June 2012


According to popular wisdom these days, 40 is the new 30, and 30 is the new 20.

Or something to that effect. The main point of reasoning behind that concept, either way, is that people are apparently doing the same things (if not more) that they were doing when they were younger. Age is just a number, after all, and when you put together youthful vitality with the wisdom of experience, you have an unstoppable combination.

I had quietly absorbed this thinking throughout my 20’s and, up until recently, pretty much believed it. That is, until I began the descent from my late 20’s and the metaphorical airplane started to land on the tarmac of my 30’s.

I’m turning 30 soon.  Granted, not for about five and a half months, but it is quickly coming for me. How do I know, you ask?

I know that I’m approaching 30 just like children know when they’re in trouble. Or when you know you’ve taken a swig of milk that expired awhile ago.  When you’re close to 30, you just know.

Physically:

You literally start to feel it. When I woke up in the mornings at age 22, I could leap out of bed and hit the ground running. Nowadays, I have to take my time. Joints have to crack, muscles have to be jerked awake, and caffeine must start to brew. When I get up, my body tells me if I get up too quickly, and it is not in a good mood when it has to do that.

Not to mention that your metabolism changes. It’s like there’s a switch somewhere in your body that, one day, just turns itself off. You don’t know when, and you have no warning. All of those days of eating an extra serving of pizza, or sneaking cookies after a rough day at work, now show up for the world to see. You start thinking about if you’re getting enough fiber, if your multivitamin has enough iron in it, and if your disdain for milk as a child will contribute to osteoporosis when you’re older. Just the stress from thinking about all of those things makes you want an ice cream sundae (which is now the enemy).

Mentally:

You have more “out of it” days. Post-Its become not just a handy tool, but a lifesaving device that should be covered by health insurance. You find yourself starting to leave yourself little reminder notes that remind you to remind yourself to do something. And you’re not quite sure what that “something” was, because you wrote that part down on another Post-It whose location you don’t quite recall.

You have to take more breaks. I personally look back at my college days and marvel at the amount of “stuff” I was able to soak up. There were books to be read for each class, papers to write, meetings with professors to attend, sorority functions to organize, and friends to be seen. Sleep was an option, and even if you didn’t get 8 hours a night (or 5 or 6), your mind still tended to be pretty sharp in the mornings. When you begin to approach 30, however, it’s a different story. If I don’t get my 8 hours of sleep per night, I feel it the next day–usually because I run into something in a foggy haze. And I have to raise the “I’m cranky” flag for my husband.

That’s not to say that reaching 30 is void of perks, though. You have more experience, whether professional, life, or otherwise. You might not have your life’s calling figured out, but you’ve tried enough things and made enough mistakes to know what it’s not. You’ve either kissed enough frogs to find a prince, or you now have a better understanding of what a non-prince transforming frog looks like (and that you should run away). You pretty much know whether or not you want to get married (or you already are), whether you want to have kids (or already have them), and whether or not you want to continue on the career path you’re on (or whether you don’t).

Turning 30, of course, is not an excuse to become complacent.  There is, however, a balance. For instance, my grandparents, before my grandmother passed away, were avid travelers. They embarked on all sorts of adventures when they were young, and when they were old. They did not let their age stop them from traveling; they did, however, tailor their travels to more comfortably fit their age bracket. They took buses when before they would have hiked, they did group tours when before they would have ventured out solo, and they packed plenty of vitamins when before they would have packed, well, not vitamins.

I will hopefully follow in their footsteps.  As much as I would like to think of myself hiking up the summits of Machu Picchu with a walker, however, I’ll have to take age into consideration.

In the meantime, I’ll try to approach my 30th birthday with realistic expectations of the challenges (and advantages) of that decade. And of course I’ll leave myself a Post-It note reminding me when my birthday is.

Needless to say, the last few weeks have been a blur.  Not only did Leon and I buy a condo in northern Virginia, but we also planned a wedding and got married–while both working full time.  I will never take coffee for granted again.

