My friends call this unique single-serving-friend phenomenon “Cowboy Guy.” I forget why exactly, something do with a dude in a cowboy hat in New Orleans. It doesn’t matter, but to Cowboy Guy (spread it!) is to truly laissez les bon temps rouler. Basically, you meet strangers, you become fast friends, you spend an outrageous night of drinking and debauchery with them, and you forget their names the next day (if, in fact, you ever knew them).
And I’m not talking about doing sex (see below). This is just dumb camaraderie born of partying, and while you can do it at any age, it’s really something you should experience before the clock strikes, “I can’t believe it’s 2am and I’m still out!” Also, you can Cowboy Guy (it’s gonna catch on!) with a group of friends or alone. But stranger danger, of course. We would be remiss if we didn’t urge you to exercise caution as much as realistically possible.
Go somewhere where you don’t know the language
Why? Because it sucks. And it’s intimidating. And nerve-racking. And it’s pretty much the worst. It will test your mettle and self-sufficiency in ways few other life experiences will, and THAT is some true character-building right there. How much can you really know about yourself as a person if you’ve never tried desperately to charade, “I’ve been drinking and forgot where I’m staying” to a non-English-speaking stranger before?
Teach English in a foreign country
This used to be a lot easier and much more lucrative. Now, if you can get hired, it’s just a good way to get free room-and-board in a foreign country for a few months. Also, resume experience! And an immersive cultural something something something where you learn things and grow and what not.
Attend a once-in-a-lifetime event
It can be the Olympics, the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the World Series, Mardi Gras, Carnival in Rio, Oktoberfest (in September) in Munich, Burning Man, whatever. Granted most of these events happen once a year (obviously, not the Olympics), but the expense of attending most of them as well as the simple time and life constraints means that for most people, going once is once-in-a-lifetime.
Have a one-night stand in a foreign country
As promised: doing sex! Why in a foreign country? Um, why NOT in a foreign country? Sure, you can, and probably will, also do this within the continental United States, but a steamy one-night romance in an exotic foreign land – like Canada! – is just one of those life bucket list items. Because it just is.
Climb something, jump off something, dive into something
Climb a mountain. It doesn’t have to be Kili, just climb a damn mountain. Or go bungee jumping, or skydiving, or whitewater rafting, or scuba diving, or hell, even river kayaking and snorkelling will work. Just do something outside the norm of what you would usually do at home, and push your personal limits a little bit. Because if all you’re doing when you travel is the same old “Hey, we should totally hit that Starbucks outside the Eiffel Tower” stuff you’d be doing at home anyway, what really is the point? Challenge yourself. Let yourself surprise you.
Go on vacation ALONE
A lot of the things mentioned on this list are a hell of a lot easier to do – and probably more fun – if you’re flying solo and not at the mercy of your friend herd. Travelling alone is some next-level me time, and at the risk of sounding sensational and cliché, it will change you as a person. (In a good way!) Spending a week by yourself (added bonus if it’s in a foreign country) is an accelerated master class of learning how to handle your shit. (Also, here’s our guide to how to do it.)