Around the world in 365 days of 31

32nd birthday

As I usher in a new year of my life, I thought I’d look back on all the adventures of 31. Sure, I’m tired all the time and I have more aches than I used to, but don’t let anyone ever tell you that travel has to stop when your metabolism does. I’ve seen more of the world this year than I have my whole life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On my birthday last year, I booked a flight to Cambodia, a destination that ended up becoming one of my favorites of all time. Though I don’t love to travel on my birthday, I do love to commit to future travels. It’s the best gift you can give yourself.

To truly ring in my 30s, I enjoyed the World Cup celebrations in Malta with my back fully thrown out because that’s what happens when you’re running to the airport with a carry-on in your 30s. As a result of my injury, I didn’t get a chance to explore the country as much as I wanted to, but I enjoyed the hell out of the Blue Lagoon and their signature rabbit dishes.

About a month into being 31, I temporarily moved to Porto where I got to relish being on an Atlantic coast again (albeit a very cold one) and stuff my face full of pork sandwiches and natas. Which in Portugal you can get away with, because it’s all uphill walking all the time. In fact, I liked the food so much, I imported one of the chefs to Prague.

Not all travels have to begin with a long harrowing flight. Sometimes, you take a quick train a few towns over and spend the night in a city like Pilsen just to have beer and a pork knuckle. Summer is always my least favorite time to travel, but it’s always nice to get away for a weekend.

Six months into being 31, I was headed for Cambodia by way of Hong Kong. I thought Hong Kong sucked, but I’m glad I found that out on a stopover and not a trip there. That’s why you always have to take advantage of stopovers. Cambodia was an adventure full of temples and elephants and lovely people. It’s a place I’ll always remember fondly, even if it kind of ruined lemongrass for me.

As is common for most expats, at least one of my annual vacations has to be to visit home. Back home, someone is always getting married and someone is always having a baby, which makes it the best kind of travel because it’s for special occasions. Even if “special occasions” are just staying in and playing cards with your mom.

The latter half of 31 was a busy time. I started off January in Milan, where I got to spend time with good friends and eat way more than I should. Then just a couple of weeks later, I was off to Scotland, where I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a year. The older I get, the more I realize that sometimes the best reason to travel is the people and not the destination. Scotland was a trip for way too much haggis, whisky, and gin.

I barely had time to recover from that hangover before I was off to Sri Lanka, which to date is the worst vacation I’ve ever taken. I hated almost everything about that place, and the more time passes, the less I appreciate the one or two things I did enjoy. Fuck their trains. Fuck their shitty food. Fuck all those people. I’m almost 32, so I don’t have to equivocate or impress anyone. I hated Sri Lanka. The best thing about that trip is that it came with a built-in stop in Dubai, which was glitzy and incredible.

When you’re 31, you know that not everything is going to turn out perfect all the time, so you dust yourself off and go to London for a fabulous week of gin and tonics and theatre on the West End. I thought I couldn’t possibly feel any gayer than being London.

…and then I went to Tel Aviv. I bookended 31 by spending an insane week in Israel floating in the Dead Sea surrounded by pride flags and Banksy art. I even bought one to take home, cause I’m in my 30s. I can treat myself to art if I want and no one can stop me.

When I abandoned a “real” career and started travel blogging and freelancing a couple of years ago, I thought this was something I could maybe do for a while before I got “back on track” to a soul sucking corporate or academic job. The longer I do this, the more I realize that this is my track.

And I think other people realize that, too. No one asks me judgy questions anymore about when I’m going to “settle down.” I think by now everyone knows that my life is not one of settling in any way. If every year was like 31, I would die happy and fulfilled, so I’m pretty excited to pop the cork on 32. Happy new year to me!