Coming of Age: Making the 13th Birthday Special on the Road

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Coming of Age: Making the 13th Birthday Special on the Road

Coming of Age: Making the 13th Birthday Psecial on the Road

Our family’s birthday traditions spring from our cross-cultural experiences as singles.

As a teenager, I took a mission trip to Jamaica, visiting and holding meetings in schools and orphanages. Joboy was our dependable driver/guard/concierge/liaison that tirelessly kept everything at hand, tip-top and on time. Our team was delighted to find out his birthday would occur during our trip.
That night, we gathered around under the banana trees and surprised him with a cake, candles, and singing ¨Happy Birthday”. The real surprise was his reaction. Through his tears, he said,

I am 23 years old, and this is the first time in my life I can remember anyone ever saying happy birthday to me. Until right now, I never knew my life mattered to anyone.

As a cherished daughter that grew up in the southern U.S., I would never look at birthdays the same again.
Brent grew up in a suburban Philadelphia neighborhood, a mix of Jews and Italian Catholics. When his classmates turned thirteen, the talk was all about the next bar mitzvah. For the Catholics, they talked about going to CCD, doctrinal classes in preparation for confirmation.

As the “none of the above” non-Catholic Gentile, he felt like the odd-man out. He felt that being thirteen ought to have some rite of passage. Later, as a married couple, we both wanted to create a lifetime memory for our rising teens.

Coming of Age: Making the 13th Birthday Special on the Road

Making the 13th birthday Special of the Road

Little Hannah before we started traveling full-time.

It’s a Girl!!

Hannah was born on a crisp Pennsylvania evening in December. The grey skies cast a snowy receiving blanket just outside my window. She was born at home; Papa caught her. He cut the cord and first dressed her in a white layette with pastel teddy bears, as two year-old brother looked on.

Never was there a more delighted set of parents to welcome their first girl. Hannah Primera Inion. Her middle name came from Brent’s mother who had gone on to Heaven earlier that year.

Hannah Birthday Birthday on the Road Fast forward, thirteen years.

On the morning of Hannah’s actual 13th birthday, Papa and I surprised her with a two-on-one breakfast at our favorite breakfast spot in Manzanillo. Her birth date came amidst the busyness of packing our house (after nine months) and preparing to move. Although we all anticipated a bigger celebration later, we did not want to overlook the actual day. Over pancakes, we filled her with words of blessing and praise.

Once we were settled in our new villa, the time to celebrate Hannah’s birthday arrived. Since we are in Mexico, a piñata is a non-negotiable. For Hannah, it was a snowman piñata.

While the children batted it around, they kept pleading with it, ”Let it go!” Finally, when the busted piñata refused to yield the candy, they giggled and wrestled the poor papier-mache snowman until they were satisfied.

Coming of Age: Making the 13th Birthday Special on the Road

Opening her new Canon DSLR camera.

Coming of Age

The Caption Reads, FLY OUT. Look at her eyes. She cried. I was not expecting that. Sweet girl made her Papa and I both cry, too.

In keeping with our on-the-road style celebrations (for our older than five crew), Hannah was given ONE main gift and a trip. Last year, we took Hannah to see the amazing monarch butterfly migration. Julia went birding in Puerto Vallarta; Josiah hiked a volcano. Hadassah visited a children’s museum and had a party at McDonald´s in Guadalajara.

Hannah knew she would be going somewhere, but the “where” caught her entirely off guard.

After she unwrapped her Canon DSLR (as a side, we really like the Canon DSLR’s for beginners) and the small sweet gifts from her siblings, I handed her a notebook. This sweet girl thought the notebook was really her gift. Watch this video to see what the true gift was.

Want to see more of how our traveling family celebrates? Click on this video to see fun glimpses of Hannah’s birthday with the family.


Hannah and I had an unforgettable mother-daughter getaway to Cozumel. Check back for the story.

Coming of Age: Making the 13th birthday special on the road.


Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion, parents of nine (including four children adopted with special needs), 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year and the National Geographic Travelers People's Choice Travelers of the Year. They love to laugh, to read and to explore as a family. The secret to their marital bliss is an early morning cup of freshly brewed coffee before the children awake.


  1. What a wonderful post! I love the way you celebrate!

  2. Marylou says:

    I just started following your blog recently. Your travel lifestyle is very intriguing. 🙂 Happy 13th Birthday to Hannah. I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip.

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