October 2018: Travel Summary and Statistics


View from Cheddar Gorge

October was a busy month for me. I travelled through three countries, one of them new to me, and hit up almost a dozen cities, all while eating my body weight in fresh, beautiful pasta.

When I left you last, I was a week into my housesit in Bologna and was falling head over stomach in love with the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Not much changed as we transitioned into October.

Street in Modena, Italy
The wonderful and super-Italian streets of Modena

Right at the start of the month, I convinced Dave to join me on a day trip to Modena, home of balsamic vinegar that’ll change your life.

Trust me on this: if you haven’t had traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena before, you should do everything you can to get your hands on some. It was the most incredible flavour, whether it had been aged in cherry or juniper barrels, or for 12 or 25 years. Dave and I jumped on a free tasting at Acetaia di Giorgio, a small family-run business on the outskirts of the city, and were so impressed that we somehow managed to justify spending €65 on a 100 ml bottle of the stuff.

Outside of making poor financial decisions, I warmed to Modena, and could have easily spent a few months there, living out my dream Italian life. Dave and I wandered through cobblestone alleyways and squares, grabbed samples of everything we could at Mercato Albinelli food market, devoured the best gelato of our lives at Gelateria K2, and swooned over the delicious food at Trattoria Aldina, which was probably the best meal we’ve ever had in Italy.

Mercato Albinelli in Modena
Mercato Albinelli was a Modena stand-out

I decided then to hit the pause button on my travels for a week to ensure I saw more of Bologna while receiving plenty of dog snuggles from Leo. Bologna’s a super-cool city with a laidback vibe and the most incredible food scene, and I spent most of my time walking through the many, many porticoes.

Next, I made my way to the tiny country of San Marino.

San Marino was my 83rd-ish country and my final microstate in Europe, and before I arrived, I had a feeling I was going to like it. I always seem to fall for small, lesser-visited countries — Luxembourg, Andorra, and Liechtenstein are some of my favourite parts of Europe — and San Marino easily became another one of my loves.

For starters, the views were stunning.

San Marino viewpoint

And as an added bonus, there was hardly anybody there!

Yes, if you want to see San Marino without the crowds, I highly recommend visiting on a weekday in early-October. I encountered bright blue skies, warm temperatures, and few people. In a country that’s so beautiful, it was wonderful having every viewpoint all to myself.

I finished off my day by spending several hours walking around Rimini and, um, didn’t warm to it at all, so quickly hurried back to Bologna.

prosciutto and parmesan in Parma

Apparently, my time in Italy was all about the day trips, but in a region that’s all about incredible food, how could I not? For my final day trip, I headed to Parma in search of yet another life-changing meal.

When I didn’t warm to the city as much as I did Modena, I still enjoyed spending a day exploring, and I couldn’t get enough of Parma’s architecture. While I was far too lazy to set my alarm for 5 a.m. in order to tour a dairy farm, I still made sure to eat all of the parmigiano reggiano and prosciutto that this city is so famous for.

It also meant dealing with dairy-induced stomach cramps and panic attacks for a full day afterwards while insisting that it was so worth it.

Dog in Bologna

Church in Bologna

And with that, my month of travel in Europe was over, and it was time to head back to Bristol for the rest of the year.

It’s no secret that travel has wreaked havoc on my immune system over the past few years. Through travel, I’ve transformed from somebody who barely even caught so much as a cold each year to someone who now takes an average of six courses of antibiotics a year, struggles with stomach issues after years of food poisoning and antibiotics, and deals with stress-induced chronic pain and fatigue on a daily basis.

I’ve reached the point where it now feels sensible for me to halt my explorations of the world for the next 3-6 months and instead concentrate on eating well, exercising often, avoiding infections, and boosting my immune system back to its previous impenetrable shell.

Having said that, I did just buy a flight to Thailand for February and I almost bought a flight to Kazakhstan this morning, so, y’know, old habits die hard, especially when it comes to travel and me.

View from Cheddar Gorge
The view from atop Cheddar Gorge

While much of my time in Bristol was spent getting back into a wellness-focused routine, I still found time to hang out with friends and explore more of the southwest of England.

