Finding a home has been a long process.
When I embarked on this open-ended journey back in 2011, I anticipated being away for a year, but secretly dreamed of making it to two. At that time, travel blogging wasn’t a viable career for most, and I made tentative plans for working holidays in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada to extend my time on the road. When I unexpectedly began to find success with Never Ending Footsteps, I decided to travel for the rest of my life.
I didn’t foresee ever reaching a point where travel wasn’t my one true love. Couldn’t imagine travel negatively impacting my life, taking away my friends, my health, and my happiness. But, it happened.
The lack of structure, the lack of routine, the lack of friendship, the lack of hobbies, the lack of time. In 2016, I had a breakdown. My life had revolved around travel for so long that I didn’t know how to stop. Didn’t know where to stop.
I craved a normal life. I was overweight, sick, and unhappy. I wanted a kitchen so that I didn’t have to eat out for three meals a day. I wanted a gym membership to improve my physical and mental health. I wanted access to a doctor after the stress of travel had landed me with one of the most painful auto-immune diseases known to man. I wanted to stop battling an endless stream of infections, subjecting my body an average of seven courses of antibiotics a year. I wanted a consistent set of friends — people who knew me, rather than an never-ending procession of strangers I knew would be walking out of my life the following morning. I wanted a desk to write at rather than having to sit on a bed in a sweaty guesthouse writing for days on end. Hell, I wanted the time to write, rather than dragging my backpack from one city to the next, trying to see everything while not letting my business fall into disarray.
Most of all, I wanted to appreciate travel again. It turns out you can have too much of a good thing, and too much travel broke me.
Moving to Lisbon taught me the importance of balance.
I travelled just as frequently as I did as a full-time traveller, but having a home to return to between trips made all the difference. I had a kitchen and an office and a gym membership, and cafes and restaurants where my order was known. I bought books. I learned how to crochet. Taught myself how to cook. I had a group of friends I saw regularly, and I had the time and space to process my trips and write about them thoughtfully, without immediately jumping headfirst into the next destination.
I travelled better, I worked better, and I lived better.
Gradually, my health turned around. My chronic pain began to fade. My panic attacks ceased. I stopped contracting infections. Grinding my teeth became a thing of the past. The floaters in my eyes disappeared. I fell back in love with travel. I could appreciate it by taking time away from it.
And then it was time to move on.
Lisbon is an incredible city, but it never felt like a long-term home. Next, I wanted to try living somewhere where I felt as though I belonged.
Dave and I travelled to the U.K. last year and visited Bristol for the first time. We instantly fell deeply in love. It had everything we’d ever been looking for in a home, and we began to make plans.
We left Portugal in November but, unable to bear the thought of a British winter, hit the road while we waited for the weather to turn. It didn’t seem to make an enormous amount of sense, given how long-term travel affected me in the past, but six months felt like a manageable amount of time and I was eager to explore the world with no fixed plans again. With the exception of two miserable weeks in Borneo, I had an incredible journey.
In May, we moved to the U.K.
I’m skeptical when it comes to “signs”, but I can’t deny that our move has felt like the right decision. Within five minutes of arriving, Bristol felt like home. Within three hours of commencing our apartment hunt, we’d landed our dream house. Everything fell so smoothly into place that I can’t quite believe how solidly we’ve landed on our feet.
Let’s talk about the future.
I’ve published my future travel plans in six month iterations since the inception of my journey, and they’ve fast become one of my favourite posts to assemble. I relish the opportunity to take stock of the previous half-year while looking ahead to the travel joys that hopefully lay ahead. When I shared my previous itinerary back in November, I hoped to delve into the following destinations:
November: Italy and Japan — check! I spent three days in Rome before heading to Japan at the end of the month
December: Japan and Australia — check! I continued with my Japan adventures before travelling to Cairns and Melbourne
January: The South Pacific — check! I spent two weeks in Tonga and fell hard for this underrated and rarely-visited country
February: New Zealand and Thailand — check! I spent two weeks in New Zealand before journeying to Bangkok and Chiang Mai
March: Vietnam and Laos — nope! Instead, I spent ten days exploring Thailand’s islands before heading to Borneo to explore Brunei and Kota Kinabalu
April: Bhutan and Borneo — sort of! I spent the first week of the month in Borneo, then flew to Bali to recover after falling ill
Overall, I stuck pretty solidly to my travel plans, which is usually the case for me, but I still found time to mix things up. My undisputed highlights of the trip were Tonga, the Thai islands, and (unexpectedly) Bali, whereas my biggest lowlight was Borneo, due to the aforementioned illness.
