It’s fair to say since I originally started my backpacking life in 2010, my plans, well they pretty much always go to shit. The rollacoaster journey is evident of just how my backpacking life is. The universe, it seems likes to do things it’s own way, without letting me in on it.
This post gives you an insight into my backpacking life, and how what happened through 2019 is my backpacking life in a nutshell. You’ll see what I mean by the end of this post.
My backpacking life doesn't go to plan!
This was round 2 of Portugal, having backpacked through the North and central parts in 2018. The previous year, being a slow backpacker I only managed the north and central parts of the country. And, I ran out of money, and with England so close, this time I darted back to England to replenish my funds instead of doing it in Portugal.
However, something that’s only happened on a few few occasions through my backpacking life happened on the 2018 trip…
There are countries you backpack through, and while it might be nice there isn’t much connection, some you hate, there are some you fall in love with, but then occasionally you get ones where you feel like you belong. It’s like you can feel the countries energy coursing through you, like your soul belongs there, and Portugal felt just like that. Like I mentioned, I’ve felt this type of energy on occasion through my backpacking life, but only once before was is so powerful. That was in a place we backpackers call neverland, you might know it as Queenstown New Zealand.
start of reasons
In this post we are going to cover and dive into the how my backpacking life doesn’t ever go to plan by running through what happened in 2019:
- Portugal 2019 – It started smoothly
- Spain 2019 – This is how messed up I am
- Hell, fire & brimstone – Diving back into Portugal
- Let’s settle
- How did I end up here
- Oh this was the universe’s plan
- A little cheeky holiday from my travel life
- Back in Portugal again
- So, there is a plan – It’s just not mine!
I returned in the summer of 2019 to continue my backpacking life and to travel through the rest of Europe but also to see if I could have that same feeling. But it just wasn’t like the previous year…it was much stronger.
My backpacking life taken to another level: Enlighted or a douchebag?
Now I fully realise this is going to sound crazy but here goes. This time around it felt as is Portugal wrapped it’s arms around me and whispered, ‘It’s ok, you’re home now, I’ve got you.’ If that makes me sound like I need to be sectioned then so be it.
The calmness was turned right down, into what I call my ‘zen mode’. The only time I felt peace like that before, not just in my backpacking life, but in my entire life was in the Sahara Desert. But in Portugal it was everywhere. It was such a weird feeling, every fibre inside me was at peace, I was so calm, and I felt like I was seeing backpacking differently too like I had been enlightened. The best way to explain it is: Long term backpacking is like navigating through long grass, you might have an idea of the direction but you can’t see clearly, and have no idea if things are waiting to trip you up.
In this new enlightened state it was as if I was floating over the long grass, getting a clear and broader view and perspective. I could see the traps beforehand, where I could make a bad decision, were a fuck up was waiting to happen, and I saw a clear route. I know I sound like a douchebag just saying that but that’s how it felt, my backpacking life was bliss.
Floating through the country
It took 6 weeks to navigate and float through the central coast, down to Lisbon where I met some incredible people and down towards the south. Unlike most people who make a beeline straight for the tourist trap of the Algarve, with the advice of a very good Portuguese friend I explored some local coastal fishing villages on my way down.
Side note: If you’re planning to backpack through Portugal at any point, try and head over to places like Setubal (pronounced stu-bal) Porto Covo, Sines, Zambujeira Vila Nova Milfontes – These little towns have the most breath-taking coast. In Setubal it felt like I was back in the tropics, and the other towns, I just got lost in the incredible waves crashing along the coast.
Zen mode smashed - my backpacking was back to normal
Yeah it was too good to last, and admittedly it was mainly my fault. I can’t lay the blame all on the over touristy Algarve, but it played Its part. From floating through the country, over that long grass, I was shot out of the sky and back in the long grass.
The Algarve is of course is famous for being the holiday destination for many holiday makers especially typical Brits abroad, getting drunk all hours of the day. I can’t say shit about that, because I turned into one there too, case in point why I lost my zen mode.
Through my backpacking life I have been known to party hard. And in Portugal, I lost my zen because I got royally fucked up at an overnight rave in the middle of the woods about an hour outside of Lagos. That was on me.