Travel blogging friends Craig and Linda are in town at the moment, and Bristol local Heather offered to take the group of us into the Mendips for a day full of countryside and cheese. We hiked Cheddar Gorge in-between snacks of cheddar cheese and cider, had a delicious Sunday roast in the excellently-named village of Wookey Hole, then spent time exploring Wells, the smallest city in England.

Roman Baths
I had perfect weather for my first trip to Bath!

Day-tripping appears to now be in my blood after my time Italy, so I decided to make it a habit and spent a day in Bath.

This famous city is known for its Roman baths and given that Bristol is just 15 minutes away, it’s pretty unforgivable that I hadn’t made it there yet.

Fortunately, the good weather from the summer is lingering and we had perfect bright-blue skies for our day in town. We tried the famous bath buns from Sally Lunns, admired Bath Abbey, and then spent a significant amount of time walking around the Roman Baths in awe. This definitely won’t be my last visit to Bath — I’m already planning to return to see its famous Christmas market in all its glory.

And that was October!

October travel map

Countries Visited: 3

Italy, San Marino, the UK

Cities Visited: 10

Bath, Bologna, Bristol, Cheddar, Modena, Parma, Rimini, San Marino, Wells, Wookey Hole.

Distance travelled: 1250 miles

Number of flights: 1
Number of trains: 9
Number of buses: 2

Highlights of the Month

Another reason to love the EU: Remember back in May, when I flew to the U.K. and ended up delayed for hours on my flight from Singapore? Well, EU regulations mean that passengers are entitled to compensation if their journey ends up taking more than four hours longer than expected. Ours was delayed by six hours and that meant that I was able to claim €600 in compensation! Not bad when you consider the flight was only €120.

10/10; would sit in the middle seat for nineteen hours again.

Living my best boring life in Bristol: After a full month of travel, it felt so wonderful to return to Bristol! One of my favourite aspects of having a base is getting to do all of the things that probably sound boring as hell in comparison to my previous adventure-filled life — not for me! I’ve grown to love and appreciate a semi-fixed life because a life of nothing but travel ended up feeling slightly unfulfilling in the end, too.

There’s something to be said for having the best of both worlds.

Things like binge-watching shows on Netflix, learning how to cook ramen, filling my bookshelf with new reads, becoming a regular at my local cafe, and building a consistent strength training routine at the gym — they all fill me with so much joy, just as much as island-hopping in Thailand does.

Lowlights of the Month

One of the scariest flights of my life: Given how many flights I’ve taken over the past seven years (almost 200 at last count), I’m always surprised by how I’ve yet to have experienced anything truly nerve-wracking while up in the air. No cabin depressurisation, no aborted landings, no injury-causing turbulence, no diverted flights. With the exception of the death plane I took in Tonga, my flights have always been calm and incident-free.

When I awoke on my final morning in Bologna, though, and saw #StormCallum trending on U.K. Twitter, I winced. A hundred mile an hour winds were howling across Ireland and Wales, and they were forecast to be smashing the south of England by the time we were due to arrive in Heathrow.

And that they did.

After an uneventful flight, we began to land in some of the roughest winds I’ve experienced. It felt as though we were rolling over violent seas as the cabin rocked from side to side, fell into deep drops, and all I could hear was the engine whining and whining. As I sat in my aisle seat, I shuddered watching the ground appear through one window only to show up in the other two seconds later.

A woman on my row let out a high-pitched scream, and someone began to sob further up the cabin. All around me, everyone’s foreheads were knitted together with concern. I could hear someone praying, and the couple behind me were discussing whether to adopt the brace position.

I felt sick.

We were still banking from side to side as we came over the runway, and I held my breath as I pictured what would happen if we landed wing-first on the tarmac.

Which, of course, we didn’t, because flying is safe, right? Still, it was definitely the scariest landing I’ve ever encountered, and judging by the conversations my fellow passengers were having, everyone was fairly traumatised by the experience.

Yet another infection: Remember what I was saying about my broken immune system?

Yup.

