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From Rome to Lapland – Here’s what we’ve been up to lately

Each month, we jot down a personal wrap of our travels, life updates, and general happenings in the life of The Common Wanderer. No bullshit, just our honest thoughts.

It’s been quite a while since we last did a wrap up on here (about 5 months!), and it’s safe to say that life has been so busy it’s borderline insane lately! In fact, sometimes when we look back at what’s been happening since our last update, our head spins and we need to lie down for a while.

There’s been lots of travel (despite “slowing down”), and some pretty massive life changes for us both. Here’s exactly what’s been happening in the world of The Common Wanderer lately…

FROM ROME TO LAPLAND AND BEYOND – HERE’S OUR OCTOBER 2017 UPDATE

WE MOVED HOUSE

When we first arrived in London, we moved into a sweet terrace house overlooking a park in Surrey Quays. The room was beautiful and h-u-g-e (even taking London’s shoebox standards into consideration!), but there just wasn’t much happening in the area. No nightlife, no good restaurants, and not even a cute cafe down the street to grab a coffee from on the weekend.

Obviously, this isn’t the kind of expat experience we were after, so we’ve now made the brave decision to go where no Aussies before us have ever gone (lol jk – it’s the only accent we ever hear now) and moved to Clapham in South West London. We’re in a bright, light, ground floor apartment with one other housemate, and slowly feeding our addiction for indoor plants and IKEA furniture, and cool homewares that we really don’t need.

MIM WENT FREELANCE AND MARK STARTED A NEW JOB

When we arrived in London in September 2016, I (Mim) started managing Content for a well-known global travel brand just 4 days later, while Mark managed the blog and our business full time. Since then, I’d been balancing a double life: weekdays at an extremely busy 9-5, and evenings, weekends, annual leave, and any other random snatched moments working on our freelance projects.

If that sounds exhausting, well, it was. Eventually, running between the two became too much and quite frankly, I was burnt out. Meanwhile, Mark recently started working for an amazing travel brand, so we decided to change things up a little.

With my professional experience as a writer, the blog growing pretty quickly, and an increasing number of opportunities coming our way, we decided it would be better for me to focus solely on growing our freelance business moving forward. It’s been 4 weeks now and I have to say, I am loving working on our business from the comfort of home.

Ps. if you’re reading this and have a business in need of some help in the word-and-picture department, well, holla at ya girl!

WE CELEBRATED A YEAR OF LIVING IN LONDON

On August 30, we celebrated an entire year of the expat life here in London. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long since we first stepped off the plane at Heathrow, bleary-eyed (it was 7am!) and excited for a new adventure. In many ways, it feels like we’ve only just arrived.

In 12 months we’ve lived in 3 houses, survived an English winter (and an English “summer”), complained about the weather daily, gained two jobs and quit one, travelled to 8 countries, been squashed against the tube doors 348209348 times, enjoyed some major blog wins, feasted on many a grand pub meal (but never an English ale), and most importantly: landed amongst an incredible group of people we’re privileged to call our family and friends. It’s certainly been a ride!

The London skyline from Hampstead Heath - The Common Wanderer

READ MORE: HOW WE SAVED TO TRAVEL THE WORLD, AND YOU CAN TOO

WHERE WE’VE BEEN TRAVELLING TO LATELY

The last few months have been an absolute whirlwind of travel for us both (so much for slowing down!). Here are some of the places we’ve been wandering to:

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA 

Back in May, we spent some time in Bucharest for the Experience Bucharest project and absolutely loved it.

We really didn’t know what to expect from Bucharest (or Romania more generally) prior to going, nor had this part of the world ever really factored onto our ‘future destinations’ list.

Turns out, we’d really been missing out on one of Europe’s trendiest and most fascinating cities. Touted as the ‘new Berlin’ for its hipster vibes and grungy feel, Bucharest is cool. Really cool. We spent our days getting better acquainted with its heady mix of charm and decay, latin spirit and Balkan passion, great food and brilliant coffee, and can’t wait to return again someday. 

Photographing Bucharet, Romania's streets - The Common Wanderer

ATHENS, GREECE

From Bucharest, we jumped on a flight to visit Mark’s granddad who lives in Athens. Now, Mark has been to Athens more times in his lifetime than he can probably count and he doesn’t rate it too highly (read: he hates it). But I’ve never been, and I had really high hopes for this ancient city that cradled the birth of modern ideals. 

