on spending my 30th birthday ALONE:

I love birthdays. Cake and balloons and presents and parties and people. What’s not to love?

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When it comes to my own birthday I tend to have high expectations. I usually have to talk myself down from my anticipation during the weeks leading up to my birthday. Life is life; it’s just another day. I may convince myself of that on the surface level, but deep down my excitement remains. What can I say, I’m an idealist.

I’ve had great and not-so-great birthdays. 23 was meh. It was the last day of World Race Training Camp and no one remembered. I realized halfway through the morning if I didn’t say anything I would be living my own version of Sixteen Candles. How do you happen to drop the fact it’s your birthday? Awkwardly, that’s how.

“Say, what day is it today?” I asked the group of people I was sitting with.
“Saturday,” they answered.
“I mean what’s the date?”
“The 30th.”
“Oh really? Hmmm… I guess it’s my birthday then.”
Blank stares.
“Really?”
“Really.”

(Yes, that’s actually how it happened.)

24 wasn’t that much better (though I did get to spend the first half in one country and the second half in another), 25 was better than I thought it would be, 26 wasn’t epic but it wasn’t bad, 27 was interesting, 28 and 29 were AWESOME.

Last July I knew I would be traveling for work around my 30th birthday, so naturally I began dreaming about having my birthday abroad. I loved the idea of beginning a new decade in a new country. In March I found out I had a layover in England.

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The only problem was I knew I would probably be alone. I tried to recruit friends to join me, but time and money. You know how it goes.

A month before my birthday I celebrated another friend’s 30th birthday. Four of us went out to a fancy dinner in Atlanta. We talked and laughed and had a fabulous time. It made me wonder, did I make a mistake? Is spending your 30th birthday by yourself terrible idea? Would I be lonely? Or worse… would it be 23 all over again?

A few days later my enthusiasm returned when I booked my hostels. To me, the travel bug is more like a travel drug. It makes me high.

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I still wondered what spending my birthday alone would be like. This wasn’t just any birthday either – this was THIRTY. Was I playing it cool, or was I pathetic?

 

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13 Going on 30…

(Bridget Jones's Diary, anyone?)

or Bridget Jones’s Diary??

 

The day before I left for South Africa (my first stop) one of my favorite bloggers published a post about her friend who went to Paris to celebrate her 30th birthday by herself. Other women commented about taking solo trips for their birthdays.

I took it as a sign.

I woke up on my birthday in a hostel in London. I thought about how no one in the entire UK knew it was my birthday. It was my little secret. I got up, got dressed, and had breakfast (tea, chocolate croissant, and a hard-boiled egg). I took the tube to the London Tower Bridge and walked across toward the London Tower.

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At the London Tower I looked at the crown jewels and the torture chamber (because nothing says happy birthday like a torture chamber, lol.)

After that I took the tube to a highly rated Indian restaurant called Dishoom. The wait was 50 minutes, so I ordered takeaway and ate it at Parliament Square. With Westminster Abbey in front of me and Big Ben on my left, I scooped up chicken ruby with garlic naan and made a mess of myself. I used someone else’s leftover water bottle to wash my hands. I was grateful there wasn’t anyone there to witness that moment. (At least anyone I know.)

One of my birthday wishes was to get a picture of myself in front of something London-esque. I can be quite shy when it comes to asking someone to take a picture of JUST ME, so I tried snapping a selfie. It didn’t do justice. I gave up and walked closer to Westminster to get a picture of it. Out of nowhere a man asked, “do you want me to take your picture?”

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I’m convinced he was an angel.

I went back to my hostel for a bit to charge my phone and rest my feet. On the tube I saw a girl with a birthday button that said “I’m 8!” or something like that. “Is today your birthday?” I asked. She said yes. “It’s mine too!” She was the first person I told that day. Then the woman sitting next to me said it was also her birthday. What are the odds?

After my stint at the hostel I went to Buckingham Palace.

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I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, so I decided to get on one of those double-decker hop on/hop off busses and ride it around (I already had a ticket.) One of the bus company workers chatted with me while I waited at the stop. On a whim I told him it was my birthday. “Really??” he said, immediately extending his hand to shake mine. I thought that was funny. “How old?” he asked. “30!” I said. He was surprised and told me he turns 30 in August. We bonded over that. He has a birthday trip to Croatia planned with his family and a few friends.

I rode the bus and got off after a few stops. I was still aimless and also a little tired, so I went to a coffee shop, ordered a chai and sat by the window. I read and responded to the birthday texts I was receiving. Also: Facebook.

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After that I wandered toward Queen’s Theater, where I was seeing Les Mis at 7:30. Inspired by a poster I saw at the tube station, I bought tickets online the night before. I’m glad I did because it gave me something to look forward to all day.

Chinatown was right around the corner, so I bought some takeaway Chinese food and ate it on a bench across the street from the theater.

Then: the show.

I had to ask someone to take this...

I had to ask someone to take this…

I knew it would be good — I didn’t know it would be a slice of heaven on stage. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard voices so striking, so magnificent. It wasn’t just me — the entire audience felt it. We were overcome.

It was the perfect way to end my 30th birthday.

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yup

The next morning I took off for Scotland.

Now that it’s over, I would do it all again. It would have been nice to have someone with me, but I also like that I did something new, something different, something adventurous; I faced the big 3-0 in another country, alone. As Carrie Bradshaw once said, “the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”

P.S. Don’t think I’m not having a big birthday bash though. June 25 and you’re all invited.

P.P.S. THANK YOU to everyone who made me feel so loved from afar!!

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About Hope Naomi

Lover of all things tea and travel.
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13 Responses to on spending my 30th birthday ALONE:

  1. Gosh I love you Hope! You inspire me and motivate me!! Also I’m so so jealous that you saw Les Mis in London!! I think I would have cried the WHOLE time. I’m glad you had a lovely birthday!!! You are so loved!

  2. Thanks for sharing this–i felt liked you invited me to peek inside your soul–and I did. What a beautiful day God gave you. Simply, soulfully beautiful! 🙂

  3. brantcopen says:

    Nice! I hope my 30th is half as good!

  4. Michelle Ford says:

    Yes! Can I be you when I grow up?? well… I guess my 30th is only ~2 months later and I’m following your footsteps a week later, but man… it just seems so much more rad when viewing it through this lens as an onlooker.
    I had a summer birthday, so forget cupcakes in elementary school. and for a few years in a row someone died on my day and then a bear destroyed my car… so I definitely feel for you, and I should start talking myself down from the anticipated high before I’m underwhelmed.
    I’m going to put your birthday in my google calendar to repeat forever annually… so no matter what your birthday looks like in the future, know that I’ll be carving out a slice of time on that day every year to pray for you, no matter wherever we are! 😉

  5. Katie Swan says:

    This is the best. First off, I feel like I jumped inside your bag & went with you to London. And secondly, I get back from Minnesota on June 25th. JUST in time for the big bash. I absolutely. Positively. Cannot wait. (And that’s saying a lot from an introvert – you’re totally worth it). LOOOOOOOOOVE you.

  6. The 25th you say? Pretty sure I’ll be at camp working…drats. Haha. You’re so awesome!! I spent my 30th in October on an island off of Southern California. Haha. It was pretty chill. 🙂

  7. Love this Hope! I love how much you challenge your friends and readers to jump into the unknown…even on your birthday. Keep killin’ it!

    Xo

  8. alysseay says:

    I just can’t get over how much I think to myself, “I love Hope’s life.” Good for you:).

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