Notes From The Road: A Birthday Abroad

I’m spending six weeks traveling through Ireland/Sweden/Poland/Iceland/NYC, visiting friends and clients. And
eating cheese. You can read about previous travel adventures here.

By the time you read this, I will have officially turned from 32 years old to 33.  Really, one of the reasons I planned this trip was that I wanted to be in strange city on my birthday.

Birthdays are funny things, aren’t they? Some of people hate them, some people ignore them, some people want Fusses Of Epic Proportions Made.  The options seem to be:

1) Throw a party for yourself (occasionally permissible, but awkward if you do this year after year)
2) Devotedly hope that someone throws you a party (and I generally try to avoid putting my happiness in the hands of others)
3) Nothing
4) Use your birthday as an excuse to do something awesome/weird/expensive/unusual

And I, obviously, opted for the latter. 

Because here’s the thing about traveling on your birthday:
even if you don’t do anything amazing
even if you don’t stay out till 3:00, dancing on tables
even if your friends and family are in a different time zone

It doesn’t matter.  You’re in Stockholm/Paris/NYC/Austin!  That’s enough.  You’re having a noteworthy adventure of your own making.

Of course, I don’t travel for every birthday – and it’s certainly not for everyone.  But I, for one, will enjoy this birthday present of new friends, strange food, and an unknown city.

Followed by lots of telephones calls at midnight.

Have you ever celebrated a birthday away from home?  How did you feel about it?  How do you plan to celebrate your next birthday?

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

10 Airbnb tips to find the best places + avoid grody hovels

10 Airbnb tips to find the best places + avoid grody hovels

I'm struggling to figure out the minimalist hipster microwave in my Airbnb when I hear my phone ping. I fuss with the buttons and knobs on the microwave (maybe it's not a microwave?) as my phone pings again and again and again. I've just posted a video tour of the...

read more
The Cheapskate Guide To: Portland

The Cheapskate Guide To: Portland

Is it possible to travel cheaply in Portland - what with all those world-class restaurants, great live music, and some of the best hiking in the country? It sure is! I brought in a Portland native to give us the low-down on the best food carts, $3 cocktails, and how...

read more


  1. London + Grey

    That looks like a really lovely place you're at!

    I'm going to California for the first time for my next birthday. It was a gift from my boyfriend and I wouldn't have thought to do it otherwise, but I'm so excited! I can't wait to go see L.A. and some of the biggest horse races in America (the main reason we're going)!

  2. Ashleah

    I'm about to celebrate my 29th birthday next week in Shanghai, so I'm all for choosing interesting places/things to do for birthdays.

    Last year a spent the weeks around my birthday sipping cocktails & lounging poolside in Phuket, and exploring Hong Kong.

    The year before that i was at home in Melbourne giggling through a comedy gig with my friends and attending Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.

    Even though i haven't gotten to 29 yet i'm racking my brain for the festivities next year, 30 will have to be in an especially memorable place, not sure yet!

  3. Erin Gibson

    Happy birthday, Sarah!

  4. Kristen

    Happy Birthday! My birthdays are usually uneventful but this year I got divorced the day before( didn't plan it that way) and ran a 50k the day after. Travel sounds like a good plan for next year.

  5. Rebekah

    For my 25th birthday I bought myself a round the world ticket stopping off in Hong Kong, Athens and NYC. I wasn't away for the day itself but the thought of my upcoming trip got me through some tricky times. Right now I'm writing this from the island of Koufonissi in Greece. So far, solo lady travel is awesome.

  6. Emily

    I love this idea!! Who really cares about a party when you could be in any of the places listed?

    You can have a party to celebrate your return anyway!


  7. D

    Happy birthday! I celebrated my 21st birthday at the equinox celebration at Chichen Itza, and it was one to remember. I completely support birthdays far away from home. I'm not sure how I'll start off my 28th year, but I think it may be time for some more travel!

  8. Anonymous

    Happy (belated) birthday!

    It was always a dream of mine to spend my 25th birthday in Australia. As I was born in December in extremely chilly Canada, I always wanted to spend a birthday in a summer environment. For my 25th birthday, I went on a snorkeling trip to an island off the coast of Brisbane and saw my favourite band in Sydney 🙂

    I'm planning to go to Peru or South Africa for my 30th birthday.

