turning 23 in a foreign city

my birthday really crept up on me this year. normally i dread it coming for weeks and worry so much about what i'll do that i'm just annually disappointed. because i used to see birthdays as a loss of some sort, rather than a natural progression of life.

this year, instead of dreading the impending doom of a higher number. i was too damn incandescently happy to think of anything other than the amazing things i've been experiencing. and rather than feeling like a whole 'nother year was wasted stressing about school or work or living in a place i couldn't stand, i felt proud of how i spent it. 22 was so good to me.

nearly every day of the past year has felt like my birthday. because i quit my job and graduated college and moved far away from that place i couldn't stand. i chose to live deliberately and make every day a little special. i went out in search of happiness and i followed it ardently, like a lover i could never live without again.  

this year, i'm PROUD of all the years that i've acquired. because i've lived the hell out of them and i have no regrets. 

so i treated this birthday, this 4th of july, just like any other birthday-like day, in that i celebrated being alive and happy. and thats the way every day should be.  

this birthday was extra special, without even really trying. everything came together so perfectly. all because i was lucky enough to be in the company of some top notch people. 

noelle and i woke up with the light of the view and did some yoga to get our blood pumping. it was such a perfect way to start the day---immediate good vibes. a little later, my friend chelsea from high school came over with pretty little dutch pastries as presents for me! :) we girls (scarlett, noelle, chelsea, and i) had breakfast together and talked like long-lost best friends, although we were all kind of strangers.

i'd just gotten to know noelle from traveling with mutual friends, and scarlett from being invited to stay at her house in amsterdam. scarlett and noelle hardly knew each other too, only having met at a couple parties at FSU. and though chelsea and i grew up in the same small town, we had never hung out before this day!

chelsea and i knew each other from high school, but never really knew each other. we hadn't had a conversation until a couple months ago, when she contacted me to talk about traveling and following our dreams :) we had this wonderful, long correspondence, which inspired both of us equally. in it, i mentioned backpacking europe for the summer. then she said she'd be in holland visiting her dutch boyfriend, and that we should hang out if i made it to amsterdam. so when noelle made it super easy for me to visit amsterdam, i told chelsea and she just happened to be available right on my birthday!

after talking for a bit, we girls went to the train station to meet up with another stranger friend named willem. we actually party tornadoed willem and his friend on that night in plaza del sol in barcelona. i drunkenly mentioned to them that we might be going to amsterdam soon and that we should meet up again. he wanted to write down my info, but nobody had pen/paper. so i verbally spelled out my name for him to find me on facebook. i never ever thought he'd remember, but a week later, willem sent me a request :) and when i told him i was coming to amsterdam, he just happened to only be available on my birthday, too. 

sounds too good to be true right?? thanks universe! ;)

so my four perfect strangers and i walked around amsterdam all day, reveling in the unusual sunshine. noelle planned for us to see a couple cool art galleries, but both had notes posted saying they were suddenly "closed due to circumstances"... we interpreted that as "it's sunny for once so we're pausing normal life to go play in the sun." which i'm okay with. cause we enjoyed it, too.

so instead, we moseyed through the charming little village-like streets, tried traditional dutch food, went vintage shopping, taste tested delicious cheese, and wandered through a "hippie market". willem, being the perfect dutch boy that he is, acted as tour guide and told us a ton of cool facts about the city along the way. i bought myself birthday moonstone earrings and willem bought me the coolest stone ring. :)  

later, after willem left town for work, the girls and i had lunch and beers on a terrace in the perfect people-watching spot. we talked about growing up and changing views, and how surreal it is to reflect on it all now. afterward, we picked up a couple bottles of wine each and made our way back to scarlett's to meet up with chelsea's boyfriend, jaco.

we spent the rest of the evening drinking wine on the rooftop, eating brie cheese with slices of apple, and taking pictures of our red-stained smiles. we sat together, buzzing on good vibes and red wine, talking in depth about philosophy and spirituality as the sun set behind the buildings. 

there was a moment when i stopped, looked around and felt so grateful---grateful for their company and the conversation and the view. because that sort of thing fulfills me more than anything... i told them there's nothing i would've rather been doing in that moment. and i thanked them for making the day worth celebrating. 

cheers to 23!