This introduction has ended up being roughly 1,000 words longer than I predicted, so I’ll jump straight into my upcoming travel plans.
June: England and Liechtenstein
We’re two weeks into June right now, so let’s chat about what I’ve got planned for the rest of the month.
The vast majority is going be spent at home in Bristol, working on publishing as many blog posts as possible, hitting the gym, and heading to meet-ups in an attempt to make friends. Dave and I will be heading into London for a Pearl Jam concert towards the end of the month, and I’ve got a couple of other exciting experiences planned for my time in the capital, too.
At the end of the month, I’ll be heading to Liechtenstein, which will be a brand new country for me! I’ve always thought this microstate looked beautiful in photos, and given that I’m all about checking out lesser-visited destinations these days, it feels like the perfect destination for me to wander through.
Liechtenstein is tiny — just 60 square miles and the sixth smallest country in the world — so I’m dedicating two nights to exploring, which is likely more than most visitors allocate. This trip is going to be all about hiking — I’ll be heading out into the mountains and tackling some of the best walks in the country, hoping for perfect blue sky days and a distinct lack of blisters.
July: Switzerland, England, and Wales
After getting my hike on in Liechtenstein, I’ll be hopping across the border to Switzerland to explore some new spots in the country.
And if you’re thinking that it’s pretty random that I’m heading to Switzerland, well.
So I may have seen that Alice Cooper is playing in Zurich, and I may have immediately bought tickets because Alice Cooper may be everything. And then I may have planned this entire trip around his concert.
I’ll be spending two days in Zurich West, checking out the city’s arts district, and then taking a day trip to Lucerne because I’m fairly certain it’s the most beautiful city in the country.
I’ll be heading back to London shortly afterwards, where I’ll be hitting up Hyde Park to see Roger Waters at the BST festival. You guys already know I’m a Pink Floyd superfan, so it should come as no surprise that I grabbed tickets to see him in the flesh.
After a week of decompression back in Bristol, we’ll be hitting the road again, but, once more, only for a few days. Dave’s brother is graduating from Oxford with his PhD, and we’re both so proud of him! Dave’s family is flying in from Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands for the occasion.
After a few days of celebrating in Oxford, Dave and I will be hitting the road with his parents and driving to Wales to meet up with my parents. After seven years together, our parents still haven’t met! It kind of comes with the territory when you’re in a relationship with someone who’s from the opposite side of the planet.
We’ll be basing ourselves in beautiful Pembrokeshire and spending our short time there walking, relaxing, and most likely sitting in a beer garden if the weather cooperates. I’m especially excited for this trip, because I haven’t been to Wales before and I’m quarter Welsh, so really should have by now. Given that Bristol is right on the border with Wales, I’m aiming to see a hell of a lot more of it in the future.
August: England and a Mystery Destination
I promise I’m not being deliberately vague.
My mum’s birthday rolls around in mid-August and for her present, I’ve decided to treat her to a four- or five-day getaway to anywhere she’s always dreamed of visiting in Europe. I love gifting people travel experiences! We’re still brainstorming where to go, but have tossed up ideas like Corsica, Malta, Prague, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Belarus.
That last one was my suggestion, and it was immediately shot down.
Bristol puts on the largest hot air ballon festival in Europe this month, which I can’t wait to see with my own eyes, but other than that, my plans for August are fairly lowkey. This city is incredible when the sun comes out, so I’m aiming to spend my time barbecuing in parks, picnicking with friends, and eating tons of fantastic food beside the water.
Some friends of ours are going to be house-sitting in the Cotswolds towards the end of August, and Dave has already decided to walk the Cotswold Way with them. It’s a 100-mile trek that’ll take about a week to complete, and I’m considering joining them for the ride. Given my Hadrian’s Wall experience last year, though, I’m a little reluctant to commit.
September: Greece and Italy
I’m so excited for September!
Back in 2016, I spent a week sailing the Ionian in Greece with several friends, and fell hard for life on a yacht. Ever since, I’ve been begging everyone to commit to another sailing session, so I’m thrilled to announce we’ll be doing it all over again in 2018!
I’ll be flying into Athens this time, and spending several days exploring the city for the first time. I knew I wanted to see somewhere new in Greece on this trip, so hitting up the capital makes perfect sense.
