A Tale or Two About…A Life Changing Year

First, let me start by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! Given the recent, unexpected changes to my travelling plans (which I’ll be blogging about in more detail soon) and the typically reflective feeling that the end of one year and the beginning of another one brings, it seemed like the right time to post some sort of a round-up.

Over the past twelve months, my life has gone through some fairly massive changes – the biggest resulting in my decision to leave everything behind and take myself off around the world indefinitely – but this past year’s adventures started long before October…

January

I started 2015 in Portland, Oregon, USA…or to be more specific, my year began with a kiss, watching fireworks from the top of Mount Hood, with my now ex-American-boyfriend. A week later I would fly home to Scotland, having decided, without a shadow of a doubt, to make Portland my home by the end of the year.

Starting the year in Portland, Oregon...

Starting the year in Portland, Oregon…

February

Working full time as a Marketing & Social Media Executive at a charity close to my family’s home in Stirling, I saved every penny I made for my move to America and spent every free moment applying for jobs state-side. On the 15th, as I turned 26, I got my second tattoo – partly inspired by my ever growing wanderlust and part by my love for Portland…

Compass Tatto

March

March was quiet, travel-wise. Aside from a few trips to Glasgow, one to catch the awesome Billy Lockett play at King Tuts, I focused on work and visa jobs. Around the middle of the month, in what should have been a clear indicator of the way things were going in our long distance relationship, the American told me not to waste money or time to fly out to Portland for his brother’s wedding in April. Feeling increasingly like I wasn’t getting anywhere with jobs in America, overworked and disconnected from the relationship, I decided I needed a break, and booked a cheap flight to Barcelona

Billy Lockett at King Tuts, Glasgow

Billy Lockett at King Tuts, Glasgow

April

I spent just under a week in Barcelona at the beginning of April – a trip that included me travelling completely solo for the first time, as well as my first time hostelling. Whilst my boyfriend partied without me on the other side of the world, I lost myself in Barcelona’s incredible history, architecture, food and nightlife. I met amazing people, visited the incredibly beautiful Montserrat, drank free champagne in Picasso’s old haunt, ate tapas in Gracia’s backstreets and partied until the sun came up (and the subway reopened!) When I got home, I tried to ignore the wanderlust Barcelona had sparked in me, reconnected with old friends, caught the amazing James Bay at the ABC in Glasgow…and then went straight back to focusing all of my time and energy on getting to America…

Exploring Barcelona

Exploring Barcelona

May

As I continued to put everything I had into both the long-distance relationship and finding a job in the US, I started to realise that, if I was successful, this might be my last summer in Scotland for at least a few years. I made the decision to try and see as much of my beautiful home country, and to spend as much time as possible, with my friends and family whilst I was here. I acted like a tourist at home with my closest friends, watched Hozier at the Barras in Glasgow, listened to Scottish band Break the Butterfly in Stirling and finally made it to Scribblers Picnic – Stirlingshire’s boutique music festival…

Catching Hozier at Glasgow's best venue - The Barras

Catching Hozier at Glasgow’s best venue – The Barras

June

For my sister’s birthday in June, I planned an epic Scottish road-trip, circling from our family home in Stirling, via the edge of the Cairngorms National Park and on to Skye. We visited Scone Palace and sat on the (fake) Stone of Destiny, paddled in the loch from Monarch of the Glen, drank on Scotland’s best pub boat, hiked to Skye’s magical fairy pools and met a whole load of random, lovely and slightly crazy people along the way…

Hiking to the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

Hiking to the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye

July

July was another month of music, kicking off with T in the Park – Scotland’s biggest music festival – at its new home in Strathallan, followed by a trip to King Tuts in Glasgow to see one of my favourite Scottish bands, Herculean. At the end of the month, my ex and I made the decision to involve an immigration and visa-job specialist (at a fairly high cost) after a magazine job offer fell through and I was left back at square one…

