Perhaps the best thing about living in London has been having the option to travel so (mostly) cheaply and easily. It’s going to be a really tough adjustment knowing there won’t be any more random weekends in Italy, or wherever!
Most of my traveling has been done in the past three years, and I’ve appreciated these trips so much because when I first moved to London I could barely afford to eat – my mom had to buy me groceries online a couple times! Some of the trips it took me months to save up for, while others were super cheap.
In order to save and still travel I’ve lived in an illegal house for the past year, paying cash for rent into a safe deposit box in a communal closet. The floor space in my room is literally no bigger than a suitcase. People lived in the house’s shed and attic, and every other room in the house (although honestly this doesn’t even compare to the time I lived in a house with 14 people). I thought I should mention these things because I don’t want people to think I’m some privileged rich kid with no concept of money. I’ve worked hard and lived in some pretty bad places over the years to fund my travels, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had these opportunities!
I tried to keep my list short, but two of my picks (Kenya/Canary Islands) are so long because I couldn’t sum them up in a couple sentences!
I went to Lisbon for three days by myself and had an unintended Eat, Pray, Love adventure. During dinner the first night I met the Fado musician in the restaurant and we talked for hours in between his songs while I drank Portuguese wine and listened along. The next day I met Ricardo in the city and he gave me a walking tour, took me to have the best hot chocolate in the world, the best pastel de nata in the world, then drove me all over the city in his little Smart car. I know it sounds dangerous, but the city was so crowded that I felt confident I could eject myself from the car if he started getting creepy. It was romantic and exciting, and I’d never have seen so much of Lisbon if I hadn’t met a fun local to show me everything.
I never expected to go here (and in fact hadn’t previously known it was a small chain of islands off the coast of Africa, not Spain!), but I can’t imagine this ever falling off my list. When I told people I was going to the Canary Islands people’s reaction was exclusively concern that it was going to be a crappy British tourist destination, filled with chip shops, pubs, and drunk British people (it was mostly old Germans and us). Perhaps the island of Tenerife is Brit territory but we went to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, and it was such an absolute adventure that I’ll never forget it in my entire life.
On Lanzarote we rented an entire yacht through Airbnb (I’m never staying in a hotel again!), so even if we never left the boat it would have been a fabulous time. But we ended up renting a car on the host’s recommendation and had an adventure I never could have imagined.
Also, although I’m from Florida and no stranger to beaches, I’ve never been on a proper beach holiday before so every time I looked at the coast here I was blown away.
The car rental came with a map and an audio CD, and we drove around the entire island in one day, stopping at many of the sites along the way. We saw black beaches, went on a tour through the volcano national park (where we had chicken cooked from the heat of the Earth!), went to a gorgeous look-out point to another island and white beaches below, into a cave system made by lava flow, then on to a beautiful secluded beach.
As if that wasn’t adventure enough, we did the same thing once we got to Fuerteventura. We rented a car from the same company (CICAR) and drove around the whole island the entire day before our evening flight.
We saw more postcard beaches, more black beaches, caves, small Spanish towns, mountains – my heart is beating faster just thinking about how exciting this holiday was. I feel like I’m not a good enough writer to fully express the feeling of discovery and unexpected adventure I had as I was driving around the islands.
I got incredibly lucky early this year in being invited to a safari wedding and having the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time. It took me six months to save up for this trip, but it was totally worth it. When we were flying from Istanbul to Nairobi and I realized we were finally over Africa I felt an excitement I haven’t felt since the Christmas Eves of my childhood when I believed in Santa Claus. I seriously couldn’t believe I’d somehow managed to go to Africa!
The camp had a driver pick us up in Nairobi to drive us the six hours to Masai Mara, so we got to go through the Great Rift Valley and a lot of towns and villages along the way. It was a long drive, especially after two long overnight flights from London, but I’m glad we did this because we saw so much of the country. Two things that stood out: people running EVERYWHERE and Coca-Cola advertisements painted on EVERYTHING. We commented on all the people running along the side of the road (everyone from school kids to older people) and our driver said people run everywhere and that’s why Kenyans are the best. Side note: every single person we met in Kenya was ridiculously friendly and wanted to tell us all about everything to do with the country (and they also all loved Obama). I loved Kenya so much!!
This is me in a Masai warrior blanket at the camp after the wedding.
The actual safari was incredible and I’d highly recommend Entumoto if you’re considering a safari. We had the BEST guide, and we’re friends on Facebook now! Every thing there was to know about Masai Mara – he knew it. He took us out at night once, and it was a completely different experience than the drives during the day – total silence and darkness like I’ve never known, and an entirely different world of nocturnal animals. We watched a hyena as he ran around with a bloody chunk of meat in his mouth (yes, they are just as scary as they are portrayed on the Lion King) and heard more of them screaming in the distance.
We drove slowly along and it was the most incredible thing to all of a sudden see a giant giraffe staring at us in the headlights. Giraffes were the only animals that didn’t seem to care for our presence. Night or day, they’d look at us and slowly walk away. They weren’t scared, but they acted like they preferred if we didn’t pollute their gaze. Maybe giraffes are kind of snobby, like how a lot of cats are snobby. I could go on and on about Kenya. The elephants, big cats, picnics overlooking the Serengeti – time of my life.
Budapest is such a fun memory because it was totally on a whim. I got an itch to travel so I looked at Ryanair’s flight list and booked this trip because it was somewhere I knew nothing about, and it turned out my friend K was able to come with me! The whole city was wonderful, clean, cheap, great food, but the highlight was the thermal bath we went to. It was in the low 50s out, but the water was so hot and felt amazing. I also felt like I was in another time!
I went to Rome with my mom three years ago, and this was our first trip so it was when we realized how much fun traveling is when there are no men to throw off your groove. One day we bought nail polish and painted our nails purple in the middle of an ancient Roman square. Guys can be great, of course, but sometimes you need only girl time!
I’m not sure why, but the top memory of this trip is coming out of the metro station and seeing the Colosseum towering right in front of us.
We stayed at what was said to be the smallest legal hotel in Rome, and that was an experience in itself. It was very nice, but took us a while to find because there was only a buzzer – no sign. The guy running the place was so friendly, and said his biggest piece of advice for us was simply to get lost in the city. I loved this so much!
There was definitely a lot of walking, so we spent lots of time in cafes eating and drinking! Apparently giant artichokes are a thing in Rome. I partook.
She’s visiting me again next week and I’m taking her to Florence, Switzerland and the Black Forest. Maybe I should have waited to write this list because one of those two could top Rome!
I wanted to put places like Venice in the mix because it was so stunning. At least for me, Venice got old pretty quickly. I wouldn’t spend more than a day there. Somewhere like Rome, however, you could wander for days. I also wanted to include Nice, simply for the fact that you can take the most amazing train ride along the coast for only a few Euros. We went to Italy, Monaco, Nice and Cannes in one day, and the whole ride was along the Mediterranean coast. Other than that, Nice was just OK so I couldn’t put it on the list. Even though I didn’t include any German cities on my list, Germany is definitely my favorite country! I’ve been to Christmas markets in Munich and Cologne – magical. I’ve also been to Berlin twice and various other cities.
Longest blog post ever.