Me in Madeira

2018: What the Hell Happened to The Road to Wanderland?

A.k.a. My Year in Review

I started last year with really good intentions when it came to my blog, but things didn’t quite pan out as planned.

2018 was my fourth year on the road, travelling slowly around Europe while running my business. And it was an excellent year, both in terms of travel and my freelance travel writing business. I had a handful of new clients and several fantastic travel copywriting jobs. Add in a fair bit of housesitting, and financially my year was incredible – I completely sorted out my finances and treated myself to a new camera and phone. Finally.

Aside from the odd affiliate I’m not making much money from this blog yet, though it serves as a portfolio for my writing, so I had to concentrate my focus where the money was. My big jobs involved writing lots of content, and when I finished writing I wanted to be out exploring the new places I was travelling and living in. And housesitting isn’t a free ride; there was a lot of dog walking, dog and cat grooming and playing, and gardening and housework to maintain.

All of which meant my blog took a back seat for the year. I was stressed about it for a while, but I had to let go. Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to do everything – a lesson I have difficultly accepting at times – and sometimes that’s OK.

I think there’s also an element of struggling a bit with the blogging side of things. Working out what I want this blog to be, who I’m writing for, what my special sauce is. Plus I’m a massively private person, so finding that balance between writing about what I’m doing while maintaining my privacy can be tricky. So I’m still trying to figure a few things out and find my blogging mojo.

Anyway.

Last year was bloody brilliant in many ways. Here’s my travel review of 2018.

Read more2018: What the Hell Happened to The Road to Wanderland?

Emborio Harbour, Halki

Photo Essay: Emborio, Halki

Late October. There was barely a scrap of cloud amid the endless blue sky, and the heat of the long, hot summer could still be felt in the glittering Aegean Sea. The summer crowds had all but dispersed, with just a few stragglers taking advantage of the cooler days to hike the island’s barren paths. I’d been invited to join one of my clients, Nissia Holidays, on the tiny island of Halki as they closed up for the season. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

An hour or so from Rhodes by ferry, Halki feels a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the largest and most popular Dodecanese Island. Despite living on nearby Tilos for seven months back in 2006, I’d never seen Halki and was excited to explore this quirky island and see for myself why UNESCO called it the ‘Island of Peace and Friendship’.

Halki fishing boats and the silent clock tower
Halki fishing boats and the silent clock tower

Read morePhoto Essay: Emborio, Halki

Little bandit faces, Graffiti Street, Ghent

Photo Essay: Graffiti Street, Ghent

Picturesque canals, ornate medieval buildings, an imposing castle, a line of towers, flowers galore, a dramatic Gothic cathedral, and the superb Renaissance masterpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.

When I headed to Ghent earlier this year, I was all about the Flemish Renaissance and Gothic encounters. And beer and waffles, obviously. So I was intrigued to learn about a small alleyway in the heart of town that’s a little more modern in both appearance and concept.

Werregarenstraat connects Hoogpoort and Onderstraat. Once a dull, unimpressive alleyway, it was transformed during the 1995 Ghent Festivities (Gentse Feesten) cultural festival, when organisers encouraged graffiti artists to decorate its walls. The colourful, chaotic result was such a success that officials declared it a permanent graffiti exhibition, open to all. With one rule – don’t paint over works that are better than your own.

The alleyway at Graffiti Street, Ghent

Read morePhoto Essay: Graffiti Street, Ghent

Angled shot looking up at Atomium

Photo Essay: The Atomium, Brussels

Part sculpture, part architecture, the Atomium is a giant stainless steel atom that towers over the north of Brussels.

This unique structure was built in 1958 as the centrepiece of the World Expo, the first universal world exhibition of the post-war era. Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it was only ever intended to be a temporary structure, but it fought its way into the hearts and minds of locals and visitors, and became an icon of the city. It’s now the top tourist attraction in the capital of Europe. And it’s here to stay.

Approach to the Atomium, Brussels
Approach to the Atomium

Read morePhoto Essay: The Atomium, Brussels

Lotus flower & seed pods, Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier

Photo Essay: Le Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier

Montpellier’s Jardin des Plantes is the oldest botanical garden in France and one of the oldest in Europe. It’s not the largest botanical garden I’ve ever visited, neither is it the best kept. But it’s utterly charming.

I wandered around in mid July, when I had a few days in Montpellier following my favourite festival, Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival in Sète. I didn’t immediately take to Montpellier. My Airbnb was a bit meh, the tram machines twice swallowed a load of coins without spitting out a ticket, and I was missing Sète, the beach, the market, the smell of the sea, the screams of the swifts that danced around my apartment, and all that glorious seafood. But the minute I wandered into the garden and strolled beneath a tree blooming with brilliant pink blossom, pausing to listen to the cicadas screeching their deafening midday song, I returned to the present, refocused my attention on my current adventure, and a slow smile of contentment crept across my face.

Read morePhoto Essay: Le Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier