As told to Anna Brech
A 40th birthday is a big moment for anyone. Yet, as I approached the milestone earlier this year, I found I was actively dreading it. I’ve never been one of those women whose always wanted children. But I assumed it would happen at some point, and ideally with the support of a life partner, rather than going it alone.
As I’ve got older, I’ve felt the pressure of that timeline more and more. Forty seems to come with baggage as you compare where you’re at to where you thought you would be, and with the weight of major life decisions ahead. I’m not 100% certain I want to be a mum but equally, I don’t want the opportunity to simply slip away.
In the past I haven’t been intentional about meeting someone. Then Covid put a pause on the whole dating game anyway. But the experience and solitude of lockdown made me want to create a family. With time ticking on, it put me in a place where I began to think, “Yes a partner and baby is what I want and I don’t want to wait any longer.”
The experience of lockdown made me want to create a family
Of course, this makes dating quite difficult. At what point are you truthful about your life plan on a Tinder date? Can you ever really start that conversation or show that vulnerability without putting people off?
To make things more complex, as a single woman on the cusp of 40, it’s hard to separate what you really want versus societal expectations. Do I truly crave the motherhood experience? Or is what I’m feeling a side product of not being in the parenthood club made up of so many of my friends? It’s hard not to be influenced by the conditioning we – especially as women – face.
I had all these conflicting emotions whirling about on the run up to my 40th, and I was also bruised from a recent breakup. The upshot was, I just wanted to escape and avoid even a glimmer of birthday attention.
I chose Bali because it ticked all the boxes for me in my wobbly state
It was an instinct that led me to booking Flash Pack’s 12-day adventure to Bali. I chose the trip because it ticked all the boxes for me in my wobbly state. It was far enough away and featured the perfect mix of adventure and spirituality. It promised to take my mind off things with a full itinerary, new people and a fresh start a world away from my normal life in northwest England.
As it turned out, I couldn’t have made a better choice. The group dynamic was great. By sheer coincidence, there was a woman on the trip with exactly the same birthday as me – and she was also turning 40. I’m quite into astrology and I could sense we were very similar. As classic Pisces, we are both creative daydreamers with a tendency towards escapism.
It was really special to share our birthday together in Bali, along with our wider group of travellers. At the time, we were based at the 5-star hotel Plataran Ubud Hotel & Spa. It’s a peaceful haven set in lush tropical grounds, with free daily yoga and afternoon teas.
It was honestly the best 40th I could have had
We began the day by making 16 wishes as we bathed in the sacred waters of the Tirta Empul Temple. This was followed by a private meditation session with a local Hindu worshipper. We all sat in a circle around a tree in this beautiful garden. It felt really serene but then halfway through I felt something licking my leg. It turned out the healer’s little dog was going round greeting everyone. It was hilarious.
Later on, we stopped by The Kayon Jungle Resort, famous in Bali for its labyrinth of infinity pools dotted across lots of different levels in the Ubud cloud forest. Come evening, we all had a meal together. Our guide then presented us with a cake with both our names on and people in the group gave us little gifts, like a mooncatcher and local incense.
It was honestly the best 40th I could have had. I felt so grateful to have been in Bali for my birthday with people who were having a great time regardless of the celebrations. It took the pressure off and was great to share the birthday spotlight with someone else, too.
I particularly enjoyed learning how to surf and aerial yoga
The rest of the trip was amazing. I particularly enjoyed learning how to surf, along with aerial yoga and a sunrise hike up Mount Batur. Before the trip, I was pretty nervous about the prospect of a pre-dawn trek. I almost didn’t book the adventure because I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I’m so glad I did because it was a magical experience; it was easier than I thought and the views from the top were breathtaking.
I stayed on for a few weeks in Bali after the trip ended, too, co-working from a place in Ubud. I must admit, by the time I got home, I felt quite sad and deflated. It was a big deal for me to fly so far and immerse myself in this quiet spiritual destination. There was always going to be a comedown.
However, even amid my post-holiday blues, I could feel something in myself had shifted. It’s not like all my problems were suddenly fixed. I’m still looking for someone, dating is still tricky and I continue to look for answers to the baby question. I don’t know yet whether motherhood is something I will experience – or what my life will look like if I don’t.
If you’re at a crossroads, travel can be a fantastic antidote
Yet, between all those feelings of anxiety over my age and where I’m at in life, something has moved within me. I’m still facing this cloud of unknowns but I feel lighter about it than I ever have before.
So, if like me, you are at a crossroads in life – maybe you too are dreading a big birthday – travel can be a fantastic antidote. Hopping halfway across the globe for an adventure with new people and new experiences is life-changing. It puts a different lens on your life back home – you can transform that nagging worry into a dozen different positives. And the more you distract yourself from stretching your comfort zone, the more likely you are to grow in some way; all while having the most incredible time.
This Flashpacker has chosen to share her story anonymously and travelled with Flash Pack to Bali. She spoke to Anna Brech.
Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveller like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.
Images: Flash Pack