Intentional Living

35 Things I’ve Learned in 35 Years

May 11, 2016

Tomorrow is my 35th birthday and I’ve got to admit that it feels pretty surreal right now.

I’m not freaking out or feeling bad about ageing or anything like that, but it just doesn’t feel real. Where did the time go? I swear it was just yesterday I was 23, travelling around the world, and trying to figure out what to do with myself!

On the surface, my life looks remarkably similar to my life in my early twenties. I’m still travelling and still trying to find my place in the world. Fortunately though, when I take a minute to breathe and properly reflect on things, I can see that deep down so much has changed (in a good way!).

The last decade or so has taught me so much – about love, life, simplicity and everything in between – and I’m grateful that I feel more ‘me’ now than ever before. Here are 35 of my fave lessons from the past 35 years.

The last decade or so has taught me so much - about love, life, simplicity and everything in between - and I'm grateful that I feel more 'me' now than ever before. Here are 35 of my fave lessons from the past 35 years. Psst – this post contains some affiliate links. This means I make a small commission on any purchase you make at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog!

1. It’s ok to want magic in life. Ignore the naysayers that tell you it’s time to be an ‘adult’ and accept mediocracy.

2. You can disagree with someone’s opinions, but still love and respect them as a person. My political views are very different from those of my family and when I was younger this often strained our relationship. Finally, I realised I had to ask myself what really mattered, and decided to acknowledge their right to have an opinion and to respectfully agree to disagree.

3. On beauty and style: work with what you have. It’s far easier to work with what nature gave you than to try and change what you don’t like about yourself.

4. Use Airbnb – this has changed the way I travel. I’ve stayed in private villas and apartments around the world for a fraction of what I’d pay for a hotel (and met so many lovely local people.)

If you’ve never used Airbnb before you can use my referral link for a discount.

5. Quality over quantity. Apply this to your closet, your friends and your groceries.

6. Most people are good people. I’ve spent over 50 months of my adult life travelling the world, often alone and with little money. I’ve had to rely on the kindness of strangers more times than I could possibly count and I’ve been blown away by how often people have gone out of their way to help me, without asking for anything in return.

(I love this collection of short stories from travellers and their experiences with kindness on the road.)

7. Wear comfortable shoes. I was a stiletto wearer for years. It was part of my identity (or so I thought). The truth is I was insecure and overcompensating, and now I have deformed little toes to show for it. And by the way, comfortable shoes don’t have to be ugly.

8. Save first. Before you pay your bills and before you go shopping.

9. Hiking is awesome. I’m not sure when exactly I learned this, but I know in my early twenties you couldn’t have paid me to go on a hike. Gratefully, somewhere along the way I changed my tune and discovered that disconnecting and walking in the wilderness is one of my favourite ways to recharge my soul. I’ve written about some of my fave hikes here, here and here.

10. You will get through the worse day of your life.

My little brother was killed in Iraq when he was 21. The day I found out was … unimaginable. It was like a never-ending darkness had descended on my life. Twelve years later that darkness is still there, but there is also light and love and joy.

11. Start now. Whatever it is, you will always wish you started earlier. Take baby steps if you need to but stop waiting.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
– Earl Nightingale

12. Mindless shopping is unhealthy, not a fun ‘hobby’ (even if you can afford it). When you shop mindlessly there is no such thing as enough because it’s not really about the stuff. Instead, you’re shopping to mask something below the surface. For me it was insecurity and unhappiness. If you need help stopping, check out this post.

13. The friends that still love you when you disappear for months, forget to write, and never call? Love them forever. (Ladies, you know who you are xoxo.)

14. Go to sleep when you’re tired.

15. Debt is serious business. When I was younger I was so blasé – everyone has debt, right? Um …no. I don’t even want to think about the thousands of dollars that attitude has cost me.

16. Follow your fear and leave your comfort zone. Everything awesome in my life has happened because I’ve done something that scared me.

17. You don’t have to be an ‘artist’ to create art. You don’t have to be a ‘runner’ to run. You don’t have to be a ‘writer’ to write. Screw labels and do what you love.

