When I last left you, I had just fallen in love with Maine.
Despite Dave and I considering throwing our money to the wind and cancelling the rest of our road trip to stay in Acadia National Park, I knew we had to at least get to New Hampshire. Everyone I’d spoken to about this part of the world had swooned over the White Mountains and it sounded like it could be the kind of place we love.
This region of New Hampshire was all about hiking to gorgeous viewpoints, and I couldn’t get enough of this outdoorsy way of life. We hiked to a vast waterfall, picnicked in the sunshine while overlooking the Kancamagus Highway, and saw more fall foliage than we have in our lives combined. The one thing we wanted to do but didn’t find time to? Drive up Mount Washington! It’s on the list for next time.
Our three days in the White Mountains were just enough to convince us New Hampshire is one of the most underrated states in the country, so when we set off for Vermont, we were already feeling wistful about leaving yet another destination we’d fallen madly in love with.
Burlington was the first stop on our Northeast itinerary where we were less about hiking and exploring, and more about briefly slotting into a local way of life. We checked out a hilarious show at the Vermont Comedy Club, wandered alongside the shore of Lake Champlain, downed our body weight in maple syrup, and pulled on our flannel shirts to fit in with the lumbersexual residents of the city.
I always feel kind of weird when I take a trip and love every single aspect of it, which is partly because I’m British and therefore can’t stand to be positive about everything and partly because I feel as though it weakens my trip reports, because how can I make a destination stand out from the crowd when every one blew my mind?
I’ll say it again: New England felt like my kind of region.
So here’s a slight negative: our drive across Vermont wasn’t incredible.
I’d read that the drive south from Burlington on Route 100 was one of the best for seeing fall colours, but unfortunately, a heavy storm washed away our hopes for spectacular photos. It poured with rain all day, the sky was grey and blown out on our camera screens, and the foliage wasn’t all that impressive.
This year brought an unusually warm spell to the Northeast in late summer/early autumn, so the leaves were delayed in changing colour, and in some cases, dropping to the ground rather than transforming to vibrant orange and reds.
That’s the only complaint I have about this road trip, though, because we pulled up in New Haven and found yet another city we couldn’t get enough of.
I loved New Haven! If I was to suddenly return to nomadic life, I would now have placed New Haven right at the top of my list of Liveable Cities I Want to Live in for at Least a Month. I loved how walkable the city was, how the architecture took my breath away, how the humid air carried the scent of the ocean, and how there were enough bookstores and ramen restaurants to keep my happiness levels high.
We rounded off our time in the States with a brief visit to Rhode Island, where the rain caught up with us once more and we ended up foregoing our travel plans in favour of working in a hipster coffee shop. After so much movement over the past few weeks, though, it kind of felt like the right decision.
From the U.S., we flew to the Azores and oh. my god.
The Azores is an incredible part of the world and I can’t stop talking about how everyone needs to go there.
The Azores is an autonomous region of Portugal, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and consisting of nine volcanic islands. These islands are spectacular, rarely visited, and underrated as hell. Almost like Europe’s version of Hawaii, but surprisingly cheap.
It’s one of my best discoveries of the year.
Air Azores offers up free layovers for travellers if you’re flying between the U.S. and Portugal, so we opted for five days on Sao Miguel, the most popular island for visitors.
Sao Miguel was an island made for scootering, so Dave and I hired two wheels, grabbed a map, and set off in search of adventure. We didn’t have to look hard, as every five minutes, we were slamming on the brakes to snap photos of yet another breathtaking sight.
We hiked to secluded waterfalls in the midst of a jungle and had them all to ourselves.
We explored an abandoned five-star hotel that offered the best views of the island from its hard-to-find rooftop.
We ate cozido das Furnas, an Azorean stew that’s cooked underground for seven hours by the steam of a volcano.
And we saw more lagoons than we could possibly count.
Five days was the perfect amount of time to spend on the island, as we managed to scooter along practically all of the roads on Sao Miguel over that time, checking out almost all of the major attractions. Despite this, I’d still return in the future, with a plan to eat the island’s incredible cuisine, relax in volcanic hot springs, and village-hop my way around the rugged coastline.
