Somehow, almost 365 days have passed and it's almost my birthday again. It feels like it was just the other day when I was in Charleston having an early celebration at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. And now it's March 2017, and I am once again heading further into my 30s. I'm really hoping this aging like fine wine thing is applicable to me.
This year, I'll be heading to Cuba where I've heard internet connectivity is scarce and the vibrant culture is abundant.
Every year, if I'm able to, I try to plan a trip around my birthday. This year, I'll be heading to Cuba where I've heard internet connectivity is scarce and the vibrant culture is abundant. I'm looking forward to disconnecting, experiencing Havana and the countryside and exploring a place that has been closed off to Americans until recent years.
As I get ready for my trip, I've been reminiscing on my past birthdays and the various celebrations I've had in countries across the globe. And then I decided to stop reminiscing and start writing some of them down. Here are a few of my most memorable birthday celebrations around the world:
Turning 21 in Ghana
Ironically, I turned the legal drinking age in a country where it didn't matter. But that's okay because my 21st birthday in Ghana was unlike any other. For starters, I went to a Ghanaian funeral. Yes, a funeral on my birthday. I did not know the person who passed away and went as part of the study abroad program I was in at the time, but I remember the customs, the vast amount of people, the black and red clothing and the celebration of life. The rest of my day consisted of more typical birthday celebrations — friends, food, drinks and dancing. It was a truly memorable way to start my 21st year.
Turning 26 in London
Similar to my time in Ghana, I had an amazing group of classmates who I had gotten to know during graduate school in London. So, when it came time for my birthday, it felt like the only thing to do was invite everyone to a night out on the town. After doing some research (yes, even then I was doing travel research), I decided to have my party at Kanaloa, a Tiki-themed bar in Holborn with fun drinks, great music and room for 25-30 of my nearest and dearest. But before that happened, I spent the day in Greenwich, England with a few classmates, where we got to visit a local market and learn about the Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency. So, once again, it was a mix of learning something new and good ole' partying. Just how I like my birthdays.
Turning 27 in India and Up in the Air
This birthday was a bit of a crazy one. Why? Well, right before it became my birthday in India, my family and I lost my mom at the train station in Delhi. Cue chaos, tension, raised voices and a good dose of confusion. Fortunately, my mom knew where to go and we all reunited at our hotel in Delhi, just before the clock struck midnight. The next day, my family surprised me with a birthday cake and gifts at our hotel before we left for the airport. I spent the rest of my birthday up in the air on my way to Paris. It was an eventful way to end one year and start the next.
Turning 30 in Trinidad, Mexico and Florida
When I started to think about how I wanted to enter the next decade, I knew I wanted to do something unique and, most importantly, my own. So I created a trip that was a little bit of what I love – visiting a friend in her hometown (or home island) in Trinidad for a few days followed by a solo jaunt to Tulum, Mexico and Chichen Itza and then, on the day of my birthday, I flew from Mexico to South Florida to spend time with family. It was the perfect combination of seeing friends and family while getting in some solo exploration time, not to mention eating some fantastic food in Trinidad, Mexico and Miami. As far as birthdays go, this one was pretty ideal.
Turning 31 in Charleston
I spent my actual birthday weekend with friends in New York, but the weekend before I had an early celebration in Charleston, a place that had long been on my travel bucket list. It was also the weekend of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, so it was more or less my foodie dreams come to life. So much southern food, so much really good food and all of it with the backdrop of downtown Charleston. I also had the opportunity to take what is my favorite cooking class to date at a place that's unfortunately since closed (sad to see you go, Charleston Cooks!), but if you ever want to know how to make perfect fried chicken, shoot me a note because I learned how to do it in Charleston.
I'm grateful for the fun and memorable birthday celebrations I've had so far and look forward to the next. See you soon, Cuba!