If I had to pick a word to sum up my last month, it would be “reflection.”
I moved out of Toronto and spent three weeks with my family in Saskatchewan. I reflected on six-and-a-half years spent in Canada’s largest city.
I left my family to work at a hostel in Granada, Spain. I reflected on, despite my next few months of travel, how I aim to make family time more of a priority going forward.
I left Granada early for two months of travelling by myself. I reflected on how living and working at the same hostel went against what I knew about my personality.
On and on the reflection goes. So because of this, I have decided to start something new, monthly reflections; where I went, what I discovered, what I felt, what I read, what I listened to, etc. In my current life of chaos and severe lack of routine, I’m hoping these provide an outline of what’s going on in my weird little world.
I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing! xo
Where I Went
Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra, Portugal
Bordeaux and Paris, France
Picking just one destination after a month of exploration is hard, but I have to say that my favorite place I visited in April was Porto, Portugal.
After a very hard experience in Lisbon (details to follow), I needed peace. Porto gave me not only peace, but a sense of starting anew. I have so much to post on Porto (will be coming down the pipe shortly!), because while understated, it had everything. Porto was incredible views, lovely people, great record stores, bookshops, cafe’s, architecture, wine, and vintage shops. As a solo traveller, I felt welcomed and safe in Porto, and had a good time to boot!
Honorary mention: Paris, France.
Paris had been on my bucket list for a long time. I romanticized the city by reading tales of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Picasso. I dreamed of visiting the museums, ogling the buildings, and pretending I was Esmeralda in Notre-Dame. I envisioned myself finding a small cafe, ordering a croissant and a cafe-au-lait, and writing down my experiences. And let me tell you, Paris did not disappoint!
My experience in Paris was a whirlwind 48-hours of extreme tourism, which I am SO excited to share with you!
(Guys, I have so much to write!)
When I look back on April, a few moments stand out.
The first was in Granada.
I arrived at my hostel in Granada at around 6PM on a Sunday, and before I could even put my bags in a room, I was taken by the hostel owners on a group walking tour. We went around the Albayzin, where I got my first views of the Alhambra, and then we headed up the hill to the Sacromonte caves.
We stopped at one cave in particular to say hi to a friend of the hostel named Galai. Galai was originally from Senegal, and not only was he kind enough to let us enter his cave and take a look around, he graciously made us his mother’s famous coffee/tea recipe to try (he said it was good for the lungs.)
We sipped the drink while watching the sun go down over the city, and I felt like I landed in another world.
The second highlight from this month was in Seville.
I chose Seville as going there made the most logistical sense after I left Granada. I knew that ‘Holy Week” – the week before Easter – was a big deal in Andalusia, but there was no way for me to prepare for what I found in Seville. It was incredible to watch thousands of devout Catholics descend on the city, and watching their sheer passion was unlike anything I have ever seen before. I didn’t intend on catching this experience at all, but I am so glad I did.
And the third was in Paris
Visiting Jim Morrison’s grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris was something I have wanted to do for years. An avid Doors fan since an early age, I have researched and read endlessly about the band, including my last years visit to Los Angeles where I went to many locations the Doors hung out. This was yet another stop on the Doors journey…
I wrote about it in detail here, but my biggest challenge this month was my time spent working at a hostel in Granada. I’m not going to rehash the story, but my biggest lesson from this experience is that if you put yourself in a situation that doesn’t feel right, don’t feel bad when it’s time to walk away.
Another challenge for me was Lisbon. Lisbon was a great city in so many ways, but I found it to be very difficult as a solo female traveller. My first day there, a man exposed himself to me. He tried talking to me, and when I refused to acknowledge him, his friend decided to follow me for two blocks. Thankfully, I was in a very busy part of the city and could get away easily. After this, I found men of all ages approaching me to the point where I felt like I had a target on my back. I still went out and enjoyed the city, but I made sure to get back to my hostel before dark and to stay on the well-trodden path.
My third challenge was being thrust into the world of my own brain without much warning. After I left Granada, I was truly on my own. There were no longer people constantly around to talk to and no one to rely on. I had to adjust to this new lifestyle very quickly. I found that time spent alone was amazing for my creativity, and my dreams truly went wild, but I also found myself chatting up anyone who would listen. I made friends on busses, in hostel common rooms, and on park benches. If they spoke English, they were fair game.
What I Read
Back in January I made the decision to participate in a reading challenge courtesy of The Girl Who Wanders. The challenge is to read 26 books over one year, which is roughly one book every two weeks. The challenge outlines different criteria for each book selection to help with book choices.
This month I read:
“A Previously Banned Book”
The Color Purple by Alice Walker – Written in 1982, “The Color Purple” is a Pulitzer Prize winner that follows lives of black women living in rural Georgia during the 1930’s. The novel addressed many themes, notably the low socio-economic standing of black women of the time, the violence endured, and the feminist struggle. Due to the strong language and sexuality portrayed in the novel, it has been contested time and again.
