year-old self that.
(And also, don’t be afraid to take stupid photos. They make the best memories!)
5. Don’t be afraid to say yes
I have said “yes” to a lot of things in my life. And it’s not very often I’ve regretted it.
Leaving my comfort zone is one of my favourite things about travel, but I find that it applies to a lot of things in my life, too. After all, how many 19 year olds do you know that said yes to buying a shop?!
When I was a kid, I was afraid of everything. I was bullied (probably because of that), I had no self-confidence, I was scared of fireworks, I was scared of the phone, I would never even have dreamed of setting foot on a rollercoaster.
So when I went to Alton Towers with my sister and a friend who happened to also be in Manchester at the time, he SOMEHOW persuaded me to go on one of the Big Scary Rollercoasters.
Two years later, I jumped out of a plane. I’ve done it again since. I’ve jumped off a building, zip lined over forests, hiked up mountains. There’s not much I’m afraid of any more!
I built up a lot of self-confidence in the shop, and far more from travel, but it’s funny to think if I hadn’t gone to Alton Towers with that friend, I might never have left my comfort zone.
6. Don’t let go of what’s important to you
Sometimes I get so caught up in the likes of Instagram and fellow travel bloggers that I forget what matters to me. I forget what I want to do. I don’t travel for pretty photos or to visit “cool” places – I like to seek out the weird and wonderful, but I have things on my bucket list that have been largely ignored, and I start going to places I hadn’t even considered, just to do what everyone else does. It’s not that I’m superficial, but I do get distracted, a bit like “ooh, shiny!” – but with places.
That’s not always a bad thing – after all, I had a blast in Portugal, which is one example I’m thinking of – but it is the reason I haven’t been to Japan yet! I also never planned to do more than one working holiday, but here we are, making the most of the fact that I can. And I have absolutely no regrets there, either!
But that’s just travel – it totally applies to “real life” as well. Travel has really put into perspective for me what’s important in my life – and that’s spending time with my favourite people. It’s going to gigs. It’s *gulp* having somewhere I can call home.
Creating your best life is all about prioritising. And as much as I love long-term travel, I make sure to not let it jade my view of my long-term life.
7. Don’t forget your dreams
There really is too much pressure these days to either live a corporate life, or leave it and wander through life aimlessly. There doesn’t seem to be any in between.
Well I say – do what’s right for you. There is nothing wrong with staying in a corporate job if that’s what you want – just don’t let it take away from any other dreams. There’s nothing wrong with taking on dead-end jobs to make ends meet – just remember to do awesome things around it. And there’s nothing wrong with packing it all in and finding a way to work anywhere in the world – as long as it doesn’t take away what you want from life.
I do complain about what a life-suck my shop was sometimes, but it felt “right” at the time, and so much good came out of it including some incredible achievements. But there’s no denying that my life would be very different if I hadn’t taken it on – and I do feel like a lot of my dreams took a back-burner for too long.
That’s why I’ve moved to Edinburgh 10 years later than planned, and it’s why I had to put off travelling by five years (although for many reasons, I think that was for the best!).
8. Come to terms with the fact you will never do everything
There is an awful lot to do in the world. Reading travel blogs and meeting lots of travellers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should have gone to all these different places and you need to do all these things. But it’s a big ol’ world out there, and it’s impossible to do everything. All of those people haven’t experienced everything you’ve done.
And, like I touched on above, I find myself thinking, “I should go to Bali because everyone seems to like it there” rather than “I should go to Bali because I want to go.” Bali wasn’t even on my list before, and I’d rather visit somewhere that I’ve always wanted to go. Let go of what other people are doing and saying, and stick to what YOU want to do – otherwise you’ll run out of time to do those things.
I even saw an article recently (I didn’t even read it), that outlined 20 trips you should take in your 20’s. TWENTY?! That’s two per year! And I’m sorry, but that is simply not an option for the large majority of the world. I’m not going to give myself unrealistic impressions of what I should have achieved by now. I’m sure the article wasn’t saying that you need to take all 20 trips of course, but it does sort of feel like everything has to be “now now now”.
It doesn’t. But comparing yourself to others doesn’t help, which leads me onto…
9. Sharing everything is not important
Once upon a time, I had a personal blog where I would write all my ramblings and daily observations. It wasn’t particularly for everyone to read; it was more like a diary and nothing else. I shared a lot of my thoughts, and also had this weird obsession with putting loads of random facts about myself. I don’t know if I wanted it to be an Encyclopaedia of Clazz or what. But then some people from school found it, which led to EVERYONE at school finding it, and I was mortified.
These days, oversharing seems to be the in thing. Remember when Facebook first took off, and everyone was like, “why is this person sharing what they had for lunch… AGAIN?”? (And that is something even I never used to do because who even cares!?)
Now, everyone puts their daily lives on Snapchat or Instagram stories. You can go live on almost every social media platform. Some people are literally filming themselves 20 times a day.
While I was probably oversharing my thoughts back in the day to a very tiny part of the internet, now oversharing your entire life is completely normalised.
Nowadays, the only reason I even have Instagram or Twitter is for the blog, and where I used to update Facebook almost daily, sometimes I go a week without posting anything now.
So stop getting so hung up on Instagram! Live your life. Because I can promise you that most of what you see on social media is not people living theirs.
10. Always have fun
No matter what’s going on in my life, I always try to have fun. I haven’t done everything I want to do, but I’ve made the most of every opportunity thrown at me, and done my best with every obstacle thrown at me, and I’ve had so much fun along the way because I realised early on that life really is too short.
And I think that’s the main lesson I’ve learned – Life. Is. Too. Damn. Short.
My favourite quote ever is “you’ll regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do”, and that, I think, will always be my life motto.
The past 30 years have been a hell of a ride. I’ve met so many incredible people, had adventures I could only have dreamed of, and through the ups and downs, I have come out on top knowing that I did my best, always.
So bring it on, 30’s! I’m gonna make the most of you.