In a week I will be celebrating my second decade on this planet. So, as the day is approaching (and I only realized its closeness a day or so ago), I thought about publishing a bucket list with things that I believe a person like you and I should do at least once in his or her lifetime.
First I thought to title this post: 20 Things You Should Do Before You Turn 20 but then I realized that there is not really a point in limiting these things only up until 20 and who knows what awaits me (and anyone else) in these final days or the days after next Friday. Many people only start really doing stuff once they become legal adults and that age differs from country to country. Furthermore, I believe that it does not really matter how old you are when you do these things. If you personally care about doing them, it only matters that you do them at some point of your life.
The following is a list of things that I myself have done so far and that I personally found very enlightening and mentally or intellectually enriching. So if any of these things have already been listed on other bucket lists on the internet, I assume that is by coincidence. I know that people are different and that maybe some of the listed things may not suit you at all or appear pointless to you, dear reader. Nevertheless I hope that you find at least something that can somewhat inspire you, regardless of your age, nationality, religion etc.
1. Travel as much as you can (especially solo at least at times)
That is definitely one of my favorite life experiences so far. Not only do you get to know and explore other places, you also learn how to budget, how to find your way around in a different city and how to interact with strangers, among many other useful characteristics you can develop. If people say that you can’t buy happiness, they probably don’t know how to spend that money correctly. If you want to bring the best out of you, travel is definitely one of the best ways to achieve that.
For more ideas on where to go in the world or what other effective thing you can do with your free time, visit Help Go Abroad.com
2. Interact with people of other cultures/ religions
It does not matter whether you do that in your hometown or decide to visit a place far, far away. Getting to know people of other cultural or religious backgrounds, especially with today’s globalization boom, is possible almost everywhere, so why not make use of the opportunity for your own good? This can be a great way to develop a better understanding for the people around you. The more you know about cultural diversity from your own experience, the less you can be affected by the biased opinion of the media and the better you are able to make your own judgements instead of repeating someone else’s.
3. Learn a new language
Studies have shown that the languages we know affect the way we think (for my German speaking readers who are interested in this topic, I suggest to have a look at the work of Vera F. Birkenbihl for a start). So if you want to boost your creativity or even your logical thinking skills, learning a new language might be the right thing for you. Once you find what learning method works best with you, the process can be very fun and very satisfactory as you watch yourself make progress with the new things you learn (I have for example, recently started to busy myself with Arabic and I can say the satisfaction by making any kind of progress is immense though the language is difficult as hell). But even if you are not such a “nerdy” type, knowing at least the basics of any language can be a great help during international travel.
4. Live, study or work in another country for at least a year
Pretty much for the same reasons mentioned in one and two. Only this time the experience and the “lessons” gained will surely be more intense.
5. If there is something you really want to do, go ahead and do it!
Some of the people I know really like the idea of me having my own blog(s). Nearly all of them however tell me things like: “Oh I would love to have my own blog so much but I guess I am just not that talented.” You know what? I hate hearing that! Stop it! If there is anything that you are really passionate about, there is no reason why you should not go out there and live that passion! This is not just about blogging, you know? Whether you want to publish your poems (Deena, that one was aimed at you), paint something, try out a new sport or anything else there is, you should DEFINITELY give it a try before you declare yourself as untalented. If you give it up later, that is fine as long as you at least tried.
I have been quite intimidated by the world for a long time. There are a lot of things that I wish I would have done back then (learning to dance Flamenco for instance) and now that I am out of my teens, I really wish I would not have wasted my time on self doubt. Definitely have to get back to that Flamenco soon. However, I also remember how I stood on a stage and sang in front of several people and you should know that my voice is actually quite horrible for a girl. I never did that again but only after I tried did I know for sure that I would never pass on German Idol. I remember going to karate classes, piano lessons and also Spanish classes. Oh how much did I hate Spanish at the beginning of the course and now I can’t get enough of it. Same end result with my blogging. I decided to keep going even though no one seemed to read my short stories at first.
If you do something you always wanted to do, you may find that you just discovered a new talent or that what you are doing now is what you want to do for the rest of your life.
And in connection with that you should definitely try what the next point suggests, which is…
6. Create something of your own and let the world see your creation
7. Talk to a stranger
Never give away about yourself too much in the first moment but neither give in to the instinct of running away just because someone came up and decided to talk to you during that event in the school auditorium or while you were having a rest on a bench while on vacation. Be careful but also know that the people you meet in life, be it by coincidence or not, can make awesome friends.
8. Read a book that you would usually not read
My greatest hurdle was Huxley’s Brave New World right after Tolstoy’s War and Peace. While I was reading it in school, I was nearly dying over that book but once I actually came to the end of it due to my obligations as a student, I was pretty happy that I have read that classic (among with many others). If you try that, you may even discover a new favorite genre of books and at the same time learn something new from what you have just read.
By volunteering you not only provide help for the needy, you also gain quite a lot of positive emotions from that action yourself. Volunteering is a great way to feel useful and even gain something like working experience. Volunteering usually does not require any prior qualifications or applications or any such thing. You show up, you help, you finish feeling absolutely great.
10. Know how to be by yourself but also know what it means to be with other people
That is a very important lesson I have learned. No matter how social you are, at some point, maybe for a short while or for a long one, you may realize that your friends don’t have much time for you because they surely have their own lives, too. So in order not to freak out and think that without company your life is over, you should accept the fact that there is nothing wrong with going to the movies or any such thing on your own. The world won’t end because of it. However you should also know that in some situations it is very important to let other people into your life. Keep a balance, don’t overdo it.
11. Learn to cook at least one dish well
Cooking is fun and as a German idiom says: love goes through the stomach.
12. Pretend to be a tourist in your own city for at least a day
Go to museums, visit the most famous monuments, do a guided tour through the city. In my experience the effect is best when doing that after returning home from a longer journey. By doing all these things you will surely see your city with new eyes and may discover places you have never been to before. Falling in love with your hometown pretty much guaranteed and while you are at it, you can just as well…
13. Visit an abandoned place
Simple, mostly free and gives a great sense of adventure. Never do this alone though. Always bring along some friends. For people from or in Berlin I can suggest you have a look at the Abandoned Berlin Blog .
14. Try out meditation
Helps to relax, get away from the real world, boost your energy and increase your concentration ability. There are different types of meditation. Something that comes close to it is the idea of practicing mindfulness. While doing that, you have to sit upright, close your eyes and focus on your breathing only for a couple of minutes.
15. Be nice to people, even if they are ‘a bit annoying’
Though I must warn you that people can take advantage of you for doing that, at least for a while it would be good to try to understand the people around you and instead of starting an argument immediately, it is sometimes best to just keep calm, be friendly and let the others tell you about their view on the situation. Makes dealing with people much easier in the long run.
16. Get a pet
An awesome way to learn to take responsibility. Also, with a pet you won’t feel so lonely and will have someone who is happy to see you come home. Your increasing dopamine levels will surely be fun to experience.
17. Have friends who are older and younger than you
That makes you realize that age definitely does not define maturity and that is a really good thing to know. At the same time you get to learn something new from each of them thanks to your different life experiences.
18. Teach something to someone
The best way to understand certain material is by explaining it to someone else. Help your friend and yourself.
19. Perform on stage in front of an audience
That gives quite a boost to your self esteem. Enjoy the moment and become stronger than you have been before. It might be scary at the beginning but if you keep trying often enough, your next speech/ presentation in front of an audience will be a delicious piece of cake.
20. Take part in a demonstration
Find something that you believe in and join hundreds of others for a good cause. That way you may learn sooner or later that your voice, your opinion, your presence matter.