The big 3-0 is a huge milestone—at least for me it was. Although the idea of entering a new decade didn’t prompt a need to settle down and commit to a certain kind of lifestyle, the fact of the matter is, turning 30 is a pretty big deal. Despite being a rather optimistic person, I’ll admit I’d had certain expectations about what life would look like when I entered this new decade.

If you would have asked the high school me what I’d be doing at 30, my response would have been a bit more traditional. I’d have a steady 9 to 5 office job, a heap of savings, my own home, and a disposable income that would allow me to travel wherever I pleased. But the reality is, I didn’t really have any of those things when I entered into my thirtieth year, which is why it took a little adventure for me to realize just how much I’ve changed as a person.

Turns out, what I’d always thought was important in life couldn’t be further from what I actually value now. As I’ve grown, so has my willingness to try new things, and my ability to recognize the things that make me, well, me. Following the first three months after turning 30, I checked five things off my bucket list, and learned major lessons along the way.

I travelled to Belize (and rediscovered the importance of living in the now)

Belize was the first trip of my thirtieth year, and while I wasn’t expecting any life-changing moments, I was expecting a good vacation. So naturally, when I was invited to visit Naia Resort and Spa, I jumped at the chance. After taking a flight to Belize City, then a puddle-jumper plane to Placencia, I was ready for some R&R. But what I hadn’t anticipated was truly reconnecting not only with a new culture, but with myself.

Sometimes, it takes going to an entirely new country to realize just how important nurturing yourself on a daily basis really is. And for me, my trip to Belize did just that. I was done with being “too busy” to find time for myself. Without a doubt, Naia Resort and Spa was the ideal place for me to disconnect and reconnect.

I got pampered at a world-class spa (and realized taking care of my body doesn’t mean I’m high maintenance)

I’ve had spa treatments in the past, but none have come close to this. While I’m a big fan of being pampered, I’d never been to a world-class spa before. I got scrubbed down, lathered up, and smoothed over, and I loved every second of it. And this came with another revelation.

Living in a mountain town, it can sometimes feel like a race to the top of the mountain. Which girl is fittest, which one is the most rad, which one skis fastest, and which one is the biggest boss on river trips. Well, I’m happy to report my days of worrying about all that stuff are behind me. I’ve no apologies for acting as girly, or as tomboyish, as I please, no matter what other people think.

I visited the Dominican Republic (and realized I’m finally happy with my career choices)

A trip to the Dominican Republic with the Ministry of Tourism? I was in. While I was thrilled to visit a new country, the experience itself turned out to be more of an eye-opener than I could have ever imagined. You see, my time spent in the DR ended up being an opportunity to come to grips with some pretty important aspects of my life. I came face-to-face with where my career was, and I could finally admit I’d reached a point of true happiness.

I was doing what I loved, and this time, my travels were different. It all came to fruition as I typed away on my laptop, tucked away in a private beach cabana. Acknowledging the steps I’d taken up to this point that have turned dream into reality was huge, and it was in that moment on the beach that I actually thanked myself for the choices I’d made. It may have been a convoluted path, but I was finally exactly where I’d always hoped to be, career wise. In my opinion, a dream job is one that allows me the flexibility to work from absolutely anywhere, and I’m proud to say I’ve finally reached that point.

I took a hot air balloon ride (and was reminded to go with the wind, always)

On my trip to the Dominican Republic, I took a hot air balloon ride, with nothing to think about but floating through the air. We seamlessly glided above fields of sugarcane, nothing but tranquility in our path. It made as myself the question, “what’s really important in my life these days?” I know the world has a powerful plan, which is why I tend to disrupt the things I don’t like, and go with those I do. In my opinion, if one door shuts, you should always try to find a way to shimmy through the window.

I had a private dinner with a Michelin star chef (and was reminded of the importance of trying everything the world has to offer)

I’d like to say that I’m the most cultured of eaters; a foodie who’s tried everything on the planet. But, I’d be lying. However, with each experience I get under my belt, the more I’m exposed to some pretty fabulous food. And how could I pass that up?

Upon entering into my “wiser” years, I started thinking that opting out of trying new things might end up hurting me in the long run. The thing is, turning 30 has made me more conscious than ever that yes, I am going to get older, and one day, I will no longer have the opportunity to try new things.

So, while I fully enjoyed every bite of my Michelin-star chef-created meal (a perk offered at the Palmera Villas in Punta Cana), that’s not really the point here. The point is, when something’s put in front of me, I no longer allow myself to say no. The power I have to avoid potential regrets in the future is huge, and it’s an empowering feeling. I’m not really talking about food choices alone here, anymore. But you get the idea. I can’t wait to see what life brings next, because I’ll be trying it all and accepting every challenge along the way.   

[divider]Guest Contributor[/divider]

Julie Peirano is a writer and adventurer based in Telluride, CO.