Everyday Adventures

A Birthday Blog and Why it Made Me Cry

This weekend I turned 24. Or rather, I had my 24th New Year. I like to look at it this way because I view every birthday as the opportunity to revel in the past 365 days of life and opportunities as well as anxiously look forward to the future.

And with this birthday looming, I spent the past few weeks drafting an apropro birthday post. In a perfect world, it would summarize my year of travels, experiences, encounters, and and all my hopes and dreams for the future (insert sappy music here).

However, this is not a perfect world. And while it sounds light-hearted, nostalgic, and rainbow-filled, it wasn’t. You have no idea how much anxiety this has brought me. No matter how many times I started drafting this post, it came out wrong and I cursed myself for sounding so egoistic (I know birthdays are pretty much your ONE day a year of excused narcissism, but I get major ego guilt about it- but that’s a different post).

I had decided it was not worth even posting about and trashed my blogs, convinced even cheesy Hallmark cards would snub their noses at my feeble attempts.

Then I received a very special message from fellow traveler/adventurer, Mike Restivo of Mike Off The Map.

I’d like to claim that I’m not a total baby but his e-mail made me well up with tears. And I suddenly understood why I couldn’t blog about my birthday. I wasn’t supposed to. I could never top his words. And they were too beautiful to keep to myself.

So now I share them with you, with photos added by me (because you know I’m a sucker for visual aids).

And just as an additive, I hope you all know how much I appreciate all of your e-mails and comments. Some days I question why I do this (and am completely TERRIFIED by my path), but your words motivate me to keep moving forward. And I’m so thankful for them because they’ve led me to some of the best experiences of my life.

So thank you for following and partaking in my adventure. Here’s to hoping my 24th year will be the most adventurous yet!

************

Hilary, 

I imagine today you’re receiving messages from all over the world, from friends of every different language, culture, nationality, people who you’ve touched and inspired by daring to live a life that puts discovery and exploration above all else.

I offer only my simple thoughts:

For the last year I’ve had the pleasure of reading your adventures and in it, I’ve come to realize that dreaming to live a life simply exploring the world isn’t crazy or impossible.

You do something that unfortunately is so rare these days, you find discovery in the simplest moments, you take everything with a rousing sense of humor and I think what truly sets you apart from other writers is that you make your travel personal. It’s not about where you’ve been or what you’ve done, it’s about the moments that you’ve had and the people who you meet.

It’s funny that even though we haven’t met, I’ve found so much of my same feelings and my same emotions in your travels.

I’ve shared the emotions of watching a sunset from a European cityscape like Paris & up close and personal animal encounters, (unfortunately you have the advantage over me as I have yet to meet a single Muppet).

You aim to inspire people to see the world for what it truly is: good people looking for happiness and mutual understanding beyond languages and traditions. And out of the so many journals that I’ve read as a writer, yours has been the one I always look forward to.

So I want to wish you a very happy birthday, and a congratulations on your first travel year. I’m hoping you find it with lots of great friends and family and with the thoughts of people you’ve inspired all over the world. Here’s to another great year, new adventures and discoveries, and the promise of a new traveling partner when I move out West.

Your fellow blogger, traveler, dreamer, and friend,

Mike

62 Comments

  • Reply

    Happy birthday, Hilary! My birthday was this weekend, too. :) I’ve enjoyed your blog, and you’ve helped me appreciate my travel opportunities more. :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      Thank you so much! And happy birthday to YOU as well! Did you do anything special? Take a moment to reflect on your year and hopes for your new year?

      I’m so happy to hear you’ve enjoyed the blog. I love hearing that, for it’s always the goal. =)

      • Reply

        My whole life at the moment is consumed with moving across country to start a new job, but I managed to take time to have a party with friends to celebrate my birthday! It has indeed been an eventful year full of reflection with a totally new life ahead of me to anticipate. :)

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          November 5, 2012

          How exciting! Are you ready to start your new job? What will you be doing now? Whereabouts are you moving to? Sorry for the twenty questions, but I’m so excited for you!! =)

          • Sorry for the delayed reply, but that’s because I’ve been packing and moving! We left Colorado for Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago, and I just started my job last week. It’s quite a change moving from the “west” to the east coast, but I’m sure I will eventually adjust and enjoy some new adventures.

          • Hilary Billings

            November 27, 2012

            Oh no worries; I figured as much. =)

            I can’t wait to hear all about your new adventures! Please keep me posted on how you like the adjustment. Lots of love!

  • Reply

    stevenwwatkins

    October 30, 2012

    Not just “like.” Really like.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      =) Thank you. I really like it to.

