30 Things to do Before Turning 30: Travel & Photography Bucket List

Before I know it, I’m going to be turning 29, and it’s crazy to think about the last year of being in my 20s (!) It seems pretty strange to me, I feel like so much of our young adult identity gets tied up in “being 20-something”.⁠ But really the number is so meaningless when I put it into the context of where the past few years around the sun have taken me, and I have definitely had some crazy adventures and amazing things happen I would have never even dreamed of happening at this age.

I also would much rather look forward than back, so here’s looking at this upcoming next decade with open eyes and an open heart.⁠ Whether or not you are also jumping into a new decade of life let’s set some big goals together! There are so many incredible experiences around the world, a never-ending list of stunning locations to visit, and a lifetime worth of improving your photography: so many goals to put on your “30 before 30” list!

Here is my travel and photography bucket list of 30 things to do before turning 30!

1. Travel Solo

Whether it’s an entire trip or just taking yourself out to eat, learning how to be comfortable with yourself and having the confidence to see the world on your own terms is definitely a great goal to start the journey into a new decade.

2. Photograph the northern lights

The first time I saw a photograph of dancing lights trailing across an arctic sky, I knew I needed to capture my own image. Head up north during the winter months, grab some layers, and learn how to capture this incredible natural phenomenon yourself!

3. Go on an overnight backpacking trip

If you haven’t hiked much, start easy with a goal of going on your longest hike to date, or maybe hiking every weekend of the year, and for the ultimate goal, go on an overnight backpacking trip to somewhere you couldn’t otherwise reach on just a day hike.

4. Eat some incredible food 

Maybe it’s pasta in Italy or croissants in Paris, or maybe it’s just the newest restaurant you’ve been wanting to try down the block – indulge in some incredible food! There is something to be said about enjoying the simple things in life, and eating a plate of delicious food without guilt is definitely one of those.

5. Hostel hop

Hit up your friends and do a classic backpacking trip across Europe, hopping from hostel to hostel. Hostels are built for young people and they are an awesome budget-friendly way to meet new friends and stay in some amazing places cheaply. It’s definitely a travel rite of passage when you’re young! Book your hostel here.

6. Photograph in a completely new style 

Make this the year you improve your photography, and one maybe counter-intuitive way to do that is to photograph in an entirely new style. If you take landscape images, try portrait work. If you take wildlife images, try macro or abstract. You won’t believe how much this will open up your eyes to new possibilities and so many styles of photography have transferrable skills over to the other. Bonus challenge to improve your travel photography skills: take self-portraits!

7. Go to a festival and stay out until sunrise

There is such an incredible sense of community that you’ll find at a festival, plus it’s so fun to dress up for them! Staying out all night until sunrise and listening to your favorite music will easily become one of your favorite memories. You definitely have to try it at least once!

8. See a trail via horseback

This one is close to my heart because love animals and I grew up riding horses. While it is definitely an expensive sport, going for a trail ride is much more affordable and it’s a great way to see more of a place than you could while hiking, plus certain trails are only open for horse-back riding!

9. Start a dedicated savings account

As a millennial I’m definitely guilty of not saving enough, and it’s hard to imagine putting any money aside when your job doesn’t pay much. But you have to pay for travel somehow, and saving can really just be a mindset change. Instead of buying coffee at Starbucks, toss the money you would have spent into a jar or into a savings account, and you’ll be surprised how much the little things add up. Eat at home, curb extraneous shopping, get travel rewards credit cards – there are so many ways to save.

10. Visit one of the 7 wonders of the world

Here’s something new about me: I LOVE history. Ancient history was one of my favorite classes and I was obsessed with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, of which only the Great Pyramids of Giza still stands. Of the current day Seven Wonders, Machu Picchu, Petra, the Great Wall of China,  the Taj Mahal, the Colosseu, Chichen Itza, and Christ the Redeemer, I have only been to two but my goal is to eventually see all seven! 

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11. Stay in a luxury hotel and hit up the spa 

Some of the items of this list are about living your best youthful life, but I’ve learned as I get older just how important taking care of yourself is too. With some of that money you saved in tip #9, treat yourself to a luxury spa day! With all my hiking and adventuring with a heavy camera bag, massages are seriously a lifesaver.

12. Try a new outdoor sport

If you didn’t grow up skiing, take a few lessons and hit the slopes! If you grew up snowboarding, try cross-country skiing! If you were an avid city biker, try mountain biking on the trails. If you want an entirely new sport, try rock climbing or bouldering – I bet there’s a climbing gym in your city! Before any new adventure, check with your doctor to make sure your body is up for it, take a few lessons, ask friends for help, and make sure you have the right safety gear and knowledge before embarking on any new adventure. 

13. Go on the ultimate road trip 

My absolute favorite trip style is a road trip, and I think it’s the most fun way to explore! Bonus, you have all of your stuff with you and you can travel relatively comfortably. Whether it’s across state lines, in a new country, or just around your own neck of the woods, put those windows down, turn the tunes up, and hit that open road. 

14. Meet new people and make new friends 

The older you get, the more difficult it can be to make new friends. I’ve had to move around a lot the past few years and disrupting my social network is definitely the most difficult part of moving around. When I move to a new city, I immediately jump on Meetup and find other photographers and hikers in the area. I’ve also met friends through Instagram, Facebook groups, and more. You’re never to old to make new friends!

15. Learn a new language

Coming from an English-speaking country, we don’t often realize how privileged we are that so many people share our language. I always try to learn a few key phrases in the local language of any country I travel to – it’s just polite and makes you a more responsible traveler – but I also want to keep learning entire new languages. Being able to communicate with people from around the world is truly a gift.

