Sunday, November 26, 2006

birthday road trip

Have you ever stopped to think about what your birthday really means to you...I mean beyond birthday cards, cream frosted cake, and gifts from loved ones?

My best friend for many years succumbed to cancer six years ago. I cried for her. Cried for her babies. And as her birthday loomed (five weeks ahead of mine) I felt an ache in my heart that she’d never see her five kids grow up. And how that day, for them, would never again be a time of joyous celebration, no matter how positive a spin they applied, or how brave a face they learned to wear.

I tell you this, not for empathy, but because it made me look

differently at birthdays and the traditional celebration around them; and five years ago, I began my own tradition.

Every year during my birthday month, I go on a four or five-day road trip. I make no serious plans, other than my first night’s accommodation. And make few rules, except that I go alone. No exceptions. I take no laptop, no Blackberry, no Sidekick. I don’t check voice or email, and my cell phone remains turned off.

I travel lightly. But there are some things I always pack and one of those things is my copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, now so dog-eared that it’s held together with tape, and so overly marked with neon yellow highlighter and red exclamation points that there are few pages left as the publisher intended. I may re-read some of it. All of it. Or none of it.

My oversize black leather-bound sketch book also goes with me. Not because I sketch. But so that I can brainstorm and scribble and mind-map whatever pops into my head without being restricted by blue lines breaking up the page, or the size limitations of a normal notebook.

I take good hiking boots and two waterproof jackets. And even if it hails and storms all day long, I walk for a couple of hours every day, preferably on the beach, wind in the hair, feet splashing in the shallow surf. I also pack today’s favorite chi-chi outfit and four-inch-heels so I can take myself out to at least one super fancy dinner.

Without pressure, I like to reflect on the past year: Did I do what I set out to do? Did I enjoy it? Was it worth it? And assuming I’m lucky enough to have a next year, I think about new projects I want to develop. I think about what I want to do more of, less of; where I want to give my time and energy, and with whom I want to spend it. And I think about how I can make a difference, in my own small way.

This year I don’t feel like driving somewhere different each day as I have on past road trips. So I’ve booked a beachfront suite on one of my favorite beaches. There’s a large writing desk facing the ocean, and the French windows open onto white sand that stretches south for several miles. I’m looking forward to being lulled to sleep by crashing surf. And nudged awake by crying seagulls and 5-star room service.

When I get home, always invigorated, always reignited with passion and reverence for this life we live, I begin my New Year—the day after my birth day. This tradition is my birthday gift to myself. I hope you do something nice for yourself on your own special day.

Smile at the Rain artwork by Beth Hendrickson Logan.


Gattina said...

I never care about birthdays except my husband and son the others I don't even know. And we don't do anything special either. I like to make organized roundtrips, in October I have been to Turkey and it was just wonderful. I love history and landscapes but I don't like to climb in mountains !
If you want go to my travel blog :

Thanks for your comments on C & C ! I haven't been on your blog yet.

Ant said...

That is truly inspiring. And there's a lot here I can relate to...

I like to be reflective on my birthday too: I take the day off work and just try to look back on the year in quiet solitude. The road-trip idea sounds great but I suspect I'd want to keep the connection thing - usually my brainstorming and scribbles involve looking stuff up on the portable library that is the WWW.

And I use blank notepads for exactly that reason too... :o)

Err, happy birthday? (Or were you just writing about the notion?)

Anonymous said...

A wonderful birthday gift to yourself! I really like the idea of taking some time away from the everday hustle to reflect on where you've been and where you're going.

Enjoy this year's sounds perfect!

DesLily said...

I think if I got myself in a 5 star hotel.... I'd want to stay! lol

Everyone needs some time alone and to be, at least, slightly pampered..too bad most of us don't or can't do that.

Anonymous said...

I usually ignore my birthday.
If I could swing that kind of a celebration.... I would be a little more birthday happy.

Deirdre said...

What a wonderful gift to yourself. Happy Birthday.

Anonymous said...

Oh does this sound like a terrific idea. Except I will have to wait until next Septemeber! Do enjoy :)

John Ivey said...

I usually don't even remember my birthday until reminded by someone who keeps track of it better than I. Then I think, oh yeah, it is my birthday, isn't it? I can think of one good reason to celebrate my birthday, and that would be to commemorate Ansel Adams whose date of birth coincides with mine. His photographs never cease to amaze me with their beauty and technical perfection. I had the good luck to see an exhibit of his, and his original prints are absolutely breathtaking.

Ansel and I also share a birthday with Patty Hearst, but I'm not sure what to make of her...

I applaud your taking a birthday-inspired hiatus far from the madding crowd. I'm sure it IS rejuvenating.

WithinWithout said...

Bibi, that's just called living life to the fullest, treating yourself, invigorating yourself.

This is more than's brilliant and something more people, myself included, should do.

Anonymous said...

I am so in awe that you do this. I can't even go to the movies by myself but I have fantasies of visiting strange lands and being in solitude. You are amazing and I suspect you would have made a great pioneer if you'd been born in those days.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Hey Vicki (well, when you get back)...hope you didn't get caught in the arctic slam we've gotten this week, but somehow I think you may have. Drive safe, and stay warm.

Hugs and happy birthday, and I hope many, many, more of them.


Bibi said...

Gattina, well thanks for stopping by. At least you remember the important birthdays!

Ant, no, I really do this. And I'm so looking forward to it I can barely contain myself lol. It's good you take the day off and enjoy.

Becca, thanks, and I'll do my best to have a fab time ;-)

Deslily, I guess I'm lucky that my BD falls in the off-season so I can get splurge a little more.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to a great person.

Bibi said...

Pamela, age-wise I prefer to ignore ;-) but small things to celebrate can make a difference too.

Deidre, thanks for BD wishes!!

Pete, maybe you could do a belated celebration? Sept is too far away to wait on.

John, hmmm, don't know what to make of the Patty Hearst connection either. Very familiar w. Ansel Adams' work and it's wonderful.

Bibi said...

Within-without, thanks, I hope you do something equally as fun for yourself!!

Anon, yes, I can see myself in the old pioneer days ... Calamity Vic lol.

Yazza, mucho gracias! Think a little snow will stop me?? ;-)

Pen said ... =:D ... I am sooo, sooo busted. Is that Lair? (Or maybe Perc?) C U when I get back.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

This detachment from the trappings of modern society sounds invigorating and ritualistically earthy.

Many of us just coast through the years. Before long, all those plans on the backburner get stuck to the pan because we forget to keep checking on them.

Then they become an unpalatable mess, and much time is wasted bitterly scraping them off.

Kudos to you.

This is a disciplined way of keeping a bead on goals and avoiding stagnation.

Kiyotoe said...

This sounds like a great idea. I need time with myself like that every once and a while to reprioritize things. Maybe I'll start doing it on my birthday.

Can I borrow that idea?

Bibi said...

Kiyotoe ... go for it dude!! It really puts things in perpective when you can make the time to step back.

Ultra Toast ... feeling the pressure to take my laptop, but I'm going to resist. And yep, we all need stirring up occasionally.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the solo b-day. Every year people ask me what I want and it puzzles them when I say, "Nothing..." but that's exactly what I need. No party, no phone, no traffic, no junk for presents- just me! It's the best day of the year.

MSU gal said...

wow! That sounds great. I never want a birthday celebration but it is near Superbowl (now that they moved it to Feb.) When I get to the Superbowl party, they have a little birthday celebration for me.
As for taking a trip alone, I have only done it one time. Trips have always been planned with family, friends, or the ex. Now that I have the B-girl I suspect it will be many years before I get another chance to take a trip alone, so keep blogging and I will live vicariously through you!

Bibi said...

paz y amor, I'm glad you celebrate "just me" ... good for you.

msugal86, ah... but the B-girl is ovely and I'm sure you'd only miss her if you went away without her!