For the past two months I’ve been hip-hopping around Europe by train with my Eurail pass, in a new city every day or two. Usually I am so tired I can’t even remember my own name when I go to bed at night, not to mention my back is so sore from hauling around my overweight backpack. Seriously kicking myself in the ass right now for packing for 2 months in half an hour. Super fail.
My grand ol’ tour of ye olde world began back the first week of June, when I kissed my family goodbye and hopped on a flight to Toronto and the great white north for TBEX, a huge conference where travel bloggers converge for a weekend and talk about fun things like SEO and content creation, whatever that means.
After recovering from an intense six days of hardcore networking and even hardcore partying, usually at the same time, I grabbed a flight back over to London with Icelandair to begin the Great Euro Adventures of 2013, aka Liz’s farewell tour of Europe before I move down to New Zealand in August.
Before I knew it, two months had gone by though it felt like years. It was both the best summer of my life and the most intense summer of my life, and all I know now is it’s going to take a little while to both process everything that happened and recover.
While I am preparing the first couple posts about my epic badass solo trip in Europe right now, I realized I owed you all a massive update! Things have been a little too quiet here on the blog (interpret that however you will) and it’s high time I begin tossing out some mysterious hints and
Lately (and by lately I mean the past 8 months) I have been on a huge Instagram kick. I’m addicted. I’m obsessed. Every time I take a photo with my iphone (which if you know me is pretty frequent) I make sure it will fit in a square. I eat images for breakfast. This photo sharing app was made for me.
I will take this opportunity to shamelessly self-promote and ask you to go ahead and give me a follow on Instagram @YoungAdventuress if you don’t already. Don’t hate the player!
And what better way to give you an update and tell a story than to do it visually? To give you some idea of what I’ve been up to along with some sneak peeks of fun adventures and misadventure stories that are coming out in the next few months, I’ve compiled some (way too many) of my favorite instas of the summer so far!
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t love Toronto. I wanted to love her, I really did, but it just didn’t happen in the week when I was there.
Granted, I barely got to know the city while I was there for the conference, but I did take a few tours around town which all had a very similar theme: beautiful, Victorian downtown Toronto was ripped to pieces a few decades ago to turn this big city into the financial capital of Canada.
Now there are some things I can forgive, but destroying beautiful old historical buildings in the name of banks is not one of them. Til next time Toronto!
I had a few days to kill in the UK on my way down to Puglia in southern Italy for a blog trip, so I decided to trek down to Brighton on the south coast, about an hour-ish from London where my favorite Brit lives.
Brighton is vibrant, young, hip, trendy, beautiful, and well, to be cliche, it’s bright. If you’re looking to see a different side of England that’s not London, I suggest you hop on the next train to Brighton. I’ve been coming to Brighton almost every time I fly through the UK and honestly, it never gets old. I could see myself living there, I know I say that a lot, but it’s true here!
If it wasn’t for the general crap weather, stringent visa regulations and a subtle air of anti-American snobbery, I’d move there in a heartbeat.
Though I’d been to Italy many times over the years (I can only go for so long without proper Italian food), I’d never strayed too far off the beaten tourist track. When the opportunity arose to check out Brindisi in the southern region of Puglia, I jumped at the chance. I was ready for a different side of Italy.
In and around Brindisi took me by complete surprise. In the short week that I was there, I feel head over heels for beautiful southern Italy. For those of you looking for a true “authentic” Italian experience, wave goodbye to Rome and the north and head on down south to the pristine beaches and ancient olive groves around the port town of Brindisi.
Looking back I don’t know why it took me so long to haul myself down to Greece. For some unearthly reason, it was never on my radar until now. And after this summer, all I can think about is when I can return. Our Brindisi trip ended in Corfu after following along on a famous sailing regatta, and we had a few days of relaxing on the island before my insane backpacking trip resumed.
My memories from Corfu are magical. Orange sunsets. White sails. Blue water and all the greek yogurt and honey you could possibly want. I was in heaven.
Did I mention I got to ride around on Vespas exploring the island with two Italian boys? Ladies, dreams do come true.
If you go anywhere in Greece, go to Paxos. Right now. Please.
Seriously, this was one of my favorite places I got to explore this summer. After a sad farewell of all my new friends in Brindisi, I boarded a small ferry out to the island of Paxos. Relatively unknown to the rest of the world, it is an island of crystal clear water and the laidback lifestyle we all imagine Greece to be. With few tourists!
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I ended up having a beach to myself! It was perfect! If I ever go back to Greece, I will head straight here.
Meteora was on my radar for many reasons, but mostly because it was on the cover of my Lonely Planet. In Central Greece, it’s famous for having beautiful old monasteries clinging to the tops of pinnacle-like rocks. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever seen before. It was definitely worth hiking all the way to the top of all them.
I’m a big fan of traveling to places unlike any other, and Meteora tops that list, especially for Greece. The small town vibe has yet to be ruined by an influx of tourists and every night I was graced with a ridiculous sunset. I could easily have spent a week here hiking around and checking out all the adventure activities.
Being the total history nerd that I am, a trip to Greece would be incomplete without visiting Delphi, the home of the famous ancient Greek oracle. Having made visiting as many ancient sites as possible my own personal life mission, to say I was excited to visit Delphi is a massive understatement.
Though it was hotter than Hades (see what I did there?) I had a great time exploring the site.
