I’ve been 38 years old for a little more than four months and already I’m planning what to do for my 40th birthday. About three years ago, I told my husband, “When I turn 40, I don’t want a big party or anything like that; I want to take a BIG trip.” Traveling to a country I’ve not yet visited is my idea of a good time, more fun than any party could be. At the time I made that statement, I really did not have a specific country or region in mind. I’m closer to the big 4-0 now and, while I still haven’t made a final decision on where to go, I have narrowed down the field – but I’ll still need your help.
The first memory I have of wanting to visit Iceland is from the seventh grade. The Reykjavik Summit was taking place at the time so our teacher presented us with Iceland-related lessons. Pictures of the unfamiliar yet stunning landscape drew me in then, and as the years went by and I learned of the country’s geothermal features and fishing culture, Iceland skyrocketed to the top of my travel bucket list. But my birthday is in February; do I really want to go to Iceland in February? I’m not afraid of cold temperatures and snow – I’m a lifelong Chicagoan, after all – but will it be completely inhospitable?
I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. There is this running joke in my Italian-American family that, unlike everyone else, I’m actually Asian. The claim is based primarily on my physical appearance, and it’s completely inaccurate, but everyone gets a good chuckle from it nonetheless. A certain family member, who shall remain unidentified (cough*Dad*cough), narrowed down the land of my alleged Asian ancestry to Mongolia. So now I want to go there. It’s not really because that’s where my father jokingly insists I’m from, but because I’m absolutely intrigued by the lifestyles of the nomadic peoples, and by the striking beauty of the rugged landscape. Further, in my early 20s, I fell in love with fly fishing and later on learned that some of the world’s best streams are in Mongolia. Can I see myself spending my 40th birthday wearing Neoprene waders, knee-deep in an untamed Mongolian river, trying to land a legendary Taimen? You bet your creel I can.
Mine is a new love affair with Argentina. It started with a crush on Patagonia but the more I learned about the food and the wine and the culture, it became a full-on obsession. For my 40th birthday, I dream of learning to tango in Buenos Aires, followed by an incredible steak with chimichurri sauce, washed down with bottles of Malbec. I want to spend days exploring the Mendoza wine country and then the rest of the time traversing Patagonia. Far-fetched? Unrealistic? I’d like to find out for myself.
This has everything to do with the accent, the kilts, the castles, and Kevin McKidd. Plus, it’s the one place on my list (maybe besides Iceland) that I would be comfortable bringing my daughter to. Because when I do take this 40th birthday trip, I plan to go for a long time. This isn’t going to be a standard 1 ½ – 2 week vacation, and I don’t know if I can leave my daughter for any amount of time longer than that. Plus, as a three year old in her “princess phase”, my daughter is obsessed with castles, so I imagine Scotland would be a fairy-tale dream come true for her.
Now this is where you come in, dear friends and readers. Have you been to Iceland, Mongolia, Argentina, and/or Scotland? Would you recommend I celebrate my 40th birthday in one of these places?