This sinus infection is my fifth of the year, and the last time I encountered sinusitis, it stuck around for a full eight months, so I wouldn’t say I’m particularly stoked about the situation. Having said that, this is yet another wakeup call to cool it when it comes to travel for a while and instead work on lowering my stress levels while rebuilding my immune system.

More motivation issues: After eight years of running this site and relentlessly producing content day after day after day, I’m feeling burnt out, uninspired, and demotivated. Every blog post I write at the moment feels awkward and stilted, and I don’t want to start publishing sub-standard blog posts just to get something out into the world.

For now, I’m going to keep pushing, sitting down every morning to write in the hope that I’ll break through this wall sooner rather than later.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that November will be my month. I’m already starting to feel inspired again.

Incidents of the Month

I lost my temper in Parma: I’m always a target for touts.

I’m small and quiet and innocent-looking, and I’m aware I look like somebody who’s easy to take advantage of. Not only that, but I refuse to be rude to anyone because you never know the circumstances that have led to somebody choosing to become a pestering nuisance. When touts approach me, they always hang around for a while because my tactics are to smile politely and say something like, “Oh, I appreciate the offer, but I’m afraid I’m not interested.” “No, sorry, I don’t want to buy anything. I hope you find a buyer soon, though!” “No, no thank you. But thank you for thinking of me.”

I’m so ridiculous, I know, but I figure these people must get abused all day, so I always try to be kind.

And there I was in Parma, with this guy standing in front of me, trying to sell me some hideous sunglasses. And he would. not. go. away. I must have turned him down eight times — I even resorted to just firmly saying no over and over — and still, he persisted.

So maybe it’s because of the MeToo era and it’s probably because I’m sick of reading about how badly society treats women these days but I lost my shit.

“For fuck’s sake,” I spat at him. “Leave me the fuck alone! Idiot.”

And then I promptly stormed over to Dave’s side in fear. Y’know, just in case the guy decided to kill me.

So much for always being kind.

November travel map

My Next Steps

November looks set to be a chilled out month and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I’ll be basing myself in Bristol once more, but aiming to take a day trip every week in order to keep my travel bug well fed. High on my list at the moment is Cardiff, Salisbury, Glastonbury, and a multi-night stay somewhere in the Cotswolds — recommendations always welcomed! I’ve seen embarrassingly little of my homeland.

In Bristol, I’m going to be heading to a comedy show with friends, trying out a flotation tank for the first time, working on tackling some complicated recipes, and signing up for a ton of fitness classes. I’m super-inspired to start yoga and meditation classes, try my hand at pole dancing, and basically attempt to kick my hyper-sedentary lifestyle in the trash.

 

What do you have planned for November?

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22 Comments

  1. Natalie
    November 2, 2018
    Reply

    I hope you feel better quickly, after settling down into a normal routine. Sometimes, I like my routines. Sometimes, I like mixing them up a bit. I’m currently looking at flights to beach locations. I’ve been doing the same routine for awhile and it feels like it is time!

    Also, I hope you are able to write more in the near future. I always enjoy your stories.

    • Lauren
      November 4, 2018
      Reply

      Thank you! I’m definitely the same. I know that in a couple of months I’ll be craving throwing my routines away to travel without fixed plans once more :-) The grass is always greener!

  2. Giorgia
    November 3, 2018
    Reply

    I’m a Brno-based Italian who spent six years in Emilia Romagna as a student and six months out of those six years in Bristol as an Erasmus student, this post did truly strike a chord! :D

    • Lauren
      January 8, 2019
      Reply

      Oh wow! That’s so funny :-)

  3. Fiona
    November 4, 2018
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,
    Upper and lower Slaughter were very pretty in the cotswolds. We stayed just outside Banbury in a cute cottage overlooking a sheep farm. And then we drove to different parts of the cotswolds. Also saw the statue of the lady on the white horse at Banbury Cross, from the nursery rhyme. (The statue was built because of the nursery rhyme, not the other way around). Cute.
    Hope you have a relaxing month!
    Regards
    Fiona

    • Lauren
      November 5, 2018
      Reply

      Thank you! Just booked a couple of nights in the Cotswolds for next week and I’m so excited to have a look around :-) Upper and Lower Slaughter are excellent names!

  4. Kirstin
    November 5, 2018
    Reply

    Offt, that flight! I flew in a storm once in Edinburgh so I know exactly what you’re talking about!
    I hope you feel better soon. I think some days in your pjs are definitely needed!

  5. Erica
    November 5, 2018
    Reply

    Ooof, I got nauseous just reading about that flight! Glad it ended up okay though; it’s actually pretty reassuring to hear that you landed safely despite the terrifying weather.

    Awesome to hear you’re planning to try out pole dancing! I started pole 4 years ago and got absolutely hooked, and it led me to an aerial circus addiction. Excited to hear how you like it!

    • Lauren
      January 8, 2019
      Reply

      Yes! I figure that planes have to land all the time in bad weather, so I was never in any real danger, but damn. Seeing the wings tilt from side to side in the wind had everybody freaking out.

  6. Maggie
    November 5, 2018
    Reply

    Hope you feel better soon! I definitely understand feeling burned out and unmotivated. Sometimes when you do something for a really long time, it’s hard to find a fresh angle. There’s also a lot of tedium involved with websites, with embedding images and stuff like that. I ran a website for years and then was just done with it. The internet changed and it was a full time job on top of my actual full time job, so I eventually just took an extended hiatus. I know the site is your livelihood, so maybe a brainstorming session on ways to enjoy creating content? I really enjoy your posts and always look forward to them, but don’t want to be self-serving by telling you to keep doing something you are tired of! But there have to be other styles or ways you can talk travel and tell stories that aren’t full-out blog posts or Twitter. That said, you do have a natural knack for storytelling though – I always feel like I’m reading a travelogue and an adventure story rather than a list of hostels in some city I’m unlikely to visit anytime soon. Yours is the blog I most consistently read. Anyway, I hope you have time to heal and think about your next steps. All the best!

  7. Mommatraveler
    November 6, 2018
    Reply

    I stumbled across your blog yesterday while traveling in Vietnam with my family! I’m almost 60yrs old and was bitten by the travel bug in my late teens. On my 21st birthday, I bought a one way ticket to Australia, threw on a backpack and took off. Pretty much unheard of in those days for a single female from a small Yorkshire village to go off on her own! People thought I’d lost my marbles!

    I ended up spending almost 3yrs on the road – without the luxury of the internet, or cell phones, or any of the wonderful resources we have today. Lonely Planet Guidebooks and hostel noticeboards were my ‘internet’. I have such wonderful memories of those days, and yearn to ‘go back’ to being a full time traveler.

    Alas, a family and a career intervened and I joined the ranks of the working middle class, seemingly forever on the treadmill ! But, even so, I managed to instill a love of travel in my husband and two girls, and we have traveled the world as a family (albeit on short ‘vacation’ trips, and in relative ‘luxury’ compared with my backpacking days!

    I lived in Bristol for almost 10 years! My eldest daughter was born in St. Michael’s Hospital! If we ever come back to England to live, we would make a beeline for that wonderful city. (we’ve lived in America for the past 24yrs and LOVE living here). I spent my mid-20’s to mid-30’s in Bristol and it was a great time in my life. Bristol has wonderful happy memories for me.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a travel blog, but lack confidence in my writing and am cognizant of the fact that there are a bazillion blogs out there now! Maybe one day I will drum up the courage to really start! I already have a domain name reserved, have wordpress and downloaded Elegant Themes Divi. But not having a lot of technological prowess has stymied me! One day… I will figure it out!

    I plan to spend many hours reading your posts! And, I wish you all the best in rebuilding your immune system and taking some time to decompress. No matter what anyone says, travel is hard! It’s exhausting, frustrating and sometimes all we want is ‘home’ for a while! Enjoy Bristol and recharge yourself!

  8. Riana Ang-Canning
    November 7, 2018
    Reply

    Eating your way through Italy sounds like a dream month! Modena looks so cute. I’ve put it on my list to visit. And San Marino is stunning!

