As of yesterday, I’m 28.
Yet somehow I feel like I’m still 22?
me on my 22nd birthday
There are a few clues that I’m nearer to 30 than 20, like these little eye-wrinkles slowly creeping into my skin, and the way I sometimes get sharp-shooting pains when I suddenly decide I want to be athletic and push myself just a bit too hard.
…Or that it’s the day after my birthday, and I’m not puking vast amounts of red wine vomit while watching Lost, or nursing a headache with a bombass bloody mary (heavy on spice and pickles) rehashing the dirty details of the night before with my favorite people, or passing out on the office bathroom floor from a hangover that bested me.
Actually, I’m not hungover at all. Not even a little. I took my pups for a long walk, then had a cup of coffee, a slice of bday cake, and some leftover fatoush from the night before before starting on my work for the day.
Gosh, I’m really NOT 22 anymore.
22 year old me spent too much time at the tanner and also owned the same cleavage-y bandage dress in 6 “colors”: black, red, zebra, cheetah, white leopard, and tiger. Is animal print a color?
22 year old me would slap 28 year old me across the face if she knew that eventually, birthdays would no longer mean binge drinking and party buses and teetering around on high heels until the wee hours of the morning… but rather robes and (a few) glasses of wine and reading and a fabulous Middle Eastern feast whipped up by my partner followed by watching How I Met Your Mother reruns to be asleep by 10pm.
But honestly – I am SO much happier now than 6 years ago, both on my birthday and the entire rest of the year.
As its become one of my very favorite yearly traditions (I hope you guys like it too!), I’ll be rehashing my most memorable moments (both good and bad) from my previous year.
Without further ado (and in no particular order, not even chronological cuz it’s my bday I can’t be bothered):
Biking the World’s Most Dangerous Road in La Paz, Bolivia
The nights leading up to this adventure were some of the most sleepless in my life. I had almost constant nightmares about falling off my bike… and a cliff.
Spoiler alert: I survived!
Spending 3 weeks in Panama studying Spanish
I spent a week each in beachy Bocas del Toro, mountainous adventure town Boquete, and the happening capital of Panama City brushing up on my Spanish skills with the fabulous Habla Ya chain of schools.
I made more progress in my Spanish during those three weeks than the entire rest of my life combined (including now). Being fully immersed and taking daily classes really gave me the extra boost I’d needed.
Taking a month long girls’ trip
After meeting Lavi in Costa Rica during my 26th year, we became fast friends – talking on WhatsApp almost every day, and sharing our daily details from affair.
I booked a very last minute (just a few days before flying out) trip to meet up with her in Bolivia… which turned into further adventures in Chile and Argentina as well.
Celebrating at my Bachelorette Party with some of my most beloved girlfriends
The photo above sums it all up. Maybe not one of my most attractive smiles ever, but definitely one of the most joyful. My sister planned a fabulous night of penis-related paraphernalia (yes – penis pasta does exist), drinking games, and bar hopping.
It was an absolute blast in my old stomping grounds!
Seeing the Salt Flats in Bolivia
The Salt Flats of Uyuni in Bolivia are a major bucket list item for many people (though I’d barely heard of them before booking my ticket!) and they were certainly no disappointment.
I captured some of my favorite photos of my (short) career of the weird and wacky terrain of the Salar de Uyuni.
Hosting my little brother on his first trip abroad
I am a serious passport-virginity-taker. My sister broke hers in while visiting me in Thailand, and my brother used his for his very first time ever when he come to stay with us in Mexico City.
We spent the week drinking beers, downing margaritas, and playing some serious Cards Against Humanity, while throwing in some sightseeing (of course)
Successfully completing a multi-day horse trek…
I’ve been equine obsessed since devouring the Black Stallion (series) and Misty and everything else even tangentially related to horses and ponies as a elementary school kid.
While I’ve gone on a few less-than-successful horse rides, I had never completed a multi-day trek until Bolivia.
…and getting my foot crushed in the middle of it
Long story short: My horse freaked out and stomped my foot, and I had to ride back 7 hours to Tupiza because we were in the middle of nowhere (see the purple sock above – my foot was too crushed to go back into a shoe or boot).
