I asked myself this question before lockdown, and I was going to write this back in…probably January or February, and I never got around to it. But I still ask – what does make or break a trip?
This is where I decide to go all in and just give you my opinions.
I always find that company (or lack thereof) can determine how you feel about a trip. Take my trip to Berlin for example – it was such a lovely place, but at the same time, it was a college trip, and I had someone join us that used to bully me in school. Not only that, but I was also swapped around so that instead of rooming with my actual friends, I was rooming with her. Kinda makes it worse when she brought a boy she’d just met to our room and got it on with him the first night there. Let’s just say he didn’t have standards. That wasn’t the worst part – at that point, I’d really started falling for a guy who was also on the trip, but looking back, he was just a dick. It soured the experience, not gonna lie.
Compare that with my trip to Dublin with Connor – despite the rain, that was an amazing experience that I’d love to repeat (except for Aunt Flo arriving the day of departing on the holiday but we don’t talk about that).
Even travelling alone is so much better than travelling in bad company. Lisbon, for example, was a huge example of this. I was able to take things at my own pace, and see what I wanted to see. I do wish that I was able to take Connor with me on my adventures, but his work didn’t allow it when the opportunity came.
Of course, I’m not just talking about travelling companions here – I’m also talking about the people that you meet while you’re there. We only really got to meet German students from Munich during our Berlin trip, and I found the Irish folk in Dublin to be so, so friendly. The Portuguese experience was interesting – in Lisbon at least, they are pretty laid-back despite the bureaucracy of the day-to-day life (receipts to use public toilets, amirite?). Of course, meeting the locals in each instance has been generally really positive.
When living and working with fellow ex-pats, it’s also great to get to know them, too. I’ve met people from all sorts of walks of life – my friend Jeanette lived in Brazil and Japan before, while another friend, Cynthia, is also well-travelled and has found her calling in faith. But all of our differences made for a more enhanced experience. I still miss cake days with Jeanette though.
Yep, the weather is a huge factor in the enjoyability of a trip. It snowed in Berlin, which was lovely, it rained in Dublin for most of the trip, with on-off light showers on the last day, and it was so freaking hot in Lisbon. I swear to God, I got to Lisbon when it wasn’t too hot – granted we were baking in the UK too. But then we the temperature doubled in the space of a week, and it was stifling. But it was an experience that I’ve come to appreciate.
Because of the rain in Dublin, which later became Storm Doris, we didn’t get to explore as much as we wanted. We wanted to cross Phoenix Park, Bull Island and the other parks off our list (in mid-February, I know), but we were relegated to staying mostly indoors. While we had an amazing time nonetheless, I feel it would have been far better if we had better weather. After all, we tried getting up at 5am for Bull Island on our third day, and the storm was horrendous so we just went back to sleep.
The Food & Dining Experience
I live for food, and while that’s probably the worst thing for me, you have to try some of the local food while you’re out and about. Some of my favourite places to go to that have now shut down are Hebe Gyros in Lisbon, Pizza Storm in Nottingham, Nuu in Hull and various other small cafes and restaurants.
However, you can always find small places in different towns and cities that will serve up delicious food. As pictured above, just look at how good the food was at Baku Everyday Food in Lisbon. Other places I would recommend elsewhere is the Ori Asian Food in Colombo Shopping Center, The Brazen Head in Dublin, or any
Obviously, you don’t want an awful food experience when dining out – when I went to Doncaster one time, we went to a Shake n’ Burger, because I enjoy eating at retro burger places (like Ed’s Easy Diner). It was a horrible experience, the waitress we originally had was rude, and the food was just…meh at absolute best. It’s permanently closed now, which is good.
In our town, we have a farm which is a popular attraction. However, for those of us that either relies on public transport or walking to get places, it’s impossible to get to without it being unsafe. And considering that most of the farm has been turned into children’s’ play areas with no thought for the adults, it’s a bust from me – I even got a private message on Tripadvisor slandering me because I dared leave a bad review.
I also had a bad experience at Almost Famous in Manchester, where we went for a simple lunch mid-convention. They were busy, so we would be texted as to when a table would be available. And the text was really patronizing, treating us as though we were kids. Connor was constantly ignored by the barman while trying to get us drinks. We were sat in the dingiest little corner (which is saying something, as the entire place was dingy), and we were asked what we liked to drink right off the bat. The drinks were so expensive, and I was just about to let the waitress know what I wanted to drink when she just walked off. At this point I was suffering greatly from an anxiety attack at being shoved in a dark corner with loads of people, I felt so claustrophobic. So we just walked out, went next door to All-Star Lanes and that was a far better experience – brightly lit, not as crowded and the waiters were so attentive, not to mention the food was amazing.
I feel that there’s a massive difference between going somewhere on a holiday and actually working there. There needs to be a solid work/life balance so that you’re able to experience everything that your new location needs to offer. I previously wrote about my experiences with my former company, but I still stress that everyone experiences things differently. For example, what one person doesn’t agree with, someone else will agree with it, or see reason behind it. I still maintain that working at Teleperformance was a huge learning experience, despite the struggles I had towards the end. It’s why I’ll always be grateful to them and the people at MGI Recruitment for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.
Would I work abroad again? Absolutely. Just not in Portugal. The main reason is that I’ve already experienced working over there, and I’d like to experience working in a different country.
Experiencing Tourist Attractions
A lot of people tend to gravitate towards tourist attractions, but sometimes that can be a bad thing. Maybe you don’t like crowds – I certainly don’t! Sometimes you wait for hours for one tiny, insignificant thing and it’s like ‘now what?’. I think of the Blarney Stone in Ireland when I think of strange tourist attractions.
I mean, I’ve done the touristy thing in Lisbon, but at least the attractions were interesting – people congregate around Praça do Comércio, which is a beautiful sight anyway, as well as the Cristo Rei. But when a lot of people talk about Alfama constantly in travel vlogs, I was spoilt by the north of Lisbon, which was just as charming as down south! I mean, nobody really discusses the beauty of Campo Grande (nor do they actually think about shopping in Colombo).
Then we move onto Temple Bar in Dublin. We didn’t get a chance to fully explore it, but we were told by a local that it’s best to avoid as it’s so touristy and that it was around 8€ per pint (back in 2017, that is). That…made us cringe a little.