16. Visit an art museum 

I started drawing and painting from a young age, and my instructors often referenced the old masters of art. My parents would take me to museums and it was so incredible to see those master works in person. Now, I find myself returning to museums to be inspired in my photography – even though some art styles may now seem outdated, you’ll be surprised just how much you can learn about composition, light, and color from the classics.

17. Visit all 7 continents

This was probably my first bucket list item ever, but I am still two continents shy of that mark! I find that a lot of travelers tend to stick to what they know and just visit countries within one continent, so I challenge you to visit just one new continent to see cultures different than what you are used to. I found especially as a westerner seeing eastern countries was so incredibly different than what I was used to seeing, and it absolutely took my breath away. Travel opens your eyes up and teaches you so much, so push yourself outside your comfort zone!

18. Photograph from the air 

There is something about aerial photographs that is just so stirring to my wanderlust soul. It’s probably because I can’t fly myself! Try some drone photography and see how different the world looks from above, or for a bonus point, take a helicopter ride and challenge yourself to photograph from the air!

19. Read a few books

I have always been an avid reader, and it’s the perfect way to exercise your wanderlust and imagination without ever leaving your house. Read a book that will inspire your next travels, listen to an audiotape of a compelling story, read a book that’s outside of your usual genre, listen to a podcast to improve your skills on a subject, there’s a book or story out there for everyone!

20. Cook a local dish

Even if cooking is not your forte, challenge yourself to cook a local dish. Cuisine is such an intrinsic part of a culture, and you will find it such an immersive experience to be able to recreate a piece of your travels back home. Take a cooking class while you’re abroad or at home, or just try a new dish from your favorite food blog from a country you’ve always wanted to visit.

21. Learn how to scuba dive

Similar to taking aerial photographs, seeing views underwater opens up a whole new world. I first learned to scuba dive so I could experience the Great Barrier Reef (bucket list item right there!) – it was the perfect push to have a once in a lifetime look at the incredible wildlife under the water. Check if your city has classes, often times you can learn at a pool at home in a safe and controlled environment. Or if you want to push yourself, take an intro class while traveling! Trust me, it takes snorkeling to a new level, plus taking photos underwater is such a fun new challenge!

22. Camp under the open sky

I definitely took camping for granted having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, but I recently rekindled my love for it as an adult. Looking at the stars twinkling in the night sky is one of those out of body experiences you need to have. Get out of town and escape the light pollution if you can, and spend a night under the stars.

23. See some incredible wildlife 

We can’t all go on safari in Africa (although if that’s an option for you, take it for sure!), but there is plenty of wildlife at home to keep you just as amazed. Wildlife photography is so different to me from landscape photography – it’s interestingly both faster and slower paced in that you may only get one chance at a shot, but often times that shot takes a lot of planning and patience. Make sure you keep a safe distance from wildlife at all times and research any animal tourism experience before a trip.

24. Live in a different country 

I have had the privilege to live in four different countries now, but what shocked me was how different moving across my own country would be as well. Living in a new place is a completely different and much more in depth way to experience the local culture than just visiting for a week or two. If you’ve grown up and lived in the same state or place, try moving somewhere new; even just one state over can open your eyes up to so many new people, things to do, or ways of living. Do a semester abroad if your school offers it, work abroad for a few months, take a longer trip than you would normally, do a home stay, try to find ways to immerse yourself. 

25. Overcome a fear

There is nothing that makes you feel as alive as overcoming a big fear. Go skydiving, swim with sharks – anything to get your adrenaline rushing. You will be surprised what you are capable of! Of course as always research the risks beforehand, take lessons if applicable, get the right safety equipment, go with a reputable company on your first trip, and ask your doctor before trying anything inherently risky or new to you.

26. Capture the Milky Way 

The first time I saw the Milky Way galaxy on the back of my camera screen, it felt like a portal into space had been opened up, and I will always remember how incredible that feeling was. Astro photography can be very technical and challenging, but once you master it you will be able to document the same views you saw before but in an entirely new way. Don’t stop your photography just because the sun has set!

27. Visit a tropical paradise 

As much as I love adventure travel, nothing beats the tropics: the sound of the waves, the sun on your skin, the warm breeze through your hair – it’s the most relaxing feeling. We get so caught up in our busy world we don’t get enough time to unplug and just relax. Visit a tropical paradise, take a book, and just live in the moment. 

28. Catch a sunrise in a National Park & enjoy the views all to yourself

Having an incredible view to you is so worth the early rise, especially in the National Parks. The golden light is the most beautiful, and the quiet stillness is the perfect way to start your day. Plus you can get a head start on the hiking trails before anyone else!

29. Take a classic train ride

Another bucket list item of mine was to ride the Orient Express – it seemed so romantic or something, or maybe I just read Murder on the Orient Express at a formative age (yet still wanted to travel on it?!) – but in the meantime, I’ll get my fix taking train rides instead of driving through the countryside. One of my absolute favorite train rides was through Norway; it was so incredibly scenic and was nice to enjoy the views without having to focus on driving. Try the trains in Germany, Japan, etc – there are so many countries with incredible views from trains. 

30. Book your dream trip

Feb 10, 2020 | Travel

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RoamFreeRebecca content creator photographer

Hey I’m Rebecca!

I’m a freelance travel & outdoors photographer and blogger living in the US but you can find me adventuring around the globe! On this blog I share tips to help you improve your photography, inspiration to explore the outdoors, destination guides, and travel tips, and more to plan your own adventures!

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