This is 30:  My Year of Wonder Photo Essay

On the eve of my 31st birthday, as I reflect on the past year, it’s hard to comprehend everything that happened in the past 365 days.

When I left my job in 2014 to travel the world for a year, I never anticipated the adventures, challenges, joys, and changes that would come my way.

Over the past year, there’s been a lot of talk amongst my peers about turning 30, particularly on social media.  I have seen seemingly endless posts on my Facebook feed of people either filled with dread and despair over turning 30 or others partying like there’s no tomorrow with “dirty thirty” celebrations (I still don’t understand…Why is it “dirty”?…because it rhymes???…I digress!)

As I feel 30 is getting a bad rap, I wanted to put together a thought-provoking piece on life at 30.  So, for the past couple of hours, I’ve been sitting at my computer trying to compose a reflective and insightful blog post on being 30.  However, I’m finding that words are failing to express much anything of what I feel.

As I was reflecting and thinking about what I should say, I found myself flipping through my photos of the past year.  And, then I realized, when words fail, why not just show.

So, without further ado, I present:  This is 30.  A year of wonder.  A year of joy.  A year of big decisions.  And, a year of living life on my own terms.

One day after turning 30, I made it to Everest Base Camp in Nepal!


One of my favorite places in Kathmandu:  the Boudhanath Stupa


Celebrating the 90th birthday of my grandmother (center) via FaceTime and catching up with her sister (left) and my sister.



Helping out with elephant bathtime at Chitwan National Park in Nepal.


Taking in the shining and shimmering skyscrapers along the marina in Dubai.


After first studying the Hagia Sofia in high school social studies classes, it was a dream come true to see it in person, even if there was scaffolding up in half of it!


Quintessential Turkey: the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia, where I hiked for days (and could have continued for many more!), and a tree full of evil eyes.


Exploring Jerusalem’s Old City with our friends Tara and Daniel who came to travel with us for a bit! Here, we overlook the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Temple Mount.


Remembering my baptism in the Jordan River.


Celebrating Christmas at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine.


Winding my way through the siq to the Treasury of Petra in Jordan.


Two unexpected but wonderful days exploring the sights of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Quick trip back to the U.S. to celebrate my brother-in-law’s wedding. Love my siblings-in-law!


Loved getting the chance to bond with the cutest nephews around. Can’t get enough of them!


While we were in the U.S., I decided to surprise my mom. She knew that I was in the country for a wedding but had no idea that I would be coming to see her! Surprise a success!


Tigers, Steelers, and Aggies…oh my! Had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite former Clemson football players Tajh Boyd at a Chick-fil-A in my hometown. While he was there, I got to tell him about my world travels! Boyd now plays for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.


On our way back overseas, we made a quick stop in D.C. for a wedding and to catch up with friends. Our visit was just at the end of the cherry blossom festivities, and we were lucky to still take in the beautiful pink blossoms around the Tidal Basin. Perfect timing!


Found a $250 plane ticket to Paris…how could we say no! Loved being in love in the City of Lights.


Dancing alongside palaces in Bordeaux, France.


Beginning the Camino de Santiago from southern France and across Spain. We walked nearly 500 miles across Europe. Here, we are on day two of our pilgrimage.


Some days, I didn’t think I would make it. But, walking the Camino de Santiago was a dream nearly 10 years in the making and an experience I will never forget. I couldn’t have done it without this group of pilgrims by my side. Buen Camino!


Tasting port for the first time in Porto, Portugal.


After more than 10 months of constant travel together, my husband and I went our separate ways for a few weeks. Along the coast of Portugal, I settled into solo travel and enjoyed wandering through hidden beaches and caves in Lagos.


I happened to pass through Lisbon during a huge holiday. I joined in a parade and got a taste of the crazy partying and nightlife that the city has to offer!


I’ve been dreaming of Barcelona for years.  So excited that I finally made it!  I spent hours wandering through the Sagrada Familia.  Truly an awe-inspiring place.


The food in Bangkok was more incredible then I imagined it could be. I would go back just for the noodle soup, pad thai, and phat si-io. Can’t wait to see more of the country one day.


In 2010, I spent my summer as a graduate intern with the Ponheary Ly Foundation in Cambodia. In the evenings, I taught English classes to a group of girls from the countryside who had to relocate to Siem Reap in order to attend high school. Over the years, we’ve kept in touch, but it was one of the highlights of my trip to be reunited with these girls, introduce them to my husband, and hear the amazing things they are doing with their lives. I’m so proud of them.


Sunrise at Ankor Wat never gets old. Incredible to see and incredible to be back in this amazing place five years after my first visit.



For the first time in years, I was back home for my sister’s birthday!  A little older and a little wiser, but we’re still the same silly sisters.



And, to end my 30th year, I packed up my belongings and moved to Amman, Jordan!   Here, a bellboy rolls out all of our belongings for our adventure in Jordan together.



So, this is 30.  The challenges.  The triumph.  The tears.  The laughter.  The incredible.  The mundane.  And, everything in between.  30 was far from what I expected and more than I ever hoped it could be.

Here’s to hoping that 31 will be just as wonderful.

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  • Reply
    Martha P.
    July 15, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Loren such a great job of sharing your heart through words and pictures! Love your positive outlook on your 30th year in review. Not many people will see the many wonders you have in the first 30 years and I look forward to reading about this next years adventures!

  • Reply
    John G.
    July 15, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    The gift of sharing.
    Thank you Loren.

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