Confessions of an Expat: Turning 30 on the Road

Confessions of an Expat: Turning 30 on the Road

Confessions of an Expat: Turning 30 on the Road
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Confessions of an Expat: Turning 30 on the Road


As far back as I can remember the idea of turning 30 years old was always far off in the future, a magical age by which I would be full grown with my education behind me, a family in the making, a steady job, a steady income and a maturity I had yet to discover. But here I sit, in a small apartment in the mountains of Thailand as I flip a blank page in the book of life, between two seemingly monumental chapters of my existence.

Life has a way of changing in the blink of an eye, and providing the opportunities and chances for each of us to leap into the unknown, unsure of what, if anything, will catch us when we fall.

While I couldn’t have seen this moment years ago, here it is, a monumental day in the life of any young adult, as I sway on the edge of what can only be looked on as major, and very different, chapters of my life.

Sitting on the sand dunes in the Arabian desert on the outskirts of Dubai.

Sixteen months ago Marina and I took another leap and moved to Thailand, with nothing but each other, our cameras and a longing to see the world, explore the unknown and take a chance on life we felt we absolutely couldn’t pass up. The last year and a half has been incredible, challenging, life changing, filled with ever lasting memories and moments neither of us will ever forget. We were lucky enough to visit over 35 countries, step foot on five continents, fall in love with Paris, swim in arctic waters, explore Machu Picchu, play with tigers in Thailand and visit the Great Pyramids together.

We’ve made life long friends during the process, tried foods we never thought existed and taken chances we never thought we would, and we did it all together. As I sit here looking back I can only think how lucky I’ve been to go on such an adventure, and to do it all with my best friend by my side.

Two weeks from now I’ll be sitting behind a desk at an office in Dubai, working with a group of new friends and taking yet another leap into an equally terrifying new world. And while I have no idea what the future holds and where this next chapter will take me, I smile knowing that whatever happens will be yet another layer to the amazing journey which is life and trust that each experience I have been through thus far will guide me going forward. I can only trust that the seemingly unconnected lessons I have learned while living on the road will act as stepping stones to guide me as I go into the unknown of a city, culture, people and lifestyle I know nothing about.

Snowshoeing in Salla, Finland above the Arctic Circle.

.I’ll be honest, the road I’ve chosen hasn’t been easy. Change is hard, moving on is hard, starting something new is hard. Travel has a glamour that can easily be fantasized about through facebook posts and instagram pictures. But few know the deeply lonely feeling of arriving in a new city, wiping the slate clean and having to build your entire life from the ground up, a feeling not easily captured in social media interaction. I’d be lying if I said I never envied those who desire to stay in one place to build a solid foundation, community, life.

I don’t know why I have the constant push inside me to escape, explore and experience. Sometimes it feels more of a duty than a desire, a task more than a dream, a mission more than a fantasy. And yet I continue down the road in search of the answers, unsure of what I’ll find.

Travel has been the best education I could ever ask for and has provided the tools needed to tackle my life head on, with the knowledge that can only come from blindly jumping into the world and facing the trials and tribulations that come attached to such an act.

Sitting on our camels after our trek to the Great Pyramids.


Travel will always be there for me to turn to when I need a slap in the face, a dose of reality, a lesson needing to be learned.

No matter where I go in the world, I bring with me the kindness and warmth of those I’ve been lucky enough to meet along the way, igniting the light behind my eyes and helping me to navigate this crazy adventure we all call life.

I have many more memories to capture, mistakes to make, friends to meet and as I fall asleep each night I dream, excited to wake and greet them all.

So here I sit, 30 years old, nothing more, nothing less. And while my childhood vision of what I would be by this age is as far off as the stars in the sky, I am filled with so much more than my wildest imagination could never have dreamed, and for that I am endlessly grateful.

The world has shown me what I have needed to see up to this point. It has taught me what I needed to know and introduced me to those whom I have needed to meet, all adding to the great kaleidoscope that is a human life, and we are only just getting started.

Hanging with the mysterious guests at Carnivale in Venice, Italy.

To those I meet down the road, I can’t wait to look back and be truly unable to imagine my life without you in it. To those I’ve met thus far along the way, you’ve impacted my life for the better, no matter the size of the role we’ve played in each others lives. And to Marina, I could have never had such an amazing adventure without you and cannot wait for the memories and adventures we have yet to make, whatever form they come in.

Family is so important when traveling, whether in friends, strangers, siblings or parents and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to encourage and support all my travels thus far. While living so far away hurts at times, I think our mutual love for travel has only acted to bring us all closer. (Thanks Whatsapp)

So thats it, the sun has set on another birthday. I’ve waxed poetic and the only thing to do is move on to see what tomorrow brings. Last year on my birthday, as the clock struck midnight, I was in a tuk tuk in route to the emergency room with a case of Dengue fever, a birthday adventure I’ll never forget. And while this year’s birthday is a more reflective one, I appreciate it all the same.

However, above all else, I am most shocked that a small patch of my beard still hasn’t filled out.

I mean come on, I’m 30!

Taking pictures on the beach in Casablanca, Morocco.


.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at and they’ll respond super fast!


  1. I love how honest you are and inspiring. I am inching towards 28, but I only keep feeling greater and greater as if like is only getting better. I started traveling a lot more in the past 1.5 years and there is always more and more to come. I and my bf want to eventually retire from New York and after exploring more islands, venture off to one and settle down a bit in one we really love. When we do it, will probably be in our 30’s as we love our jobs now in NY but its’ great to know it’s never too later and the world only holds infinite amounts out there for us to see and do no matter what age!
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    • Thanks for the comment Angelica! It is always comforting to know the world will still be here whenever you are ready to explore it. I can’t wait to explore more and be yet again amazed at what I find. Safe travels and can’t wait to hear all about your adventures whenever you go on them. Cheers!

  2. Dude, this was a beautiful post. Happy birthday! The deeply lonely feeling of arriving in a new city and the idea of who you are at 30 compared to who you thought you’d be mere years ago- I could relate 100%

    And fuck what people say about 30- it’s an awesome year of life. I just wrote a reflection on turning 31:

    Keep up the great work with the blog. We love reading it and the photos always make us stop wherever we are and just be in it for a moment.

    • Man, thanks so much for the comment! It is great sit be able and sit back, relax and reflect on life and so glad to hear other people are able to relate to it. Love that post you wrote, so refreshing to read honestly about others experiences and what keeps them going.

        • Thanks Patrick! We are actually from Southern California, met and went to school in Ventura and Marina is back at home in long Beach for awhile. We miss SoCal on a daily basis during our travels and dream of the mexican food haha we’re missing.

  3. I loved this – “… a duty than a desire, a task more than a dream, a mission more than a fantasy.” This is so true. Ever since I have been blogging, my purpose of travel has changed from holidaying to being more observant. Travel blogging has made me a deeper traveler. True, travel appears glamorous, but has so many dark sides to it.
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  4. Jeff – How we wish you a very happy 30th Birthday. We will miss you terribly at the Homestead this year, but I know the travel from Dubai would be long and tiring. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    • Thanks Uncle! I wish I could be at the Homestead this year can’t wait to hear all about it from everyone and see the pictures!

  5. Terrific post! I love how honest you are. I’m 24, but I’ve always had pretty much the same expectations for 30 that you did. However, since I became a traveler my views have changed. I now want to trade a stable life for an adventurous one. Happy birthday!

    • Thanks Cory! I think honesty really helps when writing about travel, so many people romanticize travel, and while it sure is wonderful, it does come with its ups and downs. We’ve enjoyed tagging along with you, here’s to more travels!

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