U30X Community 2016 Year in Review: Reflecting on Moments of Change and Transformation

Jennifer DeSimone
January 16, 2024

Under30Experiences is more than just travel. We seek to combine community with experiences to find the moments that push us out of our comfort zones, challenge us, and transform us. We hear often from our community about their fears and limitations and how travel has allowed them to push through those barriers.

I recently asked several alum about their transformative experiences this year. Below they share their stories.

Michael O'Malley

Feeling ecstatic on top of the glacier in Iceland

I took my first U30X trip to Costa Rica this year, which had two new experiences: first time outside of the US and my first trip going where I didn't know anyone.

I am terrified of heights and was nervous about zip-lining. I was afraid on the first couple lines, but was able to enjoy it afterwards as the fear went away. I felt the same way on the glacier walk in Iceland.. However once we got onto the actual glacier and we were walking around, it wasn't so bad anymore. 

I am a very shy person and have been working on breaking out of the shell, and I think the trips have helped with that as well. I'll never be as outgoing as some people, however I don't think I'm as shy as I used to be.

Kristen Laino 

blog-U30X-Community-2016-Year in-Review-Reflecting-on-Moments-of-Change-and-Transformation-Kristen-Laino.jpg
Kristen on the U30X trip to Tulum, Mexico

Over the last two years, I have focused on putting myself first. It was a hard transition for me because I always put others first. I was getting lost in my own life under everyone else’s issues. I felt like I was always there for everyone, but when I turned around in my time of need, very few people were beside me.

The small changes have made an incredible difference, such as learning to say no. While I am still here for the people close to me, I’ve decided to focus on me. I discovered that there are so many parts of the world that I want to see. Even if I don't have anyone to go with, I AM going to see them. I have the ability to do it on my own. I also realized what I want out of a career and am taking huge steps to make a major changes. My calling in life is not to sit at a desk and do meaningless work but to help others find their way through education. 

Cassie Guba

blog-U30X-Community-2016-Year in-Review-Reflecting-on-Moments-of-Change-and-Transformation-Cassie-Guba
Cassie exploring the mountains in Iceland

This year, I quit a job where I loved the people and product but didn't feel fulfilled in my role. I then I took another job that was a huge mistake, only because I felt unsatisfied in my previous role. I made a tough decision to leave before an "acceptable" time period and am now in a role that makes me overall fulfilled on a daily basis. I have learned what is really important to me and how to continue to motivate myself, while refocusing on my strengths and what I want my career to look and feel like.

Lindsey Dukes

Sunrise from the top in Oahu

This year I solo hiked the Haiku Stairs/Stairway to Heaven in Oahu. Hiking in the dark at 3:30 am to catch a sunrise at the top prompted all kinds of thoughts on life. I was in a tough place, and I realized how parallel the experience was to my life at that moment.

I stopped to write this during the hike:"Perhaps it's in the dark times that we are best suited to reach our goals. The dark can serve as a blinder to distractions, especially our fears. If you find yourself in such a place, keep your eyes forward, stay focused, and take it one step at a time. Before you know it, you'll make it to the top...just in time for the sun to rise."

A gentle reminder from my own soul to stay focused, even when I wanted to give up. The experience was transformational. Sometimes if we are quiet enough, we can actually impart wisdom on ourselves.

Jennifer DeSimone

Buddhas at Bayon Temple

This year I did two big things that have been on my bucket list since my early 20's - I moved abroad and I backpacked Southeast Asia. Both were big, scary, exciting jumps - ones where I didn't know if I would soar or (what I fully expected to happen) crash land.

While in Cambodia, I climbed to the top of Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat. On the rooftop, I came eye level to giant Buddha heads and was able to look them in the eye. I don't if it was their size or the fact that I was standing atop an ancient temple, but a wave of peace and certainty came over me. I knew I was soaring and that the idea of a crash landing was some non-sensical fear.

Whether this year you decide to change your job, find your tribe, or go on the solo-adventure, do not hold fear in your heart. Know that by leaping, you will soar.

My wish for our community in 2017 is that we each remain open on our journeys so to full embrace those moments that are certain to change and transform us. Happy 2017! 

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.


last minute deals


As Seen In...