This week, I flicked back through my diary and realised that it’s almost been a full year since I arrived home in London after eighteen months spent travelling through my favourite continent.
One year since South America?!
It feels strange to think about myself back then. I didn’t feel particularly homely about my return; if anything, I was more unsettled and nervous about relinquishing my travelling freedom in exchange for paying rent and adopting a routine.
Yet one year later, I’m living in a gorgeous flat in East London with a girl I met in India. I’m halfway through studying for my masters in creative non-fiction, and learning how to juggle the classes with my slowly increasing amount of freelance writing work. As someone who loves to sleep in, I’ve even become a convert to the joys of early morning yoga – thanks to a studio filled with wonderful teachers about four minutes walk from my flat.
Life in London is undeniably different to travelling, but surprisingly enough it all feels OK. For now at least.
Alas, the overt familiarity I feel for this city is sometimes a problem for me. Despite the myriad of experiences to be had in London, travelling abroad is always going to be a constant temptation.
Looking at my year so far, I’ve clearly found it a little difficult to stay in one place.
January: NYE in Bucharest, Romania
I kicked off 2015 by standing in minus-20’C in the streets of Bucharest, drinking fake champagne half-frozen to a slush and dancing to unknown Romanian pop groups with people I’d met that afternoon.
It was a completely last minute decision, but it took me back to the joys of hostel life and spontaneous friendships; to exploring new places with new people, just because you can.
The city was at a near standstill throughout the week – a combination of the sudden heavy snowfall and the succession of public holidays surrounding the 1st of January. As a result, I spent most of the week drinking coffees and eating cake in Bucharest’s numerous cafes.
I haven’t written about the trip on the site yet (mainly because publishing a number of exceedingly wintery photos during the summer seems to be tempting fate) but I’ll get around to it eventually!
March: Fez & Chefchaouen, Morocco
Ah, how do I explain the joys of living with someone who loves travelling as much as me? One rainy February afternoon, my flatmate Emi came home from work bubbling with excitement.
“There are seriously cheap flights to Fez at the start of March – do you want to go?”
Soon, we were spending a long weekend in the chaos of Fez’s labyrinthine medina; taking a tour of the city’s ancient leather tanneries; and staring in awe at the incredible blue hued walls of Chefchaouen.
And let’s not forget my first ever experience inside a traditional Moroccan hammam – complete with swinging elderly-lady breasts against my equally naked body.
March: South Africa
Visiting South Africa at the invitation of the country’s tourist board was something I never could have imagined a few years ago, but thanks to slogging away at this site, I spent a week exploring Pretoria, riding the Blue Train straight across the country and staring out over Cape Town from the heady heights of Table Mountain.
However, the best part of the trip was undoubtedly our three days at Malamala Game Reserve in the middle of the Kruger Park.
On our first game drive, we spotted every one of the Big Five and witnessed not one but TWO kills, thanks to a group of female lions, a pair of leopards and a couple of very unlucky impala.
Over the next few days we went on sunrise game drives, watched elephants in the watering hole opposite the camp’s swimming pool, chilled with a huge clan of hyenas, stared for hours at sleeping lions in the dust, watched a mother rhino and her young offspring, were surrounded by vultures, and saw so many impalas that I actually stopped taking photos of them.
I have a lot more to write about South Africa (not to mention the daunting task of editing all the hundreds of photos) so watch this space!
April: Paris, France
One of the best parts of returning to life in London has been spending much more time with my closest friends – although I’d conveniently forgotten that their full time jobs would be something of a hindrance.
So when my best friend suggested a weekend in Paris together, I jumped at the chance.
Mimi and I treated ourselves this weekend: we took the first class Eurostar, stayed in a beautiful Airbnb apartment (my first time doing so!), and walked twenty miles in two days as we made our way around the city.
There were macarons at Pierre Hermé, a spot of sunbathing in Jardin des Tuileries, crepes at Breizh Café – and a never-ending amount of people watching.
Paris is a common city to visit when you grow up in London, and we’d both been slightly ambivalent about our feelings toward Paris – but wandering the city without a structure gave me an entirely new appreciation.
I suddenly realised how similar to London it is: filled with little neighborhoods that have their own characters and are totally individual. The most unexpected part was also getting a glimpse of what spring time is like for Parisians – lounging in parks, reading on balconies and soaking up the sunshine.
May: Glasgow, Scotland
Despite being part Scottish and living pretty nearby, I haven’t spent nearly enough time in Scotland – but a long weekend in Glasgow, particularly one centred around eating, was a timely reminder to visit more often.
In three days, I ate more seafood than I have in the past year. There were oysters, smoked salmon, mussels, trout, lobster and crab, and as if all this deliciousness wasn’t enough, we were lucky enough to dine inside the most amazing places.
A tree house on the edge of a loch, anyone? Or how about the stately dining room of a clifftop castle?
A bit of mid-year travel musing
These little snippets of travel feel very different to my time in South America. Spending eighteen months perpetually moving through one continent had its difficulties and exhaustions, but it was also a very particular lifestyle; I was in the same mentality throughout, constantly thinking about travel, whereas now I find myself in a state of flux.
Switching from my London routines to the surprises that come with travel every few weeks is quite bizarre, and I feel like I’m constantly playing catchup. Something to do with the energy involved in packing up for a new trip every single month. This summer is no different, and I have a ton of trips on the horizon.