The following days after the rave, I was just off-sync and couldn’t get my zen mode back, I couldn’t hover over the grass again, this was my backpacking life; back in the long grass.. I needed to get out of the Algarve for my own sanity, so I hopped over the border into Spain.
Viva Espana. This wasn’t an off the cuff, spur of the moment decision. Well, the timing was but this was part of my backpacking plans. I had originally very, very loosely planned to backpack through Europe, you know before Brexit kicked in (at the time it was still up in the air – will it, wont it).
Unlike heading to Portugal the first time, Spain was a country I always wanted to backpack through. Since I was young, something drew to it. I don’t know if it was the weather, the Spanish way of life, their history, the girls, the food or because that’s where I had my first lads holiday back when I was just 17.
So, naturally I had high hopes, and had only heard good things from people backpacking through it. Also I hoped I may be able to find my zen again, especially for a country known to be so laid back and full of siestas.
Can I be anymore fucked up?
Something though just wasn’t right. My state of mind was shitty, and although Seville, my first stop was gorgeous, amazing heritage, vibrant full of life I just wasn’t feeling it. Yup this is how fucked up I can be. Out of all the places in Spain, Seville normally would have been the place I fell for.
I could tell there was an electric atmosphere around the place, it just bypassed me though and that made me feel worse. I couldn’t enjoy it, I couldn’t enjoy the amazing tapas, the flamenco dancers, the rich history and amazing architecture, all I was seeing was how over touristy it was. The worst part was that I didn’t even bother to try and make friends, when I’m like that you know I’m in a shitty frame of mind.
This frame of mind continued as I moved on through the Southern region, through Cordoba, which was quieter than Seville, again with so much history especially with the (famous mosque of Cordoba; Mezquita-Catedral but I was just ehh. I felt a little lost. And here’s the thing, no matter how long or experienced you are at traveling, there will be times during your backpacking life when emotional states will play with you and get the better of you.
The fact that Granada is home to the most visited tourist attraction in the whole of Spain, the (the castle) did nothing to lift my spirits. It was only until I left the city and dived up into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada that I started to feel better. The serenity, the calmness of the mountains bought me somewhat to my usual self, but nowhere near the zen state. I was wading through the long grass again and not floating over it.
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Hell fire and brimstone
My Portuguese friend had warned me Madrid would be like hell. I thought she meant it it would be so over-touristy that it would be my personal hell. No what she meant was it was so fucking hot in Madrid, I felt like I’d melt anytime I stepped out onto the streets and that’s not even an over exaggeration. Most days the streets were empty until 8 pm when It was bearable to go out. I just so happened to be in Madrid when the Sahara Plume and devastating heat wave made it’s way over central Europe.
With my mind doing backflips, I started to think of alternatives, forget continuing through Spain, France and Italy, it was only going to get more expensive from here on it and hotter. So, I started looking into Eastern Europe.
My backpacking life: The easier and cheapest option
There was another option, one I didn’t think about until the last moment. The easiest option to be fair. I ducked back to Portugal with a simple and effective plan: Ride out summer, regain my zen and then continue back through Europe.
The plan was simple enough, with the help of my Portuguese friend I looked for some places to rent and found one. It was a shithole. I resumed my search, but it was as if the Universe forced my hand, this was not part of it’s plan.
This sums up my backpacking life, How the fuck did I end up here?
One minute I’m looking at places to rent in Porto, the next I’m under the platinum lit Petronas towers of Kuala Lumpur.
This is what I mean about the Universe not letting me make my own backpacking plans. It already had a plan; I have to stick to it and go along for the ride. While I was looking for other places to rent in Porto, I got an urge to look at flights to the Philippines. They were cheap enough and I knew it was dirt cheap out there. It had also been five years since I was last in South East Asia, so I booked a flight…To Malaysia!
I know right, how the fuck did I end up booking a flight to Malaysia? I don’t know, there was no thought process to it. There was no looking into it, not even an urge to go there. I just booked a flight just like that.
