≡ Menu

I’ve Been A Father For Nine Years – Petra’s Birthday

Being a dad nine years in.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

The birthday of your first born on isn’t just a celebration for them but one for yourself as well, as this is the anniversary of the day that you became … a parent.


While Rivka was the product of pregnancy by planning, Petra, my first kid, was not. When I call her a little squirt I’m not being hyperbolic.

A gentler, more sensitive parent would describe her conception as a suprise; for us, it was the biggest what the “fuck do we do now?” moment of our lives. We had just gotten together in Brooklyn mere weeks before — I’m not sure if we even knew each other.

It actually worked out, and ended up being without a doubt the best error of judgement that I’ve made yet. I know have a difficult time imagining what life would be like if it didn’t happen like this. Where would I be without Petra? Would I still be with Hannah? We probably wouldn’t have gotten married when we did. Would we have gotten married at all? Rivka wouldn’t exist. What would have happened without the need to be more calculated, without needing to walk slow, without sensible Hannah around to even out my flagrant style of decision making? Would I have gotten my first book deal? Would I still be traveling, writing, filming?
Life is a series. It’s a series of situations, states, and eras that rarely begin or end on our terms, when we plan them. Life is a series that just kind of happens — we don’t control this — but it is how we respond that is the building blocks of what we become.

Petra had a real birthday party. This is what she had to say about it on her blog:

Today I had a kids birthday party with all my friends!

It was kind of wired because first my parents told me about it then they said that they would’t do it but my mom told me that while we were shopping for supplies for it so I didn’t believe them.

On the day of the party my dad brought me there, he said that we were just going to the pool but I did not believe him.

When I got there two kids were already there those kids were Simon and Laura, the other kids, Baxter and Grady came a little while later.

After we all had played in the pool for a long time we all got out of the pool (except Simon) we all decorated flip flops (except Simon) and we went on a scavenger hunt (with Simon) and Simon found the first prize of the hunt a… squirt gun! Soon everybody had one!

After that it was time for ice-cream cake with sprinkles! It was very yummy. Then we played in the pool until everybody left.

It was a fun day!

We sometimes worry that we won’t be able to stock our kids with an adequate amount of birthday memories because we travel. I, for the most part, grew up in one place in one home. My parents gave me massive birthday parties. I remember these. The birthdays of Petra and Rivka, on the other hand, can sometimes be a little meek. When you’re in a city where you don’t really have any friends it’s a little tough to put together a birthday party with much more than the family unit. But we try hard.

For Rivka’s birthday last year we invited over some friends that we knew on Kinmen.

For Petra’s birthday last year we surprised her with a trip to Australia. She thought we were on a flight to another city in Taiwan or somewhere boring like that.

For Petra’s third birthday we had a massive party with her school in China.

On Petra’s first birthday we were in the jungles of Guatemala.

Petra is nine and she’s doing fine. She’s grown accustomed to the traveling life — she’s been going since she was born — and has become adept at making friends on the run. She wants a home though … and a school … and friends that she can meet with every day. But she’s fine with what she has.



The only way I can continue my travels and publishing this blog is by generous contributions from readers. If you can, please subscribe for just $5 per month:


If you like what you just read, please sign up for our newsletter!
* indicates required
Filed under: Celebrations, Family, Maine, Petra Hendele Adara Shepard

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.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

2 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Rob September 20, 2018, 11:52 pm

    We are, right now, the sum of all we’ve done. The good, the bad & the great surprises & the heartbreaking ones …all of it made us who we are.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard September 21, 2018, 2:27 pm


      Link Reply