3 Adventurous Ways to Celebrate Your Birthday
When we turn a year older, we often feel compelled to prove our mettle and do something extraordinary. Find your spiritual peace at a fitness retreat, stretch your endurance on a long-distance hike, or go for broke: summit a mountain!
What is it about birthdays, and how turning a year older makes us want to prove ourselves? For those adventurous souls who would rather add stamps to their passport than pass a long night of revelry at the bar, there are a number of great, travel-related ideas to stimulate your mind and excite your voyager’s soul. If you’ve always dreamed of celebrating your birthday with an epic adventure, now’s the time with these three ideas for an active birthday celebration.
Summit a Mountain
Birthdays are a great time to cross off “bucket list” items, and who doesn’t have “climb a mountain” on their lifetime to-do list? Assuming this is a special occasion and you don’t summit tall mountains in your spare time(or have companions with you who aren’t as hardy), select a “beginner” climb that pairs gorgeous views and adventure, but is easy enough for all of those celebrating with you to participate.
● Mount Baker, USA is located in Washington State, and is part of the Cascades range, featuring 20 miles of snow-capped peaks. Mount Baker takes three days to summit, and is doable during the summer months of mid-June through early September.
● Mount Fuji, Japan is the world’s most-climbed mountain. The camaraderie you’ll experience meeting a large number of people climbing the mountain at the same time is a tremendous draw. The official climbing season is mid-July through early September, which means you’ll miss seeing Fuji capped in snow, but have a much easier climb.
● Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is the highest peak in Africa, as well as the world’s largest freestanding mountain. Mount Kilimanjaro is also the world’s tallest walkable mountain, meaning that you don’t technically need extra equipment or guides to get the job done. Finding a reputable tour operator, however, greatly increases your chances of success. The best summiting seasons are January through March or June through October. Gear up with and extra-large (but extra light!) rolling duffel to carry everything you need.
Escape to a Fitness Retreat
Fitness retreats, or wellness resorts, are a way to kindle a spiritual awakening, maintain a healthy lifestyle, or to simply commune with nature. These retreats take place all over the world; choosing one depends heavily on your choice of locale and what nature you’d like to surround yourself with.
● One that earns high marks is the Pura Vida Resort and Spa in Costa Rica. Surrounded by volcanoes and bracing hot springs, this retreat bundles daily yoga, massages, and day trip hikes around the local landmarks for one price.
● Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona is an all-inclusive resort that features refreshment for the body (dance, Pilates, yoga) as well as the soul (aromatherapy tubs, healing sessions). Dine on locally sourced Mediterranean fare and shuck your responsibilities for the length of your stay. Stock yourself up with everything you want for this adventure meets luxury destination with an all-purpose trunk—just make sure it has wet/dry storage for your swimsuit (you’ll definitely want to take a dip!).
Hike a Long Distance
Long-distance hiking offers you (and some friends or family) to experience a physically rigorous and adventuresome experience not far from home. There are plenty of major hiking trails located alongside major cities, so odds are that there’s one not too far from you. And although most hikers aim for hikes that take place spring through fall, winter hiking is possible with the right experience and well-chosen locations!
● The Appalachian Trailruns from Georgia to Maine, and can easily eat up five or six months of time to complete the 2,200-mile hike. Luckily, the trail’s many short segments allow you to take as a smaller bite of the great outdoors, using just a sturdy backpack and as much time as you have available. (Likewise, if you’re on the opposite coast, plan weeks or months along the Pacific Crest Trail for a long-distance birthday adventure).
● In Virginia, Shenandoah National Parkoffers a 100-mile hike through lush deciduous forests and incredible mountaintop views within easy driving distance of D.C. April through mid-October is a great time to complete this segment, especially toward the end when the fall foliage puts on a breathtaking show. To make this adventure truly special gift yourself a sturdy wheeled duffle
that will last for not only this trip, but also for many birthday adventures ahead.
Your turn, travelers: What was your wildest, most unforgettable birthday experience? Sound off in the comments below!
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By Shannon O’Donnell
Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She is an acclaimed travel speaker and works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about supporting developing countries.