To be honest, I’ll probably never ride again. Combining my inexperience with hours of riding, a less-than-calm horse, a bit of a language barrier, and the Bolivian countryside equaled a major accident for me, weeks of swelling and limping, and a serious lesson learned. Much to 12-year-old me’s disappointment, I’m not the Horse Whisperer.
Partying with my dad in Las Vegas
The stress of moving and planning a wedding were nicely broken up by a last-minute decision to fly to Vegas for 3 nights!
My dad, a twice-a-year Vegas aficionado, showed me all the ropes, including where to find cheap drinks on the strip (they DO exist!). Purely a fun trip, the only photos I have are blurry phone ones like above.
Moving to Mexico City from Puebla
While we had originally moved from Rio de Janeiro for a job offering Puebla, it quickly fell through. We had to make a last-minute (three days to prepare) move to Mexico City.
I definitely wasn’t psyched about the move, as I’d heard nothing but horrible things about Mexico’s capital, but I quickly grew to fall in love with my neighborhood and new home.
…and then to Puebla (again) from Mexico City
And then some cruel twist of fate brought us back to Puebla after less than a year. Though this time with a little less than a month to prepare.
Spending a week with my college roommate for the first time in years
Jency and I met almost a decade ago at an orientation for Centralis scholarship winners, bonding over seemingly contradictory interests in both parties and overachieving. We became roommates, friends, and later travel buddies when we met up in Thailand after I’d moved.
She visited me for a week at my home in Mexico City, and we’ll be meeting up AGAIN in Thailand in 2017 when she’s a bridesmaid at my wedding.
Going to my first ever Israeli wedding! (and then another one a few days later)
Israelis do weddings right, and better than anyone else (along with a lot of other things – like falafel, pita, and hummus). Israeli weddings involve a lot of shots, club-style music, and at least 3 servings of food – most of which are buffet style.
I took full advantage and literally had one of the best nights of my life. It helps that Ran’s friends are so damn awesome.
Camping at the Sea of Galilea
Growing up with an emphasis on Catholicism was confusing and draining, and I honestly can’t say I gained much other than a recognition for random locations in the Middle East – the Sea of Galilea being one of them (where Jesus did a lot of preaching).
Not only did I get to camp right on the beach of the sea, it was pretty much deserted and we went skinny dipping. Life highlight, seriously.
Trying an all-inclusive for the first time
I never thought I was an “all inclusive person”. I like to explore, I like to make my own way, and I like to experience the culture rather than hanging out with a bunch of fat-walleted travelers.
But all-inclusives are seriously just SO relaxing. Not having to think about money was such a relief for this penny-pinching traveling… and I loved it so much I ended up going back twice more this same year!
Undergoing a month of meditation and soul searching at Yoga Teacher Training
A major goal for my 27th year was to get more in touch with my spirituality, and to give more time to my yoga practice.
I spent a month in Tzununa, Guatemala undergoing a yoga teacher training program (which I successfully passed), while also undergoing some serious soul searching. I left with a greater sense of peace than I’ve likely ever had.
Saving a street dog in Guatemala
I have never seen the level of animal abuse and neglect as in Tzununa, Guatemala and elsewhere along Lake Atitlan. It was devastating and stomach-turning. I began to feed the dogs, knowing that it was a goalless endeavor, but also understanding that even a day without hunger could be the brightest spot in these animals’ sad lives.
With the blessing of Ran, I adopted the most heart wrenching pup from the street, taking him to live with the vet (who warned me he may not survive), and later home with me to Mexico.
Starting my masters program
When I first started university, I wanted to be a psychiatrist. I quickly grew disillusioned with the medical profession in America (and lets be honest: enamored with the party scene), and dropped out of premed to double major in psychology and religion.
Psychology remained a serious interest for me, and this month I started my master’s program to receive an MA in Psychology with a focus on therapy.
Completing a 3 day silent retreat
I’ve always wanted to complete a silent retreat, but at the same time it was never a priority. When the YTT program I chose included a short silent retreat in the middle, the time was right.
