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Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to Mexico in November.

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If there is a woman on earth who turned thirty without having even the tiniest of existential breakdowns, please direct me to this master of zen so that I may learn from her.

I personally spent the final year of my twenties in the midst of a low-key anxiety attack about saying goodbye to my twenties. So, I handled it the absolute healthiest way possible: denying the realities of aging and the slow march of maturity and flying to Mexico for a mermaid party in a giant seashell with my best friends!

Thirty going on thirteen, forever. 

Mermaid Party at The Shell House in Mexico

The girls filtered in throughout the trip, from all over the world. Longtime readers will know every single one of these faces!

I arrived in Cancun solo, joined shortly after by Kat from London and Heather from the Cayman Islands. Arriving in Isla Mujeres to the world famous Shell House, Katie flew in from Idaho, Shannon from London, and finally, that evening, Liz and Steffi from Brooklyn — who we picked up at the pier with drinks-to-go in the shell cups I’d brought all the way from home. We just had Amanda from Brooklyn to scoop up the next day and the entire pod was swimming in sync!

And since many of my besties, coming from many different eras and areas of my life, had yet to meet each other you know I emailed each girl a PDF dossier with my own little personalized intros to each other, complete with photos, how-we-mets, and more.

Mermaid Party in Mexico

The next morning, I woke up before dawn (despite my best efforts, I was still a tad jetlagged from Israel) and watched the sun rise on a new decade for me.

The girls started to rise shortly after and following a beautiful breakfast spread complete with mimosa toasts, they told me there was a surprise coming — a masseuse arrived! He set up in the back shell, and unbeknownst to me, these crafty little ladies went to work. 

30th Birthday Mermaid Party in Mexico

30th Birthday Mermaid Party in Mexico

I am blessed to have a beautiful group of friends around the world and several who were unable to attend sent gifts along with those who did, so I had lots of reminders of love from all over on my birthday! Could I be any luckier? 

30th Birthday Mermaid Party in Mexico

I almost cried when I emerged from my massage bliss and found… this!

30th Birthday Mermaid Party in Mexico

Yes, my chicas hauled massive pool floats, big balloons, banners and more all the way to Mexico! Needless to say another bottle of champagne, and an elaborate photoshoot ensued.

Mermaid Photoshoot at the Shell House in Mexico

Mermaid Photoshoot at the Shell House in Mexico

Mermaid Photoshoot at the Shell House in Mexico

Of course, you know I didn’t show up empty handed either! While I didn’t go all out to my usual gift bag max (this, if anything, is the biggest indicator that I was not quite feeling myself leading up to this birthday) I couldn’t resist throwing together some little mermaid party welcome bags with matching fin scale earrings, under the sea temporary tattoos, and “secretly a mermaid” pencils and notepads.

Crafting is my love language.

30th Mermaid Birthday in Mexico
30th Mermaid Birthday in Mexico

I too had packed an old shell float on this trip (which was so sadly deflated that after valiant attempts to patch it, it went to its final resting place at the Isla Mujeres dump at the end of this trip) which meant we had plenty of pool accessories for all.

Mermaid Photoshoot at the Shell House in Mexico

Mermaid Photoshoot at the Shell House in Mexico

If it looks like our entire morning was one big boozy, beat-bumping, giggle-fueled photoshoot… that is not wrong.

What can I say? Get a creative and campy group of gals together, this kind of thing is quite likely to ensue. Heather and Amanda both showed up with the new GoPro Dome, which was pretty perfect for capturing the magic of the Shell House… from the pool! What do we think? Do I need one now too?

Casa Caracol Shell House Review Isla Mujeres

Casa Caracol Shell House Review Isla Mujeres

Casa Caracol Shell House Review Isla Mujeres

Casa Caracol Shell House Review Isla Mujeres

Casa Caracol Shell House Review Isla Mujeres

Casa Caracol Shell House Review Isla Mujeres

Let’s just say things got a little silly when we decided balloons count as high fashion on the streets of Isla Mujeres.

30th Mermaid Birthday in Mexico
30th Mermaid Birthday in Mexico

Mermaid Party Balloons

Mermaid Party Balloons

Mermaid Party Balloons

Months and months ago, when I had started musing about my thirtieth birthday, I told one of my girlfriends that I just pictured me, a beach, a blender, and my besties. I couldn’t have imagined it any dreamier than this.

The Shell House, Casa Caracol, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Eventually, we managed to pull it together to leave the house, er, shell — it was time for an adventure!

Off to the golf carts. Or as I liked to call them — the mermaid-mobiles!

Driving a golf cart in Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Driving a golf cart in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Our first stop was Punta del Sur, the highest and most southern point of Isla Mujeres. Views stretch all the way to the Cancun skyline, and there is a sculpture park, a small Mayan ruin, and a lighthouse to admire.

