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For my 29th birthday, July 30, I visited Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and it was amazing, to say the least. Having a birthday in the middle of the summer, growing up I always felt like I wasn't able to celebrate with my friends in school because I was traveling and I thought that was a bad thing. Looking back now, I appreciate being able to travel every summer and I feel like it has definitely influenced and shaped the woman that I am today.

My best friend Sascha is also my travel buddy, and when we both lived in California, taking trips was much easier but since she moved to the UK a few years back, we’ve had to adapt some new traditions. We made a deal to at LEAST get together and celebrate our birthdays together somewhere new each year. Dominican Republic had been on my Bucket List for quite some time because I had heard so many great things about it (and if I’m being completely honest, I saw a picture of this gazebo in the ocean and I was sold). I looked up the rates for the both of us (I like to think that finding the best deals is one of my many specialties), reserved our hotels, and a week later we both purchased our plane tickets.

Sascha arrived a day before me and was able to check out the scene before my arrival as I had an overnight layover in Atlanta. (While some people don't like layovers and prefer direct flights. I, however, don't mind layovers and I sometimes seek them out especially if they are in cities that i've never been to or that I have friends in. In fact I’ve visited some great places like the Great Wall of China, The Blue Mosque in Turkey, explored Japan etc.) I spent the night in Atlanta and arrived in DR around 9pm. For our first night, we stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Punta Cana, which was LITERALLY 4 minutes from the airport. The service was very nice and the hotel staff was very accommodating. That night we went across the street from our hotel, the weather was about 85 degrees, we got some food and went to bed. The next morning, we woke up and walked to the grocery store to get some essentials (I found 9.5pH water and was ecstatic!). When we left the grocery store, we decided to take a stroll through the residential neighborhood and before we could walk 4 blocks down, a police car pulled up and told us that we had to stay in the hotel resort area (news to me).

Anyways, the officers were cool, we got back and checked out and headed to our new hotel, The Westin PuntaCana Resort & Spa. From the moment we walked out of the car and pulled up to the lobby, which is pretty much outdoors, I felt like I was in my own version of paradise. The staff there were so friendly and welcoming. That second day, we went to the beach relaxed and tried to find some ways to meet some people while we were out there. We’re both pretty outgoing young women and making friends is never an issue, we just seemed to be away from all of the action. I will say that when I go back to Punta Cana, i’ll be staying in Bavaro.

We actually ended up using Instagram to connect with some pretty cool guys from Philadelphia who just happened to be spending the weekend down there celebrating life! We went ATVing together, jumped in an underwater cave, visited a beach that was probably the most lit beach I’ve ever seen in my life.

I somehow managed to spare you guys the minor details of us all (7 individuals) got into a honda, got briefly harassed by the police, got lost and had to drive 30 minutes the opposite way, then got a flat tire and had to stay somewhere that was not our hotel room for the night until we could get a taxi in the morning. (Yeah, I’ll save that)

When we got back to the hotel we ended up making another friend who was on a Solo trip celebrating his birthday and we pretty much spent the rest of our trip together. For the next couple of days, before we made our way to part 2 of the birthday festivities, we went zip lining, explored the nearby cities, saw the nightlife, strip club, had some good local food. It was great and it was just the warm up for the trip before our second leg back in Toronto.


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