2016 was bound to be the best year yet. Still, this year turned out to be the hardest in every possible way. Still, I managed to visit six countries, two of them new (Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia). Here’s how my year went down.
I started the year by getting a job as a receptionist at the best hostel in Lisbon. After so many crappy restaurant jobs, the idea of finally having a job that I loved and one that didn’t bring me down -like serving tables always did -, I finally had the best of both worlds. This time I could be saving money as I met other travelers from all over the world. I could hear their stories and adventures and help them have the best stay possible in Lisbon.
TURNING 24 IN PORTO, PORTUGAL
In April, I took a bus from Lisbon, with my boyfriend, and went on a two days trip to Porto, to spend my 24th birthday. Porto is pretty much my favorite city and my sweet escape when Lisbon is about to make me loose my mind. Every time I visit the city I say I want to move there! I blame it on the ridiculously nice people, the amazing cheap food, the sweets, the colors and the viewpoints. Porto is incredible and I’m happy to have gone there to turn a year older. Still, I was on a bus to Porto one day, and back to Lisbon the next, so it wasn’t perfect for the lack of time. I never liked having less than two days to visit a place, because everything seems rushed and like time is running out. Still, nothing that some giant chocolate crepes in the company of the love of my life won’t fix.
Back to work at Lookout Lisbon! Hostel
After the quick getaway to Porto I went back to working at the hostel. With the high season came triple work and I dedicated myself to the hostel completely and did my hardest every day to give our guests their best possible memory of a summer in Lisbon.
And then, somewhere during the summer, my travel bug returned, after a very long time being quiet. Suddenly, meeting new people was another sad goodbye, it was getting jealous of all the places they were going. With every new goodbye came the thought “I wish I was the one with the backpack going somewhere new and exciting”. They were all leaving, and I was were I had been for almost a year. It hurt! I tried my very best to shake off that feeling of being trapped for not having the freedom to travel in my own terms and dates, but it just seemed to get worse.
By September I was faced with the hardest decision I ever had to make: accept one week of vacation in October, work until mid December, and then get one full month to travel? or do the hard thing, quit my dream job and go travel for as long as my bank account lives (considering it won’t last more than a month)? Just thinking of quitting made me cry night after night, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to still my adventurous heart until December. It was one of those moments in which I couldn’t wait. I had to go. Now!
Read more: Lookout Lisbon! Hostel
Book with Lookout Lisbon! Hostel HERE
I’ve now traveled solo to twenty countries and for some reason I always want to start my adventures in Italy. There’s something in this country that makes me feel right at home, as if all the narrow streets are familiar. So, when I had to plan a month in Europe, a stop in Italy was a must! I had been to Pisa back in 2015, but decided to return, not to see the Leaning Tower for the second time (seeing it once is more than enough), but to be able to take a day trip to my dream place: the Cinque Terre. Still, I managed to eat my typical Italian breakfast for a day, I got lost in the not so touristic streets of Pisa, I got my tummy full of amazing pizza, and I slowly brought back my solo travel mode. For some reason, when I travel solo, it always takes me a while to realize I’m actually traveling. Italy brings back the happy feels, just by writing about it, so you know I will be back as soon as my bank account isn’t close to zero.
Read more: Back to Pisa, Italy
Where I stayed: Hostel Pisa (Book HERE)
Cinque Terre, Italy
Ask me about a place that is pure Heaven to me, and the Cinque Terre are right on top of my list! This place is everything I ever dreamed! I had seen photos of this place for over a year and all I could think was that I wanted to be there. I wanted to see that beauty with my own eyes. What I saw exceeded everything I expected. Suddenly my heart was beating faster, I was smiling like I hadn’t in a while. This is what I came for! I was really proud of myself this day, for overcoming unexpected situations, not thinking too much about the budget and simply enjoying the day (regretting it by the end of the day, when I saw how much I spent) running from train to train, town to town, hiking for the very first time and actually finishing the trail without anything twisted or broken. Cinque Terre were a dream come true.
Read more: A Day at the Cinque Terre, Italy
Being back in Italy, and having Florence in my heart as one of my favorite European cities, I knew I had to get back this year. I was only going to spend two nights to basically eat all the pizza and gelato, but my body decided to give up on me and I got really sick, so I ended up spending four nights. Still, I knew how much I had to work to be there, so I didn’t want to waste my time in bed. I went on a hunt for the best pizza at Pizzeria Toto, the best gelato at La Carraia, and the best panini at I due Fratellini! I accomplished my mission to get to the view point at Piazzale Michelangelo, even if it took me hours to get there because I almost left the city when I got lost on the way. Florence didn’t give me the peace I was looking for. Instead I had four days of craziness, people everywhere I turned, I got sick, I spent way too much money on overpriced pizza slices, I got locked up in a terrace, I got a machine keeping my money, and you can imagine the rest. When solo travel starts being easy I will let your know!
Read more: Back to Florence, Italy
Where I stayed: Wow Florence Hostel (Book HERE)
Italy kicked my ass, so by the time I crossed the boarder into Slovenia, I wanted my trip to get all better from then on. I was tired of being sick, of things going wrong, and I knew if there was one heavenly country that would bring back my joy of travel, that would be Slovenia.
When I got to Lake Bled I knew I was right where I wanted to be. It was so, so quiet, in the nicest, best way possible, with beautiful mountains surrounding this huge lake with a tiny island in the middle. I was able to take in all the beauty with no stress and no crowds. I was seriously happy to avoid crowds for a change. And if hiking the Cinque Terre wasn’t challenging enough, I decided to try hiking a second time while in Lake Bled. Going all the way up a viewpoint hidden in the trees. I think it’s safe to say I am the worst hiker in the world. If you don’t believe me, what the video!
