Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to Mexico in November.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I almost cried when I emerged from my massage bliss and found… this!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Let’s just say things got a little silly when we decided balloons count as high fashion on the streets of Isla Mujeres.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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!)
Seriously. What more could I have asked for? Just having this crew together topped any birthday wish I had in the three decades prior.
A gorgeous sunset watching the clouds light up over Cancun was just another birthday treat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The next morning, it was time to say a tough goodbye to our incredible crustacean palace.
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.
Thanks for coming along for my virtual birthday party, friends <3