Month 49: Travel Summary and Statistics


Phew! What a rollercoaster ride of a month! Over the past four weeks, I’ve visited four countries, found a potential future home, and had a wonderful time.

Let’s get started!

bridge in Porto

I kicked off the month on a high but stressful note, as I attempted to recover from bed bug bites and too much travel. Porto, it turned out, was the right place to do so. The temperature was a perfect 25 degrees, we were staying in a cute apartment, the food was cheap and delicious, and port. I may have developed an obsession with port.

Despite my plans to relax and recover, I threw myself into exploring Porto. I took a tour of the city’s abandoned buildings, I took a trip to a nearby beach, and I spent a fantastic day driving around the gorgeous Douro Valley.

And drinking port.

The Douro Valley

From Porto, I travelled to Madrid. Reluctantly, because the temperatures were as high as 40 degrees with little respite overnight. I even looked up the cancellation policy of our Airbnb apartment a few days before arriving because I couldn’t bear to leave the cooler temperatures of Porto.

Park in Madrid

I’ve been having the best time ever in Madrid. I came here to see if this city could work for Dave and I as a long-term base, and it’s looking more and more likely that it might.

I feel like I need to address why I’m choosing to base myself in Madrid/Europe when just a few posts ago I was saying Europe doesn’t excite me in a way that other regions around the world do. Why, then, am I planning on living there?

The short answer is that living in a place is so different to travelling in a place, and Madrid is the only city we’ve found that fits every one of our criteria.

Dave and I both like it. It’s cheap. I have friends here. The food is delicious, with lots of international cuisines for when we have cravings. The weather’s good. It has an international airport. Neither Dave nor I have visa issues (Dave has a British passport). It’s close to my family. 

It’s everything I’m looking for in a place.

Madrid drinking

Next, I planned ten action-packed days of travel across Italy and Slovenia.

First stop: Verona

Lauren in Verona
My crazy hair did not cope well with Verona’s heat

And what a gorgeous city it was! My arrival in Verona immediately had me berating myself for not visiting Italy sooner, and then put my mind into overdrive as I began to plan out a six month trip around the country.

I loved wandering around Verona’s beautiful Old Town, stopping for raspberry gelato every few hours, polishing off a bottle of wine for dinner, and eating delicious pasta every night. My favourite time for exploring Verona was in the evening, when the city lit up and the crowds dispersed.

Verona at night
Photo stolen from Dave. Can you tell I don’t currently have a camera?

Next up, Ljubljana: my favourite city in Europe!

When my parents asked for advice on their summer vacation, Croatia and Slovenia immediately sprung to mind, and I recommended they road trip their way around one of my favourite regions in the world. My time in Ljubljana overlapped with theirs and I got to celebrate my mum’s birthday with her.

My time in Ljubljana was full of good food, amazing breakfasts, fun walking tours, lots of drinking by the river, the best pizza ever, and nighttime wanderings along the river.

ljubljana at night

I rounded off the month with my first visit to Lake Como, which again, had me craving to see more of Italy. We were staying in the tiny town of Torno, population: 1000, thanks to the generosity of Dave’s friends who we were there to see.

Thankfully their house didn’t have Wi-Fi, so I was able to head offline for a few days, which is just what I needed.

Lake Como

We spent most of our time hanging out in Piazzaga, a village you’ve probably never heard of because it has a permanent population of 2 and is only accessible by jeep or on foot! Dave’s friends own a restaurant there, so every day we’d make the hour-long trek up to see them, where we were then plied with amazing food, incredible views, and many, many games of Exploding Kittens.

In a place as touristy as Lake Como (Bellagio, I’m looking at you), it was wonderful to get to see a side of it that very few people get to experience.

Views from Piazzaga

On to the statistics for the month!