Plus, of course, there’s another eight islands that are calling my name, too.
We left the Azores hours before a hurricane was threatening to strike, making it to Lisbon on one of the last flights off the island. There, it was time to spend just one week recovering from our month of fast-paced travel and work on getting our health back on track.
Unfortunately, I failed on the last front, when a growing health concern brought me back to the UK in search of answers.
And that was October!
Countries Visited: 3
Portugal, United Kingdom, United States
Cities/Towns visited: 12
Burlington, Furnas, Lisbon, London, Mosteiros, New Haven, Newport, Nordeste, North Conway, Ponte Delgado, Ribeira Grande, Sete Ciadades.
Distance travelled: 5,248 miles
Flights Taken: 3
Highlights of the Month
Falling for the Azores: If you’ve haven’t been yet, start making plans! The Azores is one of the most incredible destinations I’ve checked out over the past 12 months, and 2017 has been my best year of travel yet. The islands are easy to get to, inexpensive once you’re there, and ridiculously beautiful to explore.
Going to my first comedy show: One of the big downsides to spending so many months of the year in Lisbon is that there simply isn’t that much stuff going on in the city. My favourite bands rarely pass through, there’s little happening that’s in English, and I often don’t even know how to find out if any events are taking place each week. It’s been fairly noticeable as someone who grew up in London, where there’s 50-odd things happening every day to keep you entertained. And please don’t think I’m complaining that I travelled to a foreign country and everything’s in a different language — I don’t expect (and wouldn’t want) locals to cater to others — but as someone who isn’t fluent in Portuguese, it’s still been a downside to spending time there.
So it was a revelation to travel across the U.S. and realise I could easily find out what was going on and know the events would be in a language I’d understand. I’d heard great things about Vermont Comedy Club and, having never been to a comedy show before, eagerly snapped up some tickets! And it was so much fun. I floated back to our apartment in Burlington yearning to go to a comedy club every day of my life because laughing for hours on end made me so freaking happy.
Hiking in the White Mountains: Dave and I spent most of our time in the White Mountains pondering why they aren’t more famous. The hikes we did were some of the best we’ve ever tackled, and I couldn’t believe how much beauty was packed into such a small region of the U.S.! I definitely need to head back here to spend a couple of weeks exploring in the future.
Lowlights of the Month
Cancelling my trip to India: I’m starting to feel as though it’s been written in the stars that India and I will never meet. I think I’ve booked flights to India three times now, but something has always come up to steer me astray, whether it was an exorbitant visa fee or, as in this case, getting sick and needing to head to the UK for medical tests (more on this below). I’m bummed I didn’t get a chance to visit this year, and super-bummed I can’t get my money back on flights/accommodation.
Falling behind on work: I feel like I have the perfect work-life balance these days. I hole up in Lisbon and work for a few weeks, then head offline and travel for the next month. I get the best of both worlds this way, but I’m starting to realise my split likely involves too much travel, as I don’t have enough time to write about all of my adventures! I’m simply seeing and doing too much too frequently to share everything here. And let’s not take into account the two+ years of travelling I’ve skipped over in the past and still hope to one day write about.
It’s convincing me I need to slow down on my travels for next year so that I can finally keep on top of my writing. I want to be able to share everything I do each year with you guys, rather than briefly mentioning things in a monthly summary and then never writing about them again. Buuuuut, I definitely struggle with the idea of travelling less when I still have so much of my identity tied up in being a traveller. After a couple of weeks in one place, I get seriously itchy feet, so I know going to be a struggle to cut back.
When I have 33 blog posts in draft form for travels I’ve done in 2017, though, I know it’s time to make a change or I’ll never be able to catch up.
Rained out in Rhode Island: I was super-excited to spend time in Newport, but when we arrived to torrential downpours, the mere thought of beach-hopping and mansion-spotting was enough to have Dave and I hiding away in our apartment for our entire stay. The weather was so bad while we were in town that we left having seen nothing of Newport outside of a couple of coffee shops and restaurants.
