I can’t remember the last time I managed to follow through on all of my plans.
Six months ago, I announced my travel agenda for the first half of 2016. I’ve always been one for changing my mind, so I tend to take these itinerary posts with a tiny grain of salt — plans often change, destinations get cut, new places get added, I unexpectedly get sick, I end up running lower on money than I thought I would… even when I’m convinced my plans are set in stone, sometimes I end up suffering a massive panic attack and cancelling a dream trip an hour before my flight.
This year, though? I can’t believe how well I stuck to it!
I planned to spend November in Taiwan — check!
December in Australia — check!
January in New Zealand — check!
And February in the South Pacific — check!
I predicted that I’d spend March in the United States and April in Mexico — I was almost there with this, as I ended up spending March in Mexico and April in the U.S.!
And here I am in Lisbon.
I’m not sure if I’ve officially made the announcement anywhere outside of my newsletter yet, but I’m basing myself here for a while.
I’ve found an apartment to return to between trips, I’ve joined a gym, I’ve found a community, I’m in love with Lisbon, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I finally have a work/life/travel balance I’ve been craving and I feel so much healthier for it. Have you ever had one of those moments where everything feels so perfect that you randomly exclaim, “I love my life!”, “I’m so happy!”, or, “Everything is so great!” I’m currently doing that multiple times a day and I’ve been only here for two months.
Spending time in Lisbon is the best decision I’ve ever made.
So now that I’ve settled in and recovered from my recent round of travels, it’s time to turn my attention towards my upcoming trips for the rest of the year. Here’s where I’m planning on exploring:
The weather is glorious in Lisbon right now, so I’m taking full advantage and day tripping my way around the country in order to get to know my new base a little better. I’ve already taken the train out to some nearby beaches in the hunt for an isolated cove where I can escape the crowds over the summer months (verdict: Praia da Arriba has been my favourite so far! Praia da Cresmina was great for kiteboarding, but far too windy for sunbathing. And Praia da Duquesa was lovely, but close to Cascais train station, so will most likely be packed with hundreds of people soon.)
At the end of the month, I’ll be taking a trip out to Sintra, pictured above. It’s just a 45-minute train ride from Lisbon and looks absolutely stunning! I’ll be spending my time there wandering around palaces and castles, and taking in the beautiful Portuguese countryside.
July is a tricky month. As I outlined in my goals for 2016 post, I want to do a Whole30 this year, and July is the only month where I’ll be able to squeeze it in. Whole30 requires you to cut out all psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days (you basically eat only meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds for an entire month), and on the Whole30, if you slip up, you have to start from day one again! Why am I doing this? Because I’m addicted to sugar, I want to see how diet influences my anxiety disorder, and I’ve been dealing with a few health problems this year that I think could also be resolved through eating better.
I’m determined to successfully complete the challenge without slipping up, so I think that travel has to be off the cards for July. I mean, sure, I could get an Airbnb apartment and cook for myself while I’m on the move, but where would the fun be in that? My favourite way to discover a new place is through my stomach and I think I’d be miserable if I went to Paris and had to have carrots for lunch.
Portugal it is!
That doesn’t mean that I won’t travel at all this month, but I think I’ll limit myself to taking short trips from Lisbon. On my list right now are some spots in the Algarve, as well as Evora, Belem, and Tomar.
August: France and Germany
One of the challenges I set myself this year was to hit up some of my European oversights — y’know, all of those cities I really should have visited by now. Paris and Berlin are right at the top of my list, so it’s time to see what all of the fuss is about.
Using Lisbon as a base, I’ll likely aim for around four or five days in each city, and will most likely spend my time mixing up wandering around neighbourhoods with hitting up the most touristy attractions in town. And I know that August isn’t necessarily the best time to visit Paris, but if it’s the choice between visiting then or not at all, I’m going to go for it!
September: the U.K., Greece, and Albania
September will be spent outside of Portugal and traveling around Europe. First up is a week-long return to the U.K. to catch up with my family. Dave’s brother lives in Oxford, so we’ll try to squeeze in a visit to see him, as well. I’ve never been to Oxford before!
From London, Dave and I will fly to Corfu for a few days of hanging out and exploring the island, and then it’ll be time to jump on a boat! We’re going to be chartering a yacht with a few of Dave’s friends and sailing our way around the Ionian side of Greece for just over a week. This is a part of Greece that few tourists get to see, so I’m excited to see the country away from the crowds.
After the sailing trip, I’ll be bidding farewell to Dave (he’ll be flying back to Portugal to walk part of the Portuguese Camino) and heading north.
The Balkans have always held a special place in my heart — it was the very first region I visited on this trip and somewhere I try to return to frequently. This year, I’ll be visiting the countries I’ve yet to explore in this fascinating part of the world.
First up: Albania! On my itinerary is sunbathing on the beach in Ksamil, exploring the ruins at Butrint, wandering around beautiful Berat, and hanging out in cool Tirana, before making my way over to Lake Ohrid.
October: Macedonia, Kosovo, and Moldova
The Balkans trip continues! After spending some time relaxing on the shores of Lake Ohrid (seriously, how beautiful does it look?!), I’ll be travelling across to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, and then onwards to Pristina, in Kosovo.
From Kosovo, I’ll be boarding a flight to Moldova — a country I keep making plans to visit and then cancelling at the last moment. It happened during the first month of my trip, and it happened again when Dave and I did our huge Eastern Europe train journey. Hopefully it won’t happen this time as well.
Moldova looks fascinating, and did you know that it produces some of the world’s best wine? Score! It’s affordable and it’s rarely visited, which makes it the perfect destination for me! I’ll mostly likely spend the majority of my time in the capital, Chisinau, but while I’m there, I’ll also be taking a trip into Transnistria, a breakaway republic that’s super-Soviet and super-loyal to Russia. This Wired article, Meet the People of a Soviet Country that Doesn’t Exist, gives a little more insight into it.
November: Southeast Asia or West Africa
As winter rolls around in Lisbon, Dave and I will be seeking warmer climates, but we’re still weighing up where to visit.
Last year, it was the battle of returning to Southeast Asia vs. island hopping in the South Pacific for the first time. This year, it’s Southeast Asia vs. West Africa, which I think helps summarise my travel mindset. I’m forever battling my desire to revisit the places I hold dear to my heart with my craving to wander through the countries I’ve always dreamed of visiting.
If I opt for Southeast Asia, we’ll most likely be aiming for Burma. We’ve been playing around with the idea of a scooter trip through the rarely-visited parts of the country with Stuart, as we’ve done before in Northern Thailand and the Mekong Delta. If that doesn’t come together, maybe a return to Laos would be on the cards, given that I’ve never been with Dave before. Borneo is, as always, high on my list, as I’ve yet to visit. And Cambodia. And eating in Vietnam. And island-hopping in Thailand. You know what I’m like in Southeast Asia — I can never get enough!
The second option is West Africa, a region I’ve wanted to visit for so long. This could potentially be a solo visit because Dave seems to have little enthusiasm about heading here, but either way, it would be an amazing trip. I’d love to hit up Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Ghana.
We’ll see what happens!
December: Portugal and the U.K.
The majority of December will be spent decompressing back in Lisbon after my travels.
I spent Christmas in Melbourne last year, so that means it’ll be time for us to head to London for this year’s festivities. December is pretty miserable in the U.K., so I can’t imagine that I’ll be squeezing in any extra travel adventures here: just lots of family time and walks beside the river.