My Birthday in Vang Vieng

How to turn 31.

Celebrating my 31st Birthday in Vang Vieng, Laos.

This is how I normally look on my birthday…
Chicago is cold. I wear sweaters on my birthday.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve never in my life turned a new age without being bundled in a sweater of some sort, usually accompanied by a down coat, gloves, a knit hat, a scarf. Chicago is cold in January.

So, when I knew I’d be traveling this year on my birthday I had only one goal in mind: to be in a bathing suit. Vang Vieng seemed like as perfect place as any to spend the day. Especially considering that I’m verging on the age where I’m too old to do that shit anymore.

When I woke up that morning Gus was, thankfully, alive. I really was worried that he’d had a concussion and would end up dead or in a coma. Not that I really know what falling asleep with a concussion does but I’ve seen enough movies to know that you’re not supposed to do it. He was pretty much worse for the wear though, so he stayed in bed leaving me on my own.

Luckily, when you’re in a backpackers mecca you are so rarely actually alone.

I had lunch with Guti, an Israeli I’d met the night before. We watched an episode of friends, ate chicken, waited for his bus. And then I latched onto a few people from my hostel and off we went to the river.

I spent the day drinking whiskey buckets, kissing random boys (I lost count but I’m pretty sure my days total was somewhere between 15 and 20…), rocking beer pong, getting a lap dance (see video: I swear I don’t remember it lasting that long…or making out with him quite so much…), getting spray painted, dancing, partying, meeting new friends, having an awesome time…

And later, back at the hostel, as I fell asleep debating over dinner, I woke up to Ami, another Israeli, and a whole group of people, singing Happy Birthday, bringing cake balls lit with Hanukkah candles.

And later, I forced myself out to Q Bar, to talk with random travelers, to dance with random people, to eat more cake lit by more candles brought from a English man I just met…

I was tired. And drunk. And forced myself to stay out until just past midnight before going back, crashing in my hostel.

It was the first birthday I’d ever had away from home, away from wherever it was I was living in Illinois (be it Chicago, the burbs, or Chambana). It was my first birthday without a winter coat. And it was my first birthday surrounded by strangers.

It could have been a lonely day, but everyone went so far to make sure I was having fun, to make sure that everything was special. And its days like that that truly make you realize how amazing this world is. How amazing the people of this world are.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Jaime
    January 27, 2012at4:45 pm

    4 words… HOT MESS – LOVE IT!

  • Darlene
    January 29, 2012at9:44 am

    Hey! I have been addicted to your blog since I randomly found it by googling pictures of vietnam and a picture of a dude I thought looked familiar came up, so I clicked it, and it sent me to your blog!
    I was wondering if you could tell me how it was finding hostels and places to stay and all that in vietnam, and if it was cheap or what you get for your money or anything! I’m living in Ireland right now (though I’m from Canada), and going to vietnam for maybe a month to travel around and then spend two weeks on a hot beach!
    Any info would be great, email me!


  • Stuart Edwards
    January 29, 2012at10:02 am

    Haha! Looks messy. Loved it in Vang Vieng, liver suffered for a while!
    Were you guys at the Q Bar afterwards?!

    The birthday cake at the end is a nice touch… do you remember eating it? Ha

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.