It’s that time of year again! You know, the one where it stops being beach weather in Sydney and I bugger off to warmer climes for awhile :)
In 2018, I returned to the US for about a month for some family time, NYC catch ups, and adventures in my favorite state, California.
In 2017, I hit up both the US *and* Europe for 5 weeks for a wedding in Connecticut, followed by some solo travel in France and a few adventures with my European friends in Italy.
And this year? Well…
I kicked off 2019 with more energy and enthusiasm for life than I had at the start of any other year (which I think says a lot, given my baseline is pretty high energy). I’m normally not into making New Years resolutions or even doing the whole goal setting/tracking thing in general (I’m highly self-motivated and like to think I can get shit done without going through this process).
BUT… after spending last year highly engrossed in all things personal development and drinking the koolaid of various coaches, I wondered how much further I could go if I DID have more structure in place in my life. What if I took the time to actually think about what I wanted most in life, and what steps I could take this year to get there faster?
It was with that mindset that I wrangled my Bondi besties into a week-long DIY goal setting workshop this past January. We got together with our laptops, journals, and beach towels and spent several afternoons at V’s apartment brainstorming, sharing, and dreaming up the next year of our lives.
Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash.
One thing that came to light during our little goal setting workshop was how most of my recent travels had been somewhat obligatory – that is, I was traveling to places to see family or friends or attend events, or because I’d found a cheap flight or was offered free stays or activities there.
And while I enjoyed all of these trips, there was always an undercurrent of having to go somewhere or do something. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d taken a trip just for me, purely because I wanted to go.
I didn’t even need to consult my bucket list to know which countries were near the top. I knew where I wanted to go, and I was finally ready to quit putting it off til the time was right, it was convenient, or I had enough money to afford it.
You guys – I’m finally going to Greece!
Photo by Nikos Zacharoulis on Unsplash.
And if that weren’t nerve wracking enough: I also decided to push the envelope and go away for a longer period of time this year. If the ultimate goal is to be away for 3 months during winter, and I keep booking month-long stints abroad, then that’s not really chasing the goal is it?
My last two winter trips were 4-5 weeks long, so I thought I’d aim for 6-7 weeks this time.
THEN I reconsidered and asked myself: what amount of time would feel scary? Like, lets get me out of my comfort zone a bit, but not to the point where I’m away for *too* long and risk going into debt if I’m unable to rent my room out to someone while I’m away (paying rent plus travel expenses is no joke, y’all).
So guess what? I’m about to have 9 full weeks in Europe! (May 26-August 1, whatttttt)
AND, I’m not flying on a budget airline or cashing in miles to fly cheaply. I’m flying with Etihad for the first time and my flight includes a free stopover in Abu Dhabi!
Note that not one component of this trip is sponsored, though I will be working online throughout this trip, digital nomad style… which is one reason why I’m only visiting a few countries over 9 weeks. But really, the main reason for it is because I freakin’ LOVE traveling slowly and really taking time to soak up a place, and I hate having to rush around. Country counts can suck it.
Abu Dhabi // 2 DAYS
I’ve never been to the Middle East before, so I figured I might as well take advantage of the free stopover in Abu Dhabi offered by Etihad. I managed to snag a deal on a 5 star hotel there for 2 nights, and mostly my plan is to just relax there and make up for all the sleep I’m not going to get on the flight over.
My hotel research was limited, but from what I saw it seems that hotels in Abu Dhabi offer 24-hour check-in: that is, if you check in at 1am, you must check out by 1am on your last day. How good is that? And yes, I will be arriving around 1am after a 15 hour flight and I fly out at 2:15am two days later, so it’ll be amazing to be able to hang out in my room on the last night before I leave for my red-eye.
Photo by azhrjl on Unsplash.
Other than hibernating, there are exactly two things on my Abu Dhabi agenda: the Grand Mosque (obvs) and the Saadiyat Beach Club. It’s forecasted to be 104F/40C while I’m there, so I’m thinking let’s not overextend myself.
But trust that I would seek out some tropical island vibes in the Middle East, right? Saadiyat offers day passes to their pool and resort facilities right on the beach, AND their very affordable Women’s Day happens to fall on my first day in Abu Dhabi, so I kinda feel like it’s meant to be.
