My Three-Year Full-Time Travel Anniversary (And What Comes Next)

Jun 08, 2015    /    stories & photos

Just over a week ago, my three-year anniversary of leaving the U.S. for a life of travel passed quietly by.

That’s right: Luna and I have been on the road for three years.

Even after a tough winter, I still think leaving to travel is one of the best decisions I ever made. Choosing to pack my bags in the first place. Choosing to travel slowly and with my dog. Choosing to settle in Switzerland for a while. Choosing to ditch marketing for a full-time travel writing career. These wouldn’t be the right choices for everybody, but for me they were just right.

And now the next set of choices is upon me.

This winter, after a year of truly living in Switzerland, putting down tiny roots, digging into my little community, I started to slowly pull those roots back up. I moved out of my apartment and took a trip to France. I started to downsize my possessions again. I went to Malta, then Spain. I challenged myself to downsize my backpack.

Soon it became clear to me that I’m on my way out of Switzerland.

Not that I won’t ever come back. But for now, I’m slowly and surely on my way back to being a true, baseless nomad.

And so I’ve got some exciting travel plans to announce:

Early July: Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg
Photo Credit: Salzburg.

Salzburg has been on my list for approximately forever, along with pretty nearby Halstatt. And finally it makes sense to pass through. Expect lots of hiking and maybe a little Sound of Music ballad singing at the top of my lungs.

Mid – Late July: Ljubljana & Bled, Slovenia

Bled Slovenia
Photo Credit: Lake Bled.

I fell in love with the idea of Ljubljana because of a photo essay over at Bridges & Balloons (note to tourism organizations: travelers do make decisions based on blogs) and, of course, a trip to Slovenia must include a trip to iconic Bled. And so I’m off to Slovenia. And excitingly, my friends Ali and Andy will be joining me for part of the trip.

August: Slovenia’s Soca Valley

Soca Valley
Photo Credit: Soca Valley.

A paradise of waterfalls, hiking trails, paragliding, river rafting, canyoning, and pretty much any other outdoorsy thing you can think of, when I started to research Slovenia, the Soca Valley jumped out at me, begging for a visit. This is where I’m spending the vast amount of my Slovenia time and I absolutely cannot wait.

September: Cycling from Switzerland to the Coast of France

Loire Valley
Photo Credit: Loire Valley.

Yep, you heard me right. This September I’m taking my first vacation in two years and I’ll be cycling from Stein am Rhein in Switzerland to Nantes, France following the Eurovelo 6 cycling path. I just bought my bike. Luna is learning how to run alongside and ride on the front (she’ll mostly ride, but on uncrowded stretches she can do a little jogging). I’m nervous and thrilled to be doing a distance human-powered journey, as that was my main goal this year.

Early October: Amsterdam

Amsterdam
Photo Credit: Amsterdam.

After September, the plans get more tentative (before September, things are actually booked), but my hope is that after cycling across France I’ll grab a train up to Amsterdam, another city that’s been on my list for forever. I’ll spend a week or two in Amsterdam catching up on whatever has come up while I’ve been vacationing on my cycle on September.

Late October: Pennyslvania

Pennsylvania

One of my closest friends lives in lovely, farm-rich central Pennsylvania. I’m hoping October will leave some room for a visit.

November – December: South America

Patagonia, Argentina
Photo Credit: Argentina.

I had a realization this spring and it actually shouldn’t have been such a surprise. You see, I struggle with depression and anxiety. I have for ages. And my realization was this: it is much worse in the winter.

I’d heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but didn’t really pay attention. And no one ever suggested that I’m worse off in the winter. But in trying to cope with this winter’s unique set of challenges (read: ongoing health battles), I finally saw the pattern. While my depression isn’t limited to winter, it is worse then.