Month 49 travel map

Countries visited: 4

Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain

Places visited: 7

Bellagio, Ljubljana, Madrid, Piazzaga, Porto, Torno, Verona

Distance travelled: 1,745 kilometres

Photos taken: 119

Number of flights: 1
Number of buses: 5
Number of trains: 2
Number of ferries: 1

Lowlight of the month

I’ll be honest: this past month has been a struggle. For more than a month now, I’ve been battling with extreme levels of anxiety. Normally, when I travel, I feel anxious every now and then but I can keep it under control. Right now, I’m having real and horrible panic attacks. Bad panic attacks, full of stomach cramps and trembles and sobs.

Have you noticed I’ve lost weight over the past month? My first reaction to anxiety is to stop eating and I’ve been struggling with mealtimes. I’ll go out and choke down a mouthful of food and be unable to eat much more.

Travel expenses:

Accommodation:

  • Porto: $97.48 over 4 nights: $24.37 per night
    • I stayed in a lovely studio on Airbnb that didn’t feel as cramped as most studios do. There was lots of space to work, a living area and kitchen, fast Wi-Fi, and it was in a central location
  • Madrid: $499.23 over 27 nights: $18.49 per night
  • Verona: $65.09 over 2 nights: $32.55 per night
    • I stayed in this Airbnb apartment in Verona. It was surprisingly good value for Airbnb in Verona and thank god it had air conditioning! At a half an hour-ish walk to the centre of town, it was a little way out, but its close location to the train station made up for it. The owner was super friendly, picking us up from the train station when we arrived and dropped us off when we left.
  • Ljubljana: $168.60 over 5 nights: $33.72 per night
    • I stayed in a small apartment in Ljubljana, a 10 minute walk from the centre. It was pretty cramped for two people, but a good base if you plan on spending most of your time outside. The reason to stay in this apartment, though, is the owner! Ana bought us local treats, like chocolate bars and drinks and cookies and chips, did our washing for us for free, and when we left, she drove us to the train station, and even gave us both goodbye gifts!

Transportation: 

  • Bus from Porto to Madrid: $56.47
  • Metro from my apartment to Madrid airport: $5.64
  • Flight from Madrid to Verona: $89.56
  • Train from Verona to Venice: $4.86
  • Bus from Venice to Ljubljana return: $50.81
  • Train from Venice to Milan: $21.17
  • Train from Milan to Como: $5.63
  • Bus from Como to Torno: $3.39

Food: $326.10

Activities: 

Ljubljana walking tour donation: $10.83

Visas and Entrance Fees: 

Entrance to Ljubljana Castle: $8.46

Business expenses: 

Monthly hosting with WP Engine: $70.00
Monthly email newsletter service from Mailchimp: $50.00
Monthly Feedblitz RSS service: $1.49

Total Amount Spent: $1534.91

My next steps

Month 50 travel map

I finalised my next month’s travel plans this morning — up until a few hours ago I had no idea where I was going to end up! Here’s the plan:

With one week left in Madrid, I’ll be spending my last few days eating tacos, heading out for drinks with friends, catching up on work, and planning my next month of travel.

From Madrid, I’ll be flying back to London for the final time this year, saying goodbye to Dave as he heads off for a six-week walk across Northern Spain. I’ll have two weeks of meet ups with friends and family while eating a 1 kg block of Cathedral City cheese for lunch every day. This is looking like it’ll be an expensive month with a new camera purchase on the cards and a few other bits and bobs for my travels.

I had planned to spend a few weeks after that hopping around Greece, Albania, and Macedonia, but I cancelled the trip because it didn’t feel like the right time. I still have lots of work to catch up on. Fast-paced travel isn’t something I need right now. Instead, I’ll be returning to the Maldives.

When I saw that flights from London to Male were averaging around $700, I knew I had to get creative. Thanks to half a day on Google Flights I’ve planned out a kickass itinerary that gives me 24 hours in Rome (I plane to head to the Vatican for the first time while I’m there!), 24 hours in Doha (Qatar will be a new country for me!), a few hours in Sri Lanka and then onwards to Male. Total cost: $420.

My Maldives posts from last year have been incredible for me, taking my traffic and finances to a whole new level. I’m heading back for a month this time around so that I can add even more resources to the site and start positioning myself as a Maldives budget travel expert. I’ll be visiting and writing about seven new local islands and visiting several atolls.