Afterwards, I’ll be jumping on a yacht with Dave, his best friend, and two of our friends from Lisbon, and spending a week sailing to secluded coves, discovering isolated beaches, swimming in the Ionian Sea, and eating more feta than you thought possible. I love this part of the world and can’t wait to spend another September on the water.
Next up: Italy!
You might remember that just before I moved to Lisbon, I spent a month in Seattle, dogsitting for my friends’ dog, Leo. Well, after they moved to Italy and put out the call for a dogsitter again, I jumped all over the opportunity.
We’ll be based in Bologna for two weeks, taking care of the best dog in the world and eating so much local food. Man, this autumn is going to be all about the incredible food in Europe.
October: Italy, San Marino, and England
I know myself well enough to know I’m going to want to spend all my time with Leo, but I’m hoping to also squeeze in a couple of half-day trips while I’m in town, too. Especially given what a great base Bologna is and how little I’ve seen of this region of Italy. I’d love to check out Modena, Ferrara, and Parma, and I also want to make the effort to get out to San Marino, as it’s the last microstate I haven’t visited in Europe.
But also, Leo.
We’ll see how it goes.
After being away from Bristol for almost a month, I know I’m going to want to spend the rest of October at home. So, that’s exactly what I do. I’ll likely spend this time writing, cooking, and seeing friends, because hopefully I’ll have made some by then.
Like seemingly everybody in the world right now, I’m still shell-shocked by the death of Anthony Bourdain. As I said on my Facebook page:
Back when I was planning my trip around the world in 2010, it was watching No Reservations that convinced me that I could battle past my anxiety disorder and see the world. I owe a lot to Anthony Bourdain, and his shows inspired me to be more open-minded, eat *all* the local food, and put my all into creating a great story.
One destination I’ve long dreamed of visiting is Ghana, and that’s entirely down to the (super-old) No Reservations episode about the country. I remember watching it and being enthralled, and after my research showed me it’s safe, friendly, and ideal for beginners to Africa travel, was ready to book my ticket. And then I didn’t. A cousin of mine even married a Ghanaian woman over that time! I’ve tried and failed to plan trips to the country in the past, but time and cost of flights usually had me pushing back my plans. And as someone who has yet to visit West Africa, I confess I felt intimidated, too.
But this November, in Anthony Bourdain’s honour, I’m going to make my dream a reality.
Two weeks feels like the perfect amount of time to get a feel for the country, spending a week in both the north and the south. I’ll be dedicating several days to Ghana’s frenetic capital, Accra, before hitting the beaches for seafood, sunshine, and a deep dive into Ghana’s tragic slave trade history. I’ll then travel into the Islamic north, hitting up Mole National Park to go elephant-tracking on foot and Lake Bosomtwe for some relaxation, before heading down through chaotic Kumasi for some mosque- and market-hopping on my way back to Accra.
I can’t wait!
December: Christmas Markets Galore!
I’ll likely be itching for a break from travel by the time I get back from Ghana, so I’m planning to spend December mostly at home in the U.K.
I love the run-up to Christmas in this country, and want to drink mulled wine, eat minced pies, and check out a handful of Christmas Markets. Germany’s markets get all the fame and glory — and I’m hoping to check out Frankfurt’s over a couple of days — but I’m planning to focus on the ones at home.
I know Bath is likely to be the highlight here — it’s one of the best in the world and looks amazing — and you can walk to Bath from Bristol, which means there’s no excuse for not checking it out. London and Edinburgh’s offerings are super-high on my list, and Winchester could be a good option, too. Belfast’s market could even give me an excuse to head to Northern Ireland for the first time.
In short, this will be a time for drinking mulled wine, wandering cosy Christmas markets, and enjoying living in the same country as my family during the holiday season for once.
And that’s it! That’s what I’ve got planned for the coming six months. I think I’ve got a good balance of travel and home time, and I’m so excited to eat in all the places I visit!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my travel plans — are there any surprises? Do you have any suggestions for any of the places I’ll be visiting? Share away in the comments below!
Photo credits: Liechtenstein, Bologna, and Lucerne photos by RossHelen/Shutterstock; Bristol photo by Pixel Memoirs/Shutterstock; Ghana photo by Paul D Smith/Shutterstock; and Frankfurt photo by S.Borisov/Shutterstock.