August 2018: Travel Summary and Statistics

Park in Bristol


It’s certainly been a month.

Let’s start with the good stuff.

Bristol Balloon Fiesta over the city

I kicked off the month with a relaxed week spent hanging out behind the scenes of Never Ending Footsteps.

I’m currently working on a big update to my travel anxiety course to celebrate closing in on my 100th member, putting together an enormous collection of 5000-word travel guides to my favourite destinations, and refreshing older posts with more up-to-date prices and information to ensure they’re still helpful and relevant. It may have meant that I was fairly light on publishing fresh content this month, but the benefits that come from this work should enable me to free up more time to work on new posts in the future.

When I was done with hard work, I closed my laptop and set off in search of balloons.

My new home plays host to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta every year: the largest hot air balloon festival in the world after the one in Albuquerque. A million people were set to descend on the city during the four day event, and I was looking forward to experiencing such a quintessential Bristol activity.

Sunrise at Brandon Hill in Bristol

The first evening of the festival, Dave and I wandered to a nearby park for sunset and to watch the afternoon’s mass ascent. A hundred and thirty balloons were due to take to the sky, and we huddled on a bench beside a couple who’d driven here from Leeds to see the spectacle. I cooed over their two adorable sausage dogs.

After an hour of waiting, I checked Twitter and learned the event had been cancelled due to high winds.

The next day, it rained.

Cancelled. Cancelled.

Bristol from Brandon Park

Not deterred, on day three, Dave and I set our alarm for a ridiculous 5:30 a.m., dragged ourselves out of bed, and set off across the city to Brandon Hill, which was supposed to be a good spot for watching the balloons. I was really hoping there would be balloons.

Although I hate waking up early, I also adore being awake early. There’s something about being in fresh, cool air while the city sleeps that works for me.

With the sun rising through the trees, we found a spot on a hill, crossed our fingers, and waited.

Hot air balloons in Bristol

An hour later, I was just about to give up when the woman beside me let out a gasp.

A balloon! 

And then another. And another. And another. A giant one shaped like a fire extinguisher!

I watched with joy as the sky began to fill with a hundred balloons, then I circled the park to follow them on their journey across the city. Around me, families cooked sausages and bacon on disposable BBQs and everyone was in childlike awe of the magical sight in front of us.

In typical British fashion, that mass ascent turned out to be the only one from the four-day festival, thanks to the high winds and frequent showers, so I was grateful I forced myself out of bed to see it.

Now I can’t wait for next year’s event. I want to see the balloons from even more viewpoints around the city!

Street art in Bristol

Now, you may recall from my previous month’s summary that I was planning on whisking my mum away on a birthday wine-themed trip to France in August. Unfortunately, we had to call it off at the last minute when I found myself struck down with back pain while spontaneously peeing blood.


A trip to the doctors revealed I likely had the horrific combination of a kidney infection and kidney stones, and I was petrified to learn that passing a stone is more excruciating than giving birth without pain relief. I loaded myself up on antibiotics (yes, again), and braced myself for a pain that would have me rushing to A&E in search of morphine.

Fortunately, it didn’t emerge. Sometimes kidney stones can hang around for years; sometimes they pass painlessly. Sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb; sometimes I convince myself I don’t have one at all. But so far, so good. My infection has cleared up, my back pain has faded, and I’ve yet to experience one of the most intense pains that a human can.

Park in Bristol

Unfortunately, that’s all I have for you this month! The infection coupled with antibiotics knocked me down and out, and I barely left the house for the rest of August.

I realise this is quite possibly the least exciting monthly summary I’ve ever published, but life can’t always be about sunsets, beaches, and wonderful travel experiences, right? Sometimes, the weeks are crappy and you spend all month hunched over, peeing blood and struggling to remember a time when you last felt well.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Would you believe me if I told you that pre-travel I was the least sickliest person I knew and prided myself on my impenetrable immune system? 

I’m certainly going through a rough patch health-wise at the moment, but I’m still remaining optimistic and hoping I can fight my way back to wellness sooner rather than later.

Anyway, I’ll end this update with some good news for you guys: the next month is looking like it’s going to be an incredible one!

