I created this blog back in 2010 with the hopes that you, my friend, would follow me as I (figuratively) sailed around the world. Now I hope to keep you entertained with silly anecdotes, whimsical stories, cutting analysis and random thoughts on the world, while traveling hither and thither. P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2022. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Final Leg


There is cool art EVERYWHERE in Brighton, and it is refreshingly gay friendly! 

After being in the Balkans for a month, England felt delightfully familiar. I got off the plane and could immediately understand the locals. What a luxury. I hopped on a train and headed to Brighton, where Adam and Lauren (my friends who met me in Barcelona two months ago— although it feels like a lifetime), invited me to stay with them. 

Brighton’s finest sailors at the Brighton Sailing Club

Adam was recovering from thyroid cancer surgery, but we had a lovely, mellow time catching up, going to the pub, and walking around the city. Brighton is full of hip cafes and cute pubs, vegan restaurants and fine dining. Most of these places are filled with art and host live music. It was refreshing to be in a city that really celebrates and supports the arts. I think if I had to live in England, I would live in Brighton. It is on the coast, and although there aren’t any waves, it is your classic English seaside town, meets hippie bohemians. 

Friendliest hen I ever did hold

I thoroughly enjoyed being in a real home after a month in dorms, hotels and Airbnbs. Adam and Lauren have two cute cats and two cute chickens with whom I got well acquainted. As Adam wasn’t feeling 100% and I was eager to get to my brother and brother-in-laws’ house, I only stayed with them two days. 

Cuddles with Cupcake

Then, once again, I packed up my bags, got the bus to the train, and showed up at Ian’s front door on Thursday night for the final stop of my trip (sort of). It was delightful to be at Ian and Sean’s and of course, meet their cat, Cupcake. Their place always feels like a second home to me, although they didn’t think my jokes about moving in were very funny. 

Trinity College at Cambridge 

On Friday, Sean took me to Trinity College where he is a Fellow. This means that he gets access to all the cool places, like the parlour, where we had freshly made coffees and read the Times, and the library, which hosts one of the most spectacular ancient book collections in the world. In the afternoon, Sean took me to the dining hall for lunch. Fellows (and their guests) get to sit at the high table under original portraits of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth and it is all very Hogwarts-esque. Unfortunately, photos aren’t allowed, but the food was surprisingly good. 

The “Old Library”

11th century book on geometry 

After lunch, Sean took me to the library. He asked me what I wanted to see, and I said I wanted to see the oldest book he could find. He unlocked a cabinet, went into a safe, and pulled out three books, which we spent the next hour poring over. These books were written in the 10-12th centuries on parchment paper with who knows what ink, are living history. After a mind blowing literary history lesson, I headed back to the house and Sean stayed on campus to work. Ian and I went for Friday afternoon pints, then cooked dinner, and went out for a few more pints. 

Pints and a road trip 

The next morning Ian and I got in his car and headed north to go camping with some of his friends from his volunteer job at Psycare. They provide medical care at festivals, and although the festival circuit is over for the year, I guess they wanted to keep the party going. We drove into the Peak District (aptly named, in this case), which is beautiful English countryside with green pastures, stone walls, and changing deciduous trees. 

Tree climbing in the English countryside 

Neither of us really knew what to expect, but we were greeted by a lovely crew of people who welcomed me immediately into their close knit friend circle. We spent the night hanging out by the camp fire and chatting, listening to music and going for forest walks. It was pretty cold and windy, but at least it didn’t rain, and Ian gave me all his sleeping gear so at least I was warm enough. I wasn’t exactly planning to camp in England in the end of October but hey, I’m always up for an adventure. If you ever want to know more about this silly camping trip, ask me in person ha ha. 

QT with the fam

The next morning, Ian and I were both feeling a little rough so we left pretty soon after waking up. Our excuse was that I had to hop on a flight the next day, because it seemed like everyone was going to keep the party going and yeah, I was pau. That night we had a much needed nice, quiet evening in Cambridge with a classic Sunday roast and a bit of telly. It was lovely to spend that quality time with family. 

