Birthdays can be a funny time, love them, hate them, want to run or embrace the ‘new age’, we are all different - the beauty of humans - for me though, I’ve never really been a fan and I don’t know why.
To give some background I remember back to my 21st Birthday extremely worried no one would turn up, even though they had RSVP’d yes, that I didn’t eat all day and well we know what happens then when you add alcohol! Every birthday since has been similar, if a party is organised the main question is ‘will they turn up’, now this isn’t rational and I don’t know where it comes from but it’s how I feel.
So when I decided to do Kokoda as a ‘pre 40th’ goal, and I saw there was a trek that started on my so called ‘big day’ I jumped at the chance! There would be no party, no wondering if people would turn up, no reception so couldn’t even tell if I had calls, txts, Facebook messages, nothing! It would just be me and the jungle, oh and about 50+ team members.
It meant all the stress melted away, the purpose for my birthday was to walk and experience the beginning of a new challenge ahead. So after a pre goal holiday with 7 amazing friends in Cairns, spending time in the sun, the reef and relaxing with a wine and bbq, I was off to PNG.
Experiencing the unknown
Celebrating a birthday is an age old tradition, it is where we give thanks and reflect on the year past and the year ahead, and it happens because tradition expects it so.
The beauty of escaping tradition means you can shake off the masks, capes, the expectation of what is meant to be and lose yourself in the potential of what can be.
My 40th I’ll never forget, from just being in Papua New Guinea, to the team picking up two cakes in Popondetta, and walking them 10km to Hoi where they surprised me after dinner, to the children of Hoi throwing flowers at me and singing the most beautiful version of Happy Birthday (I wish we all sung it this way), the villagers then singing us songs and their magical voices sounding off into the night and to top it off going to sleep to the sound of the jungle and our crew beautifully singing the hymn ‘It’s not an easy road’.
Would I do it again?
Heck yes! My new goal is that every birthday needs to be an experience, outside of the comfort zone and doing something that cements the change of year in a way that won’t be forgotten.
I encourage everyone to give it a ago, to escape the normal and try a birthday without expectations. It could be a villa on a private beach, trekking Kokoda, climbing Everest, jumping out of a plane, volunteering at a shelter, whatever it is I feel turning birthdays into an experience is the way forward.
Yes, this could be tainted by my dislike of birthdays and fear of people not turning up, but I’m more than happy to be joined on an adventure and create memories that last a lifetime.
The best parts
No expectations, being able to be me - no masks, creating memories and a connection with people who are a part of that day and can impart wisdom or knowledge without any filters.
Simply, being in a new place, new experiences and in this case no cell coverage made the day just perfect.
Then two weeks later coming back to seeing all the lovely messages from friends, family, and the odd case strangers, was really lovely too.
It would be great to hear if others do the same and what experiences you’ve had and why you choose an experience over a party.