Read more: Exploring Lake Bled, Slovenia
Where I stayed: Castle Hostel 1004
I arrived in Ljubljana from Italy during the night and I was off to Bled the next morning. When I got back and finally got to revisit Ljubljana, I was electric. If I didn’t love this city enough, my first two nights were spent at Hostel Tresor, that honestly made my stay 100% perfect. The hostel was amazing, huge like a hotel, and my room was pink and perfect. From my window I had a view to the Castle and there was live music right outside the hostel every night. If there was a center to this city, this hostel was it! I never loved a hostel so much. Maybe it was the hotel vibes? The pink wall? Pretty much everything?
I made a promise to myself after my two nights in Split: I am not going back to Croatia anytime soon! Everything was a rip off and a mess of people in bad mood from the start. I started the day by almost missing my bus from Ljubljana to Zagreb. Then in Zagreb I got to reunite with the unfriendliest staff at the bus station of Zagreb, who ripped me off by not telling me I had to pay extra to take my backpack. Then it was the money issue, in which I could only withdraw a minimum of 100HRK. You know how Split is one of the most visited cities in Croatia? Well, they adopted the tactic of not letting you pay with card anywhere! This meant that in two days I had to withdraw money four times. Or was it five? Every time the bank would take some of my money, the conversion would take a little more, and the rest would go with me to Bosnia because I was forced to withdraw 100HRK to pay the missing 2HRK to take my backpack with me. If you want to know the story, click on the link below!
Where I stayed: Tchaikovsky Hostel Split
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
When I finally crossed the Croatia/Bosnia boarder I could cry of happiness. My bus drive was endless, we changed buses three times, the last one barely made it to Mostar as it kept breaking down. I had a giant bug on my jacket. I didn’t have my hostel’s address. It was a mess! And then I got to my hostel and I knew I would be ok. My hosts welcomed like I was family. They gave me all tips and directions I needed to fall in love with Mostar, and their mission was accomplished, as I left Mostar wanting to stay there forever. I had been waiting for Bosnia for too long. But you know what? I don’t think I was ready for Bosnia last year. I think that waiting made all the experience more magical, like I was living in a dream, and I would do it the same way all over again.
Where I stayed: Mostar Downtown Hostel
Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
I arrived in Sarajevo in a car full of Bosnian people and a dog. It was one of the weirdest, still funniest experiences I will remember from my travels. Mostar had my heart from the start, and it wasn’t diferent with Sarajevo. I wasn’t very convinced on arrival, and the city looked a bit scary at first sight, but as soon as I got to the Old Town, crossing the “Meeting of Cultures” sign on the floor, I was in Heaven. I had never traveled to a city where I could see so many different cultures and religions together just by walking the streets. I was in love with the Muslim chanting, the food, the Bosnian coffee, the Turkish tea, the people and the history behind this city. Sarajevo got me curious and wanting to know more and more. And no matter how many sad and heartbreaking documentaries I saw, by looking at Bosnian people I would see nothing but smiles and happiness. I’ve never met more humble people that are so willing to give. People that have been through so much and still have a contagious smile. I never felt the culture of a place so close to me. Never felt so interested in knowing as much about these people as I could. Never been happier to see how people with so little can give so much!
Where I stayed: Hostel Massimo
If I thought my trip from Croatia to Bosnia was bad, my transfer from Bosnia to Serbia was the worst of all. It was a car taking seven women. It was crowded, it was noisy, it was too tight. Everyone in the car talked Bosnian for six or seven hours. Did I say it was loud? We stopped to pee, we stopped because someone was going to throw up, they made me change seats to the middle seat in the back, we almost stopped because now I was sick, we stopped to eat, we stopped to cross the boarder, we stopped because people in other cars were pointing at our van and yelling in Bosnian. Should I be worried? We arrived in Belgrade, the sun is almost gone, and my driver, in bad English, tells me he will leave me there, because it’s too much work dropping me at the entrance of my hostel, and that I have to walk the rest. Too tired to argue. Fine by me!
My relationship with Belgrade was complicated. If there’s one thing that leaves me sad is saying I didn’t enjoy a city. It really breaks my heart, but I won’t lie about it. Just like Zagreb, Vienna and Berlin, I didn’t click with Belgrade in any way. I tried my best, but nothing seemed to excite me. I loved the Italian restaurant where I ate three times, and the gourmet burger restaurant where I had lunch and dinner at, on the the same day! Still, when it comes to the actual sites, besides the Fortress, I was pretty let down.
Where I stayed: HostelChe Hostel
I wish I could put into words how excited I was to be back in Budapest. Back in 2015 I gained a major crush for Budapest and I was excited to finish my year of travels in a city I enjoyed so much. This time was all about seeing the major sights I had missed the year before. And with a last minute change of plans, I only had two days to see as much as possible.
I took an entire day of walking every inch of Budapest. It was crazy windy and things were flying right in front of me, plus my bad knee was killing me, but I didn’t go back to the hostel until I finished my itinerary for the day. From walking all the way, from my hostel, to Heroes’ Square, passing through the Jewish quarter (my favorite), to ridding the old fashioned metro, eating Goulash soup and schnitzel, to seeing the overcrowded shoes memorial by the Danube river, getting a glimpse of the Parliament, crossing more than all bridges and finishing the day with a sunrise by the river, I don’t think I could ask for a better last day.
Where I stayed: Art & Photography Hostel Budapest
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2016 in numbers
Countries: 7 (counting Portugal)
New countries: 2
Total of countries visited: 20