Alas, my dear reader. I am now on my final leg of this journey. I left Ian’s this morning and took the train to Heathrow airport, without incident, save the fire warning which stopped the train service for a half hour. Fortunately I left a half hour earlier than Ian suggested, but I barely had time to grab a beer before I had to board my flight. 

What a trip, what a ride, what an adventure, what a life! I’m so deeply grateful to everyone who hosted me along the way, for the friends I made, for the countless people who gave me directions or travel suggestions. I am grateful to you for reading all this silliness, because although I’ve been traveling alone, I feel like you’ve been right there with me. Except I wish you could have watched my bag while I went pee… that’s probably the most annoying part of solo traveling. 

I jest, but my gratitude is deep. I’m not exactly sure what adventure will come next, but I fully intend to keep the adventure going. I’ll be sure to keep you posted. For now, gracias, grazie, fallamanderit, falla, and thank you for reading and your support. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022



The wonderful thing about traveling without expectations is that there are no expectations to meet. On the flip side, expectations usually come from research and planning and I did neither before arriving in Dubrovnik. The good thing was that upon arrival I was pleasantly awestruck, but it still took me a little while figure things out. 

King’s Landing?

The moment the bus from Montenegro came around last bend in the road and the city that was built straight up out of the Mediterranean Sea came into view, I knew I had made a great choice. I decided to go to Dubrovnik because my flight home is out of London, and I found a cheap flight from Dubrovnik to London. it seemed like as good a place as any to end the Balkans leg of my journey, but I had no expectations. 

First thing first, I checked into my Airbnb. I debated between getting an Airbnb and staying at what I heard to be a very fun hostel for far too long before choosing the prior. I was so damn tired and felt like to truly enjoy the city I needed some good rest. The counter argument was that this was my last stop in the Balkans, so suck it up and go party, old lady. The mature, 34 year old side of me won, but it was a battle. My Airbnb was delightful, just outside the old city with a view of the sea and the forbidding towers of the city walls, grape vines that climbed the terrace and a tree full of ripe pomegranates over the stairs. 

After resting for a bit, I walked past the imposing old city walls, which effectively protected the citizens of the autonomous state of Dubrovnik for over 500 years. While there are walls on all sides of the city, the walls on the coast side plunge right into the sea, and the parts that are the natural limestone foundation with sheer 100’ walls built right into them are so fucking cool. I decided that after eating, walking the city walls would be my first activity. 

I entered the old city through the Pile gate, and was immediately struck by the polished beauty of the city. Italian and Venetian vibes, mixed with a subtly Slavic aura, meets Disneyland. Yes, since Game of Thrones was filmed here, the city has absolutely blown up and locals have capitalized on selling GOT trinkets and t-shirts to the hoards of tourists that come here just for that reason. But the Disneyland/HBO/movie studio vibes are superficial, because just under the surface is a wild and rich history, incredible architecture, and of course, absolutely stunning natural beauty. Like I’ve said, give me a charming town with interesting history right on a beautiful body of water, and I’m all in. 

I decided to walk the city walls at sunset, so I got a late lunch of pizza at the highest recommended restaurant in the city, which wasn’t the best idea. I was hungry, and the pizza was delicious, and I didn’t want to carry around leftovers, so I tried to pretend I was an Italian and finish the entire pizza in one sitting. It damn near killed me. As I ascended the stairs to the top of the city walls, the pizza felt like an anchor in my bowling ball stomach. 

From the tops of the city walls, I had a panoramic view of the sweeping bay. Around every corner the views got more and more beautiful. I was so taken with the 1km circuit, that I decided to do it again and catch the sunset on my second loop. The sights were just as beautiful as the first time, if not more so as the sun set and cast a golden glow on the limestone buildings, church spires and red tiled roofs. 