      Maybe we should petition WordPress for a “Super Like” button.

  • Reply

    Christina

    October 30, 2012

    Happy birthday! What a nice letter.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      Thank you so much, Christina! It was very sweet to receive. =)

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Lots of love to you.

  • Reply

    Browsing the Atlas

    October 30, 2012

    Happy Birthday! That was a beautiful message. It reflects so much on who you are and how you’ve affected other people — people you don’t even necessarily know! That’s wonderful.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      You are too kind. But yes, I particularly loved this because we have never met, even though we are both on similar paths around the world. It’s comments and e-mails like this that give me the warm-fuzzies and remind me why I do what I do and why I write what I write.

      Sometimes I second guess how I write or compare myself against what ‘other’ travel bloggers are doing and wonder… but things like this and comments like the wonderful ones you leave me help keep me on my unique path. So thank you for that. =)

  • Reply

    comixmaniac

    October 30, 2012

    Happy birthday! I’m afraid I’m not eloquent enough to give you such a beautiful birthday message like the one above, but I want to say that I’ve loved your blog since I began reading it. You always pay attention to the little things, the small delights that really define travelling. I love how you make such a huge effort not only to travel and see new things, but to truly experience the people and the culture. Here’s to another 365 days of amazing adventures!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      Thank you so much, my wonderfully eloquent friend. Even though you may not think it, you’ve left me some of the wittiest comments that crack me UP. And they are so appreciated. As are you kind words of praise.

      Cheers! Looking forward to sharing the next trip around the sun with you. =)

  • Reply

    pagingdrallie

    October 30, 2012

    Happy (belated) birthday, Hilary! I’ve had some of the same thoughts/feelings recently (my birthday was the week before yours!) and all I can say is that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts and admiring your adventurous soul. You are so inspirational and I hope you have a great year filled with more adventures!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      Aww, thank you so much! And happy belated birthday to you too! Are you a scorpio as well?

      And I am so happy you’ve enjoyed them. I’ve greatly enjoyed sharing them. I can’t wait to continue exploring and writing about it and I hope you’ll do the same!

  • Reply

    larkycanuck

    October 30, 2012

    Happy Birthday. Safe Travels. (and get out of Fiji already before the zombies come after you!).

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      Thank you! And haha!

      Oh man, you don’t think my luck is that bad, do you? I often think about Zombie Apocalypses. I’m pretty sure it’s going to start in Los Angeles. I have no basis for this assumption; it’s just a feeling. ;)

  • Reply

    Ingrid

    October 30, 2012

    Happy birthday Hilary. Wow, what a lovely letter to receive. I too, like many of your followers, enjoy your story telling talent. I also admire your independence at such a young age. Continue to follow your dreams and adventures, but don’t stop letting the rest of us tag along for the ride…..you are a gifted a writer. Safe travels :-)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      Thank you so much, Ingrid.

      I feel so grateful and appreciative to have your support and admiration. You are always invited along for an adventure with me! Lots of love!!

  • Reply

    ghummakkad

    October 30, 2012

    Happy birthday to you! Enjoy and live life to the fullest…and keep blogging so that we can be a part of your happiness!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      October 30, 2012

      Thank you so much! I will be sure to keep blogging and living life to its full potential as much as I can!

      Thank you for being part of my happiness and allowing me to be a part of yours. =)

  • Reply

    sjanima

    October 31, 2012

    I always enjoyed your no nonsense blog about your travels and your feelings, the letter of Mike is like hitting the nail on the head. I can’t add anything more succintly as he had said. Belated greetings on your birthday and best wishes. Keep posting and just write. Safe travels Hilary!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Thank you so much! I am so happy to hear it. =) It’s really great to hear that my ‘no nonsense’ way of blogging is appreciated. I often look at other travel bloggers and wonder if I should try things their way, so I’m very thankful to hear that my writing style is appreciated!

      Lots of love to you!

  • Reply

    youngjeninspats

    October 31, 2012

    When I started traveling around the world, it was well before the time of blogs. Yours is the one I wish I had written :-) All those things I have trouble explaining to people you seem to find the right words for. Happy Birthday! Make it one to remember!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Oh my goodness. Best. Comment. Ever. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this to me. It means so much.