I can’t wait to discover more of this beautiful country and, because I’ll be travelling solo, I’m looking forward to being able to share what it’s like as a solo female traveller, as well as exploring just how cheaply you can visit. Without anyone to split the costs with, I’ll be on a stricter budget than last time.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for the next month!

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

38 Comments

  1. August 21, 2015
    Reply

    I’ve been thinking about the Maldives. I think I agree with you on being based in Europe (or somewhere similar). I feel that my eating habits really suffer when I travel unless I really take the time to plan and mentally prepare (i.e. to not eat a million plates of noodles in Asia).

    I just joined snapchat! What’s your handle? I’m @chewytravels
    Looking forward to finding out more about the Maldives.

    • August 21, 2015
      Reply

      Yes! I really struggle to eat well when I travel. I think a lot of it comes down to not often having a kitchen and having to eat out for every meal.

      Snapchat is great! I’m especially looking forward to using it in the Maldives :-). My handle is NEFootsteps.

  2. You are so right that living somewhere longer term is very different from simply traveling there, knowing that you will be leaving in the near(ish) future. Tony & I have spent the last five months traveling (slowly) through Mexico and, just in time for our 3 year travel anniversary, have found ourselves in Playa del Carmen. I know you weren’t a fan during your visit, but we’ve actually found it to be the perfect base for us for the time being and are now planning to spend the next 6 month (minimum) here. For us, it offers us the perfect blend of “authentic Mexico” while also offering us the comforts and conveniences that come with higher tourist & expat numbers. If we were simply taking a short trip to Mexico, there are definitely other places we’ve been that I’d rank higher, but for longer-term living, our wishlist was a bit different. When we were in Spain last summer, we really enjoyed our five days in Madrid; I could definitely see it making a good base… perhaps when we’re through with Mexico, we’ll try it on for size!

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      I’ll be interested in seeing how you find it in the high season. I think our mistake was arriving in January when it was at its busiest. While I didn’t like Playa del Carmen itself, we actually loved the quality of life we were able to enjoy there — it’s a super convenient place to live! :-)

  3. August 21, 2015
    Reply

    Great idea to head back to the Maldives, I loved reading your last posts and look forward to reading the next ones. I am considering heading there for a couple of weeks myself when I am in Sri Lanka depending on time

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      You definitely should! It can be pretty cheap and has some of the best beaches you’ll probably ever see!

  4. Ola
    August 21, 2015
    Reply

    Maldives sounds amazing, I’m looking forward to read about budget traveling there!
    Enjoy your time!

    • August 21, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Ola! :-)

  5. August 21, 2015
    Reply

    Ljubljana is my favourite city in Europe, too (though I’ve never been to Madrid). I often think that the whole reason I travel so much is to find a place where I want to live someday.

    LJ is high on my list – so I’m curious as to why you wouldn’t consider it?

    Thanks, J

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      I don’t know anybody who lives there and flights are expensive in and out — both of those are pretty big dealbreakers, sadly!

  6. Emma
    August 21, 2015
    Reply

    Looking forward to your Maldives post! I caught up on your older ones and would love to travel there with a mixture of staying at a luxury resort island + visiting some local islands to see some of the ‘real’ country.

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, the resort and local islands definitely have a different vibe. It’s a cool country all round :-)

  7. August 22, 2015
    Reply

    It looks like an amazing month!!

    I love Italy- it is probably my second favourite country so far, just behind Thailand!

    Congratulations on your book launch. I’ll be downloading it on to my kindle when I have spare time!

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Britt! That means the world to me :-) And I can definitely see why you love Italy — I have a feeling it could become one of my favourite countries after I’ve explored a little more.

  8. August 22, 2015
    Reply

    Sounds like some great Airbnb values!

    I used to struggle with eating well while traveling. Now, I think I’m eating too much :/

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      If I’m not battling anxiety I eat too much, and if I am, I stop eating. Neither is particularly good!