I got half way around the walls for a second time, when a guy stopped me. “You’ve already been around once,” he said, grumpily. “Yeah it’s so awesome I decided to do it again,” I said, thinking he would be so flattered with my joy for his city that he would smile. He scowled. “That is not allowed. One time around only.” “Oh, I didn’t see that anywhere. I just want to watch the sunset, I’ll only be up here five more minutes.” He replied with a flat, “No,” and showed me to the exit. My perfect plot to see the sunset and squeeze the most out of my €33 tour was foiled. Damn. I walked down to the city streets annoyed but still vibing on the insane feat of engineering that was building those walls some 700 years ago. I spent the evening wandering the streets and had a few pints before calling it a night. 

The next day I opted for a walking tour of the city. I learned that the city made its fortune through manufacturing salt, building ships, and through trade. Based on its geographic location, Dubrovnik was a big trading center, and I could only imagine the thriving markets, trade and cacophony of languages one must have heard walking through the city hundreds of years ago — as one does today. Walking the streets it is easy to feel the richness of the city, literally and metaphorically. It has always been a wealthy (and expensive!!) city, and continues to be. 

Dubrovnik was an independent city-state for 500 years, in part by paying off the Ottomans, who conquered the rest of the area, for protection and to leave them alone. Diplomacy at its finest. The tour guide gave her account of what happened during the war of ‘91, and there are signs all over the city reminding the world that the heathen Serbs and Montenegrins bombed the city just 30 years ago. I sense there is still some animosity between the former Yugoslav countries. 

Depiction of me jumping off the rocks below the city walls

After the tour and peppering my tour guide with questions, I headed for Buza beach, which is more of an outcropping of rocks (than a beach) just outside the walls where backpackers hang out and jump off the rocks. There were a few people hanging out, but nobody swimming or jumping off rocks. I was intimidated to jump without seeing someone else do it first, but the water was a clear, sparkly blue and it seemed deep enough, so I went for it. The water was a brisk and invigorating 66 degrees so I did a little swim and then warmed up in the sun. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but delightful just the same. As I sat on the rocks I watched boat tours of all sorts go by — kayaks, speed boats, day parties and old replica pirate ships. I felt like it was appropriate to do a water tour of some kind to celebrate the beauty of the Mediterranean before heading for the chilly shores of England, but figured I’d save it for the next day. 

I was determined to see the sunset from a historical place of beauty that night, so an hour before sunset I climbed the San Lorenzo fortress. From there looked upon the old city and marveled at the 12’ thick walls. After walking the fortress I still had a half hour before sunset, so I tucked myself away in a corner to read my book for a while. I kind of kept an eye on the sun, but not much else. Maybe 10 minutes before sunset, a guy walked up to me and said, “We’re closed. You almost got locked in here for the night,” with a scowl. I jumped up and followed him down to the exit, not realizing the entire place was empty. Alas, my plot to see the sunset from a historical viewpoint was foiled yet again. At least I didn’t have to spend the night in the stone fortress. Whew. 

The next day I decided to do a kayak tour. I was still itching to paddle, and with all the hiking and stair ascending I’ve been doing, my arms have been neglected. So I signed up for the 7km kayak tour with a guy who looked like Poseidon. The sun was warm and the water was sheet glass as we paddled around the city walls. They were equally as impressive looking up at them from sea level as looking down from the turrets. 

We paddled around Lokrum island and went into a few dark and spooky caves. Then we paddled back to the mainland (my arms were near breaking) and stopped at a beach where the water was brilliant cobalt to aquamarine to ultramarine. Like, wow. I braved the cold and went for a snorkel, and found another cave that hosted bright orange and purple soft corals and some reef fish. Mind blown. I had no expectations when I arrived in Dubrovnik, but I had no idea I would be snorkeling in pristine waters just outside the ancient city. 