So while I lose myself in travel planning, I thought I’d let you know ahead of time where I’m off to for the next few months.
June: Dubrovnik, Croatia
As I write this, I’m currently in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik in Croatia for the wedding of one of my oldest and best friends. She’s getting hitched tomorrow – in the early evening, as the weather’s simply too hot during the day – though I expect I’ll be a puddled mixture of tears and sweat regardless.
I first visited Croatia years ago while InterRailing with a school friend, but we zoomed through Split and headed into Bosnia too quickly for me to remember the country much.
This week, I’m taking a proper holiday; sunbathing on the beach, wandering the old town, sipping cocktails at each evening’s sunset in some of the city’s many cliff bars, and celebrating the next stage of my friend’s life.
July: The Philippines
Quick travel turnarounds are pretty familiar to me by now. I’ll be back in London for just a few days before heading off on my next trip of the summer – which is to the Philippines!!
I haven’t been back to Asia since spending six months there in 2012, so I’m ridiculously excited about experiencing the palm tree-filled, beachside lifestyle again – particularly in such a beautiful country.
I’ll be in the Philippines with a group of fellow bloggers and the trip’s itinerary reads like a dream: beaches, watersports, exploring Manila, going snorkelling, island hopping at Honda Bay, and even sailing through subterranean rivers in Palawan.
Image: Storm Crypt
Although as long as I get to chill out on some wooden rafts in the middle of the water, I’ll basically be satisfied.
This little mid-week trip to Italy materialised out of nowhere, but I’m very excited about it! Thanks to an invitation from LG to test out their new G4 phone, I’ll be exploring the infamous Biennale Festival in Italy’s city on the water with a keen group of Instagrammers.
Image: Chris Chabot
I’ve wanted to visit La Biennale de Venezia for years. This contemporary arts festival, now in its 56th year, brings together artists from all over the globe and transports the entire city to an alternate reality with displays and showcases from ninety different countries.
This year’s festival theme is ‘All the World’s Futures’, so my plan is to get as weird and wacky with my shots as possible! I’ll be spamming my Instagram feed throughout this trip, so follow along here on July 14th & 15th.
I visited Latvia way back in 2007 with my then-boyfriend as part of a trip around the Baltics and we both loved it: camping in fields, wandering the desolate shoreline at Cape Kolka where the Gulf of Riga meets the Baltic Sea, and exploring the quaint capital of Riga.
This time, I’ll be heading to the town of Cēsis for the city’s Town Fair & Art Festival as part of the Must Love Festivals campaign.
Cēsis is only 90km away from Riga, but the 800-year-old city is filled with wooden houses, small fountains and medieval castle ruins. Not to mention one of the oldest breweries in the Baltics.
I’m also going to head into Gauja National Park for some wandering along nature trails, swimming in lakes and even a spot of foraging in the forest.
Wearing in my hiking boots will be a priority in preparation for the next adventure too, which will kick off shortly after Latvia…
September: the Camino de Santiago in Spain
If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you’ll know about this challenge already. In January, I announced I’d be walking the length of the Camino de Santiago this summer.
Heading out on the Camino is the longest time I’ll have spent travelling abroad since South America, and it’s also my biggest challenge. Walking five hundred miles across an entire country is no easy feat, but I’ve made a promise to myself.
Let’s just hope I can go the distance.
Although I’ve visited lots of Spanish cities over the years, I haven’t been back to Spain since learning Spanish. I’m hoping that I get to flex my newly developed linguistic talents just a little on this trip – maybe it’ll make all the blisters easier to handle?!
Prepping myself for the Camino since January has also taken unexpected turns. Vowing to get my body up to scratch for a month of walking has meant visiting the osteopath on a regular basis, donning goggles and a swimming costume to do lengths in the local pool, and taking yoga classes at least four times a week.
But the very best result of pre-Camino activity? I’ve tricked my brain into believing that walking from place to place is more normal than taking public transport. Success!
I have to confess that I still haven’t actually booked my flights yet, so doing the Camino doesn’t feel totally real. Regardless, it looks like I’ll be walking throughout September – and I’ll be writing much more in the lead-up to my departure.
October: Vorarlberg, Austria
A few months ago I went to a travel blogger’s conference in Kingston, and scored myself a trip for two people to Vorarlberg in Austria.
The dates aren’t confirmed yet but I’ll be spending a week up in the Austrian mountains – and I’ll be taking my dad, who’s in sore need of a holiday and really likes the idea of visiting somewhere he hasn’t thought of.
Image: F Gopp
I’ve never been to Austria and don’t know much about the country yet, but I’m looking forward to tall mountains, little wooden-roofed houses, rushing rivers, vast expanses of green and a chance to chill out and relax with my dad.
Looking at my travels through a new lens
It looks like 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty busy year of travel so I’ve finally taken the photographic plunge and upgraded my camera, moving from a standard point and shoot to the Sony A6000. It’s the first time I’m using a hybrid camera and I’m really excited to work on taking better photos.
Actually, I’m just excited in general for what the next few months have in store. It’s a lovely feeling to still be able to see so much of the world with London as a base – so with a cocktail in hand and a smile on my face, here’s to a very happy and travel-filled summer!