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35 Years Old — Birthday Post

Another year on the run. As a man this time.

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I turned 35 years old on May 23rd. I didn’t celebrate. Instead, I did exactly what I like to do: I went to an economic forum on the New Silk Road, exchanged business cards, did some short interviews, made some friends. To put it simply, I worked.

I’m 35 years old and I do exactly what I want to do — so much so that the potential of a birthday celebration derailing this seemed like an annoyance. I did what I would have done normally — I ate cheap slop at the hotel, I drank the usual amount of coffee and beer, and I rushed back to my room because I had to finish an article. It was a normal day and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it any other way.

It may seem like I’ve achieved some kind of pinnacle for success. But I say this every year:

Birthday post 2007

Birthday post 2008

Another birthday post from 2008

Birthday post 2009

Birthday post 2010

Birthday post 2011

Birthday post 2012

Chatwin said that a man shouldn’t serious consider writing a book before the age of 35. I jumped the gun on this, but I understand what he was getting at: you need to have really lived before you can really write. Writing isn’t something that comes out of your head while sitting in an empty room all alone. No, it’s something that you have to live. And as Teddy Roosevelt once said, “A man doesn’t fully live until the age of 35.”

I understand that I am no longer a young man. I’m just a man. A normal, mid-range man. I have a wife , two kids, and all the things that I want. I travel wherever in the world I want to go to. I write about what I want to.

I’m writing the word “want” repetitively here. When I set out at 18 I had one intention: to do whatever I wanted. At 35 it may still be too early to tell but up to here I’ve done just that.

Birthdays are signposts of achievement for travelers — as travel is ultimately about one thing: the acquisition of knowledge in relation to time and space.

I wrote that in a birthday post at the beginning of this Vagabond Journey project. It’s still true.


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Filed under: Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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