Birthday Abroad: A Scenic Route Into Yourself + Activating My Creative Brain

28 isn’t a particularly significant age. It’s not your first birthday where people are happy that you’ve made it one year on this planet, it’s not 18 where you can drive and vote, it’s not 21 where you can drink and you’re usually going off to college, it’s not even 25 where now you’re smack dab in the middle of your 20’s, it’s not 30 where you’re grown, sexy and still broke, it’s not 50 where you’re just grown and more than likely half way through your life, and it’s definitely not 100 where you’ve seen it all and done it all. It’s just 28. You’re closer to 30 and farther away from 20. You’re still young but not young enough to get away with straight shenanigans as you could at 23 yet not old enough to be taken seriously at your job because you’re still seen as millennial that hasn’t “put your time in.” 28 is just 28.

I was turning 28 and was underwhelmed. Overwhelmed with birthday planning and underwhelmed with turning 28. In my opinion traveling and opening yourself up to new experiences is always the best way to spend a birthday. For 28, I decided to do what I did when I turned 26 & 27 and that is to travel! Passport Required aka Darnell Lamont Walker, was the second thing that came to my mind when planning my birthday. Planning a trip to Cuba was my first idea, but that’s am overwhelmingly short story for another day. I had been following Passport required for about a year, always checking for new blog posts, wanting to see the reveals of the secret destinations, and of course to read the reviews.

During my year of stalking, I wasn’t able to go on any of the trips due to timing, money or both. I just jealously watched from my computer screen, the wonderful trips that I wasn’t able to take. I happened to check in December and saw a trip posted for February for $900. I don’t know if it was divine intervention, perfect timing, boredom at work that made me check at this exact moment but THANK the Heavens I did because a trip was posted that I could take! I knew I could afford $900 if I paid in installments (which is so great that they allow you to pay in $300 installments). The dates worked perfectly, February 15-22 and my birthday was on the 23rd. I imagined a week of international travel and then returning home just in time to enjoy my actual birthday. I also considered that the trip could end up being the worse decision I had ever made and was happy knowing I would be home the day of my birthday and could still turn-up my way.

The timing was perfect, the dates couldn’t be any better, the finances worked for my budget but even with all those factors aligned the thing that really caught my attention was the title of the trip: A Scenic Route into 

Yourself. So simple, yet so deep. Twenty-seven was a good year, it was filled with many career opportunities that I had created for myself and accomplishment of goals that I really didn’t have faith of ever achieving. The universe blessed 27-year-old Shanice in many ways and I admittedly was scared of what 28 would bring. I should’ve been more excited because I knew last year was good and this year the only option is up. Nah, in this case I was a realistic pessimist. There is a chance of things getting worse or things just being stagnant. I didn’t want 28 to be an underwhelming year and I didn’t want previous career successes to be the only thing that defined me. I truly wanted to branch out and start focusing on my passions. I wanted to start using my creative mind and not just my technical, analytical, critical thinking mind. I needed to wake up my right brain and give my left brain a rest. I needed to be able to look within, wake up my creativity, and start living. I needed to take a journey. This trip was for me.


Darnell, Eric, Aneesha, and Hong Kong saved my birthday and to make it more dramatic, my life. Our trip was to the Hong Kong Islands. This was my first time in Asia, my first time traveling with strangers, my first time traveling that long of a distance, my first time traveling internationally with just a backpack, I could go on and on with all the firsts that I experienced on this trip but that deserves its own post. Hong Kong was simply great. Food was delicious and we ate things that you would see that white man on food network eating (you know the one…the guy who travels internationally and eats fried tarantulas). The people were nice, non-threatening (very important characteristic to black folks traveling abroad), welcoming, and just curious. Yes, people touched my hair and yes, many random Hong Kongers have pictures with me on their phones and cameras. Some things are just automatic situations when traveling while black.

For the record, this was the BEST decision I made and I had a wonderful trip and a unforgettable birthday but this honestly wasn’t a post about Hong Kong or my birthday. No words can sum up the awesomeness of the trip or of the country. I encourage you to travel to Hong Kong if you want to experience their culture and if you want enlightenment travel with Passport Required. This post was for me and proof that I am on my journey of becoming a creative. It’s about the things I learned and felt while traveling with 3 strangers. The things they taught me, the laughter that we shared, and the sleep deprived nights that I am still (a month later) recovering from. I came back from the trip tired and sick to be honest but I also came back with a different perspective, with an energy to go after my passions that I didn’t possess before, with a hunger to be a creative, and a peace of mind knowing and truly believing “What is for me will always be for me.”

Spending time running the streets of Hong Kong, asking the most annoying questions at the most pristine times, partying with strangers, dissecting the meaning of time, and just being…turned on my right brain. Darnell taught me that anything is possible if you know how to word it right on your resume, Aneesha taught me that life is what you make it and rules are meant for fools, and sweet Eric taught me to take my time and to do things with grace and ease. We took a journey and from that journey I learned that a route into myself was only possible when taking a journey with others. This post is for you. If you’re thinking about doing it then do it. If you want to travel, then travel. If you want a life changing experience, hit up Darnell.