I also realized that the best winter months of the last four or five winter seasons were either where I was near friends and working on creative projects or when I was somewhere warm and sunny. And so for the first time in a couple years, I’ll be leaving Europe for a bit and heading into the southern hemisphere for at least part of the winter. My tentative plan is Argentina (though that could change), where the mountains tower and the food calls to me. And we’ll see if my depression is helped by a sunnier clime.

And so the year takes shape, with toes dipped into Eastern Europe, human-powered journeys through France, and a sunnier winter.


What are your summer, fall, and winter plans?

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22 Comments
  • Heather B.
    June 8, 2015

    Love this! Looks like a full itinerary but fun as well. A lot of new places that I’m curious to see, especially since extensive traveling (anything more than road trips) is stressful to me. I love living vicariously through your travels with Luna. :)

    • gigigriffis
      June 8, 2015

      Thanks!

  • lee laurino
    June 8, 2015

    am amazed you can plan a year in advance! after 20+ years of travel i barely do it 3 months out!

    but if the dream of RTW works I could be near Amsterdam in the fall and will follow your schedule…..who knows a possible meet up!

    question: how many hours did it take to find a place to stay in each country?
    I am working hard to find several virtual assistants who can do the research for this…..discovered it took all my free time on the last 3 month trip and left me angry or spending far more than necessary because there was no time to find the best accommodation.

    will let you know who i find
    lee laurino recently posted…Livorno Mercato still busy every dayMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      June 8, 2015

      Well, I’m not usually one to plan this far in advance either, but with Europe already seeing a huge influx of American tourists, it became really vital to quickly book the summer. That said, I’m only fully booked through end of August – still working on my September bookings and everything after that is still tentative.

      Re your question: accommodation-finding time varies greatly. Sometimes I hit the jackpot and spend less than an hour on it. Sometimes it become a frustrating multi-week project. Spain in April, for example, was incredibly frustrating to try and book. Slovenia’s Soca Valley took me forever as well. But finding my place in Switzerland probably took less than an hour and I expect Amsterdam to be a simple matter as well.

  • Rob
    June 8, 2015

    Sounds exciting. I don’t have depression issues but I am a huge non-fan of winter. I’ll be in NZ & Australia for December and half of January.

    The cycling trip sounds great. I hiked the Lycian way last year and being on the road (or trail) for a month is freeing.

    • gigigriffis
      June 9, 2015

      Yes. I cannot wait to be on the move for a month!

  • Neens Bea
    June 8, 2015

    Oooh, lots of exciting travel plans on the horizon, then! Already looking forward to reading about yours and Luna’s adventures. I can related to SAD – mine isn’t too bad, luckily, and the spa department at my local gym (the heated sun loungers especially) are usually enough to get me through the bleak, British winter! ;-)
    Neens Bea recently posted…A Single Act by Jane BodieMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      June 9, 2015

      Oh, man, I wish we had some heated sun loungers here in Switzerland! That would have made for a much nicer winter.

  • Marli
    June 8, 2015

    Congrats on three (mostly) wonderful years!

    • gigigriffis
      June 9, 2015

      Thanks!

  • Kathryn
    June 9, 2015

    I’ve got my travel planned, and most of it booked, until Dec then who knows? I’ve found with medium term rentals through places like Airbnb, you need to book ahead. If you want a month but someone happens to book one night in the middle of that month, you’re screwed. You might get the host to work around it but you still pay double service fees.

    I usually don’t mind the cold but I’m in physical pain because it’s so freezing here at the moment. Can’t wait to leave.
    Kathryn recently posted…North Korea?My Profile

    • gigigriffis
      June 11, 2015

      Agreed! It’s so frustrating when you go to book a month only to find that one random day isn’t available!

  • Jessica
    June 9, 2015

    I love when my favorite travel writers post their life plans. Really excited for you on all of these adventures!

    My husband and I will be traveling the US in an RV starting in the fall. We just adopted a Bichon named Sammy (in large thanks to your blog; I thought we’d have to stop traveling once we had one), and we love bicycling. I found this thing called the Buddy Rider; it’s a little seat for small dogs like ours (and sweet Luna!) where the dog sort of sits perched between your arms. We were going to get a bike trailer for Sammy but after watching videos of how happy the dogs were in the little seat, we have one on our wish list to buy for our trip.

    I’m not affiliated in any way with them! Just thought I’d let you know about it.
    Jessica recently posted…Why My Books Are in the Public DomainMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      June 11, 2015

      Oh, that’s great!

      Another friend mentioned the Buddy Rider as well. I’ll have to take a peek at it.

  • Ali
    June 12, 2015

    Yay Slovenia! Can’t wait to see you and Luna!

    I hate to see you leave wonderful Europe for a few months, but I TOTALLY understand being more depressed in the winter months. It’s been my goal for a few years now to be somewhere warm for winter, but I think this coming winter, at best, we might have a month in a warmer place. Europe (especially northern Europe) can be really gloomy and depressing in the winter.

    Let me know if you need any recommendations for places to stay in Amsterdam. We’ll be there for the 2nd time in late June, and we really like the area we’ll be in again. We know a few fun bloggers there too, including a couple with a dog.
    Ali recently posted…Under the Tuscan Sun in CortonaMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      June 12, 2015

      Yes, please! I will definitely be asking for Amsterdam reccs.

  • John Reid
    June 12, 2015

    That was a very interesting post. I enjoy your thinking Gigi. I am a cyclist in the States, and I am curious about how many miles you plan on cycling every day on the average. I would expect you will aim for at least 50 a day,no?

    • gigigriffis
      June 13, 2015

      Oh, I’m not quite that ambitious as it’s my first distance trip. I should average around 30 miles per day (50 kms). The shortest day I have planned is only 12 miles (20 kms) and the longest is about 50 miles (80 kms).

  • Libby
    June 13, 2015

    So excited about your bicycle trip. Am working toward becoming more bike dependent on Minneapolis, which is a great city for it. So many bike only paths. But am curious about long distance trips. I have a friend who cycled across southern U.S. Which is just, wow. Also I’ve been thinking and I think I’d like to own a narrow boat in UK at some point. Minneapolis seems like a good place for a little while but it’s definitely not my last and I’d really like to start using my body more. Actually when for a “hike” in Hidden Falls in St. Paul today. Was lovely!

    • gigigriffis
      June 16, 2015

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying MN and getting into cycling as well!

  • Chris
    June 25, 2015

    I love reading your blog and from to time log on to your website. You are a mine of information when it comes to travel.

    Recently a friend of mine mentioned an article written by you about the Mediterranean island of Malta. However, i could not find it on your website and I wish to red it as I value your opinion. I hope to be travelling for a holiday this summer to this island and though i have many friends who are Maltese, sometimes I think they are exaggerating when they describe this island.

    Therefore I would like the honest opinion of somebody like you.

    • gigigriffis
      June 25, 2015

      Hi Chris,

      The two pieces I published here were about the slightly smaller island of Gozo (just 25 minutes by ferry from the main island of Malta).

      Here are the links:

      http://gigigriffis.com/beautiful-spaces-a-room-in-a-farmhouse-on-gozo/

      http://gigigriffis.com/long-walks-on-a-little-island/

      I spent about a week on Malta and another week on Gozo and if you are planning a trip, I personally liked Gozo a lot better. Malta has some lovely spots (do try to see Valletta and Mdina if you go – those were my favorites), but the island is also very densely packed with people. Each village runs into the next village and there isn’t a lot of open space (which is what I love). Gozo on the other hand is quieter, slower, and has plenty of fields, walking paths, and old farmhouses. If I had the trip to do over, I would have tried to walk the entire walking path that circumnavigates Gozo (a portion of which is in the photo essay above).

      Hope that helps!

      P.S. Here’s another piece I did elsewhere: http://escapologist.com.au/2015/05/live-well-small-budget-mediterranean-island-gozo/

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