When you get to a certain age, it may seem like everyone you know is getting married, buying a house, upgrading their beater cars to SUVs, having kids, and generally starting to live like an actual adult. Most of us naturally head in that direction at some point, but there is a small window of time when you have the freedom to truly explore life and passions. You may be unattached or in a serious relationship, but this personal exploratory time is crucial in ensuring you can settle down without any regrets.
Check these things off your list before you take a big plunge.
1. Learn to cook
Don’t resign yourself to ramen noodles and mac ‘n’ cheese. Learning the basics of cooking is one of those things everyone should know how to do. Not only does it make you more self-sufficient and independent, but there can be a certain sex appeal of someone who knows how to make a homemade marinara sauce or grill a fish perfectly. Even if you learn to cook solely for yourself, you’ll avoid wasting money on eating out and avoid the weight gain and health problems that come from consuming giant restaurant portions.
2. Travel (a lot)
Nothing has the power to transform and educate you like travel. Traveling gets you out of your comfort zone and into the big, crazy world where people speak, look, dress, and act differently. It allows you to experience new things, meet new people, and get to know yourself better. Experience nightlife in Berlin, the food in Vietnam, and the culture of Argentina. The memories you make traveling will last you a lifetime and help shape your worldview, making you a more whole, educated person.
3. Become financially independent
This means getting off the family phone plan, creating a financial budget, finding health insurance, and establishing an emergency fund. Recognize the difference between your needs and your wants, and learn how to regulate your wants so you can comfortably cover your needs, pay off any debt, and stow away some money for a rainy day. Understanding finances and the type of lifestyle you want to live is important to determine before you commit to another person or your own family.
4. Face your biggest fears
Do you hate heights? Go skydiving. Scared of traveling alone? Book a ticket. Scared of asking that cute girl out? Walk over and say “hi.” It will give you a great sense of accomplishment to acknowledge your fears, expose yourself to those fears, and practice courageous acts. If you are able to take steps (no matter how small) to face your fears you will benefit greatly. Not only will you see the areas in which you struggle but also you’ll see yourself acknowledge those shortcomings and work to overcome them.
5. Accomplish a goal
There will be hundreds of goals, big and small, that show up in your life, but take the time before you settle down to set a meaningful goal and accomplish it. This may mean graduating college, starting your own business, or building a freelance career. Whatever it is, take the time, put in the effort, and pay the money to check that goal off the list. When you settle down, get a mortgage, and have kids, those goals may take a back seat to taking care of life’s more pressing realities.
6. Get fit
This must-do is fairly self-explanatory, but its importance is not to be disregarded. Before you settle down and get caught up in career, family, and all the drama and stress that can entail, take time for your physical body. Give your body some love by eating food that fuels and nourishes it and participating in activities that make it stronger, leaner, and more flexible. When you eat right and exercise you will have more energy, avoid disease and illness, live longer, and enjoy a happier quality of life both physically and mentally. Your body is not easily replaced, so take the time to get to know what it likes and doesn’t like.
7. Get to know yourself
When you settle down your identity is often tied to another person, a job, or a hobby. Take this time to explore your inner self to find out who you are at your core. This is no easy task and there isn’t usually a definitive answer, but it is something you should be aware of and take time to explore away from the distractions of routine, relationships, and daily life. Take time to discover new passions, let go of expectations, and be kind to yourself.
8. Find out what you believe in
Many of us gloss this over for as long as we can, but spirituality and religion are something we should consider facing head on. Your personal set of ethics and beliefs dictates the way you live your life, and your relationship with religion and spirituality may impact how you view big, scary subjects like death, evil, and afterlife. Even if you were raised a certain way, take time to explore other world views and ways of living to determine what speaks to you.