Today is my 26th birthday, thus ushering me into the age known as “late twenties.” My 25th year was one of personal growth and physical fitness. I learned to accept my figure, but despite that lost weight and gained muscle after two a day workouts many days of the week. I ran my first half marathon (#21), albeit a slower time than I wanted, but it was a goal I accomplished. I went to one therapy session (#4), which was enough to teach me that despite my quirks and issues, I am “okay.” Normal is a relative term, but I was told that my conflicting aspects of my personality are equally important.
I also got my advanced scuba diving permit (#5) with Big Blue in Koh Tao, Thailand, returned to my beloved adopted country of Australia (#6) and created a successful ebook (#7) with my partner in crime Brooke on how to become better at packing. I found many brands I love working with (#11) and am working towards partnerships and tried my best to drink less (#9). I’m booked to go on a big family vacation within a few weeks (#13) and visited three new countries, rather than four (#15), including Turkey, Cambodia and Vietnam. I started working on more videos (#16), which you can check out by subscribing to my channel!
I reached my goals for Facebook fans on both Caroline in the City and This Is My South (#18) and founded the Atlanta chapter of Travel Massive (#19), where we’re hosting meet ups every other month for travel industry. I traveled overland through most of Asia (#22) and spent a week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park (#23). I tried to be less picky about what I ate while traveling (#23), sampling things like silkworms in Hanoi and spending a week as a vegetarian in Thailand.
I may not have quite accomplished my goal of earning $500 per month solely from writing (#1), but I’m getting closer. Each month is different, so I may earn well above the amount in January but well below in February. I’ve taken on many new clients (#14), including some big name publications that I will announce as soon as I can. I didn’t go diving in many locations (#8) or speak at a conference (#2) or get a pixie cut (#17) or take a cooking class (#20). I started to monetize This Is My South (#10), but am still working towards more income generation and finding a strong group of contributors (#12).
So with that in mind, here are my 27 things to do before turning 27.
1. Increase writing to 40% of total income. It varies by month, so I need to regulate it a bit more to live off of. This is becoming especially important as I now have to pay for my own health insurance, which won’t be cheap. One day I’d like to be able to quit my side jobs and only write.
2. Go on a date and/or push myself to be more introverted and social. Part of my INFJ personality means that I find the social niceties tiring, making getting-to-know-you conversations hard to come by. I want to be able to control this aspect more and be genuinely interested in what people have to say. And let’s just say that dating when you travel half of the year and live at home the rest isn’t easy.
3. Learn to brew beer. I love a good beer, so I’d love to know how to make it.
4. Keep a job or apartment for longer than six months. You might say I have commitment issues, as I’ve been working the same seasonal job for 8 years, but it never lasts more than four months out of the year. The current plan is to stay in Atlanta for the next year, finding work both remotely and in person. I need to be able to stay in one place for longer than a few months. This doesn’t mean no travel, but I have to limit my long trips.
5. Learn to say no. I say yes to nearly every project that comes my way that could earn me a bit of money, even if I don’t really have time to commit to it or it’s not the type of assignment I want because I never know when more money will come along. I have to become more choosy in what I take on and what brands I associate myself with.
6. Get published in a dream publication. I’m already living the dream in so many ways, as I could never have guessed that I would have been published by two of my favorite publications, AFAR and National Geographic Travel. But I’d like to pitch to a publication that intimidates me because you never know what they’re looking for.
7. Plan trips for other people. I am constantly asked questions about specific destinations or about topics like working holidays, so I’ve joined the new site Plansify to help readers and travelers answer questions about their own adventures. Check out my profile if you’d like me to help with your upcoming trip!
8. Learn to better manage my time. I’m notoriously late, which is a terrible quality in a person because it makes people think my time is more important than theirs. I’m also known as the Queen of Dawdletown, which makes working from home unproductive. I’ve made myself a schedule for the days I’m writing, so I just need to stick to it.
9. Act the way I want to feel. One of the books I read this year was The Happiness Project, which may not have been my cup of tea, but included a lot of pearls of wisdom that I noted in my worn Moleskine, including this one. I am a completely introverted person, despite how I often appear, and sometimes I think “this is so awkward, I just want to go home” in social situations. If I act like I’m having fun, my head should follow suit.
10. Leave the mistakes behind. I spend too much time dwelling on the past and it’s time to stop. I recently read a quote that said, “Guilt doesn’t change the past and worry doesn’t change the future.” I also need to leave the mistakes of others in the past and stop holding grudges.