I really wanted to be able to love Athens. To see past its recent economic woes. Or at the minimum, just to find a way to prove Mark wrong. But the truth is, I just didn’t. There were riots every day we were there, the ruins were terribly maintained, and basically, we just didn’t get a good vibe from being there.

That said, being able to spend time with Mark’s Opa (aka the coolest 90-year-old you will ever meet) was extremely special, for us both.

Exploring Athens, Greece - The Common Wanderer

MENORCA, SPAIN 

After a mad rush back to London and one night to repack our bags, we found ourselves on another plane, this time bound for the Spanish island of Menorca. This was our first jaunt to the Balaeric islands, and we were there with 50 other top UK influencers for the #MustSeeMenorca Mini-Conference and press trip.

If you haven’t been to Menorca yet, we suggest you book that trip pretty quickly. It’s absolutely stunning, far less tourist-trodden than its neighbours Ibiza and Mallorca, full of charming cobblestoned streets, and outdoor activities for everyone. And the food and wine? Ridiculously good. Honestly, we loved this little Mediterranean gem so much that we’ve been looking at island property prices ever since…

The beach of Cala Mitjana on Menorca, Spain - The Common Wanderer

SANTANDER, SPAIN

Spain seems to be the flavour of our 2018, because next on the list was a weekend in Santander – although Mark flew solo for this one!  Cantabria’s capital isn’t about impressing you on a first glance. It doesn’t have the old-world charm of other Spanish cities (much of the old town burnt down in 1941), but the coastal town definitely makes up for it in character, natural beauty, and tasty, tasty tapas

Mark can also lay claim to being the first blogger to walk through the halls of the newly opened Centro Botin art gallery, having visited on the opening weekend! Designed by the same architect who created Paris’ Centre Pompidou, the gallery is a masterpiece both inside and out.

Looking at the view from Santander, Spain - The Common Wanderer

PORTUGAL, SPAIN, MOROCCO WITH INTREPID TRAVEL

Another trip, another solo adventure for Mark. This time, he doubled as talent for a new video of Intrepid’s Spain, Portugal and Morocco tour, as well as the photographer and social guy. For two weeks, he feasted on all the delicious tapas, tagines, and churros, danced with locals in Lisbon, and explored the winding alleys of the Moroccan medinas – all while documenting it all on his camera!

See everything they got up in this awesome video, produced by the legends at Betty Wants In

ROME, ITALY 

Mark’s third solo trip this summer (I’m definitely overdue some travels!), a quick jaunt to Rome to catch up with a friend from home.

This was a rare opportunity to be a real tourist for the first time in a long time. In an effort to see Rome without the tourists, Mark and his mate Ryan would be up before the crack of dawn each day, exploring the beautiful ancient streets as they awoke for the day ahead. Afternoons were for siesta time, while evenings were spent eating great food and enjoying a few too many beers. The perfect break before returning to full-time work again! 

Early morning walks in Rome, Italy - The Common Wanderer

2018 TRAVEL INSPO: OUR PICK OF DESTINATIONS TO VISIT IN 2018

SWEDISH LAPLAND

Lapland had been sitting at the top of our bucket list for a looooooooong time. We’d almost come to view it as the holy grail of our travel and blogging lives; a wintry wonderland, raw and untamed wilderness, and a way of life so extremely different to our own upbringing. Sprinkle in some reindeer herds and the northern lights, and you basically have our ultimate trip. So when our inbox pinged with an opportunity to spend a week exploring Swedish Lapland in Autumn with Visit Sweden, my fingers could barely type a frantic ‘check email check emaiiil CHECK EMAIL’ message to Mark from sheer excitement.

In early October, we spent a week exploring the region, going hiking, foraging, fatbiking, and getting to know the local culture – under Autumn skies and surrounded by crisp forest air. And you know what? This is one place that totally lived up to the hype. It was utter magic, and we’re absolutely keen to go back in Winter, Spring, and Summer to find out what it’s like then too. We’ve got a whole lot of posts almost ready to go live, so watch this space!

Taking in the view of Storforson Waterfall in Swedish Lapland, Sweden

And that’s a wrap! We plan to start doing these more regularly, and they’ll be full of all the good, bad, ugly and otherwise happenings of our travels (and lives) – so watch this space this time next month.

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