For the past 7 years I’ve been keeping a deal with myself: Each year for my birthday I treat myself to a trip – could be a weekend, could be a whole month, depending on time, money and inspiration. It’s my way of patting myself on the back for always trying to live life to the fullest and to start off the new year in the best possible way. When other people want a new Ipad for or a fancy pair of shoes for their birthday, I get booking flights. By means of this philosophy I have enjoyed spontaneous breaks in San Francisco, beach time in the Caribbean Sea or shopping sprees in London. Usually I tend to go on these trips alone, or with a plan of meeting a friend at my destination, but this year I wanted it all to be a little different.

You don’t turn 30 every day and I knew that this birthday would mark a milestone in my life that I wanted to spend with the people dearest to me. Not just at home around the coffee table or a round of proseccos at our local bar, but somewhere far, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, where we could share some of the things I usually feel when I travel, that sense of excitement, discovery and awe. With this in mind, deciding on a city was easy. Somewhere not too far from home, a city everyone who visits falls in love with, a place with a rich culture, friendly people, amazing food and awesome nightlife – a city like Istanbul.

Finding accommodation was easy. I knew I wanted to get an apartment for all of us, so we could pretend to all be locals, living together, Real World style, if only for a few days. There are various websites offering sublet rental places on the web these days but we decided to try one called, the fastest growing and biggest European provider of holiday housing with over 82.000 international listings. I entered our dates, the maximum budget we wanted to spend and the neighborhood we wanted to stay in. In no time I had a list of lovely places to stay for 4 to 5 people, all for less than €100 a night per place.

It was tough deciding on one but we eventually went with a place that ticked all our boxes – perfectly located nearby Taksim Square, spacious interior, 2 bedrooms, beautifully decorated with original features, wifi, cable TV, and lots of other gimmicks I often miss about hotel rooms.

Our hostess Yesim was incredibly friendly and even offered to pick us up from the airport! Right away we fell in love with our temporary home. Little things like a juicer and a fresh coffee grinder made us marvel at the idea of the luscious breakfasts we’d start our days with and the big screen TV in combination with two seriously comfortable couches even made it difficult on some occasions to go outside. Staying here felt like a great way to live a truely authentic Turkish experience that no boutique hotel could have provided us with.

The apartment was a lovely place to spend time but then again, there was so much to do that you simply had to go out and explore. Down the street from our place was Istikal Avenue, the beating shopping heart of modern Istanbul. Escaping the masses was easy, simply by leaving the main strip and exploring the countless charming little side streets that reveal a whole world to marvel at. Walking together always took ages because one of us (if not all of us) constantly stopped to take a photo here, snap an instagram shot there (it’s the social media era, after all)

Every morning we woke up, made huge breakfasts, then went out to explore the city, shop at the market, go to the hammam, consumed ridiculous amounts of Turkish candy and then opted for one of the many restaurant options. Two out of four nights we went out dancing in bars and clubs, the other two we cooked up a lovely dinner and watched movies together on the couch. I couldn’t say I enjoyed one more then the other, because the way it was it was perfect.

Our lives are so short and measured by those special events like birthdays, graduation, weddings, child births, reunions, etc. I cannot think of a better way to make them even more memorable then by combining them witha fantastic travel adventure together with the people you hold dearest.

Thanks Bea, Liz and Frank for joining me on this trip and thanks Housetrip for giving us the best place to stay we could have asked for. And as far as my thirties are concerned: bring em on.