Wow. It has been a MINUTE, you guys.
As I sit down to write this, it has been almost a whole month since I last published an article, and while some bloggers only post once or twice a month typically, I have posted around twice a week for well over a year, so not posting anything has felt strange to say the least.
There’s no huge reason for my absence. I have been travelling across Albania, which has of course meant that I have often been without wifi, spending long days on the road etc., and I have also been working a lot on a new project (more on that later) which has taken up a lot of my time.
However, despite all of this, I could have published an article.
In fact, I have a half-written one about Tirana that is currently sitting at about 2000 words, and I have scattered notes and plans for god knows how many more.
However, the truth is, I’ve been suffering from writer’s block really badly.
Every time I sit down to write, I find myself working on something else instead, such as off-page SEO or replying to comments or working on Instagram or Pinterest. I find myself editing photos and tweaking tiny things that don’t need to be tweaked, just to avoid actually opening up a blank Google Docs page and getting the words out.
The longer I don’t put pen to paper, the more intimidating the thought of it seems until I start questioning if my desire to write will ever come back.
Writing has always been what drives me. It’s what fulfils me, and it’s what keeps me sane in this insane world. But lately, it’s felt out of reach.
I’ve decided that enough is enough. My old university professor once said that a writer should write something every day, no matter what it is. She said that even if your mind is totally blank, you should still open up your notebook, or turn on your computer, and just write.
Even if you have no idea what to write about, even if you are feeling fed up and uninspired, and even if what you do end up writing is a pile of steaming doodoo, at least you’ve written something.
So, with all that said and done, I wanted to update you all with what I’ve been up to since I started travelling again in late July (responsibly, I might add).
(Sidenote: I realise that my last monthly roundup post was all the way back in March, but I wasn’t expecting a global pandemic to ensure that I was stuck in an apartment in Manchester for most of the year not travelling so, there’s that.)
Travelling Jezebel August/September Monthly Roundup
- Italy: Palermo, Cefalu, Catania
- Albania: Tirana, Berat, Roshnik, Gjirokastra, Permet, Ksamil, Saranda, Himara.
Returning to Palermo. I have made no secret of my love for Sicily’s capital, and I had actually planned to move there and begin the process of acquiring Italian citizenship in March, but covid put the brakes on that. The end of July saw me returning to my favourite city along with my boyfriend Ethan, revisiting my favourite restaurants and nightlife spots, and catching up with old friends.
Attending a Streaty food tour. I had been scheduled to work with Streaty back in March, but, of course, that never happened, and so when I returned to Sicily I reached out to see if they were still interested in meeting up with me. I ended up going on a 3 hour food tour around Palermo with Marco, founder of Streaty, and finding a million and one more reasons to fall in love with this city. You can read my post about Streaty here.
Wine tasting in Catania. Another ‘work’ event that was scuppered due to covid was going wine tasting in Catania at the lovely Tenuta del Gelso. Again, when I arrived in Sicily I reached out to Federico from Tenute Mannino di Plachi and he was delighted to welcome me back and invite me to a wine tasting! It was my first time drinking Etna wine, and I had a lovely time learning about Tenuta del Gelso and Sicilian wines. You can read about my Sicilian wine tasting experience here!
Revisiting Tirana. Tirana has never been my favourite city in the world, but when I returned at the beginning of August, I definitely found more to love about it. I attended the Tirana Free Walking tour for the second time and found it super interesting, I visited the Bunk’Art 2 museum, and I found some great food and cocktail spots.
Roshnik and my Albanian family. Where do I begin with Roshnik? My experiences are too much to put into words, although I did try in my earlier blog post about it. For two and a half weeks, I lived in a tiny village in the Albanian mountains with the most beautiful family I’ve ever met, eating good food, drinking good wine and making good memories. It wasn’t just me that shed a tear when we left!
An Albanian family holiday. Petrit and Miranda, the ‘auntie and uncle’ of Roshnik, kindly invited Ethan and I along to their annual family holiday to the seaside! We spent 4 days visiting the stunning beaches around Ksamil and Himara, gorging on copious amounts of seafood and drinking a lot of raki!
Gjirokastra. Gjirokastra is a lovely city and so I was delighted to return to Stone City Hostel and unwind for a few days. Ethan and I had a lot of fun exploring the city and enjoying the new nightlife scene (there are actually bars in the old town now!).
A day trip to Permet and Benja thermal baths. Going off-the-beaten-path in Albania is always super rewarding, and I was delighted when Brenna from Stone City Hostel put together a day trip for the few guests that were there. We had an incredible lunch in a small village, visited a couple of really big rocks (more impressive than they sound) and ended the day at Benja hot springs.
Returning to Himara. Himara is one of my favourite places in Albania, and I was so excited to hear that the owners of Trip’N Hostel in Tirana had set up another hostel in Himara called Sun Bakers! Sun Bakers is in a quiet part of Himara, away from the main drag, and just uphill from a stunning beach that seems to go on forever. They have a super cute garden/bar area, and it’s just a lovely place all round (and shoutout to Andy, the best volunteer ever!). We also tried ‘green raki’ which was infused with marijuana and surprisingly, it tasted really good!
Albanian food in general. Albanian food is delicious, and up at Roshnik we were spoilt with the tastiest and most organic food I’ve ever eaten. Tender baby goat, stuffed aubergines and pepper, fresh ‘village salad,’ salty goat’s cheese, homemade pie, Albanian pancakes, crusty bread and so much more. I could go on, but I think you get the gist! We also tried lamb’s head, eye and brain in Tirana, which was quite the experience!
Shooting a pistol. Ethan and I visited a shooting range in Tirana, and although I was too much of a wimp to fire the machine gun (I didn’t want to do it wrong and embarrass myself!), I did fire a pistol and I guess it felt cool? I dunno – the boys all loved the experience but I didn’t really ‘get’ the hype to be honest.
Launching Boop Online. For months during lockdown, my boyfriend had been talking about starting his own business, and he used the time spent in Roshnik to finally launch his own online clothing store! What started out as me proofreading and giving the ‘yes or no’ to certain items ended up in me basically having a full time job! As much as Boop is a lot of hard work, I genuinely love the products on the store and am confident that it will really take off.
Turning 28. September 17 marked my sixth birthday abroad (okay fifth – I spent my 25th at home) and this time I was in Sicily! I spent two whole days feasting on fantastic food, drinking a lot of alcohol and being surrounded by friends, and it was lovely.
Getting an apartment in Palermo. So for the first two months of our travels, Ethan and I were living out of backpacks, but on the 16th of September we moved into our temporary home, where we will be staying for around 3 months. I love our cosy little apartment, and I am so excited to be living somewhere where I can hang up my clothes, fill the kitchen cupboards with incredible food and get some potted plants for the roof terrace! It feels so good to have somewhere where I can actually enjoy spending a night in, and I’ve been filling the place with knickknacks from the Euro Store since we moved in!
Life isn’t perfect, and travel isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. There have definitely been a lot of stressors over the last couple of months, so I’ll touch on them here.
My new tattoo. For years I’ve wanted to get one of my tatts covered (yes I’ve been walking around with an illuminati tattoo for years), and I finally decided to bite the bullet and do it. Problem was, the artist wasn’t the best at shading, and there are a lot of patchy bits that just aren’t quite right. Usually, this would be no problem – I’ve had to get touch ups before, and the artist has always obliged. But ah, not this one. This lovely gentleman was insistent that it must be my fault somehow and after a 2h long argument with him, I gave up trying. If any of you ever visit Berat, don’t go to Berat Ink 🙂
Brexit and Italian residency. As of January, I probably won’t be able to stay in Schengen countries for more than 90 days out of a 180 period. This will affect how much I get to see my parents, who are moving to Spain, and prevents me from continuing my long term travels in Europe. I had intended to get Italian residency, but, after much agonising over what is the right thing to do, I have decided against it. It would require me to actually live in Italy for over 6 months of the year, take out Italian health insurance, pay taxes here, have a long term tenancy agreement…the works. Considering all I really want is the right to be in the Schengen zone, it seems like way too much hassle.
Anxiety. It’s no secret on this blog that I have struggled with my mental health, and I’ve recently found my old friend anxiety creeping back into my life. Usually, it’s fine as I take medication for it, but the combination of stressful situations, lack of sleep and too many energy drinks can tip me over the edge sometimes, so I’m hoping that now I have a stable place to live (for now!), it will ease slightly.
Watermelon Man. I had to include a slightly more upbeat challenge here, so Watermelon Man it is. Watermelon Man is a man who lives in a hostel in Albania and has a diet that involves lots of 30 day watermelon fasts (hence, Watermelon Man). This man was the most insufferable human being I have met in a long time, and after he’d lectured me for 2 hours on how I just wasn’t aware enough (asking what I was supposed to be aware of didn’t help the situation), I was just about done with hippies for life.
Medical BS. I have to fly back to the UK for a couple of days next month for a hospital appointment regarding some ongoing health issues. It isn’t a big deal, but with coronavirus the way it is, going to the UK isn’t exactly what I want to be doing right now, plus I don’t really want to be paying £200 for a fight there but it isn’t something that my travel insurance covers and so it is what it is.
Coming up in October
A lot of blogging! I’m finally settled in one apartment and I am looking forward to getting back on track with my blog, working on Boop with Ethan, and possibly even starting my own new business venture (which will remind a secret for now 😉 hehe).
I shall be on a mission to find the best aperitivo in Palermo, inviting friends for drinks on my wonderful roof terrace, and not a whole lot else. There may be some day trips or exploring Sicily, but right now, I’m looking forward to being firmly planted here.