Finally 21: How to Celebrate Your Big Day Abroad!

Angela Williams University of Western Cape, South Africa


April 29, 2016

Turning the BIG 2-1 in Cape Town, one of the world’s top travel destinations, sounds amazing, doesn’t it? A part of me thought, this is lit, but the anticipation of spending my birthday in another country brought waves of homesickness. As the days approached April 28th, it really hit me that I was 8,276 miles from home and my usual crew was not here to celebrate with me. For a 20-year-old American, 21 is a pretty BIG deal; 21 is the year when one can drink legally and RESPONSIBLY, but more importantly it marks one’s official initiation into adulthood. Eventually, I reminded myself that every experience is about perspective and I chose not to spend my 21st focusing on my homesickness. Instead I was determined to have fun doing what I love with people who have a mutual appreciation for life. 

Here are some things I did to make the day great:

  1. The weekend before, I spent 4+ hours at the tattoo parlor receiving some precious ink as a gift to myself.
  2. The night before, I went to The Crypt, one of Cape Town’s premiere Jazz spots, where the beautiful and talented Sunda Songbird, @sundasongbird, sang “Happy Birthday” to me on stage.
  3. The day of, I admired artwork at the South African National Gallery.
  4. The night of, I enjoyed live Jazz at The Great Wizoo, another great Jazz spot in town with housemates and friends.
  5. Throughout the day, I checked my Facebook and phone periodically for birthday posts and messages.
  6. Before slumber, I talked to my mother via Facebook calling.

To my surprise, I celebrated my most memorable birthday yet and it was one of my best days in Cape Town. If you are celebrating your birthday abroad, yet feel a bit homesick, I have some suggestions for you:

  1. Give yourself a unique gift that will last for a long time.
  2. Do something you love, whether it’s painting, going to the museum, lounging on the beach, or traveling somewhere new.
  3. Surround yourself with people who give off positive energy and who genuinely like you on your special day.

If you do these three things, I guarantee that you will have great memories and a heck of a story to share when people ask you, “How was your birthday?”