Is it just me or is this year flying by?
Sometimes it feels like moments that shouldn’t be forgotten are gone in the blink of an eye while others drag on for eternity (cue 26 hour flight from New Zealand to Dublin, woof!)
Very profound statement, I know.
Some days I can hardly believe Christmas and the holidays are just around the corner! Well, now that I am living in New Zealand, and the seasons are reversed, it almost feels like I’ve just extended 2013 by another half a year! In fact, I should probably rename this post “Spring Instagram Update.”
But I digress.
After moving to New Zealand in August, I flew back to Europe for a month in October for some work-related escapades, plus visiting old and new friends.
Not the most logical travel route but some opportunities you can’t say no to, which will lead to some big news soon – hint, hint.
Because I felt like I was running around too much and about to lose my mind, I didn’t do too much touring, rather just spending time with people and soaking it all in. In the same tune, I shunned my fancy DSLR camera for my little iPhone, only when I remembered to document what was going on.
Somedays I just want to throw my big camera out of the window and stay iPhone-only forever. But today is not that day. And, well, neither was October.
In this day and age, you can take and edit great photos with a cellphone. Sometimes I feel like I get too preoccupied with my camera and settings I forget to take in all the beauty around me. It’s almost like I’m losing the spirit of traveling. When I just use my iPhone to snap a photo, I’ve found this feeling is a lot less.
I thought I’d go ahead and share a recap of quite literally my Round-The-World trip via iPhone and Instagram.
Are you a fan of mobile photography? Do you use your smart phone to take photos while traveling?
On my way to Europe from Wellington, I stopped for a few days in Melbourne, Australia.
I had being hearing for years what a cool-fun-bohemian-chill-hip-alternative-artsy city Melbourne was, and I was eager to experience it myself.
Honest to god, I tried to love Melbourne, I really did, but things just didn’t go as I hoped they would.
To me, it just felt like a big city, like I could be anywhere in the world, even back in the US. I couldn’t find the little things that made it stand out for me. I was annoyed by how long it took to get places. I was really annoyed about how expensive it was. And the lack of free wifi anywhere nearly killed me.
Oh, and I was also followed by someone downtown which was really terrifying! Not a good start to a travel relationship!
I also happened to be there during their biggest sporting day of the year, the AFL (Australian Football League) final, which was insane, and also meant hotel room prices were through the roof. It was fun watching the game for a bit in the main square downtown and be part of the atmosphere, and I really loved all the street art around town.
Now thinking back I really want to give Melbourne a second chance, not be so rushed or be there during such a big event. I also think I need to be there with a local and someone who lives there.
Any tips for me? Have you been to Melbourne?
After bidding farewell to Australia, I flew to Dublin and experienced my longest travel day to date (by plane). Melbourne – Qatar (14 hours) – London (8 hours) – Dublin (1 hour).
I won’t be doing that again soon!
Being a fan of celtic history and legends, I was really excited to head back to Ireland. The last time I was there was in 2007 and I almost died!
I was in Dublin specifically for TBEX, a big travel blogging conference I like to attend, which also is a great chance to catch up with other full-time travelers.
I forgot how much I love Dublin! The people are friendly, the city is gorgeous, the shopping is fun (I was stocking up on affordable clothes – something hard to find in New Zealand!) and there is always something going on.
Being there during the travel conference was amazing too, though exhausting. I got in a few days before it started so I would have some time to take in the sites, like visiting Trinity College and seeing the Book of Kells (medievalist, remember?) The Book of Kells is a 9th century Celtic gospel illuminated manuscript that is fucking stunning to see.
I also tagged along on a day tour to Wicklow National Park with Wild Wicklow Tours, hoping to fulfill a fantasy from the movie P.S. I Love You – remember the part where Gerry and Holly meet in Ireland for the first time? That was in Wicklow.
We really lucked out with the weather (sarcasm) but it was still a fun albeit wet day. I met a lot of new people, and even the Irish countryside in the rain is still gorgeous, in its own mysterious way.
The complimentary Jameson also helped.
All in all though, it was a good week in Ireland. I saw some places I hadn’t seen before, met loads of new people, made a lot of good business contacts, and just had a good time!
For example we had one of the conference evening parties at the Guinness Factory – how cool is that?
I left Ireland already planning when I would be back.
For me a trip to Europe would be incomplete without stopping in the UK at some point or another.
One of my good friends from university is doing grad work at Cambridge this semester, so I knew I wanted to hope over and see her. After a quick night in London, I headed up on the train, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this university town.
London is an amazing city, but my favorite places in the UK are out in the country. Cambridge is no exception.
Spending some relaxing time with an old friend in a beautiful place was just what the doctor ordered. Exploring all the old colleges and hanging out in the October sunshine was just what I needed.
Being in Cambridge was a bit hard for me because I’ve always wanted to do grad work in the UK, something which I’ve put on hold while exploring the world and working on travel writing.