    I’m so sorry you’re still not feeling well and not feeling inspired. If it helps, I find your blog posts super inspiring. I’ve only started reading in the last few months and I love how you’re honest, informative and a wonderful storyteller. Every post feels authentic and I love reading about your adventures. I can’t wait to hear more about your UK day trips as my partner and I are planning to move to the UK next year and will be trying to do as many day trip as possible!

    Also, that flight sounds terrifying. Yikes!

  9. Dagney
    November 11, 2018
    Reply

    Oh no! Does this mean you’re not going to Ghana this month? I was so excited to hear your thoughts. Still, health is way more important! Hope you get better soon. Sinus issues suck. I genuinely feel like I perpetually have a cold, which is an absolute joy. I carry around a neti pot and try to use it at least once a day. It’s definitely not glamourous, but it helps – especially if there isn’t actually anything specific the doctors can find wrong.

    Hope to hear more travel stories soon, including from around the UK! You are my favourite blog, your voice is so authentic and it’s more like reading a friend’s letters than another top 10! You were the blog that eventually inspired me to blog! It was nice to see someone make it who was telling stories rather than SEO optimised posts! Loved your book, by the way. Picked it up in the store to browse and literally couldn’t put it down!

    Oh, and I’ve totally lost my temper before without meaning to. I’m usually very nice and conceding about hasssling, but sometimes I can’t help myself. It happens to everyone, but like you, I don’t WANT to be the person yelling at the people who likely get yelled at all day… we all have a tipping point, though.

    Feel better soon! Let me know when you do make it to Ghana (although I’ll be stalking the website regardless)!

  10. Simon
    November 12, 2018
    Reply

    Italy sounds too much fun…but do take care of your health. Loved your blog as always. Stay well!

    • Lauren
      November 15, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Simon! I’m working on it :-)

  11. Derek Connelly
    November 13, 2018
    Reply

    What an amazing blog! I found your site 2 weeks ago, I started at your first post and worked my way to this last post…amazing! Thank you so much for sharing, I so looked forward to my time during the day were I could come here and read of your adventures. I will for sure be checking in to continue to read, I love your honesty, your writing, and the places you visit. Again thank you for taking the time to share, and what an amazing journey you have taken!

    Thanks Again :)

    • Lauren
      January 8, 2019
      Reply

      Wow! That’s amazing, Derek, and thank you so much for your kind words! I’m impressed you managed to work your way through it all in just a couple of weeks :-)

  12. Emilia
    November 14, 2018
    Reply

    Hi Lauren! I’m not sure if you’ve answered this question before… But how do you edit your photos? They look so amazing, and yet very realistic (not over-edited). Do you use Lightroom? And when you’re shooting, do you use auto or manual settings?

    • Lauren
      November 15, 2018
      Reply

      Oh, thank you so much, Emilia! All of the photos in this post were actually just taken with my iPhone. But I only shoot in auto with my main camera anyway — I’m too lazy to figure out all the manual settings! And yeah, then I edit in Lightroom afterwards.

  13. Dominique
    November 18, 2018
    Reply

    Bologna is really high on my list in Italy, mainly because of all the awesome day trips and its vicinity to San Marino. It looks that you had a great month (apart from the infection and the scary flight of course) :-)

    • Lauren
      January 8, 2019
      Reply

      It’s the perfect place to base yourself in Italy, really. I couldn’t believe how many fantastic places were within a short train ride.

  14. Nicky
    November 23, 2018
    Reply

    Ahh, I’ve wanted to visit Bologna for so long, and no-one ever understands my love – I’m so glad to read an article that finally gets it!! (I knew it’d be you! :))

    And I totally get the burnout. I’ve only been doing this a year, and I was starting to feel the grind, so I understand, like, a fraction of how you must’ve felt. But I too have felt more inspired this month – I’m writing again, enjoying it again, and most importantly, making travel bookings. You keep inspiring, even when you’re not so active!

    Also, I sympathise with the awful landing. Had one with Flybe last month coming into Southend; wind was so strong, and the plane was pitching about so much that my head was nearly smacking into the window. That was fuuuuun. :P

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