Brief & Arrogant Thoughts On Turning 30

I’m old, but I’m happy.

Time To Read: 4 mins | May 7, 2017

I woke up and my back hurt. I suppose this is something I need to start getting used to.

My bed and I were in San Pedro de Atacama, but only barely. This Airbnb claimed to be close to the town center, but the listing was more full of shit than a fiber-loaded Fat Bastard on Imodium AD who’s been forking take-out Chinese down his gullet for 72 straight hours.

It’s a tourist town, which means prices are significantly higher than normal. So I sucked it up and stayed in a perfectly fine hostel for the first couple days but, being the classy broad I am, refused to share a bathroom on my thirtieth birthday.


Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to poo in private on this milestone.

So come the big day, I rented a garbage apartment that turned out to be way, way more outside of town than originally listed. But while the distance was an inconvenience, the real disappointment was inside. Upon arrival I learned there was no hot water, the bathroom tiling had inexplicably never been glued down and, contrary to the classy decorations featured online, the living room was stuffed full of two refrigerators side-by-side (neither of which worked), a plastic-framed bunk bed just inches from blocking the front door, and multiple empty faux-wood entertainment centers. It was so crammed with furniture that I think it was a rich local’s storage unit, and the wealthy bastard simply forgot to pay his utility bills.

Now, this might sound like a downer, to wake up somewhere lackluster on a birthday, but I’m not a big birthday person to begin with. It always feels like an obligation, as if you’re expected to host an extravaganza so your friends have a temporary excuse for their alcoholism. Or, if your social circle is less louche than mine, you’re at least under pressure to respond to well-wishers, post something cliché to Facebook, and meet nearby acquaintances for 2-3 hours of small talk.


— before you say it, yes, I am well aware I’m a grouchy 80-year old man trapped in a 30-year old’s body.

And truly, I understand the sentiment, that on this one day of the year we’re supposed to live exactly how we want to – cake and celebrations and plastic hats and friends and dancing and, in the best of cases, disco roller rinks.

So when I left my too-far-away apartment that morning, having been 30-years old for all of nine hours, walking down a dirt road with my sore back and no close friends for over 5,000 miles, I pondered my situation. And I smiled. Then I chuckled, and that quickly turned into full-fledged laughter. My cackling mildly terrified a nearby Chilean lady hanging her laundry, and a one-eyed cat hissed at my glee.

The excess attention not withstanding, people enjoy birthdays because they use it as an excuse to do whatever they want. That may be spending an entire day with family, a roller skating party with friends (in case you haven’t caught on, I’m a big fan of roller skating), or cocktails with co-workers that ends in mistake sex with someone from accounting. People are, momentarily, doing exactly what they want to do with their lives.

In the title of this piece, I used the word ‘Arrogant’. That’s because I immediately knew why I was laughing: despite waking up in a shitty apartment thousands of miles from the nearest human that knew my name, I get to do exactly what I want every single day.


photo: this magnificent bastard sat with me for half an hour at machu picchu, and was even kind enough to mug for a photo.

Malcolm Freberg on FacebookMalcolm Freberg on InstagramMalcolm Freberg on Twitter
Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

Leave a Comment


  1. Laurie G

    Always enjoy your perspective, you’ve got an incredible gift and I wish you many more healthy and life affirming experiences! Safe travels Malcolm –

  2. Scott Loane

    finally making time for Dustyland…your birthday story being the first thing to read.
    1 – now just want to read more
    2 – thank you for sharing what you write.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *