Who spends their milestone birthday, the dirty 30, alone – no friends, no family and literally on the opposite side of the world? I did… and it felt so damn good!
For the past 10 years, I’ve actively imagined what turning 30 would be like. Would there be a big party with family and friends? Would I be in a serious relationship, with my own business and a few mini Vagabonds running around? Perhaps, I would be the guy that had life entirely figured out. Or, to be more blunt, would I even make it 30 as a Black man?!
However, I never dreaded the day…
The thing is, your journey to 30 and what it must entail is whatever you want it to be. No rules. No judgements & comparisons. No written manuscript. I’m totally responsible for myself and each day I’m quickly discovering how capable I am, something that manifest with every adventure. I approached 30 with an open mind and will continue to curate more incredible adventures that continues to redefine the person I’m meant to be.
Okay, enough preaching and on to the fun stuff! How I planned my epic 30th Birthday!
The Planning Process
When Philippine Airlines launched their new route from Dubai to Auckland back in March 2017, they flocked to social media to let all jetsetters in on their deal, flaunting a roundtrip ticket for only $300 USD! Immediately I thought, what’s the catch?
There wasn’t any. I’ll admit, I’ve never flown Philippine Airlines and I was a bit skeptical to try. However, the deal was too good to pass on. I contacted a few friends, searched YouTube for videos of the aircraft interior/amenities, and stalked Instagram for in-flight photos. After a full day of “travel investigation”, I was now comfortable, and just like that, New Zealand became the destination for what was sure to be an epic 30th birthday celebration!
Whenever I book an airfare ticket, I immediately research what neighboring destinations I can add on. Naturally, Australia came to mind first. After compiling a list of things to do in Sydney (the rest of Oz will require its own dedicated trip), I quickly realized two days was enough to conquer my areas on interests. Check!
Venturing further East, there’s Fiji – a destination I once classified as unreachable, too expensive, only for couples and the list goes on. Not anymore. Fiji was now a part of the line up – Check!
Lastly, since Manila is the hub for Philippine Airlines, all flights to Auckland will require a connection in the capital city. I selected the route with the longest layover (20 hours), which granted more than enough time to explore the city.
Accommodation! I’m not a hotel snob, BUT, I like what I like! Selecting hotels is one of my favorite parts of the process (and sometimes, the most stressful). I’ve earned Platinum status with Orbitz this year, making the hotel selection process a bit easer. As a top-tier member, you have access to certain perks:
- Checked baggage reimbursement
- Special pricing and discounted coupons (up to 25% off)
- and most importantly, hotel perks such as free upgrades and dining vouchers
All hotels, with the exception of Fiji (I booked a special package directly with the Intercontinental), were booked via Orbitz and I’ll be the first to confirm, I was upgraded in every hotel in New Zealand, Australia, and the Philippines!
Lose 5 kilos. That didn’t happen… moving right along!
The Journey to 30
Starting September 1st, I had two governing rules for each day:
- Do something you’ve never done before or
- Do something (anything) you’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing in the past 29 years of life.
Day 1 (Dubai): On Fridays we Brunch! I’m no longer explaining to my Mother why I haven’t saved any money since moving to Dubai – 20% Rent, 40% Travel, 40% Brunch. I’m 8 days shy of 30, I’ll do what I want 🙂 ! And I’ll do it with friends so that I don’t feel too irresponsible.
Day 2 (Dubai): Last year, I spent my 29th birthday at the world’s only 7 star hotel. The Burj Al Arab understands my thirst for luxury and has repeatedly over delivered and redefined my experience. This is the perfect Spa escape.
Day 3 (Dubai): It’s all about self-care these days. Relax your mind, unwind and mentally prepare yourself for the amazing journey ahead.
Day 4 (In-flight): Departure Day. It’s only a matter of time before the term “Vagabond Syndrome” is added to my list of ailments.
Quick tip: Get upgraded on your flight. I always book economy and wait for my “bid” email to secure a seat in business class. It’s well worth it for an 18 hour journey. And a glass of Champagne is always welcomed!
Day 5 (Auckland, NZ): 1824 Grass fed, grain finished signature prime rib?
My love for steak is immeasurable. This particular cut requires 24 hour advance notice and served to perfection. And to answer your question, yes… I stopped in Auckland for only 24 hours to have this particular steak!
Also, check out the pad used to refresh from 18 hours of traveling!
Day 6 (Sydney, Australia): Being on the edge isn’t as safe, but the view is better! A day well spent on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk – trekking, watching surfers, sipping Rose with other nomadic spirits and my God, the views!
Day 7 (Blue Mountains, Australia): Into the wilderness I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. I’ve always enjoyed getting lost in nature – with no sense of time and no worries.
Day 8 (Fiji): Arrive in Paradise and phone Mum to thank her for bringing me into this world and grooming me into the Man I am today!
Day 9 (Fiji): Day 9 was spent on Cloud 9, Fiji’s only two-level floating bar surrounded by nothing but turquoise waters!
Day 10 (back to Auckland, NZ): What a time to be alive! I’d risk the fall just to know how it feels to fly!
Day 11 (Waiheke Island, NZ): I love zip lining. I LOVE wine. “I’ll take Zip lining to wineries for $800 Alex!”
Day 12 (Hobbiton, NZ): The Unexpected Journey! Absolutely one of the most breathtaking sites I’ve seen! I now know why New Zealand has been coined as the Beauty of the South Pacific.
Day 13 (Waitomo Caves, NZ): The Black Abyss – do something that makes you uncomfortable. Abseiling, zip lining, jumping, climbing, black water rafting… all in the dark. You can hear what’s coming, but you can’t see!
Day 14 (Waiheke Island, NZ): Pack your bags, fill your tank and hit the road. No maps, no itinerary. Simply get lost in a beautiful place.
Day 15 (Manila, Philippines): The City of Dreams, Manila. Take rest at NOBU and reflect on the amazing journey that just took place. Life is good, but the adventure is better!
Stay tuned for more in-depth experiences from each country! Until then, cheers to the Vagabonding Life!