“I’ve been sad
And have walked bitter streets alone
And come morning
There’s a good wind to blow me home
So time be a river rolling into nowhere
I will live while I can
I will have my ever after
The finer things keep shining through
The way my soul gets lost in you
The finer things I feel in me
The golden dance life could be”
I’m just past halfway through this 6-month journey and, so far, it’s surpassed even my wildest expectations. Of course, not every experience is amazing so I thought I’d take this halfway point benchmark as an opportunity to reflect on the highlights and lowlights of the trip so far. Today: Part 1: Highlights
Part 1: Highlights
Part 2: Lowlights
Beaches and Sunsets
While I didn’t love every moment I spent in Jaco (more on that in my next post), the beaches and ocean were both spectacular. My favorite part of most days was wandering out to the beach late in the afternoon and watching the people find their seats to watch the sunset. I’m a bit embarrassed to say how many sunset pictures I took over the course of four weeks… but needless to say, it was a lot.
The lush landscape and tropical climate yields some delicious fruits. There was a weekly farmers market where I stocked up for the week to come. My diet was filled with smoothies, acai bowls, juices, and any other fresh-fruit-based food and drink I could find. Even the cocktails tasted better because of the fruit.
Jungles and Rainforests
So I learned recently that the primary difference between jungles and rainforests has to do with the amount of sunlight. I also learned that Costa Rica has both jungles and rainforests. Although I didn’t take as many trips as I probably should have, I did venture inland a few times to go on some nature hikes and was never disappointed. Beautiful trees, waterfalls, flowers, butterflies, etc… were absolutely everywhere!
Though it was an unplanned part of my original 6-month sabbatical, I’m happy I had the frequent flyer miles and hotel points to make this trip a reality. A true once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wrote about previously. So amazing!!
Good & Cheap Wine
No matter where I’ve visited in Spain, my absolute favorite thing to do is find some charming outdoor restaurant, bar, or café and enjoy a glass of wine as the day comes to a close. There’s a happy energy that surrounds the experience for both locals and tourists. The best part is that since Spain is such a rich wine-growing region, the wine is plentiful, inexpensive, and absolutely delicious. I rarely order anything other than the house wine and I’m even more rarely disappointed, especially since it never costs more than $3-$4.
This was another experience that wasn’t part of the original plan; however, once I decided to skip the South Africa portion of my itinerary, the opportunity to attend this festival became the focus of my rebooking. If you have a few extra minutes while you’re reading this, check out my earlier post about the Las Fallas festival. I shared a bunch of great photos and videos in that post. It was so incredibly cool!
“Living” in Valencia
I didn’t know what to expect from Valencia as it’s a less popular tourist destination than other Spanish cities (it didn’t even make this list of top cities in Spain from 2016. Having spent three weeks there, I can certainly understand why this city is overlooked as there aren’t a ton of tourist-centered activities.
However, Valencia struck me as an incredibly livable city. The city center has all of the entertainment, shopping, restaurants, cafes, and bars that you could possibly want and the city possesses a beautiful coastline with a vibrant boardwalk. Beyond that, the city center is surrounded by vast greenspace encouraging people of all ages to get outside and enjoy the warm climate. Plus, since it’s not atop everyone’s list of Spanish destinations, it feels less overrun by tourists.
Danube Canal Street Art
As I mentioned earlier, Vienna isn’t necessarily my favorite European destination but that doesn’t mean it’s without some highlights. Upon first wandering through the city, my friend and I were quickly drawn to the paths that lined the Danube Canal running right through central Vienna. In both directions, people were walking, running, biking, or sitting along the path enjoying the first days of great spring weather. There were some fun bars and cafes along the path as well which made this a popular destination for tourists and locals.
However, the most noticeable aspect of the path was the endless street art (graffiti) which added a colorfulness that the rest of the city seemed to lack (in my opinion). Some of the art was political, motivational, or just plain artistic but it was fun to see all the different styles (see photos below… by @jillcfink).
I often complain when I hear about people who visit Amsterdam but never leave the city. Having spent a bunch of time in Holland (I was born and still have a lot of family there), some of the most beautiful things to see in Holland are outside of the big city. I wonder if the locals in Vienna feel the same way about their city. We spent one day out of the city and wished we had time for a few more day trips.
I’m three weeks into my month-long visit to Budapest. As such, I’m going to save my list of favorites for a future post. However, I will say that randomly choosing Budapest at the beginning of this adventure was one of the best decisions I could’ve possibly made! This city is incredible! Keep your eyes out for a “Budapest-favorites” post coming soon…
Of course there have been many more great experiences over the last three months. I’ve tried to share many of those through my Instagram account and through the articles here on the site. Of course, it hasn’t all been sunshine and unicorns. Next time, I’ll share with you some of the not-so-great experiences I’ve had so far. Fortunately, that list is short!