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10 things to do by age 30
Skydiving is something that often ends up on 30 before 30 lists. - photo by Alison Snyder
When I pulled out the number two and nine candles to stick on my cake last month and someone exclaimed, Youre 92!?! -- it hit me: People are going to start thinking Im old.

I dont think 29 is old -- or 30. But for many, the age of thirty is a milestone. Its when you supposedly say goodbye to youth, and depart from your carefree 20s. A quick search of #almost30 and #30before30 on Twitter or Instagram will get you gripes about aches and pains, travelgrams and plenty of identity crises. It could be considered the threshold when you are supposed to have everything figured out -- which rarely is the case for anyone. Yet the 20s shouldn't be a wasted decade. In fact, the 20s can, if you let them, be a decade that helps better prepare you for your future. For me, this last year of my 20s represents a chance to reflect on and evaluate my life and the growth I've had in the past decade, accomplish goals and check a few things off of my bucket list.

So whether youre going through a quarter-life crisis or aching to plan that backpacking trip through Europe youve always dreamed of, here are 10 things you should try before you enter your fourth decade:

1. Participate in an extreme sport.

Go skydiving, canyoneering, or something that really gets your adrenaline going. Skydiving is something that often ends up on 30 before 30 lists. I really want to go canyoneering this year and dig a little deeper into the places I already love and visit. Take a surfing or snowboarding lesson, get into rock climbing or go spelunking.

2. Get your financial ducks in a row.

Plan your financial future. Use compound interest to your advantage and start saving for your retirement. If your job has a retirement plan, invest in it.

3. Get a degree or certification and start a career.

With a college or university degree you have more job opportunities and greater earning potential, not to mention a myriad of psychological and social benefits. There are also many lucrative careers that are available with vocational training.

5. Learn a new skill.

Take those piano lessons you always wish you started -- or continued. Learn a new language. Sign up for a woodworking, computer programming or watercolor class at a nearby community college or from the community education division of your local university. Enroll in a course or get a certification that will help you advance in your career.

5. Register to vote.

And actually vote. Research the candidates and get involved in issues in your local community.

6. Step out of your comfort zone.

Brave your fear of heights. Push past your trepidation to start something youve always wanted to do, like starting your own business. Do your research and ask for that raise at work that you feel like you deserve. Try a new cuisine (Hello, Cambodian food!) or listen to a new band and prove the research that your musical tastes settle in your late 20s and early 30s wrong.

7. Volunteer.

Volunteer at a local nonprofit with a cause that excites you. Mentor someone starting out in your career field. Use your talents, resources and interests to help someone else. Reap the rewards of giving service.

8. Participate in a race or competition.

Get started with a "couch to 5k" program; sign up for a fun color or mud race with friends. Train for that triathlon or marathon youve always wanted to do.

9. Make a major commitment.

Buy a house. Move into your own apartment. Get married. Adopt a dog. Become a parent -- whether its biologically, adoption or foster parenting. For me, parenthood has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my 20s and my life.

10. Travel.

This seems like a no-brainer, and one that most twentysomethings have on the agenda. It broadens your perspective, builds relationships, increases productivity and has health benefits. Sure, wed all love to go on an expensive trip to Fiji or Paris, but it can be as simple as an inexpensive camping trip a short drive away or a road trip to see national parks or other, less-discovered U.S. gems.
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