A Whole Year Of Travel And Why I Am Not Homesick.
On the 26th November 2016, I boarded a flight at Manchester Airport. On the 27th November, I landed in Seoul, South Korea. Today marks one year of travel and what a year of travel it has been! One year on and I am at home again. Not to stay but on a visit and to drop off my Camping Car after a summer in Europe before heading once again on a long haul flight.
I was asked by my sister-in-law if I ever got homesick. Well what you are going to read about my year of travel will make you understand why I don’t. With people all over the world welcoming me into their lives and making their house my home. How can I?
I landed in a freezing cold Seoul and was met by my good friend and on/off travel buddy Izzie. We spent a week in Seoul and really got to know the locals, volunteering making ribbons to remember those who lost their life on the Sewol Ferry disaster and even experiencing the biggest protest South Korea has ever seen.
Once we moved on from Seoul, true travel started as we hitch hiked our way down the east coast of South Korea. On this journey we met so many kind people. Locals who shared their food with us, people who brought us cups of coffee to keep our hands warm once they dropped us off so we weren’t too cold in the freezing conditions waiting for our next lift.
We were even made to feel so at home with a Couchsurfing host that we extended our two night stay to nearly a week. Hiking and discovering the city by day and hanging out with him and his dog by night. That feeling of home was everywhere.
We started to get really cold in South Korea and as Izzie and I are keen outdoor people, it made sense to save the rest of South Korea for a warmer time of year. We headed over to Skyscanner, my go to for finding cheap flights and picked up a bargain flight to the Philippines. A few days later we were on a flight to the Philippines, whilst wearing most of our clothes due to bag weight restrictions.
After a week in the Philippines, Izzie made the decision to head back to the UK to spend Christmas with her family. She had been on the road for five years and was planning to have the next few years in New Zealand, she needed to use this time wisely. With my complete support we grabbed her a last minute flight in time for Christmas – meaning I was alone on the road, just days before Christmas.
I found an Airbnb up on the hillside over San Fernando la Union in a place called Nature’s Healing Home and decided to spend the two days before Christmas there before heading back to the hostel. Here I clicked straight away with owners Prescilla and Richard to the point I was invited to spend Christmas day with their family.
I was made to feel part of the family and ended up using Nature’s Healing Home as my base to explore the area. I worked there online in return for my cabin and home-cooked organic food. A type of unofficial work away.
I came, I went and again I returned. I spent a few nights at the hostel learning to surf and made a good friend, Alex. Together we headed up to the mountains in central Luzon to the Hanging Coffins of Sagada and risked our lives going caving in the Lumiang Burial Cave. We rode on the roof of a Jeepney to the rice fields of Banaue and spent New Year’s Eve at Nature’s Healing Home.
As Nature’s Healing Home got more and more popular on Airbnb, my need to move on started again. I was planning on heading to another island in the Philippines when I came across a little puppy on the beach whilst surfing. Bald, in pain and starving. I scooped him up and took him to the vets then back to Nature’s Healing Home. He had bad mange which made him cry at night. He had a severe tooth infection and was very malnourished. I put all my travel plans on hold to look after him. I called him Echo.
Three weeks later, Echo was strong enough for me to leave him in the safe hands of Richard and Prescilla at Nature’s Healing Home. Due to my visa, I had to leave the Philippines so sadly I headed to Thailand leaving somewhere that felt so much like home to me.
After ten days in Thailand, I was done. You can read all about the reasons, but mostly it was just that Thailand wasn’t for me. After walking into the airport in Phuket, I grabbed a cheap flight to Kuala Lumpur, where I waited out for my Indian e-Visa
Big cities are not for me, but Kuala Lumpur was different. With lots of parks and open spaces I realised that it was easy to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I also found there was so much to do here. . . . And for free. This is where my 10 free things to do in X was born (actually there are 11 things to do as I always think that people deserve a bonus if they get through one of my posts).
Here I met up with a fellow blogger Soraya from over at Hello Raya blog and enjoyed a cocktail on a helicopter landing pad overlooking the city. It is also the place that I had my first introduction to bed bugs. It didn’t take long for me to get my Indian e-Visa so after a week I boarded a flight to Hyderabad, India where I was met at the airport by my friend’s family. This was going to be my first Hindu wedding and the start of an incredible month in India (damn you 28 day e-Visas).
