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One week ago, I turned twenty-five. A quarter century! I wanted to write something big to commemorate it. Something epic and meaningful. Something like this.

But honestly? I’ve found myself in a bit of a slump lately — with my writing, my work, and my travels. I used to laugh at warnings of the mythical quarter life crisis, but recently, reluctantly, I’ve accepted that I myself might be clumsily stumbling around in one. The good news, though, is that I’ve spent the past few months thinking about what path I’m taking next, and I’m excited about the future.

25th Birthday Post

One thing I’ve been focusing on lately? Living with gratitude. For the past month or so, I have made an effort to once a day say to myself very consciously, “I am grateful for this moment.” Sometimes that was gazing back at Koh Tao from my perch on a paddleboard, sometimes it was in the midst of a warm hug with a close friend, sometimes it was driving my motorkbike down the road when the sun shone through the palm trees at just the right moment.

And so, to start the next quarter century in style, a list of twenty five things that I’m grateful for today.

1. I am grateful for the privilege to see with my own eyes twenty seven countries and seventeen states — and counting. For the memories I’ve made, lessons I’ve learned, and people I’ve met in each of them. I’m thankful for recognizing my passion for travel so early in life.

2. I am grateful for a family that always calls me home. For a mother who has imbued me with creativity and kindness, a father who has taught me to be both successful and generous, and for sisters who inspire me, who make me laugh and who hold out a hand when needed. For aunts, uncles, grandmas and cousins who make up the rich fabric of family. I am ever so grateful that despite the fact that my parents are separated, we all remain a family. Sometimes I am overly critical of or impatient with my family, and I want to work on that. There is no one or no thing I care about more.

Family Portraits by My Lens 360 Philadelphia

3. I am grateful for a cold Diet Coke on a warm summer day, and a warm apple cider on a chilly fall one.

4. I am grateful for a passport from a country that gives me the green light to travel almost anywhere the world. I often take this for granted until I see the red tape my friends from countries with more “difficult passports” have to work through.

5. I am grateful for a body that is capable of bringing me up mountains, under the sea, and all over a yoga mat. I am grateful to find a natural enjoyment in physical activity, which makes at least one half of the staying in shape equation easier. (Though, you know, if I would magically develop an immunity to carb bloat, I wouldn’t be opposed to that too.)

6. I am grateful for what I’m convinced is the most amazing group of friends in the world, spread out all over the planet. I am grateful for the ability to accept them for who they are and what they are willing to give to our friendship, and for their patience and understanding of my endless wandering. I feel a deep connection with them even when I am physically very far away. It makes feel like I’ve done something right in my life to deserve these friends I have.

25th Birthday Post

7. I am grateful for what my sister Olivia and I call The Church Giggles — those times you laugh so hard you totally lose control and tears spring from your eyes and you feel you’ve had a slight workout after. I feel lucky to have a life that is full of them.

8. I am grateful for those rare books, movies and songs that leave me lost in thought.

9. I am grateful for the fact that, glaring exceptions aside, life has put a string of funny, interesting, big-hearted guys in my path. I’m kind of seeing one right now.

10. I am grateful for the ocean, and all the beautiful time I’ve spent living so close to it.

25th Birthday Post

11. I am grateful for having access to comprehensive health care, a family of experts helping me navigate the system, and the privilege of not having to base my health care decisions on my bank account. (Gotta get this one in while I still can — I roll off my parents’ health insurance in a year and I suspect I’ll be singing a different tune then.)

12. I am grateful for teachers who inspired me, nurtured my creativity and challenged me. From my Montessori educators to my public high school teachers to my Pratt professors, I owe a lot to the people who molded my little brain. (And I’m so proud that’s what my baby sis has been doing for the past two years!) I’m so grateful there were people out there fighting for my education before I was wise enough to realize how important it was for myself.

13. I am grateful for my sense of taste, which lets me savor ripe mangos, delicious avocados, and endless flavors of ice cream.

25th Birthday Post

14. I am grateful for access to a family car that gets me wherever I need to be when I’m stateside.

15. I am grateful for a childhood bedroom that still feels like home in a town I’m proud to be from. For couches, spare rooms and floors I’ve been offered by family, friends, and acquaintances all over the world.

16. I am grateful for sunsets, which always remind me that nature is my favorite artist. And mush my brain enough to give me a free pass on all kinds of cliche statements.

25th Birthday Post

17. I am grateful for the kindness from complete strangers that so often makes my day on the road.

18. I am grateful for two amazing dogs who have brought immeasurable joy to my life, and taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

19. I am grateful for the confidence to travel alone and the predisposition to wildly enjoy it. I am so thankful to enjoy my own company as much as I do.

20. I am grateful for strong holiday traditions that I grow more appreciative every year to have grown up with. I look forward to carrying on and continuing to create these traditions for the rest of my life.

21. I am grateful for rediscovering my love of singing. It was a goal of mine to get up and sing at an open mic night while I was in Thailand and once I got over my stage fright, it felt good. It has reminded me how much I miss creating — outside this blog, of course — and I’m even hoping to pick up a paintbrush again soon.

Creativity

22. I am grateful for being debt free, and the frugality and financial values my parents instilled in me. For the financial freedom my career gives me to treat myself occasionally to cheap Thai massages, fancy cocktails, movie tickets and all the other little splurges I enjoy so much.

23. I am grateful for days when I am productive and end the day proud of my work. For blogging, which has connected me to fantastic like-minded people the world over. For the fact that my lifestyle and career mean that days when I wake up to an alarm are few and far between (I’m a naturally early riser anyway).

24. I am grateful for the pain I’ve felt and the times life has truly tested me — they have shown me who I am and how strong I can be, taught me to appreciate periods of peace and joy, and prepared me for whatever comes next.

25. I am grateful for how easily 1,300 words of thankfulness came. I recognize that there are many people in this world for whom a similar list would be much shorter, and that reminds me to never take these things for granted.

25th Birthday Post

I’ll wrap this sap-fest up with one of my favorite quotes, from American Beauty. Most of all, I’m grateful that when I read through the list I just wrote, tapped out on my iPhone over the course of a few thoughtful days, I feel exactly like this.

It’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

Thanks for being a part of my stupid little life, y’all. What are you thankful for today?

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124 Comments...
  • Athena
    November 15 2014

    Absolutely beautiful! Belated happy birthday! Been following you for a while and this is my first comment…

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Thanks for saying hi, Athena! And thank you so much.

  • Jasmine
    November 15 2014

    Happy belated birthday!! I just recently turned 25 on October 23rd! It’s an awesome age to be. I’m thankful that I’m not in the same position that I was in a year ago. I’m happy to be done with school, and working toward my career goals, and doing what I love. This is an awesome post!! 🙂

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Happy birthday to you too, Jasmine! I think it’s going to be a good year 🙂

  • Kristin Addis
    November 15 2014

    What a lovely, reflective birthday toast. I’m also grateful that I have a family I can laugh with, that I cry more from laughter than from sadness, and that I also have access to a car when I go home. Gratitude really changes everything. I agree so much. It can turn a sad situation into a really amazing one by looking for the good things. Might as well, considering life carries on regardless. Congrats on another year of awesome life.
    Kristin Addis recently posted..Discovering Via Ferrata in South Tyrol, Italy

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Thank you Kristin! I always love your outlook on life. Life does indeed carry on regardless.

  • Paula Nelms
    November 15 2014

    Happy belated birthday Alex!

    Ah the good old quarter-life crisis. I think I’m in the midst of one myself, but for me it’s all about the pressure society is putting on me and how I feel I need to break free to truly feel like myself again!

    I write about it here if you’re interested: http://www.paulathroughthelookingglass.com/quarter-life-crisis/
    Paula Nelms recently posted..Why travelling Laos wasn’t as great as I was hoping

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      I shall never mock the quarter life crisis again! Good luck working through yours, Paula.

  • Marni
    November 15 2014

    Happy belated birthday! This post is absolutely one of my favorites of yours, and I love all the insights it gave you about yourself. I turned 25 in May of this year, and – aside from the obvious ones like family, pets, friends, and a love of travel – one thing I am most grateful for is the ability to get older. Whenever I feel upset that I’m getting older, I think about how it wasn’t too many hundreds of years ago that our life spans were half of what they are now. It really is a privilege to get old, and I’m grateful for it because it gives me more time to chase my dreams. Best wishes to you for another year of family, friends, and travel!

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      This comment reminds me of a quote, Marni. “Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.” – Mark Twain. Beautiful!