That evening I was absolutely, 100% determined to see the sunset. I walked out to the place where I had swam the day before, but instead of going left I went right. I found a lovely bar outside the city walls that said, Buza Bar. Wait, I was in the wrong place yesterday? Sure enough, I walked down the steps and found a bunch of backpackers jumping off the rocks, drinking beers, listening to music and having a great time. I even ran into a few people I had met in the hostel in Kotor. Gah. I was annoyed that it took me until my very last hours in the city to figure out the hang out place, but then had to pat myself on the back and say, “hey, maybe it took you forever, but at least you figured it out, and all on your own!” Yes, I’ve been talking to myself a lot. 

And so wraps up my time in the Balkans. What a wild ride. I could never have fathomed that I would travel these countries — alone or otherwise — but it is truly an incredible part of the world, and delightfully affordable (except Croatia, that shit was expensive). I’m now on my second flight since arriving in Europe (yay alternative methods of transportation!) heading to see family and friends in England. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022


Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, from the fortress

The moment I walked into the old walled city of Kotor, Montenegro, I felt my whole body relax. I didn’t realize how on guard I had been in all of Albania, and instinctively let that guard down as I walked through the charming cobblestone alleyways of the town, lined with shops, cafes, boutique hotels and tourists info kiosks. Everything felt so refined, so smooth, so… much less edgy.  

Kotor is located in the southeast corner of the huge deep water Boka Bay, with steep limestone mountains that descend into the azure bay. Above the city, an old fortress watches over the city, with impressive walls that scale the nearly sheer mountainside, dotted with churches here and there. 

I checked into my hostel, where I splurged and got a private room, because after sleeping in dorm rooms for 6 days, I was pretty maxxed out on socializing and felt the need for some personal space. After all, I’m 34 for fuck sake, and don’t even want to try to keep up with these bright eyed kids 10 years younger than me. 

My room surpassed my expectations, with a window that looked down on a lovely and lively square. I only reveled in it for a bit before I decided to go for a swim in the bay. It had been too long since I was in salt water, and my gills were starting to dry up. I went for a quick swim, but in the past few weeks the Mediterranean has cooled down quite a bit. I watched the sun set behind the hill before I headed back to the hostel. I (kind of) wish I could say that I met amazing people and went out and partied hard, but I really didn’t in Kotor. I feel like experiencing the nightlife is a fun aspect of traveling, but after nearly 3 months on the road, I’m kind of beat. 

Makes my back hurt just thinking about how this place was built 

Aside from hiking up to the fortress, my first full day in Kotor I took it pretty easy. The fortress had stunning views of the bay and it was pretty wild to think of all of the manual labor that went into building it, without modern day machinery. I’m pretty sure most of the fortress was built by slaves who were killed if they didn’t do their jobs, and if that isn’t incentive for hard work, I don’t know what is. 

If you can’t tell, I’ve gotten really into mountains and finding water sources other than the ocean, so the next day I signed up for a day tour that took us to the north of the country to a river, a lake and a church. At 7am a group of 16 of us were loaded onto a bus, and proceeded to be carted around by a very informative tour guide for the next 14 hours. 

Tara Canyon

Our first real stop was Tara Canyon, which is apparently the deepest canyon in Europe, and allegedly second only to the Grand Canyon, but I’m not sure if I believe that. It was, however, absolutely stunning. The bright tourmaline (yes I’m digging for words to describe all the mind blowing blues, greens and blue greens I’ve seen) river cut through the valley like resin art through wood. The whole scene would have almost felt fake if not for the icy wind waking me up and the warm sun making it delightfully pleasant. There were zip lines crossing the valley, but we only had a half hour to enjoy the place, so I opted to walk the bridge and stare into the cerulean aquamarine of the water. 