  9. Ewelina
    August 24, 2015
    Reply

    Great news on Maldives Lauren! I found your blog thanks to your previous Maldives posts and I am looking forward to read more as I really want to travel there. If you happen to be in Singapore, feel free to reach out, for accommodation or someone to hang around with, or both!

    • August 27, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you so much for the kind offer, Ewelina! I’ll absolutely let you know :-)

  10. gl
    August 26, 2015
    Reply

    Your fame is growing if that’s a photo of you on the front page of today’s The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com) travel section

  11. Tara
    September 6, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren, thanks for the inspiring post! Porto looks like a great budget option, and that Douro valley looks so amazing! This is definitely on my to do list now :)
    Tara

  12. September 6, 2015
    Reply

    Oh my gosh Torno looks incredible. Travel goals.

    Congratulations on your book!!

    • September 7, 2015
      Reply

      It was so, so pretty! Definitely try and get there! :-)

  13. September 13, 2015
    Reply

    You are such a truly inspirational person!

    • November 13, 2015
      Reply

      So sweet! Thanks so much, Vinh :-)

  14. Martin
    September 20, 2015
    Reply

    Maldives are a great destination. One of the most beautiful places to see in this world. Have a great trip!

  15. September 28, 2015
    Reply

    Hey Lauren,
    Firstly I must complement you on your writing style and the collection of pictures. Anything with food attracts me and I loved reading through your blog and four countries in a month is really impressive. You made me want to travel to all the places you have written about.

    • October 27, 2015
      Reply

      Awww, thanks, Anushri! :-)

  16. October 25, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,
    great blog! Great pictures!
    Let me know if you ever visit Poland.
    Keep up a good work!
    Piotr from Poland

    • October 27, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks Piotr. I was in Poland about two days before Porto! :-)

  17. October 25, 2015
    Reply

    I’m confused. You said you kicked off your month in Porto (Portugal)… The first picture is of Porto. By the way, how can you embark on this travel adventure without a way to document it, ie Camera!! That is insane to travel without a camera. Anyways, back to my point. Your first pic is of Porto, and it is where you said you started. Next are photos of Italy (though I think your next stop of Madrid?? yeah? Hard to follow. Anyways, then on the bottom you list your statistics: Countries visited 3: Italy, Slovenia, Spain with pins marking these locations. So what about Porto, Portugal (your said starting point???) BTW, your second sentance says “Over the past four weeks, I’ve visited four countries”. Was Portugal that forgettable? The pics you posted, your first two pics, look beautiful…. why did you say then after that post, that only visited 3 countries and left out Portugal? Also, why do I have to have a website to leave a comment? That is stupid. Alot of people dont own websites. I just had to throw one in, that obviously is not my own to allow me to post.

    • October 25, 2015
      Reply

      Wow.

      Hi Kris. Well, the second photo isn’t actually of Italy; it’s of Portugal. That’s the Douro Valley — the place I’m talking about in the paragraph before it. After that, the next photo is of Madrid. Not really so hard to follow after all, hey?

      I’m not currently travelling with a camera because mine broke. It took me a couple of months to save up the money to buy the camera I wanted (the Sony A7 ii), so I made do with my phone until then.

      And yeah, I happened to miss Portugal off of the stats, but as I said in my lowlights section, I’m unwell at the moment and a bit all over the place. I made a mistake.

      Finally, you don’t have to leave a website to leave a comment? It’s an optional field — that’s why it doesn’t have required written after it.

  18. October 26, 2015
    Reply

    Hope the book launch went well … I too need to create something and put it out into the world!

    • October 27, 2015
      Reply

      It did go well, thanks Tina! :-) I’m really happy with the amount of copies I’ve sold and the mostly positive feedback :-D

  19. January 8, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,
    Just wanted to drop you a message to let you know how my time was in Ljubljana! I found out about Slovenia via your blog and was inspired to go there because you liked it so much. I loved my time there and I wanted to say thanks for introducing me to one of my favourite cities in Europe! Thanks and keep on traveling! x

    • January 8, 2016
      Reply

      That makes me so happy! Thanks, Michaela! :-)

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