  • Sky
    November 15 2014

    Love this! I think gratitude is such an important thing and I’ve also been working on practice gratitude and allowing myself to notice in the moment how special moments are. Right now I’m grateful for a job with people I enjoy, this Starbucks smoothie in my hand, the ability to choose what I want to do with my money and be able to save for my trip, and my best friends that I would be lost without.
    Sky recently posted..Yes, I Am Terrified. Yes, I’m Still Going

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Those are all amazing things. I am apprehensive about returning to the cold next week, but the idea of a Starbucks apple cider in my hand is making the transition easier 🙂

  • Jean |Holy Smithereens
    November 15 2014

    Happy Belated birthday Alex! Its wonderful that you are living a life of gratitude. There really are so much more things to be thankful in life than there are worth griping about. Enjoy the 20’s, I think that decade is the most transitional in a person’s life. As for me, I’m grateful for good health every day as it allows me to enjoy life.
    Jean |Holy Smithereens recently posted..Hotel Review: Jumeirah Grand Hotel Via Veneto, ROME

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      I am loving my twenties indeed 🙂 So much happens! And thank you for the well wishes x

  • Sonja at Breadcrumbs Guide
    November 15 2014

    Beautiful post, Alex. It is so refreshing to see people reflect on what is good, rather than the things they want to change. Keep appreciating those little moments, and your travels will always be rewarding. Cheers!
    Sonja at Breadcrumbs Guide recently posted..Choose Your Own Adventure in the Sacred Valley

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      I guess I do enough complaining in my day to day posts, ha! Tried to keep this one gripe-free 🙂

  • Beautifully written! Happy birthday! You’ve done more in your 25 years than most people have done in a lifetime. And I totally support mooching off your parents health insurance plan until you’re 26! I did and it was the best thing ever… until I turned 26.

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Yeah, I’m not looking forward to that one bit. Thankfully I have a family full of health care industry experts, and my older sister has already started to help me figure out what plan will work for me. I also plan to have a lot of my routine care done in Thailand where it will be vastly more affordable. But sigh, how I will miss my current situation!

  • kim
    November 15 2014

    Of all the many, many things I have to be grateful for in my life, a list I’m lucky to say would be at least as long as yours because I have many years on you, I am grateful you share your experiences in such a free and honest way with all of us. As I approach my half century life crisis (hahaha I’m only 46 but getting close!) I get to live vicariously through your posts and add places to see from your travels to our list as we inch closer to full time travel. We may not make Tomorrowland or stay in some of the more “lively” hostels you have but your writing and photos brings to life places I may have passed up but now am anxious to see. Happy Birthday to you and always hang on to the funny, big-hearted guys they are hard to find!

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Kim this comment means so much to me! Thank you for sharing — this is the kind of stuff that has kept me going through my recent slump of burnout. And believe me, I know how lucky I am for #9!

  • Cityoftheweek
    November 15 2014

    Oh man, when I thought that the article couldn’t get any better, you ended things with one of my favorite quotes ever. I just re-watched American Beauty last week and fell in love with it again and again. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now (love it and often come here for inspiration), but this is the first time I’m commenting. Happy Birthday by the way, and keep inspiring!
    Cityoftheweek recently posted..How the kids entered Balchik Palace & Botanical Gardens

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Thanks for saying hi 🙂 I hope you’ll do it again soon!

  • Janice Stringer
    November 15 2014

    Hi Alex,

    I’m grateful for your photographs… They inspire me.

    I hope your slump in work, travels and writing passes quickly but if it doesn’t reach out. There is an ear at the end of this writing! 🙂
    Take care Alex, it’s lovely to hear the things you appreciate.
    Janice Stringer recently posted..Spending time in the Wilds of San Blas Nature Reserve

    • Alex
      November 15 2014

      Thank you so much, Janice! That is so lovely, and all of it warms my heart to hear. And it does indeed inspire me to keep writing on!

  • Steve
    November 15 2014

    Great post Alex. As I will turn 50 next year I am grateful that I am healthy enough to finish my TEFL and hopefully be off to China.
    Steve recently posted..10 Favourite Travel Songs

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      That is a pretty special thing to be thankful for! Best of luck with your course, Steve!

  • Miquel
    November 15 2014

    Thank you for sharing this Alex. If there is anything I believe in it’s that gratitude amplifies happiness. Nothing creates better perspective. Thanks for reminding me I have so much to be thankful for.
    Miquel recently posted..Am I Running Away?

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      It is one of the purest forms of happiness, I think. Gratitude is powerful!