Scotland's biggest music festival - T in the Park

Scotland’s biggest music festival – T in the Park

August

My sister and I travelled to the beautiful Lake District in England at the start of August for a weekend of music, art and camping at Kendal Calling. Despite it being a bit of a washout, we managed to catch some amazing bands including the Vaccines, Elbow, Embrace, Kaiser Chiefs and, weirdly, Snoop Dog. After I got back and had finally received a job offer beginning in October at a newspaper in Oregon, I couldn’t get hold of the American, and by the end of the month, our two-and-a-bit-year relationship, as well as all of my hopes for moving to Portland, were well and truly over…

Getting a bit muddy in the fields at Kendal Calling

Getting a bit muddy in the fields at Kendal Calling

September

September was a blur of boxing up my ex’s belongings and trying to figure out what to do next. As A Tale or Two About…Letting Go & Just Going says, I had already handed in my notice at my job, my things were packed and ready to move and my ‘America’ savings account was in a fairly healthy position. I made the decision to leave Scotland, indefinitely, to travel the world in the hopes of healing my broken heart, and discovering if I could make working from the road work for me…

Travel

Letting Go…and Just Going!

October

I said goodbye to my friends and family and flew from Glasgow to Sardinia in Italy – via a short day stop in London. In Sardinia, after staying overnight in the island’s capital city of Cagliari, I took a five-hour bus up the east coast to the beautiful and remote Shepard’s village of Baunei. The small, studio Airbnb I’d rented quickly felt like home and I spent most days writing from the incredible balcony, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. When I started to feel like myself again, I hiked to secret beaches, rented a boat to explore the beautiful Golfo di Orosei, travelled to the charming towns and villages of inland Sardinia and made friends with the locals.

Healing my broken heart in Baunei, Sardinia

Healing my broken heart in Baunei, Sardinia

November

After a month in Baunei, I was ready to move on and explore the rest of the island. I travelled north to San Teodoro – where I discovered my favourite beach of the island, La Cinta – and spotted pink flamingos amongst the wild Sardinian scrub. I continued up the coast to Porto Cervo on the island’s famous Costa Smeralda and found myself in a deserted designer ghost town where a glass of wine cost more than a night’s stay at a decent hostel. After managing to finally find transport out of Porto Cervo, I arrived at Palau and took the ferry to the beautiful main island of the La Maddalena archipelago off Sardinia’s northeast coast. I feel in love with La Maddalena’s incredible history and architecture (not to mention the food) and wished that I’d planned more time to stay…but after two days I was off again, this time to Sardinia’s west coast.

Enjoying the local food in Alghero on my last night in Sardinia

Enjoying the local food in Alghero on my last night in Sardinia

I crossed from one side of the island to the other via public transport, which was no small task. When I finally made it to Alghero, I had little time to explore before I was due to head south to catch the ferry to Naples. I ate in the city’s charming historic centre and promised myself I’d come back this way again. The following morning, I headed back to Cagliari and boarded the 13 Hour Night Ferry to Naples.

I spent four days based in Naples, a city that everyone had warned me about (the pickpockets, the litter, the traffic) and was completely surprised when I fell absolutely in love with the history and the food. I visited the haunting Pompeii and Vesuvius the morning after the Paris attacks, and on my final day, made a last minute decision to see the stunning Amalfi coast and Positano – now one of my favourite places in the world.

Positano

Falling in love with Positano and the Amalfi coast

Leaving Naples, I headed for Rome and spent five days in the Eternal City. I saw all of the tourist sights, accidentally ended up at the Wednesday morning mass with the Pope and ate more gelato than I care to admit…but my Roma highlight was discovering the Jewish Ghetto after a tip-off on Instagram.

Exploring the Jewish Ghetto in Rome

Exploring the Jewish Ghetto in Rome

Happy to leave the tourist hoards behind, I jumped on a train for Florence and discovered my ideal Italian city. The architecture blew my mind, the food made me gain roughly 5lbs in five days, the people were insanely friendly and the vibe, despite the large number of American visitors, was more arts/music/studenty than anywhere else I had stayed. I loved everything about the place and knew that it was going to take somewhere very special to top it…

Five days in the beautiful city of Florence

Five days in the beautiful city of Florence

In the last week of November, I headed for the Cinque Terre – a place that had been on my bucket list since I had discovered Pinterest – to the first of the five towns, Riomaggiore. I was volunteering on a Workaway placement at a hotel, where the owner had said he needed help with a website and social media in return for bed and board. What I found in Riomaggiore was an unusual setup but some incredible people, and I spent six days helping at the hotel in the morning, hiking the Cinque Terre trails in the afternoon and eating home-cooked Italian meals in the evening. It was also in Riomaggiore that I had my first, albeit accidental, date since becoming single…

