My 20s were remarkable. I had lots of wonderful experiences, met loads of amazing people, traveled to many incredible destinations, and learned a number of surprising things. Although it is hard to come up with a list of only 20 highlights from the last 10 years, these are definitely the 20 experiences that stick out most:
In my 20s I managed to finish my Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Calgary, Masters in Law from the Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen, and Level 1 of my CFA. All of that education took a lot of time and effort, but it was a wonderful experience and I met some amazing people along the way.
Although I may consider doing an MBA or finishing my CFA in the future, I believe the majority of my formal education is now over and as I enter my 30s I am both happy that I did it and happy I am done with it!
I think most people in their 20s dream of owning a home. I am very happy I was able to save up a down payment, find a unique home to buy, and renovate it to my tastes. The whole process was a lot of hard work though, and I certainly learned a lot from my home ownership experience. Although home ownership was a highlight of my 20s, it was also an anchor to my freedom and I am in no rush to assume responsibility for another property anytime soon.
I am very happy I was able to do a number of African safaris in my 20s including game drives in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa. Observing big game in the wild is very different from seeing the same animals in the zoo and part of the fun is that you never know exactly what you will see. I have been lucky enough to observe the “Big 5” (Elephant, Black Rhino, Lion, Cape Buffalo, and Leopard) as well as Hippos, Hyenas, Giraffes, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and Zebras, but I still have not seen a Cheetah in the wild. My desire to see a Cheetah in the wild is motivation enough for me to return to Africa for more game drives in the future.
Although the climb up Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet ASL) was easier and more touristic than I expected, it was still a wonderful experience. The views I had while climbing towards the stars in the middle of the night and of the sun breaking the horizon just as I reached the summit will be forever burned into my mind. I will also never forget the natural ‘high’ I had from the adrenaline of the accomplishment and the oxygen re-entering my bloodstream as I descended the mountain. What a wonderful adventure!
The only negative ‘highlight’ from my 20s was when my apartment complex in Sana’a, Yemen, was mortared by AQAP on April 6, 2008 – 3 days before my 24th birthday. It was certainly an evening I will never forget and I hope it will be the only time I am involved in a ‘headline news’ story on CNN.
The event taught me (see, there is a positive) about how much uncertainty and sensationalism there is in journalism though given what was being reported on the news differed greatly from what was actually happening on the ground. From my perspective, the attack was disruptive and scary, but not nearly as extravagant or villainous as reported by the media and having that experience makes me question the validity of many ‘breaking news’ stories now.
When I was younger, I walked past the passengers seated in business class with great envy. I always thought they were all rich or famous and that there was no chance I would ever get to experience the front of the plane.
I was first able to fly business because of travel for work, but I have also learned how to fly in the front of the plane through frequent flyer points, upgrades, and strategic flight planning. After over 300 hundred flights in my 20s I have also learned that business and first class cabins/services can be very different and that the best experiences are only offered by select carriers on select aircraft.
My favourite flight memories are flying Emirates Business class with my Mom from Dubai to Johannesburg, flying Business class in the Emirates A380, getting upgraded at the gate to a First class suite on an Emirates 777, and trying Johnnie Walker Blue Label for the first time in Lufthansa’s First Class.
When traveling through Lagos, Portugal, I stayed at a party hostel called the Rising Cock Hostel (the Portuguese are really into roosters…). The hostel was full when I arrived, so they put me in a dorm in a separate apartment building (Building #35) where I met a wonderful group of people. Those people became what we called the “Cock 35 Family” and we all had an incredible week together. We lit the town of Lagos on fire, organizing karaoke nights and booze cruises for all of the backpackers in the area while creating memories I will look upon fondly for the rest of my life.
As much as I loved Lagos, I do not plan to return as I know that no other experience will be able to compete with the great times I had with the Cock 35 Family and those memories are best left preserved as they are.
In 2011, I went to Koh Tao, Thailand, with the sole intention of training Muay Thai for a month. My plan had been to train Muay Thai in the mornings and then relax on the beach and work on my Masters’ papers in the afternoon. After a few days, that plan was written off and the whole month became an epic party experience that I will never forget.
I met a couple guys in the Muay Thai gym my first week on the island and over time our small group snowballed into a ‘Koh Tao Family’ 20+ members deep. I still managed to hit the gym and train most days, but the evenings were spent invading Koh Tao’s beach bars with our family and essentially taking over the island’s party scene. By the end of the month, we had the run of the town and wherever we went, the party followed.
I will never forget the family, the sunsets, the afternoons on the beach, or the bountiful number of buckets we consumed over that glorious month on my favourite little Thai island.