Travel plans for September 2018
Now that’s more like it!

My Next Steps

I’m going to be stepping things up on the travel front in September. I’m overjoyed to announce I have a exciting four weeks of European adventures ahead of me and I can’t wait to get back on a plane!

First up: Greece!

Two years ago, I visited this gorgeous country for the first time and fell hard for its islands and cuisine. During that trip, I chartered a yacht with friends and spent a full week sailing to beautiful beaches. I’ve been talking about a return trip ever since, so I’m thrilled I get to do it all over again this year!

I’ve decided to make the most of this trip to Greece by visiting somewhere new in the country, too. Yes, I’ll be heading to Athens for the first time! I’ll have three days in the Greek capital, and I’m ridiculously excited to check out the ruins, street art, and coffee shops. Send your recommendations my way!

Next, we’ll be bussing it over to the Ionian to start sailing the west coast of Greece. The next week will be all about cruising from island to island, stopping off at local tavernas, sleeping beneath the stars, mooring in tiny bays, and eating incredible food. I’m feeling very lucky right now!

When travel blogging friends Steph and Mike dropped me and Dave a message to let us know they were looking for a dogsitter, I think we agreed to everything they’d asked before they’d even finished typing. We’d looked after their adorable dog Leo for a month in Seattle back in 2016, and I’ve been obsessed with him ever since. They’ve since packed up their family and moved to Bologna, so we’ll be heading straight there from Greece.

I fall more in love with Italy with each passing visit, so I’m ridiculously excited to be spending over two weeks in what is said to be the best place to eat in the country. I’ve been working my way through Pasta Pane Vino in hungry anticipation of our time there, and I can’t wait to eat absolutely everything.

I’m going to try to squeeze in a few day and half-day trips while I’m there, as Bologna is such a good base from which to explore Italy. I want to visit San Marino to check out my last microstate in Europe, and nearby Modena, Parma, Ravenna, and Ferrara are calling my name, too.

It looks like it’s going to be a pretty fantastic month!


And that was August! Leave me a comment below if you have any recommendations for Athens or Bologna, and let me know what travel plans you have for September!


  1. Emma
    September 8, 2018

    Recently discovered your blog Lauren, and completely loving it! Making me very tempted to pack work in and follow in your (never ending ?) footsteps! I can’t get enough of travelling (currently travelling from Oslo to Bergen via Flåm) after spending a week in Croatia, and recently returned from Mallorca. Your blogs have been keeping me entertained along the way ?

    • September 9, 2018

      Ah, that means the world to me, Emma! Enjoy Norway! :-)

  2. Natalie
    September 8, 2018

    I’m glad your kidney infection cleared up. That sounded awful.

    I look forward to living vicariously through your posts, especially about Greece! I’m really hoping my husband surprises me with tickets to Greece for my 40th birthday this year (spoiler: he won’t ?).

    • September 15, 2018

      Thank you! It really was dreadful and now has me drowning myself with water to try to ensure I don’t have to experience another one. I’ll keep my fingers crossed you end up with a Greek-themed surprise for your birthday :-)

  3. Crystal
    September 8, 2018

    Oh wow, what a month. At least you got to experience the Air Balloon Festival (which I didn’t even know was a thing!) before succumbing to what sounds like the worst pain ever. I am glad you are feeling better! I look forward to seeing more of Leo! Have a great September, Lauren!

    • September 9, 2018

      Thanks so much, Crystal! My next update will undoubtedly be packed full of dog photos :-)

  4. Julie
    September 9, 2018

    Hello!! I was in Athens 1.5 yrs ago. Do the plaka for sure, pet all the cats. There is a fantastic jewelry store there that has all kinds of cool stuff, unique pieces. I don’t remember the name!! There is a fish sign with it I think☺. Also go to the Athens fish spa. Hard to find but worth it. A little relaxation for you. I did have the fish do my feet, I kind of loved it but emotionally torn since I’m vegetarian. We stayed at airotel stratos vassilkos (something like that) it was beautiful and the breakfast was amazing!! Greek people sound rough and aren’t open with smiles but are so helpful and accommodating. It just seems like they are yelling sometimes ??. But I’m American, we’ve got a whole different way of thinking . Enjoy and be safe!!