      And thank you for your sweet birthday wishes! It’s been a memorable YEAR, let alone birth DAY. =)

  • Reply

    Les Petits Pas de Juls

    October 31, 2012

    Happy Birthday Hilary! As Mike and you stated so well, may those next 365 days be even more wonderful and fruitful as the previous ones! May you live new exciting adventures and may you find every time the right words to share them with us, because it truly seems like they both are things you do very very VERY well!
    Cheers!! (I relate even more as it also was my birthday this month and I can’t wait for more adventures! there’s one coming up anyway!…)
    Enjoy, Have Fun, Be Happy, Write well!
    Jul’

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Happy Belated Birthday to you too, my lady! I’m so excited we’ve had the ability to connect through Wordpres and find each other. Cheers to you and another year of adventure!

      As always, I greatly appreciate your kind comments. They are great motivation for me to keep going forward and experiencing and sharing! =)

      • Reply

        Les Petits Pas de Juls

        November 5, 2012

        Yes, I also find it very rewarding to have found you through WP and to read you, and realize you’re doing at 24 what it took me so long to realize and do with my own life… it’s never too late, and definitely never too soon to do so! Life is the awfully big adventure to be enjoyed thouroughly.
        Do so and keep sharing! it makes me want to travel and see even more, because there’s always something new around the corner.

        Cheers! may our paths even meet some day!
        Jul’

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          November 6, 2012

          Yes, life is an awfully big adventure! And I can’t wait to meet someday. =)

  • Reply

    epilepsymeandneurology

    October 31, 2012

    happy birthday nomad! your window on the world paints pictures and colours emotions that inspire us all to seek adventure and experience. happy blogging in your 24th year, long may your travels continue to inspire.

    Ruth

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Thank you so much for your poetic words, Ruth! They are so beautiful. And I feel so thankful and appreciative that you finds my words so inspiring!

      Lots of love! And here’s to more adventure! =)

  • Reply

    Margyleunbound

    October 31, 2012

    Hope the birthday was a good one. I bet you’ll keep on inspiring people in your new year and all the new years to come!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Thank you so much! It was a great one. Really, what’s made it are all these wonderful comments and e-mails from readers and fellow adventurers. And I hope I do! Thanks for following me on this journey. =)

  • Reply

    Brittany

    October 31, 2012

    Your blog is the issh girl! I’m soo happy for you! May you keep traveling!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Thanks so much, Brittany! Here’s hoping I do!

      And I’m so happy for you too! Lots of love to you in Japan!

  • Reply

    faraway2112

    November 1, 2012

    Hilary,

    First off I would like to wish you a happy birthday. It is my hope that you enjoy the day because it is a very special one.

    In your post, you mentioned “Some days I question why I do this (and am completely TERRIFIED by my path)” It’s easy to understand why you feel this way. Many people are on the job wheel, up to their eye balls in debt and are smothering in suburbia. This is the way the pack moves and we are expected to follow along like the one in front of us, never questioning if what we are doing is really right for us.

    Well, Hilary, you took your shot at going to grad school… and now plan B. Of course it’s rather scary because it’s in the opposite direction of what we are told to do with our lives. But what you are feeling is a GREAT thing!

    You took the step off the beaten path in a direction that very few take. In fact, the path is somewhat overgrown and appears to be impassible. That’s because it’s been awhile since someone has done what you are now doing. You do not have a mentor, a text book or even a lecture to attend that will help to sort out the messy details. The only thing you have to go on is your gut feeling, the internal compass that points in many directions and a desire to just be you.

    Every explorer’s first step is scary as is each one after. That’s how you know what you are doing is right for you and that you are alive.

    Mike

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Thanks so much for the reassuring words, Mike. As always, you know exactly how to speak to me! (Cut from the same cloth I think- haha!)

      Yes, it is terrifying. And yes, I feel a great deal of responsibility for myself and what I’m doing and what I write. I also am terrified of losing my safety net and ‘failing’ at my adventure experiment. (But let’s be honest- I was just a college student… my safety net included a lifetime supply of Ramen noodles- and my graduate school experiment landed me with NO money… so so much for betting on a ‘sure’ thing).

      But like I said in the post, getting these comments and the encouraging e-mails remind me constantly that this is the right path for me, regardless of how scary or wild it may look to a solo twenty-something traveler. =)

  • Reply

    travellingmo

    November 2, 2012

    Lovely!!! Happy birthday girl! I feel as if I know you so well, because we both have the same wandering spirit. The difference is that you are actually out there living it! Your courage is inspiring and your sunny personality and humour have much endeared you too me. Good Luck and Happy Travels,
    Mo

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      Aww, Mo! Thank you so much. Isn’t it crazy how close you can feel to someone you’ve never met? I love the internet =).

      And thank you for your kind words. You are in my heart and I ALWAYS look forward to our comment chats. This adventure wouldn’t be nearly as fun without being able to share it with you! And here’s to hoping I can keep the adventure and humour for many many many years to come. =)

      Lots of love!

