2016 is a big year for me. I’m glad I still have a few months until 2 special days – our 10th wedding anniversary in October and my 30th (!) birthday in December.
To make every day count, I’ve decided to challenge myself and film a few moments of every day from my 29th to my 30th birthday. I post those videos weekly on my youtube channel.
Where to for my 30th?
I’ve never been to the United States. I didn’t even really want to go there. Last year though, I started to think about doing some road trips there and put USA on my travel wishlist. And I had this idea in my head for a while now – to celebrate my 30th birthday in New York City.
Don’t ask me why, don’t ask me what exactly I’d like to do there. I have no plan and at the moment and also, I’m not sure if it will happen. But… wouldn’t it be nice?
To open myself to other ideas, I asked 11 travel bloggers what were their best places in the world to celebrate birthdays.
1. Stefan and Sebastien of Nomadic Boys – Kathmandu, Nepal
We always try to do something special for our birthdays because 25 is such an important milestone in life no? For Stefan’s 8th 25th birthday last year, we celebrated in Kathmandu, Nepal, with a cooking class.
We did a class with the Nepalese Cooking School, who we found on Tripadvisor. They are a really lovely Nepalese family who were like many people affected by the unfortunate earthquakes and had to start their lives afresh. They soldiered on with their cooking strong and are still going strong.
We learnt to cook traditional Nepalese prizes like dal bhat (a variety of lentil based curry with rice), momos (Nepalese dumplings) and kheer (rice pudding). We became very close with this lovely family who adopted Stefan as the family clown. They made Stefan’s 8th 25th birthday incredibly unique and very special.
2. Sanket of Nomadic Lives – Edinburgh, Scotland
“When I was 22, I set myself a challenge — to spend my next 5 birthdays in 5 separate countries; almost half-way through it, and I’m yet to beat the high of my first year. I spent my last birthday lounging about, sipping local beer on a private beach in the Seychelles (ok, it wasn’t that private, I had a nice little pooch for company). As tempting as that sounds, I think I still couldn’t out-do my experience from the first year of my 5 Year Birthday Challenge. In 2014, I celebrated my 23rd birthday across two countries that will take some shaking from the top of favorite destinations list — Scotland (I know, I know…not a country, but deserves to be one by itself; nothing like the Brits, them Scots) and Ireland. On the eve of my birthday, I found myself in the magical Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
While sitting at a delightful cafe in Old Town, I saw a leaflet in the window advertising the “Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour”. The culture geek that I am, my ears instantly perked up. A couple of TripAdvisor reviews later, I was positively stoked at the prospect. Within moments, I had my place booked for a paltry sum of €13. What followed were two of the best hours of my nomadic life. The two guides that lead the entourage of lit-thirsty travelers, take you on a superb journey through the rich history of Scottish literature. As you traverse through the Georgian neighborhoods of Old Town and New Town on the Royal Mile (the entire area is a UNESCO Heritage site), Clart & McBrain, two scripted characters enrapture you with their battle of wits and drama. In the fading light of dusk, you visit some of the oldest traditional Scottish pubs and discover the deep-rooted connection they share with major Scottish literary greats. By the time the trip ended, I was left gasping for more, and couldn’t have possibly thought of a better birthday gift to myself. To this day, the walking tour remains one of my richest cultural experiences, and something I recommend to anybody who travels to Edinburgh.
3. Crystal of Castaway with Crystal – Halong Bay, Vietnam
My best birthday overseas was a boat through Halong Bay in Vietnam. We picked a boat that was a little bit party, but not too crazy and when we told them it’d be my birthday they said they would get me a surprise!
During the day we cruised around the bay drinking beers and cocktails with our new friends, kayaked around caves and got dropped off on an island to watch the sunset. We all got back on the boat in very high spirits, and to top it off after our amazing banquet of seafood the boat threw me a party and presented me with a cake! Yay! The next day we jumped off rocks and hung out on our very own island. The people on the boat really quickly became very tight and I’m still good friends with a lot of them today. All I had to do was choose which boat and the rest was done for me. It was an epic birthday, to say the least.
