February 2nd, 2018 marked the third time I celebrated my birthday in Peru. The day has become an interesting and unexpected benchmark to my life in South America, a chance to see where I’m at, how I’ve grown, and what in my life has changed for better or worse. Because I have failed to capture most of this time in South America on these pages, I thought I’d recap the past three birthdays. For posterity, for any of you who might be curious, and for my future self. I know future me will appreciate it.
Here’s a look back at my past three birthdays and the circumstances that shaped each of them.
Birthday #1 in Peru. Waking up in Cusco, just days in and still very starry-eyed from what I’d done, 26 ended up being a very lonely birthday. Romantic me had thought moving to Peru just days before the event would be a gift to myself. Here Amber, spend the whole age of 26 in Peru, your longtime dream come true. Cool as an idea. Not so cool in reality. What I failed to realize was that I’d have no one to celebrate with. Not sure how I didn’t see that one coming. As pitiful as it sounds, I spent the day buying myself birthday cake and taking myself out to the fanciest restaurant I could I find. No one around me had the slightest clue about the party I was throwing myself. Nevertheless, it was a memorable one…and hopefully a one-time-only experience.
If my 26th was lonely, my 27th was anything but. By 27, a whole year had passed in Peru. I had a boyfriend. I was writing travel content for two different travel agencies about a country I had come to fall even deeper in love with. I’d managed to travel to Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia, not to mention countless cities throughout Peru. My sister had come to visit with her college roommate. My life had so completely changed from where it was the year prior. I felt on top of the world, like it couldn’t get any better than this. 27 began with a cup of coffee on my rooftop terrace overlooking gorgeous Cusco. My boyfriend and I had joked many times about my depressing 26th birthday and he promised to make this one unforgettable. He delivered and then some. A beautiful bouquet of flowers, breakfast and dinner at two of my favorite Cusco restaurants (Jack’s Cafe and Papachos), and a surprise gathering of friends and cake to finish the day. It was perfect and oh so different from my 26th.
My 28th birthday just happened a few days ago. Unlike the previous two, this one wasn’t spent in Cusco. In fact, it wasn’t even spent in my new home of Arequipa. With flashbacks of my 26th coming in all too vivid and currently a disappointing friend count of zero, I decided to book a flight to Lima where friends turned family awaited me, as did summer-like temperatures. I spent my birthday and the days that followed visiting all of my favorite Lima haunts from bingo (yes, I’m way ahead of my time here) with a side of my favorite club sandwich to sunset at Larcomar and a fancy meal at Tanta. My dad had also gifted me a night’s stay at the Radisson where I enjoyed cocktails by the rooftop pool and way too much food at the buffet breakfast. Again, a very different birthday than the last. This one came with some baggage from the previous year: A break up, a thrilling and equally trying stint in Colombia, a spur of the moment trip to France with mom and sisters, new writing opportunities, and a new city that’s proving to be a bit more difficult to break into, at least socially. My 28th has come with a bit more unpredictably than my 27th. There’s a lot I just don’t know about my life right now. It’s scary, to be honest, but thrilling. 28 is starting off as what feels like a blank canvas. I’m eager to see what unfolds by 29.