Birthday Post: On Getting Older (without growing up)

As I’m turning 29 today, it officially marks the start of the last year of my 20s. Friends and family members know how scared I was for this one.

As far as I’m concerned, your twenties are the best decade of your life. You’re no longer a teenager, so you are allowed more. You can stay out longer and have all the privileges adults have.

I remember celebrating my 20th birthday. It was freshers week in my university. I still remember we were at a party as the clock struck midnight, and the whole club started singing Happy Birthday to me. The official start of a new era: student life, and being a twenty-something.

Then there’s graduation and the bliss of finishing university. When you obtain that degree you worked so hard for, you think there’s a whole world out there, but slowly you are confronted with the reality that careers are more competitive and flats are more expensive than you think!

However, that’s all OK! Being in your twenties, society seems to be fine with the fact that you still haven’t got it all figured out. It’s OK if you live in a flat share, it’s OK if you haven’t found that perfect job yet: you’re only at the start of your career and the beginning of life.

However, as soon as you approach your thirties, society slowly and quietly begins to expect things from you. Friends are slowly setting down, getting married and having babies. Also family members keep asking about your love life and reminding you that the clock is ticking (there was never a clock before, and suddenly it is ticking). Your career should be going uphill and you should be thinking about settling down and getting married, perhaps even children!

When you’re 29 and realise you’re not even close to being there yet, are you doing the right thing?

The positive thing is that if you’re feeling like this, many of us can relate. As I’m getting ‘older’, I’m slowly learning and beginning to accept that everything unfolds in its own time. If you’re not yet there, you probably aren’t ready. Comparing your life to others’ won’t take you anywhere, as everyone has their own story.

Instead of worrying about the things I think I should have – because others my age have them – I’m beginning to focus on the things I already have accomplished and look back with pride. I managed to have a masters degree and move to one of the largest cities in the world! Apart from that, I am happy that I am still able to enjoy the things I did as a child!

For example, yesterday, my family decided to take me on the ultimate childhood trip to De Efteling.

Every person who spent a great deal of their childhood in the Netherlands – regardless of their age – knows about De Efteling. It started out in the 1950s as a small children’s playground in the hidden woodlands of Northern Brabant, in the South of the Netherlands.

But over time, it has expanded to one of the largest amusement parks, comparable to Disneyland. In fact, after Disneyland Paris, it is considered the largest amusement park in Europe.

The enormous pointed arches of the entrance can be seen from miles away.

It has many fun rides, suited for all ages: such as rollercoasters, but also themed boat or train rides through magical places such as the fairy kingdom or 1001 Nights.

But what makes De Efteling so unique to other theme parks, and reminiscent of Disneyland is its Enchanted Fairytale Forest (Sprookjesbos).

It is a walk through the forest past several scenes from fairytales. Some of them are animated, or have robotic characters that look surprisingly realistic. It truly makes your favourite childhood stories come to life!

There’s a very adorable little village of gnomes who live in enormous toadstools

And somewhere hidden in the woods, there is Little Red Riding Hood visiting her grandmother,

while the Big Bad Wolf is sleeping in her bed.

Also further into the woods, you can find Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house. If you try to open the gate, the witch peeks through the door, asking who’s nibbling from her house.

What makes De Efteling so different from Disneyland, is that it looks more authentic and more in the style of the Brothers Grimm’s original fairytales.

For example, Sleepling Beauty doesn’t nap in an enormous pink castle, but in a rather modest and slightly worn medieval castle with ancient looking towers.

There’s also an enormous dragon.

If you try to touch the forbidden treasure, he gets really upset!

This dragon is very old and has been guarding the treasure for many decades!

And there’s many other fairytales! Can you name them all?*

*The Seven Goats, Pinocchio, The Frog Prince, Tom Thumb, Rapunzel, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Rumplestiltskin, Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

Visiting the Enchanted Fairytale Forest at De Efteling is the perfect experience to feel like a child again. I have been there many times when I was little, on school trips as well as with my family.

If you are planning on visiting De Efteling, when I can recommend you take the rides first, as there’s often large queues, especially towards the end of the day. There’s now even an app with an interactive map of the park as well as live queue time updates!

I can recommend installing the app! As it will save you lots of time!

Visiting the Enchanted forest later, is usually a better idea as it usually doesn’t go anywhere and later in the day, it isn’t as crowded with little children, and many people are about to go home.

Also De Efteling is a rather large park and thus can’t really be visited in one day (unless you have been there many times before and basically know it by heart). Therefore there are some places where you can stay overnight. For example there is the Efteling hotel. A beautiful castle shaped hotel with unique fairytale themed suites. Or you can rent a cottage in the woods. I have never done either of these before, so have no experience with these.

I think De Efteling is the perfect place to visit when you don’t want to grow up just yet! Nobody every ages or feels old when visiting this park, and so it’s the perfect place to visit on – or just before – your birthday!

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