4. Jasmine of NomadGirl.co – Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan. This one word and your mind is already thinking of the photographs flooding social media, picturing hot air balloons romantically drifting over a magnificent valley of ancient ruins.
Began itself is like stepping through some strange time warp, transporting you back to a time where technology did not dictate peoples lives. There are no iPads in childrens hands, no laptops or televisions in peoples homes, and certainly no vending machines. A.T.M’s were introduced in Bagan in October, 2014 – to cater to tourists only.
There are few street lights. I remember this distinctively, arriving in the village in the evening. After checking in to my hotel I decided to go for a walk. The roads (or lack of) were extremely dusty (as most streets were just dirt). I resorted to wearing my sunglasses, in the dark, to protect my eyes from the dust. This situation combined with a lack of street lighting and a few minutes later I was nearly ran over by a horse and cart. It was a very close call with the cart wheel.
My time in Bagan saw me surviving the dust, meeting some friendly locals, observing locals bathe in the river dressed in their sarongs, dodging cows, buffaloes, horses, carts and motorbikes on my hired e-Bike, watching the sunset over the temples, feeling like a tomb raider climbing through tight passage-ways and steep stairs in the dark, and watched a local soccer match where players wore bare feet and played on sand.
Bagan is a really magical place. But if you want to experience the same magic that I did, I would suggest going soon, as I feel it is going to develop rapidly due to the sudden, recent and high influx of tourists.
5. Gia of Mismatched Passports – Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is a magical place fit for a fairy tale. During our three months in Europe, Jon and I chose this small town near Lisbon as the perfect place to celebrate my 28th birthday. My boyfriend, Jon truly knows how to make me feel like a princess!
We took a train from Lisbon and reached the quaint little town of Sintra after 45minutes. We had delicious Portuguese egg tarts to replace the usual birthday cake then off we went to visit the different sites in town.
From the unique and colourful architecture of Pena National Palace to the majestic walls of the Castle of the Moors, Sintra is truly awe-inspiring. We spent most of our time in these buildings including the magnificent house that looks like a palace, Quinta da Regaleira. On my special day, I really felt like royalty when we visited these captivating structures in Sintra. It is a birthday that I will always remember.
6. Jub of Tiki Touring Kiwi – Vecaki Beach, Latvia
In 2015 I celebrated turning 27 years young in Latvia. I keep my birthday a secret, pretty easily done when you’re travelling an meeting new people every other day. Somehow it got let out so a good friend organised us to go camping on the beach, something I kept saying I wanted to do. We headed to Vecaki Beach 30 minutes from Riga. It was windy as, but it didn’t stop the nudists from rotating with the sun across the skies.
We headed off beach into the nearby forest, set up camp and just had an awesome chilled out time! We made some awesome vegetable wraps for dinner as there was no chance of cooking with the wind. It was towards the summer but the sun was still out so we watched an awesome summer sunset before passing out with no one around for miles (unless the nudists were creeping).
It was a great birthday, kept low key which is just how I like it but also managed to get something done that I’d been put off while hanging out in Latvia.
7. Carole of Berkeley and Beyond – New York City, United States
My current favorite birthday took place last year in New York City. I made a special trip there with my husband to celebrate with our daughter and her family. My daughter planned the itinerary for the big day. We began with eggs Benedict and an almond croissant for brunch at Balthazar bistro in SoHo and ended with an aqua-frosted vanilla cupcake at Magnolia Bakery in the West Village. In between, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the old streets, popping in here and there for some browsing. The memory keeps me warm.
8. Elaina of The Freedom Travellers – Paris, France
When you think best romantic destinations in the world, hands down most people would say Paris. And that’s exactly where Victoria took me for my 35th birthday. Oh wait, it gets better. She managed to keep it a complete surprise all the way until we were boarding the Eurostar in London!
Paris, France is known as the city of love, and Victoria had the most magical couple of days planned to celebrate my birthday. We enjoyed sipping on French champagne, eating delicious wheels of Brie and Camembert cheese, and fresh baguettes and croissants as we wandered the streets of Paris enjoying sights like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumph.
She even completed the whole romantic birthday escape with a surprise marriage proposal on the famous Lovers Bridge. Now if you’re planning to have an epic birthday that you’ll remember forever taking your loved one for a surprise trip to France has to be up there. Don’t you agree?!
9. Laura of Savored Journeys – Hawaii, United States
We’ve always been off-season travelers, so that means we usually travel in late September, ever year, which happens to coincide with my husband’s birthday. We’ve celebrated in Fiji, Cancun, France and Hawaii. In Hawaii, we went to a luau on his birthday and the crew was helping us celebrate all night with special drinks, hula dancers dedicating a song to him and lots of great food.
10. Chris of Aussie on the Road – Gwangju, South Korea
My best birthday abroad just so happened to be my first one. I’d been in Gwangju, South Korea all of a week and to say I was a bit daunted was an understatement.
Two weeks earlier, I’d never even stepped onto a plane, and here I was halfway around the world in a country that didn’t speak my language and without a familiar face in sight.
With my birthday approaching, I got a Facebook message from a guy I’d gone to high school with, but with whom I’d never been close. If anything, our relationship had always been more combative than comfortable.
Turns out, he had been teaching in Seoul for a few months and happened to know somebody who lived in my neck of the woods. Did I want some company for my birthday?
Prior to that weekend, I’d been dubious about my prospects of lasting a whole year in a strange new place. After Paul, Heloise, and Jenna breezed into town, took me out for my first authentic Korean meal, and plied me with enough soju to euthanize a horse, I was hooked.
The moment that did it?
Midnight marked the start of my birthday, and my newfound friends turned to me and asked what my birthday wish was.
Before I could answer, party poppers were going off and a hat was being placed upon my head. It was my first experience with how fast and fierce friendships on the road can be, and I was addicted.
I wouldn’t say that Gwangju in South Korea was an especially exotic or interesting place to spend a birthday, but with friends – be they long term or of convenience – you’re always going to have a remarkable time.
11. Claudia of My Adventures Across the World – Golfo di Orosei, Sardinia
I turned 40 (yes, I really am 40!) in July 2015 and decided it was time to celebrate doing something I really loved. I usually spend my summers in Sardinia, where I was born and raised, so it seemed obvious to go to the beach for my birthday. But on this occasion, I decided I needed more action. So my friends and I traveled to an area called Golfo di Orosei, spent the night camping in the mountains, and hiked to Cala Goloritzé – a beach so special that it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and that can only be reached by hiking.
The hike itself is fantastic: 90 minutes of mostly steep, downhill walking (uphill on the way back, which in the heat of the summer isn’t exactly easy!) fully immersed in the forest, till eventually the vegetation opens up offering views of the spectacular beach.
The main feature of this tiny beach is an arch formation, the tiny white pebbles and the clear and cold waters. The color and the temperature are due to fresh water infiltrations coming from the mountains, which are inhabited by goats. Because there’s freshwater right on the beach, it is actually quite common to see goats descending to the beach to have a drink – much to everyone’s amusement.
As I am often reckless, I swam all the way to the arch and decided that I would climb it and jump off it. This is a huge arch which at its peak is about 12 meters high. I had done this before, so I wasn’t too concerned about it. I realized I am getting older when, about halfway up, I got stuck. I couldn’t jump as I wasn’t in the right spot. I couldn’t climb up as my legs wouldn’t stretch enough to climb, and going back down simply wasn’t an option. And the fact that I was only wearing my bikini didn’t help either, as I didn’t have the appropriate gear to climb. I thus begged the only person who was reckless enough to go up to hold on to my hand till someone else climbed up and they both pulled me up so that I could reach a good jumping spot. The whole thing took around 10 minutes, during which my friends below filmed me as I shook and screamed, scared that I would crash onto the rocks, and were just about to go call for rescue.
I eventually jumped into the turquoise waters and it was breathtaking. But I swore I will never do it again. Only two days later, the news reported that a guy who climbed up the arch had to be rescued by the rangers. At least I wasn’t shamed in the news!