We had a ball (and, as you may spot in our shell cups, a few drinks along the way.)

Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Punta Sur Lighthouse, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

After taking in that beautiful sight we were off again, admiring the rural sweetness of the southern side of the island, which we would no longer have easy access to when we moved to the north the next day.

Driving a golf cart in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Southern Isla Mujeres

We tried stopping at The Joint, a roadside reggae bar and grill I figured would be right up my alley. But upon arrival we found the live music so deafening we couldn’t even scream into each other’s ears — and, having so many fascinating things to say, that was a major problem. So we kept moving.

And it turned out to be a blessing — because the Nomad’s Beach Club, the next stop on my wish list, could not have been more perfect. 

Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

It was the perfect vibe — sunset views, ocean access, plenty of yummy cocktails, and more. We were super impressed by how chic the hostel itself looked. While it’s quite remote, if you’re looking to really get away from it all on Isla, you couldn’t pick a better spot.

And the day only got better with Amanda’s arrival — and Heather convincing all of us to upgrade to the new iPhone with her amazing phone portraits (which turned out was just a warmup for all the great photos our professional shutterbug would snap of us throughout the trip!)

Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Seriously. What more could I have asked for? Just having this crew together topped any birthday wish I had in the three decades prior.

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Nomads Beach Club, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

A gorgeous sunset watching the clouds light up over Cancun was just another birthday treat.

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Sunset on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Arriving back at The Shell House, there were multiple surprises waiting for me. One, my dad had managed his tradition of getting flowers delivered… this time to a random seashell on an island in Mexico that barely has addresses! I was so impressed.

Flower Delivery Isla Mujeres Mexico

And of course, my girls had one more surprise for me… a private chef was already at the villa serving up a casual feast of Mexican favorites. 

Dinner at The Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

At this point we were burnt out on dSLR photos, so forgive these (non-iPhone 11, ha!) iPhone snaps. But they really capture the joy.

Dinner at The Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Dinner at The Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Dinner at The Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

That night all the girls went around the table and shared a favorite memory of me and a favorite thing about me and you know what, I just felt truly overwhelmed with love. I almost wish I had secretly recorded it so I could go back and listen anytime I felt anything less than the luckiest girl on earth.

If the first day of my thirties was a preview for the next decade, I was all in. 

A Birthday Weekend at Casa Caracol Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

The next morning, it was time to say a tough goodbye to our incredible crustacean palace. 

A Birthday Weekend at Casa Caracol Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

A Birthday Weekend at Casa Caracol Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico
A Birthday Weekend at Casa Caracol Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

I had planned to write a big epic birthday post — you know, thirty things I learned in thirty years, or something poignant and meaningful like that. But after one of the most brutally difficult years of my life, I think this is more a reflection of exactly what I needed at the time: joy, silliness, fun, friendship, smiles, laughter, sunshine. 

Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that a life lived in pursuit of those things is a life well lived indeed. And more than I ever had before, I understood on a primal level the concept that aging is, indeed, a privilege. And you can do it however you damn well please.

Champagne and sea shells included.

A Birthday Weekend at Casa Caracol Shell House in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Driving a golf cart in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Thanks for coming along for my virtual birthday party, friends <3

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How to plan a mermaid birthday party!
How to plan a mermaid birthday party!
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11 Comments...
  • Urska
    September 14 2020

    Looks so fun!

    • Alex
      September 14 2020

      It was the best 🙂 Thanks Urska!

  • Jane
    September 14 2020

    A birthday on a beautiful tropical island surrounded by your best friends? What more could you ask for 🙂 For what it’s worth, I loved my early 30s – I was much happier with myself and where I was in life than I had been for a long time. I’m sure yours will be amazing too, even after this very weird year!

    • Alex
      September 14 2020

      Definitely off to a very weird start — but I’m making the best of it!

  • Laura
    September 14 2020

    I dreaded turning 30 for the whole year i was 29…turns out the actual day was one of the best of my life! This looks so fun and completely agree with the sentiment that age is a privilege x

    • Alex
      September 14 2020

      I think looking back, I have to say the same! This was the best day EVER!

  • Aussie Jo
    September 14 2020

    30 was way back when for me I am now 57 going on 58 and have a body that is falling apart

    • Alex
      September 17 2020

      I’m sure one day I will laugh thinking how I feared thirty 😉

  • Petrina Darrah
    September 15 2020

    I resonate with this post so much! I’m halfway through 29 and trying to stave off the existential crisis haha, reading about women who have “crossed over” happily is massively helping 😀

    • Alex
      September 17 2020

      Happy to help 😉 You’ve got this!

  • Tessa Faure
    October 13 2020

    I’m so behind on your blog posts but I loved this one – fun photos, fun memories, loved the pdf friend dossiers (mental note to flag) and all the little special things you all did for each other on the trip! Looking forward to be able to travel again and do nourishing girlfriend bonding 💛

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