I found this novel to be extremely powerful and emotionally charged. Every page stirred a new emotion, whether it was cheering the protagonist on, recoiling from the violence, or being in awe of the character development. 5/5 stars.
“A Book Published In The Past Year”
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance – Hillbilly Elegy is part memoir, part social analysis of the lives of the American working class. It covers the themes of “class, culture, and the American dream.” From the point of view of the author, the novel follows Vance’s background from his grandparents living in poverty conditions in Kentucky, their family’s move to Ohio, to the subsequent alcoholism and lost faith in upward mobility.
I found Vance’s recount of his family’s history to be at times very interesting and moving. In all honestly, I picked up this novel for insight on the current zeitgeist among rural Americans in regards to the recent American election. I wanted to know what the people who were willing to turn the American political landscape on its head were thinking; what their motivations were. To an extent, I got what I wanted. I found the parts of the novel where Vance illustrates the decades-long poverty struggle extremely insightful, but found at times he would get off-topic while switching between an analysis and memoir style. I wanted more facts and less personal stories about his mother’s countless boyfriends. 3/5 stars.
What I Listened To
To get into the Lost Generation/ roaring 20’s Parisian mindset, I revisited one of my all-time favorite albums, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. Released in 1956, this album was a recording of many of American composer Cole Porter’s most famous compositions. Porter lived in Paris for much of the 1920’s with his wife Linda, where he composed and lived a lavish, socialite life. After his stint in Paris and some travels throughout Europe, Porter went back to America where he composed for the hit Broadway musical, Paris. This beautiful album sung by Ella Fitzgerald was the first to be released on the label Verve Records and has a lot of swing and big band elements to it.
“Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)”
If I didn’t mention the following song, I feel like I would be leaving out an important part of what my time in Spain was like. Almost every night that I was in Granada, as I sat around the hostel courtyard with my fellow volunteers and travellers, someone would eventually pick up the guitar and play La Bamba. Guaranteed, without fail, when this song began to be played, every person present would start yelling out the words, whether they understood what they meant or not.
Interestingly enough, Los Lobos & Gipsy Kings are a French band who perform in the Spanish language with an Andalusian accent. Yet, although born in France, each of the members parents were gypsy’s who fled Spain during the 1930’s Spanish civil war.
Just try not to sing along.
And for something almost completely unlike the last two songs, I’ve been listening to the new Bleachers track “Don’t Take The Money” on repeat.
Most Popular Post
Tales From Granada: Why I left early and how I knew it was time to move on – I was supposed to be in Granada for six weeks, but on April 10, after only two, I left for good. This post took me a long time to write, and even longer to actually get the nerve to publish. It included a lot of self-reflection, and a lot of admitting some hard-learned truths to myself, so the overwhelmingly positive reaction I got from it warmed my soul!
Most Popular Instagram Photo
It seems that my most popular post on Instagram this month came from Lisbon! Which was, interestingly enough, the same post that I highlighted the challenges I faced in the city.
This was taken just east of the Miradouro de Santa Catarina at the intersection of Rua Horta Seca and Rua do Alecrim.
Lisboa. 👁👁 Lisbon is gorgeous; it's gritty, it's swanky, it's old, it's new, it's artsy, and it has a good music scene… But it was also challenging for me. Right before I snapped this photo, I was followed for two blocks by some drunk guy after his friend exposed himself to me. I found that as a solo female traveller, I had a bit of a target on my back when it came to getting unwanted attention. Has anyone else found this to be true in Lisbon? Or was I simply walking down all the wrong streets? Regardless, I'm not letting that define my overall experience with Lisbon. There is too much amazing stuff going on in this city and I'm not going to let that be overshadowed by a few creeps. ✌️✌️
On the side…
As many of you are probably aware, aside from working on Taylor On A Trip, I have been writing for online alternative lifestyle publication The Plaid Zebra since July 2016! My posts on PZ are somewhat more varied and much less personal than what I write on here, so be sure to check them out and give them a follow!
My Plaid Zebra articles this month:
April 13 : Backpacking sleeping pad: Why you should invest in a good night’s sleep – The pro’s and con’s of different sleeping pads, the kinds of sleeping pads available, and all the reasons you should not go on a backpacking trip without one!
April 21 : Backpacking Tent: How to choose the best tent – The options available for different kinds of tents to suit your specific needs!
April 23: These 10 travel Instagram accounts will inspire you to hit the road – A list of ten instagrammers I personally follow and love. For some inspiration and motivation!
April 28: Five of the best silent retreats around the world to help you find your inner zen – I have been interested in taking a silent retreat for a while now. As it stands I have no idea when or if I am going to go on one, but I did some research into some great options for anyone else interested!
It’s no secret that my current way of travel involves little to no planning whatsoever. For the past month of my life, I have had almost no clue what my life will look like beyond the next week.
That said, I can tell you that tomorrow morning (May 4th) I have a 6:45AM bus ride from my current location of Clermont-Ferrand, France to the capital of Europe – Brussels, Belgium!
Then, on Monday, May 8 I am so excited to head to Amsterdam!
Excited for what the next month brings!