Experiences of the Year

Jennifer DeSimone
January 16, 2024

What a year 2017 has been!

As we began to reflect on this joyous holiday season, we asked our community to share with us their best experiences of 2017 - and we were overwhelmed by the responses! 

Every single story brought a smile to our faces.

We found that there were several similar topics, but one central underlying theme - transformation.

The fact that we are a community of so many diverse people, with so many different experiences, and still can connect via our experiences speaks volumes to the power of sharing our stories.

Here are the some of the best experiences of 2017 from the community.

Enjoying 2017 in Costa Rica


So many of you moved this year! Whether it was for job, love, or just to try something new, many of you are ending the year in a different zip code than you started in.

Speaking about her move to Italy, Chelsea Smith wrote:

"I had never moved out of the state before and it was HUGE thing for me to move across the world. But, it showed me that change is good and sometimes you have to take risks! I really learned a lot about myself and realized that it's ok to start again."

Moving is always scary...but being focused on why you are moving and how that move supports your growth makes taking the leap worth it.

Enjoy time with yourself

Career change

"I was laid off early in 2017 and had a hard time finding a new job. I was unemployed for 6 months and was really down on myself. I decided to do something fun for myself and went to Belize with U30X, and not long after I got back I landed an amazing job at my dream company!" -Jessica Albright

One of the most exciting messages we get from alum post trip is "I quit my job!".

We get excited for a few reasons: 
1. People are deciding they've had enough of the status quo and are doing something about it
2. People are aligning their passions with their work
3. People are saying YES! to themselves.

As Kathryn Kimmell shared with us,

"I quit a job I hated with no plans for the future and allowed myself to explore options that I thought were better suited for my personality and passions. It was a rough few months without a job, but I grew so much as a person...The whole experience was such a time of introspection and exploration and I am so thankful for where I ended up!"

For those thinking of also taking the leap and quitting their jobs, know you keep great company with those who have gone before you.

Spending time in nature

"The first few early morning hours of 2017 - right after midnight, I went to a secluded beach where I saw a comet light up and shoot across the sky for a good 20+ seconds - comet trail and all. Then I swam with bioluminescent plankton and cartwheeled, skipped, and ran up and down the beach until a glorious sunrise swim. It was a night I'll never forget." - Maria Joyner

Being in nature is one of the most healing and self-connecting exercises one can practice.

Enjoying the beaches of Costa Rica

Miles Demars-Rote perfectly explains this with his experience while in Bali over their news years celebration this past March:

"...I sh*t you not, the sun was rising with stars still in the sky, dolphins were jumping in bioluminescent water, and locals were lighting fireworks from lush, green villages and cheering to bring in a new year. I remember trying to figure out how to process it all, and without a container big enough to hold it, I overflowed with wonder, joy, gratitude. It reminded me what was possible, it encouraged me to expand bigger, and it ensured me experiences are the greatest thing worth living for."

Maybe one of your new year's goals will be to spend time in nature. You never know when the stars will align.


"Having open communication with my marrow recipient. Finding out how the woman whose life I saved was doing in Germany...what she was like and how we were very similar in many ways."- Erik Waldrip

U30X is all about connection...and so many of us were able to make time shared with loved ones a bigger priority in our lives.


After living more than 10 years away from home, Crystal Williams shared what moving back to San Diego means to her:

"The past 10 months have been filled with more special moments both big and small than I've had the opportunity to share with those at home in the past 10 years. This year I've been given back the most precious, and priceless, gift of all...TIME with those I love and value most."

And while time can be so fleeting its important to remember to enjoy these moments.

As Heather B. so aptly put it,

"Family is everything, life is to fragile. Enjoy your company, tell them you love them regardless if you are upset with them." 

While in France, Will B. experienced a memory that will be "hard to erase from memory"...

"Without much notice, a blanket of dense low clouds engulfed the coastal village in a matter of seconds. Each one of us looked out in awe snapping photos and celebrating our new friendships."


"Peru and llamas. Need I say more?"- Kristen Laino
Photo credit: Ashley Vander Linde

Hmm....maybe Thailand and elephants?!

It's no surprise that travel rounded out our list as top experience topic of 2017.

One story that made us pause was Alisa Vidulich's. After quitting her job and applying to grad school, she traveled to Quebec. The night before she was set to leave for her quick trip, she made a decision to extend her stay.

"I called my parents to let them know I'd be gone for 18ish days, packed a single carry on and a backpack, and just left. It's the truest version of joyful and "me" that I've felt."

Tiffany Wright shares that hiking the Inca Trail will impact her for years to come:

"It was such a spiritual experience for me and was something I did right before my 30th birthday. For that reason, I believe it really set the tone for this decade and I’m grateful it’s an experience I cannot only reflect on, but also use to propel me."

But the one thing that ties all these experiences together...



a dramatic change, a metamorphosis, an induced spontaneous change.

Whether it be a major move, career change, connection, overwhelming moment in nature, or an experience on an Under30Experiences trip - 2017 was a year of growth and transformation and forced us to be more present than ever.

Joanna Smy beautifully wrote after the death of her friend, 

"...I continually found ways to count my blessings and chase experiences that made my soul fly - that I continued to live in more than the breathing sense of the word. That was my biggest moment and accomplishment."
Transformative trip in Iceland

Cheers to 2018!

Here's to seeking out more meaningful experiences, deeper connections, and personal growth.

To continuing to take massive leaps and continuing to soar.

Wishing all of you joy, love, and adventure in 2018!


What are you most looking forward to in 2018? Drop me a a note to share! 

Jennifer DeSimone
Currently based in Austin, Jennifer is the Chief of Community for U30X. She has a passion for creating connections, community, and opportunities for more empathy. In her spare time you can find her on her yoga mat, whipping up something yummy in the kitchen, or reading a good book.


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