My best friend, Jan, and I take each other on surprise birthday adventures. Twice a year, we celebrate our birthdays, and most importantly, a friendship that has flourished for almost 50 years. It is our rebellion against the notion of "Oh, not another birthday!" The "rules" are pretty simple:
- The birthday girl is completely treated. All planning and expenses are covered by the birthday giver.
- Destination and activities are a total surprise. In fact, trickery is highly encouraged. We're talking fake itineraries, unnecessary passports, blindfolds and bizarre clothing requests.
- Embarrassment is encouraged. The official Birthday T-Shirts are worn; flight attendants make announcements; and a tribe of Mohawk Indians actually sang "Happy Birthday" in their native tongue.
We've gone on a midnight nature walk in a Costa Rican jungle; volunteered at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah; danced at the Newport Folk Fest, Lilith Fair and Pocono Blues Fest; stayed in an earthship in New Mexico and succumbed to alcohol and food-induced comas in Montreal and Miami. And that's the short list.
Our shirts, which switch between us depending on whether it's July 26 (my birthday) or November 1(hers) engage strangers wherever we go with conversations of best friends, birthdays and surprises.
Here is what we have learned:
The Surprise Factor. I can't tell you how cool it is to be surprised. Surprise delights. It shakes things up and makes moments stand out. And it is so natural. Here's a factoid: Scientists at Emory and Baylor found changes in human brain activity that suggests that "people are designed to crave the unexpected.”
The Celebration Factor. The Surprise Birthday Adventure celebrates life. It is a reminder to both Jan and myself to be enormously grateful that we have each other and a life that permits us to indulge twice a year.
The Queen Factor. The Surprise Birthday Adventure is all about making the other person feel special. Like a Queen. For a few days each year, one person is totally devoted to making the other person happy. And what happens is that the giver ends up feeling as happy as the receiver.
I'd love to hear about your best friend and/or birthday celebrations. Let's tell each other some stories.
Photos from top to bottom: Jan and I at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; at our funky Airbnb house in Costa Rica; drinking the ultimate frozen margarita in Miami Beach; and still smiling after indulging in poutine in Montreal.