  • Gemma Two Scots Abroad
    November 15 2014

    Alex, you will be approaching 30 before you know it (Jan for me)! I am thankful (and buzzing) about Google analytics showing two views on my website from Google search engine, feels like the hard work is beginning to pay off *slave to the keys*

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      It’s a slow burn but it does pay off eventually, in my experience. Congrats on the milestone 🙂

  • Ashley Hufford
    November 15 2014

    It’s so hard to remember to be grateful sometimes. Beautiful post!! Inspiration will come! Happy Birthday Alex!!!
    Ashley Hufford recently posted..Fall Favorites #4

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      Thanks Ashley! There is inspiration all around, I just need to get myself back on track to accept it again 🙂

  • Leah
    November 15 2014

    Beautifully written, Alex. A good reminder to all of us to take the time to be grateful. Hope your 25th birthday was fabulous, you’ll get over the quarter century hump just fine 🙂
    Leah recently posted..San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      Thank you Miss Leah! It was the most beautiful birthday a girl could ask for.

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    November 15 2014

    Wonderfully written Alex! I hope you enjoyed your birthday, and this post is a lovely way to commemorate it. I’m grateful for you and your awesome blog – I know I’m not the only one who you’ve inspired to cast a wider net in life. Your blog was the first thing that came up when I Googled a million things about going to Roatan 3 years ago… who would have thought I’d be writing this comment from here? I’m toasting a celebratory Salva Vida to you, girl!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..{GIVEAWAY} The Dayplanner to End All Dayplanners

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      That is just so fantastic, Rika! Discovering the world of travel blogs just opens up a whole world, doesn’t it? It did for me when I first stumbled upon one in high school!

  • Stephanie
    November 15 2014

    Happy happy birthday, fellow Scorpio! Like you, I too just celebrated a birthday a few days ago and I was echoing similar sentiments regarding life crises, wanting to write something amazing, but feeling kind of slumpy. Gratitude is a wonderful and magical thing, and it always puts things in perspective 🙂 Thank you for writing such a wonderful blog and for inspiring me and so many others as we push forward on our journeys to experience something larger than ourselves. Wishing you a wonderful year full of even more love and experiences to be grateful for!
    Stephanie recently posted..Treat Yo Self 2014

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      We’ve got tons of Scorpios in this comment section, it seems! Thank you so much for this beautiful comment. It so inspires me to know that some of the words I’ve written have inspired someone else x

  • Ashley
    November 15 2014

    I loved this post, Alex! Practising daily gratitude is so powerful and has made such a difference in my life. I recently read a quote that really stuck with me- “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop”- so I’ve started to work on my reactions along with daily gratitude and can see big improvements in my life.
    Ashley recently posted..Friday Foodie Photo

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      That’s a gorgeous quote, Ashley. Love hearing how little acts of gratitude have changed your attitude!

  • Scott
    November 15 2014

    Happy belated birthday!

    So any video out there of you singing?

    And I am grateful for your site, with all of its amazing photos and well written stories!

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      Ha, no video from this performance, but maybe I’ll be brave enough to record one soon 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • zulqarnain malik
    November 15 2014

    Alex! It really great

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      Thank you so much!

  • Kyle
    November 15 2014

    The more gratitude you feel, the wealthier you are … hope the next year is filled with plenty of these moments!
    Kyle recently posted..The Best Beaches in North America

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      I need to tell myself sometimes to stop stressing about money and measure my wealth in this way. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  • Caity
    November 15 2014

    So, not to sound like too much of a fan girl, but I am so grateful to your blog Alex. It still amazes me that I can be so excited and inspired by the words of someone I have never met! It is a testament to your writing that you can exude so much personality and thought in each post that makes your readers (well, me at least!) really connect with you! Happy belated birthday, I’m glad you had a blast!

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      This made my morning Caity! You are the sweetest, and I will certainly be coming back to this comment (and others here) next time I’m in a slump.

  • A beautifully written post, Alex! I find myself grateful for many of the same things as you, I too am feeling quite reflective myself at the moment as I’ll also be turning 25 this month. I’m sure I had a quarter life crisis for the first part of this year when my life seemed to be at a standstill, but somehow everything always has its little way of working out. All I ever dreamed of doing was travelling the world and I’m so thankful to be doing exactly that right now. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate the little things just as much as the big things 🙂
    Christie of The Butterfly Editions recently posted..Exploring the Historical Port of Malacca, Malaysia

    • Alex
      November 16 2014

      Congrats on the big upcoming birthday! And for making that big ‘ol dream come true. Cheers to all of it, Christie!