Incidents of the Month
An update on my illness: In my previous monthly summary, I wrote jokingly about a peculiar illness I’d contracted that saw me burping every couple of minutes for weeks on end.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t abated.
It’s been eight weeks, and I’m unable to sit upright or stand for more than a few minutes before starting to exhale air like a madman. And I tried everything: fasting for 48 hours, taking PPIs, chewing on charcoal tablets, cutting acidic foods from my diet, popping anti-histamines… but nothing worked.
I flew home to see my doctor in the UK and it was then that I learned it wasn’t actually burps, but hiccups.
I can’t believe I’ve been diagnosed with chronic hiccups.
These days, my diaphragm is continuously spasming and treating it can be tremendously difficult. Fortunately, the spasms are silent, so I’m not embarrassingly squawking every couple of minutes, but they are painful, frequent, and frustrating. Worryingly, they could be caused by a brain tumour, liver cancer, pancreatitis, pleurisy, and a number of other scary-sounding conditions, so I’ve spent my time in the UK having blood tests, x-rays, and more, all in the hopes of proving this isn’t caused by something life-threatening.
If nothing serious is causing it, I could still end up suffering from this for years.
I was caught up in a hurricane in the Azores: The East Atlantic isn’t somewhere that’s known for hurricanes, but in October, Hurricane Ophelia formed off the coast of the Azores and began its journey north towards Ireland. And yes, Dave and I found ourselves directly in its path.
A government-issued alert warned us the hurricane was due to make landfall at 12 p.m. on the day we were leaving, but our flight off the island was at three. We put a contingency plan in place, from finding a place we could stay in if things started to get frightening to scouting out a store we could stock up with food from.
Fortunately, the hurricane skirted around the Azores, causing little damage, and we managed to leave the island on one of the last planes out of there.
I planned the worst possible trip for a colourblind person: When Dave and I decided to spend a full month in the U.S. this month, I immediately took the travel planning reins and steered us towards New England. We were aiming to be in the country in early October, which is perfect fall foliage season, and I’d been wanting to spot those colours for years.
I booked the trip, we hired a car, and, as I gaped at the vibrant colours in awe, Dave awkwardly confessed he wasn’t seeing what I was seeing.
So, um, Dave is colourblind, and yes, both of us forgot that when we came to booking this road trip. Fortunately, the colours weren’t the highlight of our time in the States, but I did feel ridiculous about booking something that relied on him being able to differentiate between red and green.
My Next Steps
I’ve got some seriously exciting travel adventures coming up over the next four weeks! Well, for the next few months, actually, but more on that soon.
First up: making the most of my unexpected return to the UK! While I hang out at my parents’ place to await my test results, I’ll be aiming to busy myself by catching up with friends, taking a chocolate and cocktail making workshop with my mum, and even squeezing in a gig or two. It’ll be quite some time until I’ll next be back in this part of the world, so I’m taking every opportunity to enjoy being back in my homeland while I can.
Then, it’ll be time to begin my journey south for the winter. Dave and I spent Christmas with my family in London last year, so we’ll be heading Down Under for an Australian Christmas with Dave’s loved ones for 2017. Of course, you know I had to work in an assortment of stopovers along the way.
We’ll be heading to Rome first, for three days of ruin wandering and pizza eating. I first visited Rome 10 years ago and spent the entire trip hiding in my room, while Dave hasn’t been for almost 20 years! On our agenda is seeing all the touristy sites, checking out Vatican City, and eating as much food as we can cram into our mouths. I really want to take a pasta-making class while we’re there!
Then, Japan. This will be my first visit to what is one of my biggest travel oversights and I couldn’t be more excited.
Up first on the list is Tokyo, where I’ll be chasing everything that’s weird and wonderful, eating so much food, and crossing off a few places from my themed restaurant wishlist. After Tokyo, we’ll be heading across to Hakone to check out Mount Fuji, and then onwards to Shibu Onsen to see the snow monkeys! Snow monkeys, guys! I know I’m going to cry with excitement when I see them. Snow monkeys!!!!!!
And that’s what I have in store for November!