Hiking in Serbo-Croatian speaking countries, one must assume they are on the right path 

A note on traveling on a shoulder season: being in the Balkans in October has been incredible. The weather has been absolutely perfect, and the trees… don’t even get me started on the trees. The majority of tourists have left, so there is always availability on busses, in hostels and on tours. The locals are more relaxed, however they had a massive tourist season and are pretty over serving, guiding, and cleaning up after us — some people more explicit about it than others. Everyone is surprised at how long into October the season has extended, but climate change is real. However, some tours have stopped, like the canyoning tour and river rafting in the north of Montenegro, both of which I want to do. I’m looking at it as a compelling reason to come back. 

Black Lake, looking very sea foam green

I could have spent the day at Tara canyon, but I didn’t want the tour to leave without me, so I obediently got back on the bus, only to have my mind blown at the next stop. I had never heard of Black Lake, but as we hiked through Durmitor National Park, I realized I was in a very special place. The forest was thick with various species of pines, oaks, ash and many more trees I couldn’t identify. Then the trees opened and we came across a jade green clear, sheet glass, glacial lake. Like, wow. 

I didn’t have any expectations for the tour, but I’d like to think if I had them, they would have been blown away. We were given one hour to do as we liked at the lake. I spotted a row boat rental and attempted to rent one, but shoulder season woes — there was nobody around to rent a boat from. I settled for an awe and gratitude inspiring hike around the lake. 

From the frost on the ground in the shaded areas to the reflection of the colorful mountains in the lake, I was in love with the place. This was another gem I could have easily spent a day exploring. Alas, I didn’t want to get left behind, and the next stop was lunch, so I dutifully got back on the bus, my heart aching at the beauty and short amount of time I got to spend there. 

Monastery of Saint Basil

After lunch we piled on the bus and drove up to the monastery of Saint Basil, because no European tour is complete without a visit to a religious site. By this time the sun was setting, and we got to hear the Eastern Orthodox version of a call to prayer. As I looked over the sweeping view of the Montenegrin countryside, I had a moment to ponder this tiny, curious country, full of history, incredible natural beauty, and laid back, welcoming people. I only spent three nights in Montenegro, and it was just enough to know that, should I come back here, so much more adventure awaits. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Albanian Alps

Albanian Alps

For how unorganized the bus station in Tirana seemed, the trip north to Shkoder was fairly uneventful, save the dude next to me asking if he could use my neck pillow. Um, sure? I guess? Kind of a weird ask, but ok. 

I arrived in Shkoder and checked in to my hostel, where they gave me all the information for doing the “famous” Valbona to Theth hike. After being in the hostel for 10 minutes I knew I didn’t need to stay there for more than a night, so I booked the hiking trip for the next morning. By 6:30am the next morning there was a group of about 10 of us ready to go, with our overnight bags packed and all with various degrees of hangover or still drunk from the free raki shots and €1 beers the hostel offered. 

Ferry up Lake Komani

We took a 2.5 hour ride bus to a ferry, which took us up a river for 3 hours. The ferry ride up the river Komani was stunning— steep canyon walls on both sides at times, and a bone chilling wind. After the ferry, we were loaded onto another bus that took us to Valbona. This bus driver blasted Albanian music, talked on his phone, chain smoked cigarettes, swerved in and out of traffic and honked at pedestrians on the winding mountain roads. Then he stopped at what appeared to be a highway pullout, and made us all get out of the van. It took a while to figure out that we were at our guest house for the night. After walking through the trees, we came upon a stunning river and a quaint stone house across a bridge. We were greeted by the owner who showed us our rooms and told us dinner was at 7. 

Fairytale vibes 

I can’t describe the beauty of this place. Not only the cloudless blue sky, not only the sheer rock mountain tops, not only the sapphire blue to emerald green of the river, but also the deciduous trees ranging in color from bright green to lemon yellow to burnt orange, mixed in with the dark green pine trees of various species, combined crisp, clean mountain air; the scene was truly something else. 