I was hoping for one last beach hurrah before sailing back to Italy, and the island of Hydra near Athens sounded like the perfect place for me. No cars are allowed on Hydra, only way to get around is on foot, boat or donkey. Though way overpriced for just about anything, I still had a great time exploring the old town and sailing around to hidden beaches. I even made friends with a few Athenians, making the trip even more memorable.
I hated Athens, to put it mildly. I wasn’t even planning to stop here at all, except I figured I would hate myself later on in life if I missed out on the chance to visit the Acropolis. Though way overcrowded with massive tour groups, I lucked out and the late afternoon sky treated me to an awesome show, illuminating the city in the most beautiful light. I guess it wasn’t so bad after all…
While I was laying on a beach in Paxos, I met two couples traveling around from Australia. Sometime over lunch on the beach between the tzatziki dip and seafood pasta, we got to talking about lesser-known spots in southern Italy. trying to pick their brains for ideas, they eventually brought up Matera, a place I had never heard of.
HOLY CRAP MATERA BLEW MY MIND. Seriously, this had to be the biggest surprise of my trip. I was in love. I never wanted to leave. Speechless.
A quick background into this city was that people were living in the caves (Sassi) in town for thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Until the 1950’s when the government realized people were still living in these caves in squalor and forcibly removed everyone into new housing outside the old quarter, leaving the Sassi abandoned for decades. Nowadays, these houses and caves are being renovated and people are moving back in.
Basically, this means that Matera is the most historically well-preserved place I’ve ever visited. Walking around the Sassi literally feels like I’ve stepped back in time 1000 years; it’s just incredible. In fact, it’s pretty well-known because Mel Gibson chose to film the Passion of the Christ there.
Salerno, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome, Italy
After a sad farewell from Matera, I hopped on the train to Salerno and the Amalfi Coast for a few days, exploring the towns and seaside that I fell in love with back in 2008. Positano still has to be one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited in Italy, but let me just say that visiting in July, everyone has the same idea.
I was excited to visit the seaside town of Salerno for the first time and get to know a more local side of Italy. The highlight there had to be the food. ALL THE FOOD. SO good.
On my way north, I stopped in Rome for a few hours only to meet up with friends and see Muse in concert. After a stressful month of travel, it was great to rock out next to the stage and get a little wild. Though I am definitely not 17 anymore and it took me a full two days to recover. But it was worth it.
Tuscany, Tuscany, Tuscany. This is what I think of when I think of Italy. Me and about half the women in America, to be sure. Tuscany is warm light, wheat fields and olive groves; it’s red wine and Cyprus trees. There is a reason Tuscany is timelessly popular. It’s ridiculously charming and gorgeous.
And like so many other things in my life, my love for Tuscany started almost a decade ago when I watched Under the Tuscan Sun for the first time. For years I had been trying to make the trip to Cortona, where the author Frances Mayes lives but it never worked out. Until now.
My dreams came true a month ago, sleeping in a restored medieval farmhouse outside Cortona and getting to visit all the places inspired by the books. It was perfection.
Did I mention I shot a video in Tuscany? More on that soon.
After a sad goodbye to Tuscany, I headed up to Florence for a few days to recoup. And let me just say, Florence in the summer was brutal. SO MANY PEOPLE OMGZ! I couldn’t deal with the crowds. It was hell. Plus the rainy, humid weather made it pretty uncomfortable. Luckily, Florence is such a magnificent city, you can’t help but love it, no matter what.
From sunrises at the Duomo to sunsets from the top of the city, my memories of the fabulous Florentine architecture and gardens are perfect. If anything my few short days in Florence reminded me I need to head back for a longer trip soon. Just not in summer.
Then I went to Switzerland, where this happened. More coming soon.
The grand finale of two months in Europe was our #IcelandChallenge with Tiny Iceland and Icelandair, taking in their transatlantic 7 day free stopover. How much can you see and do in Iceland in 7 days?
A whole hell of a lot, that’s what we quickly found out.
I took so many iPhone photos in Iceland, I could write a dozen posts about just that. But in an effort to exert some semblance of self control, I just chose my 5 favorite pics from our week in Iceland driving around the entire country. From giant waterfalls to glacier sunsets to green mountains and black beaches, Iceland looks like no other place in this world. Why it isn’t everyone’s number 1 travel destination right this minute, I have no clue.
All I know is that 7 days wasn’t enough, and I am going to spend the next year figuring out a way to snag a long-term visa to Iceland. Anyone know a blonde viking wanting to get hitched?
Well I am home now, and beginning to recover and process what has to have been one of the most intense and epic trips I’ve ever undergone. Give me a few more days, and I’ll start resembling a human being again.
In the meantime, all these photos were taken and edited on my iPhone 5 (except the one of me skydiving, that was on my GoPro Hero 3). I get asked pretty frequently what apps I use for my photos so I figured I’d go ahead and share my favorites:
- Pro HDR
- Beautiful Mess
- Pic Tap Go
- Insta Collage for collages and Color Cap for writing words on the photos
I’m always on the lookout for new fun iPhone photo apps, have any tips for me or ones I should try? Spill, would you like to visit any of these places? Have you ever considered backpacking around Europe with a train pass? What’s at the top of your bucketlist?
Now I’m home to these smiling faces. After two months on the road, all I need is some TLC and puppy kisses