I’m not someone who pays much attention to age, but I’ve got a lot of friends that freak out at the idea of a “milestone” birthday—usually something ending in a zero. And since I have some experience with those zeros, I have one really smart bit of advice: Go somewhere else on your birthday. Not because it will help you avoid it—time really does march on—but because when you’re somewhere new, it’s exciting, which means that you don’t have time to dwell on a number.
I spent my 50th in Belize, soaking in the magic of Mayan ruins at Lubaantun, the largest Maya site in southern Belize. I hadn’t intended it as a birthday getaway—it just so happened that I was exploring the country at that time in my life. But once a fellow traveler pointed out that sitting in the jungle contemplating a centuries-old society was a really amazing way to celebrate my 50th, I realized that living in the moment is so much more important than memorializing years’ past.
Since that epiphany, I’ve spent every birthday celebrating somewhere else; my 51st was spent kayaking through a dead ship graveyard in Mallow Bay, MD; I spent my 52st in Puerto Vallarta, drinking tequila with “pirates” on a schooner. My 53rd birthday was spent watching a sunrise in Terlingua Ghost Town in Texas, and my 54th...well, who knows?
Anticipation is Everything
One of the benefits of planning a trip for a milestone birthday is that it makes you look forward to that date instead of dreading it. Trying to decide where to go, where to stay while you’re there, and what activities you want to do takes your mind off of what a lot of people think about on these big dates, which is what they haven’t accomplished—instead of what they could if they gave themselves the chance.
It’s hard to feel stuck in a rut when you’re checking off one of those bucket list items like zip lining across the Las Vegas Strip or taking a mule ride through the Grand Canyon. And it’s hard to feel old when you’re contemplating hiking to the top of a mountain or taking a whitewater raft down Class IV rapids.
A lot of people save up for the big-ticket trips on a milestone birthday—think Hawaii or Paris or Australia—but even if you don’t have the budget to go overseas or to stay in the fanciest hotels, you can still celebrate in style! A lot of hotels offer affordable packages during the off-season, so if you’re birthday falls before or after a heavy tourist time, you can take advantage of lower prices on stays. And since you’ve got a whole year to plan (or even further if you’re that organized), you can look for the best savings on airline flights, as well as look for bargains on Groupon and similar sites for the activities that you want to include.
Even if your budget or family situation (kids in school?) doesn’t allow you to go too far, treat yourself to a getaway weekend somewhere that you’ve always wanted to visit near your hometown. The point is not to get far away, but just to get away—to stop focusing on the year’s gone by and to celebrate the years ahead. Adventures always have a way of making us feel young—and isn’t that better than sitting at home, counting the number of candles on a cake?
Have you every celebrated a big birthday by traveling? Where did you go?
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