France // 19 DAYS
I didn’t expect to return to France so soon after my last trip there, but I couldn’t resist joining my friend Jojo on a cycling trip he was planning around Provence – so hey, I’ve got a few weeks ahead of me in France!
I’ll start off with 5 days in Paris, and unlike last time where I eschewed French cuisine and all of the museums, I’m pretty confident that Jojo will take it upon himself to right my wrong and show me how Paris is really done.
Then we’re off to the south of France! Starting in Avignon, we’re planning on doing a 7-day cycling loop around Provence. I have no idea how I’m going to fare on a road bike (I’ve always been a cruiser girl) carrying a bit of luggage, but I’ve penciled in plenty of rest time and shorter stints on the bike just in case I end up hating it. I cannot WAIT to explore all those cute little hilltop villages, bike by vineyards and lavender fields, and try to get some epic drone shots of us cycling through the countryside.
Provence. Photo by Karol Kaczorek on Unsplash.
After our cycling adventure, we’ve got another week in the south of France which we’ve done zero planning for. Roughly, I think we’ll hit Marseille and do a day trip to the Calanques, and then spend some time in the French Riviera before I fly out of Nice. If you have any French Riviera tips or must-dos, please leave ‘em in a comment at the bottom of this post!
Budapest // 9 DAYS
As tempting as it was to book in a road trip around Croatia between my time in France and Greece, I reined myself in and thought it would be better to schedule some dedicated work time in a city somewhere between those two countries. I know I’m not going to want to do much work while gallivanting around Provence and the French Riviera, or while island hopping in Greece – so let’s have a little discipline and stay in one place for awhile, Lindsay.
And that’s how I landed on Budapest, a city I’ve been eager to visit for ages. I booked myself an Airbnb with ample workspace and started researching coffee shops in the area – and then a friend I haven’t seen since we both lived in NYC decided to meet me there during her own Euro trip. Go figure!
Photo by Florian van Duyn on Unsplash.
So I’ll be juggling work and play during my 9 days in Buda. I don’t want to plan or research too much, but I’m eager to take part in the city’s thermal bath culture and check out some of the ruin bars (literally the only way you can get me to go to a bar is if it’s your birthday, or if there’s something super cool or unique about the bar – which seems to be the case with Buda’s bar scene).
If you have any recommendations for what and where to eat, or what to see and do in Budapest, please leave a comment on this post and I’ll be so grateful!
Greece // 5 WEEKS
5 WEEKS IN GREECE! This is my ME time on this trip, where I’ll be traveling solo and living out my bucket list dreams in the Greek Islands. I knew that just a couple days per island wasn’t going to be enough for me, nor was popping over in the middle of another trip just to check it off the list going to suffice – which is mostly why it’s taken this long for me to make it to Greece.
Photo by fauve othon on Unsplash.
So I’m doing it right and hitting 4 islands in 4 weeks, bookending the island hopping with a few days in Athens and Meteora. I wanted to have a mix of islands from different island groups, so I’m actually having to fly between most of them because they’re quite spread out.
Also, now’s about the time where I regret never learning how to drive stick shift, because guess what I forgot: most rental cars in Europe are manual! Automatic cars are scarce and pricey. Very expensive lesson learned, I guess – but there’s no way I’m NOT exploring these islands without a vehicle.
Anyway, here are the islands I’ll be hitting:
Santorini. Photo by Tom Grimbert (@tomgrimbert) on Unsplash.
Touristy, but must be done. I’m staying in a cave hostel, sailing around the island, taking selfies amidst the whitewashed buildings, and giving absolutely zero f*cks about being a basic bitch slash cliched tourist.
This little island is known for its gorgeous beaches, and once I found this out I immediately added it to my itinerary without thinking twice.
Crete. Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash (edited by me).
I love how varied this massive island is: not only does it have beaches beautiful enough to bring me to tears, but it’s also chock full of ruins, old churches, seaside villages, vineyards, mountains, and gorges. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a road trip or holiday destination. I’m staying in an adorable cottage in the hills and it’s going to be epic.
What drew me to this island is its mix of mountains and beaches. It’s got more of a foresty feel than a tropical one, and it’s much less touristed than the other 3 islands I’m visiting.