Destination guides, travel stories & personal musings
Looking for some travel inspiration? Here, you’ll find travel stories and destination guides designed to stoke your wanderlust, along with a little insight into my life as a travel writer and traveller, now with a home base in Portugal.
Well, it’s February so, err, time to commit my 2018 goals to writing! It’s kind of fitting to write them now as late Jan/early Feb is usually when my nomad adventures begin again. I spent January back in the UK, like most years, enjoying time with my family, catching up with friends, and finishing a couple of jobs. Now I’m back in the lovely little house I’m renting in Rhodes, Greece, and I’m fully back into work mode (and on a health kick after all that delicious and not-at-all calorific festive food and drink!).
Like my 2017 goals (see how I got on in my review of 2017), my 2018 goals are very business-focused, because I’m kicking it up a gear with my business in order to achieve more freedom in other areas of my life. Hence I’m hunkering down in Greece for a few months to kick-start the process.
For me, January is a month of reflection and planning (and hibernating from the cold!). It’s also my anniversary of packing up my house in Norwich and heading off with my backpack and Mac. So it’s the perfect time to look back at what I’ve achieved over the previous year and look ahead at what I want to do next year.
My first two years as a nomad were about finding my feet and settling into life on the road. More specifically, I was learning how to balance work with exploring (something I’m still trying to master!). During my third year, 2017, I was focused on building my business and working on my personal development.
In some ways it feels as though I travelled less in 2017, as I embraced slow travel. My business had to take priority so that I can afford to maintain this lifestyle (though I set up my office in lots of wonderful places – the header image is taken from my desk in Halki, Greece). I also love spending a few months in a country so I can really get to know the landscape, culture, food, people and wildlife, rather than zipping through, ticking another box and adding it to my country count.
But I still did a fair bit of travelling.
I spent time in nine different countries including the UK, three of which were new to me. Along the way, I took 10 flights, 6 long train rides, and 14 ferry rides – I spent over half the year indulging in island life – and I slept in 17 different beds.
My highlights included falling in love with gorgeous Xlendi Bay in Gozo, another incredible week of music, sunshine, great vibes and awesome people at the Worldwide Festival in Sète, getting to know the intriguing city of Sofia in Bulgaria, reacquainting myself with some of my favourite places in Greece, and pretty much my entire visit to Israel.
Slowly, my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. The scent of incense filled the air, while candles flickered in the breeze from the doorway. Soot-darkened frescoes and rich fabrics lined the walls, seemingly held together with the dirt and grime of the ages, while bright icons and lamps reflected in the dim light.
Just beyond the entrance, a group of pilgrims knelt on the floor, whispering silent prayers and lamenting quietly beneath a line of eight ornate lamps. Others rubbed their clothes, mobile phones and other items across the surface of a large stone slab set in the floor beneath.
I hesitated, feeling a little like an intruder yet fascinated to witness such devotion. But then this was no ordinary church. I was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which is, for many Christians, the holiest place on earth.
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.
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.