Changing the Way I Travel

Changing the Way I (1)

It seems almost oxymoronic to say during my third year abroad, but I’ve noticed a change in how I travel this year.

Kind of along the lines of, I don’t.

Well, not as much. When I first returned to Spain in August, I had a full month before I began working. While I took a quick 3-day road trip through France, I then moved all my things from Bilbao to Barcelona and stayed absolutely PUT.

I’ve also opted out of traveling during several three day weekends this year. During my study abroad year in Granada, staying put was considered blasphemy. I needed to take advantage of every single school holiday to see every corner of Europe. It was all a novelty to me.

In Bilbao, I also took advantage of travel. It was a combination of making money (so I could actually afford to travel), a desire to still visit some places I didn’t hit while studying abroad, and also—I hate to say this—a feeling of escape. What would I do with a week of downtime in Bilbao?! I traveled because others were, and I knew I’d be bored if I stayed behind. Bilbao and I were in like, but not love.

In Barcelona I finally live next to a huge international airport with budget airline flights to nearly every destination. But more and more, holidays from work mean staying put. Sleeping in, strolling to the beach, having a beer. So what has changed, apart from the fact that I love this city and am hard convinced to leave it?

In truth, I’m burnt out on my old way of travel. Many big European destinations have started feeling the same to me, and its exactly those big destinations that are easiest to get to with cheap flights and public transportation. The thought of sightseeing and hostel dorm parties doesn’t excite me the way it used to.

I’ve now realized that my priorities have changed during travel. I prefer to absorb one place for a longer time, instead of frantically racing around and checking off boxes. I prefer to spend part of my holidays abroad, and part back in Barcelona to truly relax. And above all, the destination isn’t the most important part anymore.

It’s all about the people.

I’ve been lucky enough to have so many familiar faces from home visit me in Barcelona in just these four short months. These visits have reminded me that while living abroad has its major perks, I also yearn for the familiar.

So now, I travel to find the familiar, to visit friends and families, and to feel at home.  

This past winter break I had 20 days off (and could use another 20 more, truthfully, but couldn’t we all?). I spent nine of those traversing Italy. When’s the last time I spent nine days traveling in just one country?! (I’d have to check my childhood journals.)

And those nine days were perfect. They went off without a hitch. They were relaxed, a stress-free balance of some sight-seeing, hanging out, eating (upon eating upon eating upon eating) and enjoying time with friends and family. This is how I plan to travel for a while. Because these old lady bones need the warm comforts of home.

Anatomy of my trip through Italy:

Days 1 and 2

I flew into Florence, since one of my best friends in Barcelona works for Vueling airlines and was stationed there for a few days. The airline put her up in a 4-star hotel in the city center, so she was nice enough to share the keys and king bed. We had zero plans and set no alarms. While she wasn’t working, we explored the gorgeous city, snapped one too many selfies, and tore apart the buffet breakfast. (And I thought hostel toast was generous.)

amalia me florence

Amalia and I met in Granada and then reunited in Barcelona. I’m so lucky to know her, and I’m not just saying that for the discounted flight tickets and four-star hotels ;)

Days 3, 4, 5

I took the train to Lucca to meet my Barcelona roommate Diana. We walked around the old city walls, tried a few Tuscan specialties, and rejoiced in an Italian reunion, even though it had only been 4 days since we’d seen each other in Barcelona.

Then off to Pisa, to make fun of all the tourists holding up the tower but actually to do so ourselves.

At the end of the day we made it to Viareggio, her home town on the coast of Tuscany. This was December 24th, so we spent that night and the following two days feasting on Italian Christmas specialties and thanking God we packed the stretchy pants.

diana in lucca

Diana, looking classy as always, in Lucca


Days 6, 7, 8

I took a 5-hour rideshare from Viareggio to Naples, and met up with one of my best friends from Bilbao, Valeria. It was fantastic to see her after six months, and meet her family. I spent three nights in Naples, in which I fell in love with a city I previously viewed with mixed reviews. We ate the best pizza in the city; watched a traditional Napolitano Christmas performance; learned how to make gnocchi from scratch; and explored the city from top to bottom.

valeria me naples

Valeria and me at the port of Naples


I also visited the archeological ruins at Herculaneum (next to Pompeii), and Valeria graciously drove me along the windiest of roads to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking Amalfi and the Amalfi Coast. What a host.


Beautiful Amalfi


Day 9

I said goodbye to Italy and hello to Barcelona. It was the perfect length for a trip: I saw everything I wanted to see, and was also ready and excited to get back to my city. I love to travel; I also love Barcelona, and with each passing week I’m happier to call it home.

I may have lost my old travel bug for darting around city to city. But I’ve gained a new sense of what works for me when traveling—friends and family, the comforts of a pseudo-home, local experts, and taste-testing Italian Mama’s cooking.

I couldn’t have been more grateful to these friends and new families for taking me in during the holidays. It was my fourth Christmas away from California, but it truly felt like I was home.

Stay tuned for more in-depth posts about my time in Italy!

What’s your preferred way to travel? Where did you spend the holidays? 

  • Pingback: The Italian Diet: How to Gain 1000 Pounds (454 Kilos) in 9 Days()

  • Pingback: Why You Should Love Milan as Much as the Rest of Italy()

  • Pingback: The Cost of Living in Barcelona()

  • Pingback: How Not to Approach the Italian Aperitivo()

  • For what it’s worth, according to my intro to tourism course, most travel is considered by some weird long term that meant simply, seeing people we love. Nothing wrong with that! I’ll be in Barcelona visiting a sorority sister there for work the 23rd because, well, she lives in Singapore. If you’re around, let me know!

  • I think the more responsibilities we have, the more we need to take things easy! I feel exactly the same: when I was younger I wanted to just tick off sights and take a photo to prove I had been. Now I prefer to get to know people and go to local bars and sample the delights. I wrote a post about this last summer, I hope you enjoy it: and

    • I completely agree, Kim, it’s definitely about appreciating the relaxation when we have less of it. I really enjoyed those posts–so jealous you got to spend a good amount of time in Lisbon!! One of my favorite places I’ve ever been, and I hope to get back there sometime soon.

  • lindsaypunk

    Quality over quantity for the win! My days of rushing through All Of The Places are through, too. The lovely thing is there’s no one right way to travel, so you just need to find what works for you and roll with it – which you totally are now!

    Also, your hair looks amazing in that photo of you in front of the Ponte Vecchio. My hair couldn’t do that even if it had professional help! :(

    • It’s definitely a changing process for almost everyone–there’s only so many nights we can crash on airport floors until we realize we need a change, ha.
      And awww, thanks girl, too kind! :D

  • Oooh I’m looking forward to hearing your take on Herculaneum as well as Neapolitan pizza! When I was in Naples last December I only visited Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius (*only* haha) but was still curious about neighboring Herculaneum.

    • Oh man I’m worried I might disappoint! The pizza was incredible, but I was considering (still am) not even writing a post about Herculaneum. I was really underwhelmed, mostly because I thought there would be signage explaining everything, so I opted out of purchasing the extra audioguide. And there was literally NOTHING explaining ANYTHING, not even in Italian. So the ruins were obviously cool, but I had no context or information about what I was looking at!
      Lesson learned: Splurge on audioguides. Dammit.