I couldn’t get over… everything

After walking into the “village” for lunch (if you can call it that, more like a few cabins and guesthouses), a few brave souls swam in the river but I used the excuse of not having a bathing suit to evade the bone chilling but beautiful water. Shocking, I know. Our crew, who all met one another at the hostel the night before, spent the afternoon talking about everything from world politics to making fun of each other’s accents. That night we were served a delicious dinner in a warm dining room and played cards until the German kid came in and said, “you can see ze Milky Way tonight!” So we all went out and stargazed until we were freezing. 

The crew at the beginning of the hike. The guy taking the photo is Australian and had no idea who the Dodgers are, for better or worse

Halfway to the half way

The next morning was the big hike. Everyone packed their bags and after breakfast, our host gave us a ride to the trailhead. But get this — one night at the guest house, plus dinner, breakfast, and a lunch for the hike, was €25. We all keep saying Albania is going to pop off, so get it while it’s still ridiculously cheap. 

The trail from Valbona to Theth was about 10 miles, but I didn’t clock it. We started out hiking up a dry riverbed, and then ascended up into the mountains. The views got more and more stunning. We then skirted the stony mountain tops along a windy ridge. At times I hiked alone, enjoying the silence of the mountains and giving myself time to reflect on what a long strange trip it’s been, but it was also easy to find a group to hike and chat with. The best of both worlds. 

Hiked all the way up that river valley whew

At the highest point of the hike we were on the peak between two valleys, Valbona and Theth. The sweeping views of deciduous trees changing colors on both sides was almost too much for my eyes to take in. The other wonderful thing about hiking in Europe is that it is very civilized, with little cafes, guesthouses and camping spots at least every 4 miles. God knows how the get materials to build, and/or supplies to sell into those places. 

On our descent we stopped at a cafe and had a nice cold beer for €2.50. In my mind, we were fairly close to Theth because the rest of the hike was downhill, but it was more challenging than I anticipated. It was still beautiful, though. Once we got below the tree line, the trail was covered with thick piles of yellow, orange and brown leaves that made for a stunning walk. The last two or so miles was very steep with loose gravel, which made my already jelly legs shake and knees ache. 

The guesthouse in Theth wasn’t quite as quaint as the one in Valbona, but the showers were warm and the beds were comfortable, with the same two meals and bed for €25 deal. Can’t beat it. Many people opted to stay in Theth for another night and do some hikes around there, but my time in Europe is winding down, and I was eager to get back on the road. (Sort of, I’m also kind of exhausted from moving every night.) 

Quick hike to a waterfall 

I took the bus back to Shkoder after only one night in Theth. But before getting the bus that morning, another girl and I hiked to a waterfall, which was also beautiful. There was nobody else around. We then hopped on the 11am bus and I spent one more night in Shkoder to do laundry and get my shit together before heading to Montenegro. 

I’m now on the bus to Montenegro, and have a bit of time to reflect on my experience in Albania. It certainly wasn’t what I expected. In fact, it kind of started as a disaster. Once I left the farm, I was intimidated to travel the country on my own. Yet, once I got out there, I met lovely people — both locals and travelers — who instilled confidence in me and inspired awe and motivation from their own experiences. I learned that it is ok to be scared, but not to let this fear stop me. With clear thinking, a bit of planning and research (just a bit!), and calculated risk, I was able to overcome my trepidation and have an experience of a lifetime. I’m telling you, Albania is an absolute hidden gem. Seeing as how this blog is so popular, the country is going to be popping off in no time, so come visit! 

Come find little gems like this place 

In all seriousness, I hope, if nothing else, my stories have inspired you to book that trip, to buy that flight, to get in your car and go, because this world is so incredibly beautiful and precious, and who knows how long it will stay this way. Traveling gives empathy and understanding, patience with those who don’t speak our language, and gratitude when a stranger goes out of their way, which I hope to pay forward. 

Next stop: Montenegro. Falimenderit, Albania. Let