Before we knew it, June 2 arrived and we were standing up in front of family, friends, and God in our church, Columbia Baptist, in Falls Church, Virginia.  The ceremony itself was beautiful, and things went smoothly. It was a relief when the logistics all played out well, especially because the evening before our wedding day there were major storms in the D.C. area which left dozens of guests stranded in airports around the country. Thankfully, everyone arrived safely (some guests took a taxi straight from the airport to the ceremony) and the wedding proceeded without a hiccup.

Then, before we knew it, we were off to the airport to catch the first flight of our honeymoon trip.  It wasn’t just a honeymoon trip for me, however–it was the fulfillment of a 10-year dream.  We were headed to Bora Bora.

Back in college, I first saw a picture of Bora Bora and became intrigued by the overwater bungalows, emerald landscapes, and turquoise waters of French Polynesia.  My goal was to get there someday, hopefully for a honeymoon, on account of the island having the reputation for being one of the most romantic destinations in the world. I had mentioned to Leon while were were dating that I hoped to go there one day, so it was surreal when we were actually headed there as a newly married couple.

My new husband and I were braced for a challenging travel itinerary–three flights and a boat–but were beyond ecstatic.  As we landed on Bora Bora and took a boat out to the Pearl Beach Resort (known as a private, traditionally Polynesian establishment), I pinched myself for about the fifth time.  Photos of Bora Bora, as beautiful as they are, simply do not do the island justice.

To say that the tempo of life on Bora Bora was a far cry from the rigorous pace of D.C. would be an understatement. We spent a week and a half indulging in island life, and it was incredible.  From the time we arrived, my husband and I turned off our iPhones and dove wholeheartedly into the rhythm of the South Pacific. The islanders went to bed at sundown, and so did we. Locals woke up with the sun, and so did we. They walked around with giant baguettes in their hands, as did we. It was fascinating to see the fusion of Polynesian and French culture at play in the historically French territory, mixing the French love of good cuisine with the laid-back mentality of Polynesian tradition.

We spent our days diving off of our overwater bungalow deck into the crisp South Pacific, having coffee each morning while watching the sunrise, feeding the fish from our glass bottom coffee table, and strolling around the island after having giant plates of French/Polynesian food each day (fresh seafood paired with rich French sauces and crusty bread? Yes please). Food was a large part of our honeymoon experience on Bora Bora, and I discovered a new appreciation for vanilla–namely, Tahitian vanilla. As I write, I’m craving a large mahi mahi fillet with Tahitian vanilla sauce, followed by a Tahitian vanilla creme brûlée for dessert.

Speaking of good food, going to Bloody Mary’s for dinner when you visit Bora Bora is also a must. We took the boat over to the main island a few evenings to catch the restaurant’s shuttle, when we were then greeted by the sight of fresh mahi mahi, oahu, parrot fish, marlin, and other delicious fish which were caught and then put on ice for you to choose from. As I mentioned before, my favorite dish while on the island was definitely the fresh mahi mahi with Tahitian vanilla sauce. There is nothing quite like it.

We also spent a few lazy island afternoons meandering through the artisan market and shops of Vaitape, the local village on the main island of Bora Bora. The locals were incredibly friendly, constantly greeting foreigners with “Ia Orana” in a tone that was genuinely affable and warm. It also felt good to dust off my long-neglected French and try to get in some good language practice, whether with the local islanders or French expatriates.

The island was more than I had ever fantasized about, and even after being there for over a week it was still awe-inspiring to wake up each morning to the views of Mount Otemanu and the sparkling ocean. There were several fun excursions and outings to sign up for, but after a year and a half of nonstop activity with the wedding and work, Leon and I just wanted to be still for awhile. We appreciated having a honeymoon where we woke up each morning and said, “What do you want to do today–go to the beach or go to the village?”

A Bora Bora vacation can be as simple or as extravagant as you’d like for it to be.  In our case, we chose to simply relax and enjoy the island at a slow, uninhibited pace. I was thankful to have the chance to fulfill my dream of visiting the island, and even more thankful to visit it at the beginning of an exciting new chapter of life. With its unparalleled beauty, laid-back nature, and blend of cultures, Bora Bora is truly unlike any other place on earth.

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