This year marks the 12th year I’ve celebrated my birthday away from family and the city I grew up in. Since then I have celebrated in various cities around Australia, the USA (Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, New York) Russia, New Zealand, the UK (London) and now in Rome, Italy.
In Rome, I celebrated early by visiting the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain while taking a long walk around Rome, sipping strong coffee and eating gelato. I had only arrived a day or two before and had not had a chance to meet anyone to celebrate with (as my real birthday would be spent at the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport awaiting a cancelled flight to NYC. Thanks, Sandy) but it was as incredible as it would have been had I been surrounded by friends. I celebrated my birthday with the city I dreamed of when I was small.
In front of the Trevi fountain, I found a small place to sit on the steps and pondered life in front of the great monument, surrounded by hundreds of people I do not know and have never seen before. I have a hunch that this non stop travelling lifestyle is going to slow down pretty soon. I don’t know how, but while in Milan, it was made clear.
The reason I had started travelling around the world goes back to when I was around 8. The desire was there, but living in Australia you have a sense that everything is very far away and it may not be possible. When I was around 12 or 13, I started studying geography and due to many events people will put down to either fate or coincidence, I was led to Pennsylvania. I studied everything about PA history and geography and once I knew it I extended my search to the rest of the US. But while my love for travelling was always there, PA was, for the most part, a metaphor that stood for far off places and my independence. Why it was PA, I have no idea. It’s not exotic as Morocco or as intriguing as Cairo. But there is one tiny town in PA that watered the seed inside of me. It was all possible and it didn’t matter that I was 15000 miles away. If I wanted to travel I could. I just needed to make it happen when I grew up.
Now, after travelling for 12 years, I will be moving to PA in January for 6 months, a small town not too far away from the town that led me there to begin with. And it dawned on me. PA was the beginning of this life, it could also represent the end. A cycle finished. A full circle. What that means exactly I don’t know. I stood up to walk to the train station and in the midst of the crowd, I saw the only Hard Rock Cafe shirt I had seen while in Italy (everyone is very well dressed). I looked at the shirt slightly covered by his jacket. Hard Rock Cafe…the wind blew his jacket open as I stared. Hard Rock Cafe…Philadelphia. Seriously. I rolled my eyes but thought back to the bus trip to Glasgow Airport and how I fell asleep, pondering if I was making the right move or if I should have stayed there working. I woke up just as the bus was parking in front of a shop in the middle of Glasgow called Philadelphia.
Maybe I am on my way to a new phase in life. A more settled version. I’m excited to see the place that I settle down in and the person I do it with – both must be incredible to give up this life for. Or one hopes.
What did you do on your birthday? Were you somewhere far off in the world or were you in the comfort of familiarity?