2019 was a curious year for travel.
I put my goals to the side for a quick minute — okay, a year and a half — to focus on one major new goal: creating stability in my life. I love traveling and living free and unstructured more than almost anything else, but over the past few trips, I was seeing the ways that my lifestyle was sometimes hurting me more than it was thrilling me.
I got to work on my new goal while trying to pay a bit more attention to myself this past year. Travel is not something I will ever quit doing but I’ve needed to take stock and learn how to do some things differently.
I started 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal with a wild hangover. There was no more glorious way I would have rather woken up. I opened my eyes on January 1st and checked my phone and saw all the messages from my newfound hostel friends from the night before asking if I was coming down to the kitchen for breakfast.
My hostel experience in Lisbon is a perfect example of why I travel. It was the new city-new friends-big adventure type of trip that I can’t get enough of. There is just such a beautiful way of connecting with people that happens when you are all outside of your comfort zone.
After Lisbon was my second trip to Spain and I was so lucky to see as much of Spain as I did on this trip. I started in the north of the country in A Coruña with the new friends that I made in Lisbon days earlier. We rented a car and took a road trip south across the country to Albox to meet more new friends. We ate the most charming family breakfast outside on the patio while the dogs ran around the pool.
From Albox we drove into Granada, where I met up with an old friend from my London days. He took me to Alhambra, and later we sat outside on a heated patio and ate churros dipped in mugs of chocolate. We spent a late night catching up, which involved eating all of the tapas.
After Granada, I hopped on a bus for Madrid where I spent the next couple days on my own, shopping, eating and drinking cheap wine while I re-connected with myself and paid attention to the more introverted side of my brain.
In February I re-charged my soul and rested at home and then in March I decided to check off a place on my US Bucket List. I decided to wait until SXSW was over for a whole day before I hopped on a plane to Austin, Texas.
In Austin, my only plan was to eat and take photos of street art and I did just that. I shopped for essential oils and notebooks and ended up with both.
Austin was beautiful but I had a hard time because I didn’t always feel safe as a woman traveling on my own. There wasn’t anything specific that happened, but it was an overall feeling that never really went away. I’m sure part of it was that there were signs in every store front window saying, “No guns allowed”, which was nice, but really just a reminder that the US is very different than Canada.
However, all these months later, when I look at photos of my trip, what I remember was the good stuff. The color, the thick heat in the middle of March, waking up in my hostel on the river and heading outside to walk along the trail after my morning coffee. It’s a place I’d love to explore more of with a friend someday and that might be the best conclusion to a trip that you could have.
April was more re-charging and then in May I flew to Florida for the very first time. I landed in Miami around 7pm and the warm rains felt like somehow we were all even. Everyone was wandering around the city soaked to the bone and looking knowingly at each other.
The entire trip was a battle with the heat while I walked and bused around the city trying to see it all and also not have an asthma attack. I finally gave in and took my book to the pool at my hostel which is exactly what I needed.
I waited a full month after Miami before I was on a plane again back across the pond to the home of my soul, London. I flew there to see a talk with Danielle LaPorte, a writer whose books have changed my brain for the better. But beyond that, there is no greater feeling than hopping on the tube at Heathrow and making my way to Holloway Road to see Joana. My old route, my old neighborhood, my old heart. It’s home in a way that I will spend my entire life trying to explain.
Leaving London was different this time though and I spent the next few months coming to terms with the ways that I had changed since living there. There was a quote I had written on my mirror as a teenager that was about that moment you go back to an old place and realize all the ways you have changed because the place has likely stayed the same. I always used to think I would realize so much about myself when I eventually returned to my hometown but that never really happened in the way I always pictured. And then it hit me this past July when I was leaving London after these past 3 years of growth. I’m different now and my life is very different and while there are still things I would change if I had a magic wand, for now, on most days, the life I’ve created for myself feels really good.
In September I took the trip that I didn’t see coming. It was a mostly unplanned adventure through Croatia, Slovenia and northern Italy. I ate my weight in pasta and tried to have an Aperol Spritz every day. I fell in love with Lake Bled and planned my future life there, in a home that doesn’t yet exist next to the most gorgeous lake I’ve ever seen.
In Italy, I made my gelato dreams come true while I nursed the flu of the century that seemed to come out of nowhere. This was the second trip of the year that resulted in me getting very sick. After I returned home, I spent a week in bed and realized that I might need to re-adjust the way that I travel in the future. It’s a hard truth that I’ve decided to finally face.
When I first started backpacking, staying in hostels and hopping from country to country, I was 28. I’m now 34 and almost 30 countries later, I can notice a difference in the way travel feels in my body. I get exhausted a lot easier and climbing into and out of bunk beds is getting less and less appealing. Meeting new people will always be one of my favorite parts of travel, but I can definitely see the appeal of staying in a private dorm on my own. Maybe someday, even a hotel, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I need rest after my flights now, especially when I fly overnight, which always happens if I go to Europe. The lesson learned after this year of travel is that I need to put more planning into my trips and pay attention to my body.
So with the first few weeks of January behind me, I am sitting at my kitchen table and mapping out my travels for 2020. What places keep popping up for me? How can I stretch myself to adventure in new ways? How can I travel and get just as much out of my trips but stay healthy and sane while I’m doing it?
I want to feel safe, I want to feel healthy and I want to maintain some of the comfort I have created for myself. I’ve worked hard on it after all and I can’t wait to see how 2020 unfolds for me.