Throughout university, I was determined to go through with getting a PhD and becoming a medievalist. But after I graduated, I wasn’t sure so I put it off.
I found myself questioning whether I could go back to grad school one day. Or are those dreams behind me and I’m on an entirely new path?
While Cambridge stirred up some old memories and tough choices, ultimately I’m still glad I went. It was a beautiful city to get to know, and luckily the weather stayed fabulous the whole time.
We even spent an afternoon punting on the river, a common Cambridge pastime. And let me just say, it’s harder than it looks! I actually wussed out and didn’t try it because I knew there was a 75% chance I’d end up in the river, and nobody wants that.
Have you been to Cambridge? Would you like to visit?
All roads lead to Rome, don’t they?
Now that I’ve been working on so many projects in Italy, I’ve become quite familiar with Rome, though it’s been years since I’ve done anything touristy there. Usually I’m in and out headed somewhere else, or just meeting up with old friends.
This time I was eager to try something a bit different so I hopped on a Walks of Italy food tour.
Rome is an iconic place, but this time I really wanted to experience a more local side of it, especially through food. There is one way to a girl’s heart, and let me just say, it’s not diamonds.
Aged balsamic, award-winning olive oil, famous coffee, and oh yeah, making your own pizza IN Rome. Does it get any better than that?
Stuffed to the gills with great food and lots of new information about food culture in Rome, I was reluctant to say goodbye and head off to my next destination – Rimini.
Have you been to Rome? Have you ever gone on a food tour while traveling?
Rimini for TBD Italy
The real reason I was in Europe in October was because I was invited to speak at TBDI (Travel Blogger Destination Italy) in Rimini.
The biggest travel trade show in Italy is called TTG-TTI and this year they were incorporating traveler bloggers. I was beyond thrilled to have the chance to talk about something I love and really care about with a good friend, Laurence, from Finding the Universe.
Laurence and I met in Brindisi last summer along with several other bloggers I was friends with, it was a great and hectic few days in the pretty coastal city of Rimini.
Italy just isn’t ugly. Anywhere.
It was a beautiful coming together of new and old friends, meeting with industry people, networking and pretty much no sleep.
It was also inspirational to listen to some great bloggers and content creators talk about their fields. I definitely left Rimini with more ideas and opportunities than I could have ever imagined.
Perhaps one of the best parts was getting to meet and hang out with Rick Mereki – the talented videoographer behind the Move, Eat, and Learn videos that went viral a few years ago.
Here is someone who made it, someone like all of us who had a dream and a big idea, chased after it without giving up, and have it be more successful than anyone could have possibly imagined. It was a good reminder to all of us that anything can happen.
After Rimini, I headed back to the Pisa region of Tuscany for an epic 3 days of touring and exploring with a post-conference TBDI tour.
Tuscany and I have a special relationship – and to put it mildly, I’ll go back there any chance I get. I had a peek at the western side of Tuscany near Pisa last summer while shooting the Tuscany video, and I was eager to see more of this overlooked part of the region.
It didn’t disappoint.
From eating our way through the markets of San Miniato to walking along ancient olive groves in the footsteps of Andrea Bocelli, I fell back in love with Tuscany every step of the way.
We finished in Volterra, made famous from the Twilight books (death to Twilight!) which as much as I was prone to loath it on principle, I actually ended up enjoying. It has a seedy dark history making it unique from the other quaint Tuscan hilltowns.
So while Tuscany can be ridiculously popular, it’s not overrated. At all.
And I can’t wait to go back.
Do you dream of Tuscany too?
The final stop of my grand autumnal Euro adventure was Pisa.
The last time I was in Pisa, it was 2007 on a day trip from Florence, and to be honest, I hated it. Pisa doesn’t have a good reputation, and most tourists just pop in and out for half a day to see the Leaning Tower and main monuments.
This time around I was determined to give it a second chance. I always champion for the underdog, and I was sure Pisa had more to share than meets the eye.
With fresh eyes and a new attitude, I took it all.
Pisa is a pretty cool place once you give it a chance. I loved walking along the back streets and seeing the very old and historical side of the city.
This time around I even climbed up the Leaning Tower, something I missed last time. The views from the top were magnificent, and it was very surreal climbing spiral staircases up something that tilts so dramatically!
After getting poured rain on, it was amazing to head to our hotel outside of town – Bagni di Pisa.
The old palace of the Dukes of Tuscany, it is now a 5 star resort with many thermal pools and spas.
After an intense month of travel and work, I was so so SO happy to soak in nice hot water and just let it go, even for just an hour.
While Pisa may not look like an easy place to love at first glance, once you start to dig a little deeper, and find the spas, you realize it isn’t so bad after all.
Have you been to Pisa?
Europe will always feel like home to me, and October was an incredible month for many reasons, nothing made me happier than seeing these beautiful New Zealand mountains on my home to Wellington.
Oh, and be sure to give me a follow on Instagram if you don’t already – @YoungAdventuress