11. Become financially responsible. I’m at the age when I need to get my ish together when it comes to money. I now pay my own car and health insurance, which is pretty steep. I need to pay off my credit card in full and learn to budget. I would also like to set up a savings account that I can’t touch so that one day I will be able to retire and won’t be working at Walmart at 80.
12. Be proud of my accomplishments. I get shy when it comes to talking about my blog and writing because I don’t want to sound like a braggart. But I have a lot to be proud of and I’ve worked hard to get where I am. There’s no need to talk myself down.
13. Take a class. I may have studied writing in school, but it’s like sports: you need to practice and constantly hone your craft. I’ve looked into MediaBistro courses, a free course through my local library and the (out of my price range) Paris Writer’s Workshop. I also have my copy of Travel Writing (Lonely Planet) by Don George that I never got all the way through. In person classes are also a great way to meet people who share your interests.
14. Read more nonfiction. While I’ve always loved novels and fiction, I read a number of biographies and memoirs during the Asia jaunt that made me want to explore more of that genre. I’m looking for recommendations! See what I’ve already read on GoodReads.
15. Get professional head shots taken. I’m not as comfortable in front of the camera as I am behind it, but I’d like to have a few photos I can use for author bios and on this site. If you know a good (and reasonably priced) photographer, let me know.
16. Go to more concerts. I used to be a music fanatic in my teens, before travel took over my concert funds, and I want to start seeing more of my favorite bands that frequently pass through Atlanta. The last concert I went to was Bonnaroo, which was much more than a concert.
17. Participate in a challenge. I’ve always admired the people who can finish NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where participants finish a novel, no matter the length, in a month. I want to sign up this year. I’m also signing up for the Triple Peach Challenge, which is a 10K, 10 mile and then half marathon here in Atlanta. I’ve got one down, two to go!
18. Be present. As a blogger, I’ve always got something going on in my head, even when people are talking to me. I have the terrible habit of forgetting someone’s name as soon as they’ve told me. And if you’ve ever been to a meal with me, you know my phone is never far from the table. I need to learn to be in the moment and actively listen to what others have to say.
19. Smile more. I have a classic case of the Resting Bitch Face, meaning that my standard facial function is neutral. I’m often told to smile more, which makes me want to hit someone, but it’s true. Smiling makes me seem more approachable and reflects my real emotions, which is mostly happy.
20. Pay someone to design This Is My South and to make changes to Caroline in the City. I’ve done all the work on both sites myself, which means I’ve done it cheaply and as an amateur. It’s time to take TIMS to the next level, making it easier to read and more professional looking. I want this site to more reflect where it’s going.
21. Get more involved in my city. I’ve long overlooked Atlanta, my hometown, as I never thought it was as “cool” as places like New York, but it’s getting there. I want to check out what’s going on in town, including new restaurants, events and attractions. I also want to volunteer to give back here.
22. Attend my five year college reunion. I can’t decide if I love or hate this idea, especially when I read the alumni magazine touting all the things my colleagues have accomplished in the same amount of time. But if nothing else, I’ll get to be back in Charleston, my favorite place on earth.
23. Learn the manual settings of my DSLR. I know this makes me a bad blogger, as I typically shoot on auto with no flash, but I realize it’s well past time to learn how to properly use my camera.
24. Become more confident speaking in front of groups. I used to speak in front of people all the time in college, as I was on the board of a debate style mock legislature team. I frequently found myself talking to 20-100 people, but as I’ve aged, I’ve become more shy in this regard. Even speaking on camera makes me uncomfortable, but I’d like to go back to my former confidence and there’s no way to get there except for to do it.
25. Create destination e-books for This Is My South, which can be available by city or state. I have so much information on the region that doesn’t get put into the site and a handy e-book format would be great for visitors.
26. Visit three new states. Can you believe I still have only seen some 20 states in the US? This year, as I stay closer to home, I hope to remedy this.
27. Donate money to the elephants. This one you can help me accomplish! In lieu of gifts, I’m asking readers and friends to donate anything you can to the Save the Elephant Foundation, where I volunteered with the Elephant Nature Park in April. Supporting groups like this that help ensure the future of these beautiful creatures is the best gift I could imagine. Donate here!
Here’s to the next year. Let it be one of growth and new experiences!