All I can say is that short span of days were some of the longest of my life. While extremely valuable and I learned so much from them, I also realized that my place in the world involves communication.
Suffering through some serious border trouble in Argentina
During my month long trip to visit Lavi in South America, we decided to pop down to Chile, and then over to Argentina to take advantage of the chain in reciprocity fees (meaning it’s FREE to visit for Americans).
Unfortunately, the bus company was less than informed and less than helpful – and we were stuck in San Pedro de Atacama for just a bit too long.
Celebrating New Years Eve with my dad and Ran in Rio de Janeiro
My dad is not into traveling, and especially not to countries with corrupt governments, or to cities with a serious crime problem.
Somehow, by some miracle, he still decided to visit us in Brazil (his first visit to see me since I’ve moved abroad). We had a blast at the beaches, and a major highlight was dressing in white and celebrating Reveillon in Rio de Janeiro with fireworks and more than a few drinks.
Enjoying girl time with a bestie from Brazil
One family you receive at birth. The other family you build throughout your life. Bel is seriously my soul sister, and a very beloved bestie from Brazil. I cried and missed her terribly when we moved to Mexico (even though I was admittedly glad to leave Rio itself), and was beyond stoked when she planned a trip to my new country.
She stayed with us for a few days in Mexico City, and then I met up with her in beautiful Cancun and Isla Mujeres for a bit of sun and fun during what was a very stressful and difficult time for me.
Changing our plans to see stars in San Pedro de Atacama
Sometimes, the best travel plans are made to be broken. While I had planned to stay in Bolivia for the entirety of my month-long South American visit, I was having too much fun with Lavi to say goodbye.
We continued onto San Pedro de Atacama, though our accommodation was quite different (and quite a bit more expensive) than we’d imagined.
Hosting my sister for her first time in Mexico (and the third time she’s come to see me!)
us in Rio
My sister is a visit superstar. Since moving to Thailand, she’s come to see me in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, and then Mexico City!
We hung out in the capital for a few days, sightseeing and doing a LOT of walking (wedding diet, what can I say), before hitting up an all-inclusive for her last three days before heading back to the frigid north.
Spending Ran’s birthday in Isla Mujeres
After Bel had introduced me to Isla Mujeres, I knew it was the perfect place to bring Ran for his birthday! Between his work trips and my month at Yoga Teacher Training, we’d been away from each other for 6 weeks, a new relationship record.
We celebrated his birthday and our reunion at a beautiful (and somehow inexpensive) hotel near the beach in Isla Mujeres – though I was dreadfully sick the whole time, my first flu in over a year!
Visiting with my mother-in-law on her first time staying with us
We’ve been to Israel twice, but it hasn’t worked out for anyone from Ran’s family to come stay with us yet. It was a blessing when Ran’s mom was able to take off a whole month and come stay with us in Mexico City.
We did a lot of sightseeing (including my first time on a city tour bus, or at the famed Anthropology Museum), and capped off the trip with a relaxing visit to the beaches Puerto Vallarta.
Picking out our first ever house
A house = more space for my fur babies…
Since moving out as an 18-year-old, I’ve only ever lived in apartments (aside from a short stint in a college-style shared townhouse). For the first time in a decade, I moved into a real, unfurnished house – way bigger than anything else we’ve ever lived in, and cheaper than most as well!
It’s been both an insane hassle and super fun buying the furniture. The department stores in Mexico have a serious problem with following through on purchase agreements (avoid Liverpool and Palacio de Hierro at all costs!!) and as of today we are STILL without the couch we bought a month ago… but what can you do? Aside from call 25 times until someone answers (yes – this is somehow considered “acceptable” at a high end department store) and leave vast numbers of Facebook messages, of course. The only thing that has actually worked is threatening legal action. Fingers crossed we finally have a place to sit tomorrow!
HI Steph! I recently found your blog and I am looking forward to reading more! Seems like you had an incredibly rich year with so many great experiences. Happy birthday! I hope your 28th year is even better 🙂
Thanks so much Alissa! I hope you’re having a great 2017 so far!
Congratulations! You’re young and beautiful!
Aw thanks so much!