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’.
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 here), 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.
Here are my goals for 2018. Read More
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.
Here’s my travel review of 2017.
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.
Stepping from the cool air-conditioned car, the heat engulfed me. I gulped from my bottle, grateful as the cool water trickled down my throat. The landscape was almost entirely devoid of colour, except for the parked cars and a blanket strewn across the back of a camel, resting in its uncomfortable-looking squat while waiting for a paying rider.
Squinting into the distance, the undulating curves of hills and mountains stretched endlessly, their beigeness broken only by occasional patches of scrub. It was a hostile, dry, hot landscape. We were heading into the Israeli desert. Read More
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 More
As my days in Gozo draw to an close, I’m filled with the bittersweet emotions that often accompany me on my nomad journey. Sadness at leaving a place I’ve grown to love, mixed with excitement for the new adventures ahead.
I’ve been in Gozo for three months, the second longest I’ve lived anywhere since I dived into this lifestyle in January 2015. Despite the fact that my accommodation caused me more stress and anxiety in the first two months than pretty much any other place I’ve stayed (though my house in the mafia district of Catania, Sicily, came close), there are many things I’m going to miss about this charming little island.
Top of my list is the deliciously warm, sparkling Mediterranean Sea, always in sight on an island this size, along with my daily dip in picturesque Xlendi Bay. Then there’s the magnificent, rugged coastline dotted with caves and gorges, and the warm, friendly Gozitan people. So it seems fitting that the last photo essay I’ll post from Gozo celebrates all three things.
This mini photo essay comes from a sunset cruise I took around the coast of Gozo with Adrian Borg, his fabulous boat, Vitamin Sea, and a group of friends, a mixture of locals and other travellers. Read More
Today, I have a first for The Road to Wanderland – a guest post from fellow travel blogger, digital nomad, and history lover, Stephanie Craig, who I met at TBEX Jerusalem earlier this year. Steph’s coming to visit me here in my little island home on Gozo next week. In this post, she talks about her previous visit to Gozo, the loss of the Azure Window, and the art of travel by intuition.
Take it away, Steph…
I learned about it on Twitter.
I was still lying in bed, my nine-pound dog standing on my back making chattering noises at me, telling me it was unacceptable to be in bed so late in the day. She wanted breakfast.
I wanted to sleep, but I made my first move to oblige her by picking up my cell phone and, with one eye open a peak, checking each of my accounts one by one: email, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Until I got to Twitter. That’s where I saw the news that Malta’s Azure Window had collapsed into the sea that morning. I continued to blink at my phone, wondering if the single eye I had allowed open was adjusting to the light properly. Maybe it was playing a trick on me?
But it wasn’t. The headline was there, and the window was gone. I burst into tears.
The tears surprised me. I was one of the lucky ones. I’d gotten to see the Azure Window in person a few years earlier. Shouldn’t I feel relieved I’d made it before it was gone? Read More