My friend Surya was getting married and over the next 10 days I was part of his incredible journey into wedlock. It’s too much to give justice here so I will point you over to this post so you can read all about this amazing experience of a Hindu Wedding. After this, I headed down to Goa to see my friends there and stayed with them for a couple of weeks. Here I did a lot of activities such as hot air balloon riding, canoeing in the mangroves, having a biking tour of Old Goa and hiking along the cliff top of Northern Goa and exploring the mystical Karma wood which reminded me of the forest version on the popular film, The Beach.
Being close to a family in Goa it was lovely to be there for a fifth time. They really welcomed me into their home and involved me at every opportunity with their children, their business and family occasions. It was lovely to be back but soon my 28 day visa ran out and I had to move on.
So off I was on Skyscanner again looking for a last minute flight that took me towards Europe as I knew I had to nip home in June for me best friend’s wedding. I found myself in Turkey. I had spent a bit of time in Istanbul the previous year and had loved it so I was excited to spend a few months exploring the rest of Turkey.
Again, I fell on my feet and was invited into a lovely couple’s beautiful home outside Antalya. They were really active and I spent time with them rock climbing and snow climbing. From there, after hiring a car, I headed up towards the mountain to Egirdir where I soon made friends with the people running the Pension there and felt included in their family unit. I explored this lesser known area of Turkey before heading off towards Cappadocia.
I loved Cappadocia and loved hiking in the area. I managed to spend a whole 10 days there and hiked many trails. My favourite day was when I came across a family tending to their vineyard in the Red Valley. They signalled to me to share their lunch with them and in return I helped them tend to their vines. A most unexpected moment but a day I will remember always. I would love to say that I stayed with them for a while but unfortunately as I had told my accomodation when I would be back, I couldn’t really go missing for a night or two without a search party being sent out.
I think one of the most stupid things I have done in a while was slipping down one of the small water runoffs carved into the soft rock of Cappadocia and getting stuck on a cliff side for a hour or so before being pulled out with a large discarded advertisement banner found on the ground. I have now learnt my lesson on just how crumbly the rocks are in Cappadocia and how staying near the edge is not a good idea. I only slipped a few meters but this was enough to stop me from climbing back out. An embarrassing and potentially dangerous mistake. This is why I always tell people where I am going and what time I will be back.
Back in Antalya, I then headed along the coast and was planning to bunny hop my way to Istanbul when I had the news my pet cat back in the UK was very ill. With a poor diagnosis, I grabbed a cheap flight home for 3 weeks to be with her. However sadly she had a fit and had to be put to sleep the day after I got home.
Because of my travel insurance, I was only able to spend 3 weeks at home before having to leave again due to the type of policy I had. It was 6 weeks till my best friend’s wedding so I had to leave the UK, just to come back again. After spending time with my family and friends, on the 21st day I found the cheapest flight out of the UK. £21 for a flight to Nuremberg, Germany. I was really surprised about how much I loved this city. Sometimes I believe that it is the people you meet and after using hangout on Couchsurfing, I met a lovely Couchsurfer with a wonderful story.
Once a Syrian refugee, he told me his story about escaping Syria to Greece then, after some time, managing to get a flight to Germany. He had been in Germany for a good few years now and had always had a job and worked hard. However he still received the same treatment from the local people due to what ‘he once was’ . . . a refugee. It is sad how we label people. It is sad that people can not feel at home in some places due to these labels. But with amazing Syrian cooking and a guide to the city of Nuremberg, he certainly made me feel at home.
Next stop in Germany was an overnight stop in Chemnitz to see my friend Steffi. I met Steffi in 2011 in the Orkney Islands in a hostel and we see each other approximately once a year either in the UK or Germany. As a very organised person, my sporadic, non-planned travelling style is one to push her over the edge. She always comments how I give her only a week’s notice that I am in the area. On this occasion it was only a few days however she welcomed me into her home with open arms.
Next was my time in Berlin. The very first night I made a group of friends through a Couchsurfing meet up so I had plenty of people to check out the area with. The highlight of my time in Berlin was visiting Teufelsberg which is an old US listening station now dedicated to street art. This post is coming, but as travelling and writing are hard things to combine, this is one that has to wait.
The low point of Berlin was when I was robbed of my mobile phone. However I am sure the locals had a giggle after I chased the thief down and retrieved my phone after the intervention of a good samaritan. As a tradition of mine, I went on the Alternative Walking Tour which looks at the street art in Berlin for the third time and, again, made a great new friend on this tour.
