Island of Gozo Hondoq Beach

Escaping Reality and Life: The Three Month Travel Sabbatical in Europe

Posted on Posted in Europe, Itineraries, The Good Stuff, Travel

Almost three months ago, I lost my job of ten years and ran away to Europe on my EPIC Adventure (travel sabbatical). Everything was pretty last-minute – the research of the hotels, flights, trains, etc. to put together a preliminary itinerary. What would normally take months to plan, I did in two weeks mostly staying up to nearly 3 a.m. each night.  I had to set up holds (mail, newspaper and magazine), cancel trash collection, pay/schedule bills in advance, set up cash transfers for ATM withdrawals, find a friend to be my go to person here at home.  Plus a whole lot more.  I shopped for new clothes to bring with me as I attempted to pack in one new suitcase for temperatures that would vary from 50 to 90 degrees taking me from Spring to Summer. In a word, my friends and family (and the voices in my head) all seemed to agree that I was “crazy”.

Capri Faraglioni Rocks
Seduced by this view in Capri of the Faraglioni Rocks

 

My friend from Washington State who I call “country mouse” was amazing to just drop everything and join me on the first leg of my adventure – the EPIC transatlantic cruise from Miami to Barcelona (which I’m calling Adult summer camp with alcohol).  While I planned out April and May, I left June open in my attempt to be spontaneous.  Packing my laptop for the first time, I planned to blog from the road a few times a week to see if I could handle the nomadic lifestyle (spoiler alert!  I failed miserably). Well, I returned from my EPIC Adventure a few days ago and I can’t lie – I’m sad to be back to reality.  My mom texted me “Welcome Home!  Back to reality, it sucks!”  Gotta love Mom and her words of wisdom!

Archery at Les Comes Barcelona
First time trying archery at Les Comes

So while I have been posting when I could – wifi on the road is a bigger deterrent that I thought.  I managed to write a bit as I went along but it was harder than I anticipated as I was lured away from working by the magic of traveling – exploring new worlds and eating/drinking without abandon (there will be hell to pay at the gym).

Sunset in Florence Arno River
Sunset in Florence was a stunning display of colors over the Arno River

Now that I’m home, I will focus more to catch up with all the crazy from the road as I search for a job.  Believe me, there was a lot of crazy on this trip and many more “these things happen only to Sue” moments.  I was on Italian television being serenaded and filmed during my Row Venice gondola lesson by a journalist.  I tried Airbnb for the first time and the experiences varied greatly – I fled one dirty property after falling down the steps and spraining my foot which landed me in the local clinic and then a visit to the hospital.  My sprained foot would alter the course of my travels and my life.

Venice Gondolas on Canal
The daily view of the gondolas on the canal from my amazing Venice Airbnb flat

There would be a taxi strike in Paris.  There would be striking workers who would decide to set fire to the Eurostar rails stranding me in Paris causing me one of the most stressful travel days I’ve ever experienced and bringing me to the brink of a travel meltdown on my way to London. There would be a London tube/underground strike.   I’d get manicures in three cities not speaking the language (chipped nails and bad polish transcends language so I just held my hands up with a sad face).  I’d camp out at a few hotels writing and surviving on room service and the on site spa.  I’d have three days of waiting time in Milan before meeting a friend in Malta (thank you Starwood points for helping me camp out at the Sheraton Diana Majestic last minute).

Eiffel Tower at night
The Eiffel Tower is aglow at dusk

I’d get lost a few times in Naples,  take the wrong train to Ercolano and figure out the crazy that is the Italian train system. I’d meet new friends, catch up with old friends and eat gelato daily pretending I earned it from all of the walking. I’d find the wash/dry locations in Spain and Florence and then learn to hang my wet clothes in the Gozo sun. There would be magical sunsets on the water, over the water and along a wind tunnel of a road.  I’d ship my clothes ahead (a bit of overpacking coming to fruition).  There would be hotel upgrades, disagreements, awesomeness.  I’d drive a manual Land Rover in a 4×4 adventure course outside of Barcelona then explore Florence in the ultra adorable, albeit miniature classic Fiat500.

Fun Fiat500 Cinquecentro Tour of Florence Italy
The classic 1960s Cinquecentro (Fiat 500) touring Florence

 

There would be amazing foods (and food tours), wines and fascinating people/conversations along the way.   I would spend over twenty hours walking over two days at the Milan Expo15 before my feet rebelled and would walk no more.  There were spa visits, a shopping spree (thank goodness for Banana Republic and “big American” sizes!), broken sunglasses, a few broken spirits and thankfully no broken bones. More than 7,500 photos on my IPhone and countless more on my camera.  Tours by bike, foot, boat, big bus. 13 Hotels, 7 AirBnb properties and a friend’s house. There would be lots of chocolate and even more wine!

Llopart Winery Spanish Cava
Visiting the Llopart winery to learn about Spanish Cava

The FINAL ITINERARY looked like this:

Norwegian EPIC TransAtlantic Cruise (11 days)

TBEX Conference in Lloret del Mar, Spain

TBEX Post Conference Press Trip – Barcelona is Much More (so much fun, adventure and Cava!)

Barcelona

Naples, Italy

Island of Capri

Sorrento/Amalfi Coast

Florence

Venice

Milan

Island of Gozo (Malta)

Malta (overnight only to be closer to airport)

Paris

London

So they are just a few of the highlights (albeit some are nightmares/low points) but it was an adventure so stay tuned to see how it all turns out. I traveled by planes, trains, automobiles, cruise ship, electric car, golf cart, chair lift, vaporetto, gondola, a vintage Fiat500, zipline and ferry.  Upcoming posts will be a bit of this, that and the other as I jump around cities as some posts are easier than others. Any questions, just ask either in comments below or use the contact form.

Hitchin Lavender fields
The gorgeous lavender fields of Hitchin outside of London

9 thoughts on “Escaping Reality and Life: The Three Month Travel Sabbatical in Europe

  1. I loved traveling with you in mind through your blogs and photos. I had an amazing adventure and I am exhausted and happy to be home (for a minute).
    Looking forward to the next excursion!!!

  2. Welcome back! What an adventure! I enjoyed following you too, and wish you good luck when you go back on the job market. Be well!

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