I had been looking forward to my 30th birthday party for years.

Now granted, I was not really looking forward to being 30 so much as I was looking forward to the surprise party Justin was going to throw me.

I don’t usually like to do birthday parties, but 30 is a pretty big deal. So when Justin asked how I would like to celebrate turning 30, I told him I wanted a party with close friends invited, but to surprise me on the specifics — date, location, theme. But when we found out we were moving to China, we realized we would both be turning 30 overseas … away from our friends.  I never usually care to make much of a fuss about my own birthday, but turning 30 with no party? Now that’s just sad.

Fortunately, we do have family members who live in Beijing, so we were able to celebrate my birthday with them over Thanksgiving weekend. Justin and his brother devised a very special birthday celebration for me that involved plenty of food, fun, and cake — and a trip to the Great Wall of China!

If I can’t be home celebrating my birthday with friends and family, then I might as well do something I couldn’t do anywhere else in the world, right?

So, because I was unable to celebrate my birthday with my friends back home, I thought I would bring you along for the party here online!

My 3-year-old nephew joined us for the excursion, so we opted to take the cable car to the top of the Wall and then we would walk down. It was incredible watching the Wall appear majestically from behind the mountains.

Thousands of people came from all over China and the world to celebrate my birthday along with me!

My brother-in-law bought me a party hat to wear along the Wall. It drew quite a few stares and even more requests for photos along the way. And how awesome that it matches my coat!

It’s the end  of the Great Wall! Ok, not really … it’s just the end in that spot. Look at me, would ya?  The party was just getting started!

We were pleasantly surprised to find that snow covered the surrounding hills! What a treat!

More party-goers …

Isn’t it beautiful? I’m still in awe.

Justin was his usual silly, adventurous self.

When we met five years ago, we never imagined we would be standing on the Great Wall of China together celebrating my 30th birthday! 

A perfect view to end the day as the sun began to disappear behind the mountains. Do you see the Wall along the distant ridgeline? It seems to never end!

And waiting for me when we returned home? A delicious meal full of traditional birthday dishes from the Tianjin area and a yummy cake with “Happy 30th Birthday, L!” written in Chinese characters! A perfect end to a very special day. How blessed I am to have be given 30 years of abundant life. 

It’s so crazy to think that in 7th grade I wrote a research paper on China and the Great Wall for Mrs. Parker’s English class and then 18 years later I celebrated my birthday there! (It’s also equally terrifying that 7th grade was 18 years ago!) When I was in middle school and high school, I always dreamed of traveling the world, but I never dreamed that one day I would actually have that opportunity!

I am truly blessed by the experiences I have had over the past 30 years, but I’m even more blessed by the family and friends I have back home with whom I would choose to celebrate my birthday any day over visiting the Great Wall of China.


Thanks for joining me for my party! What is the most unique place you’ve celebrated a birthday?