A week on a Workaway placement in the incredible Cinque Terre

A week on a Workaway placement in the incredible Cinque Terre

December

I left the Cinque Terre on the 1st of December and headed north, via short stays in Genoa and Milan (where I had my trainers stolen on the Metro), to the breathtakingly beautiful Lake Como. Staying in Como itself for a few days, I ate incredible food by the lake’s edge (despite the plummeting temperatures), was completely charmed by the city’s Christmas lights and markets and wandered my way through the pretty historic streets. After the Workaway in Riomaggiore, it felt amazing to be alone again, and I was excited to move on to my next destination – Lake Garda.

The cold but incredibly beautiful Lake Como

The cold but incredibly beautiful Lake Como

By the time I had reached Peschiera del Garda, the weather had completely changed. The cold but sunny days in Como were replaced with fog and mist so thick that I could barely see the Lake…or five feet in front of me. I’d stretched my budget for a slightly nicer accommodation and so I spent most of my time in Garda recharging, writing and enjoying the fact that I had an actual bath in the bathroom.

Lake Garda...apparently!

Lake Garda…apparently!

I left Garda for my last stop in Italy – Venice – where I would meet up with my sister, who was flying from Scotland to join me for a few days. Venice felt like a real holiday after travelling, working and writing since I’d landed in Sardinia. I completely switched off and had the most fun five days with my sister. We had coffee at Venice’s oldest bar, took a misty gondola ride through the canals, walked through the Bridge of Sighs, got lost in the maze of streets and dead ends, ate gelato with our gloves, drank Bellini’s in their birthplace at Harry Bar and generally consumed as much pizza and pasta as we could possibly fit in.

Sunset in Venice, on my last night in Europe

Sunset in Venice, on my last night in Europe

On the 9th of December, I took a flight from Marco Polo – via Abu Dhabi and Singapore – to Denpasar, Bali, where my plan was to spend a month at Workaway placement in the surfer heaven of Balian Beach. The Workaway location was amazing, and for the first few days it seemed like everything was great, but a situation with another volunteer began to affect my willingness to stay long term and so I started to make other plans for the rest of my time on the island.

The beautiful surfer spot of Balian Beach

The beautiful surfer spot of Balian Beach

I decided to leave the Workaway and Balian after two weeks, heading for Kuta where I planned to spend Christmas and New Year before flying to Australia. I’d already applied and had my Australian Working Holiday Visa granted, and making some extra money was definitely appealing after the extra expense I’d occurred from the previous two weeks. I arrived in Kuta in time for Christmas Eve and despite it being a world away from the quiet beaches and friendly locals of Balian, I was so incredibly happy to be there.

Christmas Day dinner with a difference in Kuta, Bali

Christmas Day dinner with a difference in Kuta, Bali

On Christmas Day, I FaceTimed my family and then headed out for a perfect solo day – the streets and shops were quiet and I spent a few hours wandering around, picking up bargain dresses and jewellery for taking to Australia. I made friends with a couple of girls at a beach bar whilst I waited out a rainstorm, had an incredible meal at a rooftop bar overlooking the beach and then headed back to my hotel to speak to my family again. After opening some presents via FaceTime that I’d been carrying around since I left, I decided to take myself out for a Christmas Day beer…and that’s when everything went a bit wrong…

Chilling by the pool on Christmas Day before everything went a bit...wrong!

Chilling by the pool on Christmas Day before everything went a bit…wrong!

I’ll be blogging more about what happened in Kuta on Christmas Day Night soon, but for now, let me say that 2015 was a year I will never forget – the good, the bad, the heartbreaking and the life-altering moments…I feel grateful for every lesson I’ve learned, every friend that I’ve made and every experience that I’ve encountered…and I cannot wait for all of the adventures and tales I know this next year will bring!

Thanks to everyone who has followed the blog and been reading along…stay tuned for lots more Travellin’ Tales to come!

Any thoughts?