18. Meditation is not wanky. (Do Americans say wanky? I can’t remember anymore.) For years I thought meditation was sort of fluffy new age thing that wasn’t for me. Then I tried this free 10 day meditation program (it’s an app and this is not an affiliated or sponsored link) and it changed everything. I now try (and often fail) to meditate daily.

19. Make a habit asking yourself ‘why’ you do things and make sure you’re happy with the answers. If not, rethink your choices. More about intentional living here.

20. Everyone should travel alone at least once in their lives. You will most definitely cry. There may be days when you don’t leave your hotel/hostel. You’ll be tempted to go home. But you will also have the time of your life and realise you are stronger than you ever imagined.

21. Success is whatever I say it is. Define your own version of success.

22. Coconut oil is a miracle product. I had serious cystic acne (huge, painful spots that lasted for months) into my early thirties. I started using coconut oil on my skin and it cleared up within weeks. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but I would say it’s definitely worth a shot.

23. The hardest part of changing your life is finding the courage to make the decision. It all gets easier after that.

24. No one will notice/judge/care if you wear the same thing all the time. Find what makes you feel good and wear it. Dress with a simple wardrobe.

25. Take a “high/low” approach to travel. I stay in cheap local guesthouses and also private clifftop villas – but not much in-between. (This also works well with your wardrobe. I like to mix thrift store finds with occasional upmarket brands.)

26. Live well below your means. Don’t feel you have to upgrade your lifestyle to match your paycheque. (I learned this 10 years later than I should have, but better late than never.)

27. Cheap red wine is better than cheap white wine.

28. Healthcare and paid leave (annual leave, sick leave and maternity leave) are rights not privileges. (Sorry to get political here, but it’s my blog and my birthday, so I’ll do what I want.)

29. You can have anything you want. You can’t have everything you want.

30. Don’t over pluck your eyebrows. Sometimes they don’t grow back right and then you’re stuck filling them in for the rest of your life.

31. It’s not ‘you’ vs ‘ them’. When I was younger I thought everyone was out to get me; no one had it as tough as I did and no one else worked as hard as I did. I resented everyone. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have many friends and life was tougher than it needed to be.

Work together. Be generous. Surround yourself with people that support you.

32. Choose a partner with similar values. Relationships are all about compromise, but if you compromise on your core values you’ll never feel true to yourself.

33. “Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings…” Frank Turner

34. Get a credit card associated with a good frequent flyer program. Put everything on your credit card (and then pay it off each month so you’re not charged interest). Do this religiously and you’ll be surprised how quickly the points add up. More tips on paying less for airfare over here.

35. You’re never too old to learn something new or to dream a bit bigger.

(Thanks to Devan Danielle for sharing this video with me!)

Well that’s it! 35 years and that’s all I have to show for it. (Kidding!!) Thanks to you all for reading and for making this year of my life so great. Bring on 36! xx

photo credit : gratisography.com used with permission

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  • Happy birthday!! I love the advice, especially “success is whatever I say it is.”

    • Thanks so much Erin! That’s one of my favourites too; it’s something that took me a long time to come to terms with though! x

  • Laura Riccardi

    Happy birthday my wonderful friend! Thank you for sharing your wisdom!
    I can’t stop laughing for the ‘Cheap red wine is better than cheap white wine.’ 😀 😀 😀 so true! I miss you very much, can’t wait to see you.

  • I agree about the shoes! I teetered along on high heels when I was younger and realized I don’t actually really like them. (My bestie loves her six-inch heels though; I think it might be different for everyone.)

    And no. 13! I’ve noticed when we travel a lot, we start to see who our deeper friends are: the ones who make time for us when we’re around and actually check if we can meet them without having to message first. Nothing really wrong with the other people, of course, but they’re not as invested in the relationship, shall we say.

    I could go on and on, but this has been great. (And I loved that video too! Shared it with some good friends and it inspired them as well.)

    • I still have one pair of 4 inch heels; I got them in Italy a few years ago and then have a hidden platform and are so surprisingly comfortable! But I don’t wear them too often anymore.

      Re #13 … I’m a very lucky girl. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I have spoil me with their friendship!

