I have been conscious since the start of this year that I’m turning thirty, the big 30 is here and I don’t think I’m ready. How does one ever know they are ready? Well, how I see it is, when one turns thirty, typically s/he is married, s/he has a good job, s/he is a home owner and s/he has a child or is expecting one. These are some of the ideas I grew up with and associate people who are turning thirty with. Now, of course, I have many a friends who have none of the above at this age, they are content with what they have and are in no hurry to achieve any of the above. I have friends who are in a long-term relationship, in between jobs, renting a room and living with their cat or dog. The reality is different to what media and even society dictates.
In the same way, I have friends who wish to travel, who want to explore 50 countries before they turn 30, who want to work and live overseas and do some volunteering overseas. They are no hurry to get married and settle down. These alternative ideas of living are not ones which are encouraged or discussed at any great length. I’m turning thirty and I’m not married, I’m unemployed, I have no room or house to my name and I have no children. That said, I have been fortunate enough to have travelled and explored a total of 44 countries to date. Over the last three years, I managed to explore 27 countries solo and 17 countries I visited with family and/or with friends. I plan on exploring Vienna and hopefully Bratislava which will bring my total to 46 countries which is not bad.
My idea of what should or could be achieved at the age of thirty didn’t change because of society, media or family. Rather because of my travels and the people I met. I met many young backpackers; 18 year olds who were taking a gap year or a break before starting university however, I also met 30 something year olds who had quit their job, gone on a career break or were simply pursing their dream of travelling. I was fortunate enough to meet a diverse range of people, after all, there is no set profile for a backpacker or traveller. It was these quirky, unique, free-spirited individuals who impacted me the most. I admired their outlook on life, drive to pursue their goals and energy to overcome any hurdles. Age didn’t define them, more what they had achieved and the dreams they had yet to achieve did.
I initially wanted to come home for my 30th birthday as I wanted to celebrate it with my family and friends. However, I was in Italy and I had the choice of celebrating my birthday with new friends, in a new city, doing something different and so I opted for this. Of course, I would have loved to have done both, this would have been ideal and maybe once I’m back, I will have a belated birthday celebration with family but for now, I decided to stay in Italy. Having spent four days in Rome, I caught a train to Florence on my birthday. It was a three hour journey and I arrived at my hostel, which was not too far from the station or the centre, early in the afternoon. I set off and explored as much of the city as I could by foot. Unlike Rome, Florence is not very big but a beautiful city nonetheless.
I met some great people at this hostel. I left with four of them; a retired American couple and two Brazilians to catch the sunset. The owner of the hostel gave us directions and a bottle of home made wine which set the tone for our evening. We ended the evening with pizza and beer (American style). It was a wonderful way to spend my 30th birthday. Sure, for some, it may sound like a ‘normal’ or an ‘average’ day and in many ways it was only, I spent it in a country I wanted to explore for as long as I can remember. I spent it in a new city with new friends and whilst we may not meet again, we shared a good moment. I didn’t tell anyone at the hostel or these four friends that it was my birthday. I didn’t want the extra attention or the singing. I spent my birthday exactly how I wanted to. There was no pressure and/or expectation and so it just flowed.
Birthdays can be and sometimes should be a big deal in my opinion, after all this is the day you or your friend arrived into the world. It is a great moment to celebrate and acknowledge the impact of this with a party or cake or presents. However, in my eyes, one day is not enough. One day every year is not a enough to express my love, gratitude and celebrate the birth of all my family and friends. Why wait to have a party or to make another memory? Why not celebrate friendships, the end of unhealthy relationship or the rainy days? Birthdays, for me, are one of many means to spread joy and love with those nearest and dearest but they are not the only occasions. We have many opportunities to just burst out a dance move, plan a party and get all dolled up should we wish to grab them. We have a choice after all between making each and every moment count or watching them pass by and regretting we didn’t live when we hit 60.
I’m turning 30 and whilst I have done some embarrassing things, made some rash decisions and made plenty of mistakes; I regret only the things I didn’t do, the things I didn’t say and the moments I let slip away. I don’t believe in regrets, in the same, I don’t believe in holding a grudge. When I look back at my life, like many of us to, I feel that I did pretty good. I am happy with how far I have come and I know I have it in me to reach the next milestone, the next chapter in my life. I don’t fit in and follow the standard social norms and values and I certainly don’t have what many people typically have at the age of 30. However, I fit in with the crazy ones, the misfits and the rebels and I wouldn’t have it any other way friends.