After my encounter with the thief in Berlin, I got a little jumpy so decided that I needed to head out of the city so onto Skyscanner I went again. There were great valued flights to Lanzarote so onto the plane I got and headed to the place I had been calling Lanza-grotty for years. I was really surprised with how much I liked Lanzarote, somewhere I had associated with package holidays and boozy Brits. Hiring a car for a week for £28 I saw the whole island. The highlight was discovering the Secret Garden which is an hour and half hike along the cliff tops.
My time was up and I had to get home for my best friend, Rach’s wedding. I was home for less than a day before heading into another country, Scotland. Well only just as Gretna Green is only metres over the border. However the theme of travel was incorporated into the wedding as we trashed the bride and groom’s outfits with Holi paint, a festival I participated in just months before when in Goa.
My next adventure was again very last minute (as always). Again with just days left of my restrictive 21 days in the UK, I bought a Nissan X-trail off a friend, MOT’d it and booked it on a ferry out of Dover into France on the 12th July. My reason for buying this 14 year old car was that with the seats down, I could lie down fully in the back. With the help of my friend Celine in Orleans, France, we turned it into a camping car. Celine is a whiz on the sewing machine and made curtains between the driver’s seat and the back as well as making blackout blinds that stuck on with velcro. The addition of a blow up bed, a stove and an electric cooler box, I had my own camping car. I called him Clyde.
Over the next four and a half months, I drove over 10,000 miles in a circle through the north of France, Spain, down Portugal and across the bottom of Spain and back up through France. Clyde was my home. My faithful car not only got me from A to B but gave me a comfortable bed for the night. Once a week I would treat myself to an AirBnb or a hotel just to give myself some space as Clyde was a little cramped at times. It was through one of these hotel stays, I was introduced to two new fiend Javi and Fredo.
Fredo kindly welcomed me into his home for two weeks. Treating me as a friend he had known for years, I really felt at home. On their days off I would go to local festivals with Javi and Fredo. I think in two weeks I went to five festivals. August really is festival season in Spain. I loved the Santander area and spent a lot of time exploring the mountains and the beaches. I helped Fredo improve his already well spoken English and he attempted to teach the unteachable (me) Spanish.
The time came to move on and I headed into the National Park of the Picos de Europa. Here I met up with my parents and spent a really nice day hiking in the area. This meeting wasn’t pre-planned as my travelling style isn’t to pre-plan anything, but to be spontaneous. They just happened to be on holiday a few hours away from where I was, a holiday they had planned for a year. So if I can’t be home, home brought itself to me. And so did my mum’s little goody bag of essentials – ginger biscuits, vitamins and iron tablets and vegetable stock cubes. A strange mixture but essentials to me as a travelling vegetarian who gets travel sick! (Ginger biscuits help with my travel sickness).
Heading off towards Leon in Spain, I came across two kittens dying in the roadside. After scooping them up and getting the very sick one the veterinary care it needed, I found one an amazing home and the other who I temporarily called Tigger came with me on my road trip.
He was still very sick and needed a lot of care. He spent every hour with me, either asleep on the passenger seat, sleeping in a cotton under-the-arm bag or cuddled up with me at night sleeping. In fact he slept a lot but his body had been through a lot and he was only 4 weeks old when he was quite clearly dumped by the side of the road with his sister.
Knowing that this amount of sleeping would stop soon, I put out feelers for a new home either in Spain or Portugal. My friend, Louise who I met in Nature’s Healing Home in the Philippines but lives in Portugal managed to find him a great home. We slowly made our way towards the north of Lisbon. We were in no rush, Tigger kept on getting ill due to his start in life and couldn’t go to his new home until he was well. So I enjoyed the north of Portugal before arriving at Louise’s home an hour north of Lisbon. Tigger still wasn’t well enough, suffering still from urinary problems, and Louise kindly let us stay at hers until he was well enough to go to his new home – an artist with a large warehouse studio and lots of land. And the best thing, a daughter to love Tigger and another cat to show Tigger that he is a cat, not a Walkabout Wanderer which he started to think he was. Tigger lost his temporary name of Tigger and was renamed Ramon, a typical Spanish name. After all he is a Spanish cat, in Portugal.