  9. Anonymous

    You're awesome. Hope you had a wonderful birthday!

  10. Sarah Rooftops

    Happy birthday!

    My boyfriend's birthday is just a few days before mine; this year, they're on either side of a weekend so we're thinking about having a holiday. Maybe the Christmas markets in Prague or Berlin or somewhere like that – we're not sure yet. But I'm really looking forward to doing something *memorable* this year, and something which is special to just the two of us.

  11. Gray Skies

    I've traveled so much, and lived in different cities for school and stuff, but I've never celebrated a birthday anywhere other than my hometown of Portland. I really would like to, though – maybe for my 30th birthday in two years I can go to Paris!

  12. Karolina

    Happy birthday!

    I have spent birthdays in five countries and on two continents, but this Sunday it's my 22nd birthday and it'll be my first one abroad without my family or friends. I'll be flying to Florence (thank God it's just a 2 hour flight) for an intensive Italian course. It'll be my very first solo trip abroad.I'm a little scared but I know it will be a great one to remember. I've been inspired to try solo travel ever since I started reading your blog — this time it's "just" a language course, but next time maybe I'll be swimming with piranhas or riding an elephant?

  13. Mandy

    Happy, happy birthday! I'm so glad you had a great day!

    My last birthday was exactly a week after my boyfriend of a year and a half and I broke up, so I was a bit blech. However, I managed to spend it at my family's cabin with six of my best girl friends. They brought up surprise cupcakes and gifts, and we had a fun birthday breakfast on the porch. Really, what could have been a really bummer day ended up being fun thanks to them. And I have no idea what I'll do next year. I still have 10 months to plan though!

  14. Leslie

    I celebrated my birthday in London this year. It wasn't on purpose; it just happened to be the only time I could go. It was amazing! I don't know how I could ever top it.

  15. Kit

    Happy Birthday! I'm a bit of a homebody, and with my birthday falling on December 30, I tend to stay at home to have a quiet celebration with family. Then my friends and I go out for drinks in January. I'd love a surprise party, but am not holding out for one!

  16. Lauren

    Happy Birthday!

    I will be spending my 25th birthday at Lake Naivasha in Kenya this year. I'm pretty excited – I've never been to Africa before and I'm going solo so it will definitely be an adventure!

  17. solosingaporean

    Happy birthdayy!

    I'm really psyched to be travelling on my 24th birthday in 2 month's time. I'll be at hong kong for the 1st time!

  18. lo

    I usually plan trips or some sort of adventure as a present to myself around the time of my birthday and this year my boyfriend and I are going to Bali the weekend after I turn 26! For the years I can't afford/ don't have the time to travel I at least take myself out to a really nice lunch (nice doesn't have to mean expensive- last year I bought myself a burger and fries from the best burger place in town!)

  19. eemusings

    Happy birthday Sarah! Sounds just wonderful.

    Spent my winter birthday on a tropical island last year (planned). Spent it in marginally warmer Sydney this year (unplanned, for work but plenty of time to play) and while I was alone, and most of the actual day was spent in the airport delayed, still had a blast. Hopefully overseas again next year…

  20. Maeva

    Happy birthday !!

    I spend my last birthday in UK with my housemates. I was surprised they bought me a cake and cooked pasta (I love pasta). It was not much but it really make me happy.
    My birthday is coming soon (sept 15) and I wonder if I should go to London alone and visit the Harry Potter Leavesden set, I really love Harry Potter and dreaming of visiting set but … money ;_;

  21. Helena

    I turned 21 while I was studying in Paris (almost 10 years ago, eek!). That's usually a big-deal birthday in the states but isn't so big in France.

  22. camanoe

    Happy Birthday! My birthday always falls during Mothers' Day weekend. Even in my thirties, I'm require to be home. Sigh. I love birthdays though, but, unfortunately, my last few have sucketh. It's no fun to plan something for yourself, so I end up doing "whatever" with "whomever" may be around the evening of. So pitiful. Perhaps if I start dropping hints to my boyfriend in January, that will give him time to pull something together by May. :-p

  23. Jessica

    Happy birthday!! I try to go away for my birthday, if only to the next town over which is usually – ta da – Stockholm 🙂

Pin It on Pinterest