Like riding a bike
As a backpacker, once you’ve experienced a distinctive region you never forget what it’s like if you ever return there. And that was exactly the case in Malaysia. Within hours of arriving it all came flooding back. It was as if I never left that region, I was bobbing and weaving through the chaotic traffic, used to the sticky humidity, those familiar South East Asian vibrant colours, and smells, the noise; it was all so normal.
Malaysia was great, it’s become one of my favourite South East Asian countries. There is so much to experience, the concoction of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures made for an electric experience, not to forget the amazing food either.
My time in Malaysia also saw something return to me, after a very dark episode facing some inner demons my zen was back. I was back to floating through the Country from Kuala Lumpur up to Langkawi via the Cameron Highlands and Penang all the way to the South. However the best part of Malaysia, wasn’t on the peninsular.
Ohh I see this was the the Universe's plan all along
After traveling for so long, there are things that just become normal and somewhat boring. Ask any backpacker and there are only so many churches, cathedrals, castles, temples, tourist attractions you can stomach. And you do get to a point where it takes something very special to give you a real breath-taking, time stopping holy fuck I can’t believe it moment. That’s exactly what I got on the other part of Malaysia, on Borneo Island.
This was the Universes plan, this was the reason I was in Malaysia, this was why I was in Borneo. To be stood in awe, of the majestic semi-wild Orangutans feeding and playing around just 20ft away from me. I will be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was so in awe of something but watching them in front of me just awoke something else inside me.
There are so many things over the years of traveling I’ve forgot about, experiences, people, moments but this will be something I’ll never forget.
And on top of that, I was inspired again. I mentioned at the top of this post I stopped writing because I had nothing worthwhile to write, there was no inspiration; well in Borneo that inspiration came flooding back.
I started writing, every day, all day, not for Forever Roaming the World but for my book. It’s all a little under wraps at the moment but I’ll keep you updated on how it progresses.
A cheeky holiday away from my traveling life
Malaysia had been good to me, my zen, and for my wallet. With it being so cheap, I was even able to book a little cheeky holiday away from my backpacking. Hey even us backpackers need a holiday.
My brother wanted a holiday in Bali, he isn’t a traveller like me, in fact he’s one of those warped up in the career bubble and this was his first holiday. Knowing I was in Malaysia, he asked if I wanted to join him. I said yes, I knew Bali well from living there in the past. However it had been 5 years since I was last there, back then you could see it was turning into the new overly tourist hotspot as Thailand was. When I returned this time around, I saw the transformation was complete. It wasn’t even peak tourist season yet and it was mayhem.
Since I was last there, prices had soured, still cheap compared to western prices but unrecognisable from 5 years ago. With the overload of tourists naturally saw an increase in petty crime. It’s funny in all the countries and cities I’ve been to all over the world. I have only ever been robbed in Bali. The first time when I lived there was my fault as I let my guard down. But this time around, some fucker snuck up behind me, stole my phone out of my hand as I was texting and rode off.
I guess the one saving grace Bali will always have, is the magical sunsets, they will never get old, but I don’t think I’ll ever be returning to see them again
It was a relief to be back in Malaysia but my time there was over too. I looked at options to head over to Myanmar, looked at the Philippines again like I had originally opted for but again this wasn’t my choice to make. The universe wanted for me to be somewhere else. Somewhere very familiar. I went home.
My backpacking life took me back home
No not back to England, no, no I was back in the loving arms of Portugal. Why? I dunno ask the Universe. No I’m kidding this time I did know why. I was back where I felt the full force of my zen the first time around, I was back in Nazare for two reasons. One to witness the famous waves that can rise up to 100ft during the winter and two to continue writing the book.
Although I say some huge waves, I unfortunately didn’t get to see any rise to 100ft, but I did get to finish the 1st and 2nd drafts of my upcoming book.
It was then my bright idea to head back to England for Christmas and my birthday before returning back to Portugal. However that did not go to plan either. It wasn’t the Universe leading me somewhere else. 2020 happened. And we all know how that story went. But I did finish and publish my book; You, Yourself & the World – Just scroll down a little further to get more information on the book.
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