  • Happy Birthday! Great advice here, Jennifer! I especially like number 13. True friends are priceless and hard to find. Keep celebrating! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your well wishes Ana! I love how you always share so much light and positivity in your messages!! x

  • Happy Birthday Jennifer! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post — It’s so full of wisdom! I feel so honored to be getting to know you and to be following your journey! Sending you all the confetti and birthday cake emoji’s!

    • Haha – I’m blushing Kercia! You’re so sweet, thank you! It’s been so good getting to know you as well, I feel very blessed!! xx

  • Re: that video…I’m not crying, I just have something in my eyes. Allergies, you know? Incredible.

    I wish that happiest of birthdays to you, Jennifer. I’m so glad we’ve connected and I’ve already learnt so much from you. You have such a glorious viewpoint and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings you. I hope your celebrations are everything you want today!

    Also: cheap red wine is SO MUCH BETTER than cheap white wine. THANK YOU.

    • I know, right??! *sniff, sniff*

      Thank you so much for the birthday wishes! I’m loving learning from you too – I’m so inspired by how you write. You’re so talented! I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for both of us. x

  • Happy birthday! I love this post, and your blog! 🙂 Number 13 and 30 really resonated. Especially 30. LOL. x
    Laura | laretour.com

    • Haha – I’ve definitely messed up with number 30, but you live and learn! Thanks so much for your kind words and I love your blog too! Such an amazing resource about Scotland. My hubby is English, so we go to the UK often – next time I’m definitely going to use your blog to get some ideas and head up to Scotland! Thanks Laura!

  • Happy Birthday, Jennifer! Everything gets better from here on out. I promise. Mid-30s to 40 is such a golden time. And since you are such a self-reflective and intentional person, I have no doubt you’ll con’t to make the best of life. Hugs!

    • Thanks Lani! I definitely believe that – my 30’s have been the best years of my life so far! Hugs to you too!! x

  • Happy birthday, Jennifer! I love this post. (A big amen to the eyebrows and the comfortable shoes!)

  • Happy birthday, my friend! I so agree about #4 – sometimes it feels too good to be true. You may have shared this elsewhere, but I can’t find it – do you mind sharing which airline points program/credit card you’ve found to be the best? I think I may just need to make the switch!

    • Hi lovely! Thank you for your well wishes 🙂

      About the credit card, I live in Australia, so I don’t think I have any specific credit card advice that will be useful for you (as I have Aussie credit cards.) This link might be helpful though http://chrisguillebeau.com/travel-hacking-resources/ – there are A LOT more resources available from the States, so you’re in luck! x

  • This is great Jennifer 🙂 You’ve got ten’s years on me and I love to see that the quest for magic over mediocrity hasn’t eluded you.

    So many wisdoms within this piece.

    And wanky is still very much alive in the English vocabulary! 😉

    Hannah

  • Christine Torres

    I cannot even put into words how much I LOVE this. Thank you for letting us into your life (#10 broke my heart but I’m glad you’re living in a way I’m sure he’d be proud of!) and for inspiring all of us so much. I needed to be gently reminded of #2 right now… My family… Gah. Respectfully disagree. Yes. Anyhow. What’s your actual coconut oil routine? I’ve wanted to switch to coconut oil but I’m not sure where to start. Thanks! And lastly….

    ??? HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! ???

    • Oh my goodness Christine! Thank you so much of your kind words ❤️ Re #2 … yeah – it has been a struggle. I don’t always listen to my own advice, so I understand! And about coconut oil, I use it as moisturiser (I wash my face with cold water only and then apply the oil.) If you feel greasy wait a few minutes and then dab it off with a tissue. I’m sure it depends on your skin type but it worked wonders for me. And lastly – THANK YOU so much for the birthday message. Have an awesome day xxx

  • Very inspirational post, Jennifer. I like that the “It is ok to want magic in life” is the first one on the list :).

    • Oops – I’m so sorry for my very, very belated reply – but thank you so much for your kind words! And the one about magic is my favourite too 🙂 xx

  • Coconut oil for everything! After about two years when I use it, even my husband who rather likes chemicals from a store, tells me to give him the jar of coconut when he see some “problem” on kids’ skin.
    Sleep is good for us, yes 🙂 And I should try “follow your fear” – I’m ready for it 😉
    Thank you for this post full of good ideas.