Hello from the land of my thirties! I entered this new decade Saturday, in beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama, where Tim took me away two days before, as a way to jump up and meet Thirty with a smile on my face, exploring and discovering instead of pining and reminiscing. I don’t know what it is about these big birthdays, the ones that end in zeros, but so many of my female friends have had terrible times with them. In fact, after talking to one friend in particular last month, I burst out crying to Tim about how everybody treats aging like such a bad thing, and so was I going to sink into a depression on August 25 this year? Would I miss my family more than I usually do? Should he brace himself now for the drama? Thankfully, in our case, that outburst seems to have been all the drama and sadness I needed—and also, my husband is a kind, generous soul who responds by telling me he’ll handle everything for my birthday and I can just relax, which, if I’m being honest, is probably exactly why I felt (and feel) like turning thirty is such a good gift.
Last year at this time, while Tim and I were planning our wedding, picturing our life together and discussing our budget, we would have told you travel wasn’t on the table. We took a killer honeymoon (gifted from my parents) and then came back, settled in down in Tennessee, thankful. Sometimes we talked about his days of touring with the bands he used to manage or my old days of that full-time salary in my early twenties, but mostly we put travel in the mental box that holds children and home ownership and writing a book someday, and then we sealed it up tight. Someday, we’d love to take some trips. We’ll see.
But then, my friend Kim gave us a night in an Atlanta B&B. Dole sent us to California. A crazy generous friend of friends unexpectedly lent us her beach house in Florida. My parents took us with them to their Wisconsin cabin. Now here we are, married less than a year, and we’ve traveled together to half a dozen different states—all because other people have made it possible. And last week, for the weekend in which I turned thirty, we took the first trip we planned and paid for, we meaning Tim, who surprised me from beginning to end: we headed south.
I don’t know about you, but, growing up in the Midwest, when I heard Alabama, I thought, I don’t know, Reese Witherspoon and college football and farmers living in the backwoods. But driving through the state, top to bottom, last weekend, I saw Alabama is both charming small town and beautiful coastal paradise, not to mention hot, hot sunshine that makes flowers and Spanish moss trees and pecan orchards grow.
We stayed in Bon Secour, a former French fishing village whose name means, literally, “safe harbor.” Our bright blue stilt house was right on the bay, filled with furniture out of a Pottery Barn catalog and featuring entire walls of windows facing the water. Friday night, we slept with the bedroom shutters open so I could wake up with the sun, watching it slowly light up the waters and turn the sky pink, drinking in the quiet and the beauty before me on the first day of my thirties. There were shrimping boats sailing by and alligators near the dock and hundreds of seagulls flying back and forth above the calm and tranquil inlet.
Also, southern Alabama is conveniently right between Mississippi to the west and Florida to the east, giving us the perfect opportunity to tour the South.