(Written on 31st January 2015)
Today is my 28th birthday, and I am writing this somewhere under the English channel. As birthdays go, I suppose waking up in Paris and then spending the day with some of my favourite people in London ranks up there as one of the best ways to spend an adult birthday.
However, it's also quite sad. I am on the penultimate leg of my 'mini grand tour of Europe', which means the next stop after London is back home and back to real life. I've been looking forward to this trip for so long, and now it's nearly over. Somewhat like my 20s.
I have just realised that I'm technically no longer in my mid 20s, and I'm closer to 30 than I am to 20. Not that age matters hugely, I've just spent a lot of time this week with friends I have known for a long time, and have naturally reflected on our teenage years.
Ten years ago today, I turned 18. I remember it vividly - going out for dinner and to the cinema the night before, and driving down the M56 for half an hour so I could be with my friends at midnight (we sat in Chester service station sharing a chocolate muffin between four of us, then I had to drive everyone home and didn't get in until after 2am. I vaguely remember falling asleep in my stats class the next day, which would have been less of a problem if I hadn't made up 50% of the class).
At 18, I think I was probably the most confident I have ever been. I had lots of friends, I could drink and drive (not together) and have a job and do all sorts of grown up things. I was clever and passed all my exams (they later let me take a whole extra A level, which meant learning the course two weeks before the exam), I was going to go to university and get a great job and do loads of travelling, and it was all going to be amazing.
Fast forward ten years, and I am happy. But life is so completely different than I ever imagined it would be. This week of travelling around Europe (albeit only three countries, not including the UK) has been amazing, but on more than one occasion I've found myself wishing I was there with my friends, living in a new city, learning and using a different language, and being part of a completely different culture. My lucky friends live on this huge land mass where a completely different country is just a few hours away on the train.
I think I might be a little bit jealous.
My friend sent me an article recently that says if you are ever asked for life advice, tell them to go travelling. I could have told you that for free.
But just because the advice is given doesn't necessarily mean I'll take it. I love travelling, but I've come to realise that one of the things I love most is the opportunity to escape from real life.
Unfortunately, when you leave anywhere to go travelling, real life has a habit of coming with you. My lucky friends do have so many opportunities to travel, but they also have to deal with bills and rent and insurance and all sorts of grown up nonsense that means travelling isn't actually as easy as it sounds.
So I guess I don't really have a choice. I have to go back to real life and face my quarter-life crisis head on.
Though that won't stop me from planning the next grand tour!