  • Reply

    Felix Colatanavanua

    November 3, 2012

    You have had an amazing year and now as you reflect you must prepare for next year. I promise you that it will be even more amazing…. :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 5, 2012

      From your lips… =)

      Cheers, Felix! I can’t wait to see what this next year brings!

  • Reply

    Nosy Ass

    November 5, 2012

    Happy Belated Birthday Hillary! :)

  • Reply

    Anita Mac

    November 7, 2012

    So touching! What a great letter to get on your birthday! You are truly blessed Hilary. There are no words I can add to that. Somehow, it seems so small, but I wish you a Happy belated birthday none-the-less!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 7, 2012

      Thank you so much, Anita! I know it may seem a small gesture to you, but it is a great gesture to me. =)

      Thank you for continually following my journey and having my back. Lots of love to you!

  • Reply

    Ed

    November 9, 2012

    Joyeux anniversaire from France, Hilary! I am so grateful to have found a kindred spirit in you via WordPress, and I hope you keep on traveling (and writing about traveling!). I just finished a long-overdue post about my recent trip to Brussels, and I hadn’t realised just how much I missed writing.

    Your adventures have inspired me and many other people to, in the words of Mark Twain,
    “Throw off the bowlines.

    Sail away from the safe harbor.

    Catch the trade winds in your sails.

    Explore.

    Dream.

    Discover.”

    Thank you for bringing the world to us on your blog. In your 24th year of life,

    May the road rise up to meet you,
    May the wind be ever at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    The rain fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again (in person on that road!)
    May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

    Happy birthday!
    -Ed

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 9, 2012

      Hi Ed!

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I’ve been wondering what happened to you. =) I am so excited to read all about your trip to Brussels! Sounds like you had a great time.

      And I feel so special that you missed my writing! I certainly missed having you to share it with.

      I hope your end of the year is wrapping up nicely! Are you still planning on leaving France at the end of the year?

      • Reply

        Ed

        November 11, 2012

        It’s funny how things work out; part of me is dying to be home with my friends and family again, in my own culture, where expressing myself won’t require such effort anymore, but on the other hand, I will be very sad to leave Paris. It’s now that I’m really starting to realise I have a blossoming French network of friends, and I wish I could stay and keep integrating.

        As of now, my plane ticket back to the States is set for December 20, but my supervisor mentioned something about seeing if I can stay til the end of January. I think it’s a long shot because A) I *do* want to go home for Christmas after being gone for six months and B) They would have to pay me for at *least* the cost of changing my plane ticket and the extra month of rent but we shall see what happens.

        In any case, I’ll be writing about it on my blog! Just back from Lorraine this weekend, so another post is in order.

        Happy trails!

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          November 11, 2012

          I totally can understand and identify with your predicament. The great thing is regardless of whether you go or stay, you are now able to flow through both worlds. And trust me; you won’t lose those friends just because you’re not there anymore. Though I have to say, digital hugs are not much of a replacement. =)

          Can’t wait to see what happens! Same to you, friend!

  • Reply

    aidaweb101

    November 10, 2012

    Happy birthday my friend and all the best wishes!
    (Sorry… I’m only 10 days late :)
    What a great post!!!!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 11, 2012

      Haha! Thank you! And no worries. I appreciate your well wishes regardless! And I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I swear I’m posting tomorrow or Tuesday. You think Fiji Time is getting to me? ;)

      Lots of love!

  • Reply

    ernestwhile

    November 12, 2012

    Aww how wonderful. Happy Birthday, too! Keep on adventuring!

  • Reply

    Adam

    November 13, 2012

    Happy birthday! Just discovered your blog – looks like it’ll keep me hooked!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 13, 2012

      Thanks so much, Adam! Happy to hear that! I love your blog and your unique spin on travel. Looking forward to staying in touch. =)

  • Reply

    stvolpina

    November 13, 2012

    happy birthady Hilary ( a bit late on congrats but….:)), keep on enjoying the world!!! and beuatiful people! :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 14, 2012

      Thank you so much! I appreciate the wishes regardless =)

      I hope I have the opportunity to keep exploring and meeting amazing people. Thanks so much for following the adventure!

  • Reply

    agnesstramp

    November 13, 2012

    Happy birthday Hilary! I wish you lots of adventures. The photos are lovely ;-) There is nothing better than watching sunset in Paris :-)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      November 21, 2012

      Thank you so much, Agnes! I’m very blessed to have had such a wonderful year.

      And I certainly agree with you! Paris is stunning. =) I thank you for being a part of the journey!

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About Me

About Me

Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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