I spent a lot of time in Lisbon with Louise and a couple Mihai and Fritzi who had hosted me in Hamburg through couchsurfing just a few years before and who now live in Lisbon. Louise and Mihai and Fritzi really welcomed me into their homes to the point I found it hard to make the decision to leave. However a random road trip with a new friend Nikhil from New Zealand in a hire car whilst Clyde had some repairs, made me realise that people really make a place a home. It was Louise and Mihai and Fritzi’s companionship that was keeping me there rather than the fact that I was tired of travelling. My travelling spirit was well and truly still alive.
In a half fixed Clyde, I waved goodbye to the Lisbon area, knowing I would be back as I loved Portugal and I headed to the south of Portugal. I knew that it was getting towards the end of October and I was going to have to speed up but the south of Portugal out of the tourist season was wonderful. I remember for two nights in a row, I slept with the sunroof open as shooting stars lit up the sky.
I reluctantly left Portugal 50 days after arriving and drove for a whole day across the south of Spain having seen a lot of the area between Portugal and Granada on my road trip with Nikhill. I spent nearly a week in the Costa del Sol area and made new friend, an Italian called Michele. Together we went rock climbing, explored Frigiliana which is voted the prettiest village in Spain and of course ate spaghetti together before I headed along the coast to Valencia.
Valencia blew me away. With its beautiful countryside and quaint city, this is somewhere I would love to return to. I struck gold and went on an amazing tour with Valtournative Tours to the hot springs where I swam with the fish in the clear blue waters, jumped off rocks and posed for silly photos.
Valencia city is also beautiful and I was lucky enough to explore this on the back of a Vesper. I sadly cut my time in Valencia short as I needed to keep on moving due to it being the beginning of November plus my friend, Toni from home was coming to visit me so, off to Barcelona I drove to pick her up.
Barcelona wasn’t kind to us on our first day. With Clyde being towed away and costing me a fair amount of money and time to retrieve, I wondered if myself and this city could be friends. Having visited the city a few years back, I knew how lovely the city is but luckily this all came flooding back out our second day in Barcelona. We took the free walking tour, drank hot chocolate that will blow your mind and experienced the musical sounds of Barcelona one quiet Sunday night. Imagine this – we are walking through an alley in the dark and slowly we could hear the ringing of metal on metal. As each person came out of their appartment and lightly tapped a metal spoon on a pan. They say nothing, but in time with their neighbour tap tap tap. It gave a magical feel to the cold dark night. And boy was it cold.
Suddenly I went from shorts to jeans and a jacket. The weather had turned for sure. Our next stop was Girona where I met another Travel blogger Brenda from Traveleria. I took a shine to Girona and really enjoyed wandering the cobbled streets and alleyways. That evening we headed towards the Andorran border where we had found an Yurt on Airbnb for the night. It was so cold that night, the cactus plant I had in Clyde froze and died. It was here I also realised that I couldn’t drive into Andorra as my car was not insured for this non EU country. A great excuse to stay a second night in the Yurt.
The following day we drive through a snowstorm around Andorra and into France. The weather was cold wet and miserable so sleeping in Clyde was a no no. We decided the best option was to drive up through the centre of France to Lille then catch the ferry from Calais. It was a wet 5 days drive through France but we did meet some lovely people on the way. In one place, our Airbnb host invited us to join him and his friends for a dinner party despite us not speaking the same language. Another host’s friend’s friend had us in stitches and her massive dog was one of the cutest dogs I had come across for a while. We explored the beautiful French cities despite the cold and even nipped into Belgium for the evening as Toni had never been. Our final day in France involved a free walking tour and chocolate waffles in Lille.
We grabbed a midday ferry from France and had a long 7 hour drive from the bottom of England back to the North West. Clyde had done me proud lasting this incredible journey with just a few things wrong with him. And now I am home I have a hard decision about what to do with a car which I have called my home for over four months. My next adventure is calling me so do I sell him, do I keep him for when I do decide to return home?
So now I am home, do I feel at home? Well the answer to this is well and truly yes. With parents who will always do a little shop so I don’t come home to an empty fridge and are always happy to spend time with me, to friends who invite me round to their houses all the time, there is nothing to not feel at home about. It was at my family Christmas Day, one month before Christmas at my brother’s home in Sheffield with my parents that my sister-in-law asked me that question. Now at the end of this post I am able to answer your question Anna.
Home is where our heart is, and my heart is with travel so I have no need to feel homesick as long as I continue to meet incredible people who makes travel what it is to me.
Have you ever travelled long term? Did you feel homesick? And if you haven’t travelled long term, what do you think you would miss most about being away from home. Comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog (Its free) to get free fortnightly updates.