    • September 15, 2018

      Thank you so much for the recommendations, Julie!

  5. Emily
    September 10, 2018

    Athens & Bologna are two of my favourite cities in Europe! Definitely go to Drogheria della Rosa in Bologna, it was one of the best meals I had in Italy (& let’s be honest, the stakes are high there!) – delicious traditional Italian food & wine with an entertaining, welcoming owner,

    • September 10, 2018

      Oooh, sounds perfect! Thank you for the recommendation!

  6. Heather Sunseri
    September 10, 2018

    Hi, Lauren! Excited to see what you report from Athens. I’ll be heading there in the next year-ish to do research for a third novel in my International Thief series. (Think: La Femme Nikita meets Oceans 12.) Anyway, Greece has been on the list. I enjoy your blog and travel stories. Have a wonderful month. (And keep feeling better! Kidney stones frighten me!!)

    • September 15, 2018

      Oh wow, what a fun trip! So far, I’m enjoying Athens a lot more than I expected. It’s a great city!

  7. September 11, 2018

    Wish I could’ve been in the UK in time for the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. It looks amazing!

    • September 13, 2018

      It was so wonderful to see the sky fill with balloons!

  8. September 12, 2018

    Hope you are feeling better for this month’s trip! I definitely need to check out the balloon festival some time. I always forget it’s a thing, haha. That fire extinguisher balloon is amazing!

    • September 13, 2018

      Thank you! Just arrived in Athens and I actually am feeling quite a bit better. Fingers crossed it stays that way! Hope you make it to the balloon festival next year — it’s definitely worth checking out :-)

  9. September 13, 2018

    I really like these honest blogs about life and traveling. You are right: it is not always about the exciting stuff. Never knew Bristol had a balloon festival though… Despite the typical Northern European weather it sounds really fun!

    • September 13, 2018

      Thank you! I’m glad to hear that because I was so close to not publishing the post at all! I thought it would be too boring for my readers, so was going to pretend I forgot to post an update for August, haha.

  10. September 13, 2018

    Who knew that kidney stones could be more painful than giving birth?!!? That’s crazy. I am glad you’re better now!!
    On the other hand, I’ve recently read a few horror stories about female travellers to Athens so please be extra careful.

    Looking forward to reading about it!

    • September 14, 2018

      Right?! I’m still worried I’m suddenly going to fall to the ground in pain at any moment! Will be sure to stay on my guard while I’m in Athens — thanks for the heads up.

  11. Blerim Norja
    September 14, 2018

    Such a nice post! You’re going to love Athens! Waiting for your next adventure!

    • September 14, 2018

      Thank you! This one felt like a bit of a boring one, to be honest! In Athens right now and already loving it :-)

  12. September 14, 2018

    The balloons over Bristol look amazing! I’m so glad you finally got to see them, even if you did have to wake up early. My partner and I are moving to the UK next year and thinking about Bristol. Will definitely have to read more of your posts about Bristol life.

    Wishing you better health and an amazing trip to Greece/Italy!

    • September 15, 2018

      Yay, Bristol! It’s such a wonderful city, and I highly recommend it! I feel like it has all the good aspects of London and few of the bad. It’s great!

  13. September 15, 2018

    So glad you resolved the kidney stone issue and got to see the balloons! What an exciting month you have ahead! I’m looking forward to hearing your greece + italy tips!

  14. September 17, 2018

    The Bristol Balloon Fiesta sounds and looks amazing!I have always wanted to go to the Albuquerque one, but this balloon festival looks even better!

  15. William
    September 18, 2018

    Hey Lauren!

    Its been awhile since I last came back to read your blog, it looks like we are heading on the same path soon! Athens, a few of the islands, then Italy for me too! Although I would only head up from the beginning of October, after you would have gone.

    By the way, would you be so nice as to share where you hiked in Liechtenstein? I put aside a few days for it after reading your post! Hope it is still good to hike up in November!

    Good day!

  16. Markus
    September 19, 2018

    Great post. Do take care of your health and to keep traveling more and more. The captures are lovely.

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