I honestly did not think I would feel safe enough to travel and/or go on holiday this year. However, the safety measures that were put into place by British Airways and Cyprus’ specific entry requirements, really put me at ease. As a result, I felt comfortable and safe enough to go to the island for a last minute Summer holiday in October. Staying near the famous Ayia Napa, watch my travel vlog to see what I got up to…
P.S. During editing, I noticed just how quiet and peaceful the island really was…!
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In a pre-pandemic life I would never have considered taking a week’s worth of annual leave just to stay at home. Sure, I’ve taken a day or two off in the past to enjoy a long weekend or to run some errands, but a week off work would always equate to a holiday away to sunnier climates. Well this year has definitely been one of firsts, as last week I took a whole week off despite it being the pandemic – correction, particularly because of the pandemic. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far in 2020.
I have always considered myself to be a pretty balanced person, but on reflection my days off have always been filled to the brim. There has always been a “purpose” to the day off. Being British, naturally the weather in the U.K. has played a huge factor in deciding when and if I would be “treating” myself to a long weekend. (N.B. Regardless of what the weather apps say, there is zero promise of nice weather.) I would wait for an occasion, a Summer holiday, for Chirstmas time, or just until I was beginning to experience burn out. Somehow simply taking a few days to actively look after my own wellbeing, enjoying my own company, or to simply rest and relax never seemed reason enough.
Over the last few years, I have always looked forward to the month of June as I have begun to associate it with the promise of down time. I would (without exception) spend between 7-10 days in the summer sun letting go of the stresses of life. It would be filled with getting some vitamin c whilst enjoying reading a book, sleeping in, and sharing a delicious meal in the company of my loved ones. So when my Summer holiday this year to Chicago for a family wedding was cancelled due to the coronavirus, I was really tempted to also cancel my days off work. “What was the point?”, I honestly thought to myself. Somehow taking time off to simply rest (before reaching the point of a near breakdown) was a waste if I couldn’t do all of these aforementioned things. However the more I mulled it over, the more I realized I could really use some time out. Even though the idea of taking time off to just stay in the house that I was locked in for over 100 days seemed mad to me.
The week of my staycation rolled in and contrary to my prior beliefs, it seemed my luck hadn’t quite run out for this year like I thought. A heatwave made it’s way over to the U.K., so I was lucky enough to sunbathe in my garden where I reignited my holiday ritual of picking up a good book. I decided to re-read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and let my mind escape to another world, even though my body could not.
However after a couple of days, inevitably the clouds reappeared and I wasn’t as immersed in the world of Hogwarts as I had been on Day 1 of my staycation. The idea of checking my work emails briefly crossed my mind. It seemed tempting considering that the line (which happened to be a train line) that once separated these two worlds, had now become blurred. However I fought the idea off and made deliberate decisions to distinguish between the two again. Simple actions like preparing a different breakfast every day, helped kick me back into holiday mode. Nonetheless, I still maintained the mentality that I was going to be really productive and utilize this time off. I planned to wake up at my normal time and I made a list of all the things I wanted to do. I knew the amount possible that I could achieve in a working day so surely I would be able to do double in my own free time?! I suppose in essence, yes I could have done just that. But a voice in my head kept repeating that this was my time off. I should be enjoying it rather than adding pressure to what had already been an overwhelming few months. Did I just want to binge watch a new Netflix series? To be honest, not so much. But allowing that to be an option for one of my days off was more than ok. This was my time off to rest and recharge. So, what did I want to do?
I started with sleep. I let my body lie in and sleep as much as it needed to without setting an alarm
I set myself a blogging challenge! This was really fun and a great way to get those creative juices flowing again. Before I knew it, the ideas for more posts came in one after the other, alleviating the writer’s block I recently had
I celebrated a virtual wedding, got dressed up, listened to speeches and danced to music despite being separated across continents
I filmed a couple of videos for my YouTube channel
I visited my grandmother (whilst socially distancing) who has now since been expanded into my social bubble!
I cooked some new dishes that I had never attempted before
I exercised daily at my own pace. There were no periodic checks on work emails or carefully timed workouts to coincide with meetings. It was very freeing and I got so much more out of it!
Some of you may also be happy to hear, that not one quiz was played in my staycation, something that I am temporarily grateful for after playing at least two or three a week since March
Although I did not go anywhere new or do anything particularly adventurous, I was very happy spending time with just myself. Consciously deciding (or being forced) to stay at home allowed me to find time to be more creative and take time out from the strange new reality that has been 2020. I may not have been exploring a new corner of the world, but I was reconnecting with myself. It also meant that I saved a lot of money that I usually would have spent on going to the beauty salon, the hairdressers or what not. So I guess there are quite a few positives in there after all!
As much as I sincerely hope to be able to travel again and enjoy going out without any worry, I only plan to take a holiday abroad when it’s safe to do so. I honestly don’t know how this year is going to turn out and I won’t overwhelm myself trying to do so, but over the last week I have been reminded just how important time off from the daily grind is. It’s funny to think that as much as I resented hearing about “essential” journeys at the beginning of lockdown, it turned out this most recent staycation was indeed very much essential after all.
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When planning any trip it’s great to read up on as much as you can before you go away, particularly for a road trip. You really don’t want to be stranded staring at your google maps and hoping for the best! Whether it’s reading blog posts, travel guides or watching YouTube videos, nowadays we have so much access to a wealth of information. Quite frankly, you wouldn’t be doing yourselves any favours by simply “going with the flow”, at least not for the whole trip! About this time last year, I began to plan my California summer travels. I too scoured the internet and turned to my good old fashioned travel book, Lonely Planet’s California (thanks to my brother for gifting this to me!). Thank goodness that I did my research too, otherwise I may have missed out on visiting San Luis Obispo – a little gem in the Californian crown of jewels.
Positioned roughly 3 hours between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo or SLO as it’s affectionately known, is so much more than just a halfway point. Loved by both the old and the young, SLO encapsulates it’s population perfectly. The town has a youthful energy to it whilst also being complimented by it’s peaceful waves. The relaxed pace and the stunning views make it the perfect destination to sit back and relax whilst sipping wine. If you haven’t guessed it, SLO is a very popular spot for Wine Country tasting tours, particularly in late June.
We stayed for two nights with a fantastic South African host who had lived in California for over 20 years. Friendly, warm and welcome – her home reflected her character. Based a 15 minute walk to the town, with free parking and an en-suite bedroom complete with a coffee machine, I would highly recommend this spot to anyone who needs a room in SLO!
Getting around by car in Cali is by far the easiest option, however I would happily cycle around SLO maybe even visiting a winery or 2 along the way
Wineries upon wineries
Eat & Drink:
SLO Brewing company
Tri Tip Sandwiches
Somewhat tired after our day of exploring Monterey and Big Sur, it was a late Thursday afternoon when we arrived at our Airbnb. As we pulled into the neighborhood where we were staying, we fell just a bit more in love with the Golden State. As scenic as Monterey is, SLO was definitely more on our level and our age range. The views remained on par with Monterey, as our host’s house was set behind a backdrop of a glorious mountain. California really is the gift that keeps on giving! We had limited time to see SLO so unfortunately we didn’t hike up the trails surrounding us, but this is a great idea should you be looking for a long weekend in San Luis Obispo. After we freshened up we took a stroll into town, and to our delight the Farmers Market was in full swing. Families, students and holidaymakers were sprawled across downtown, showing their support to local farmers and businesses in buying local produce, fresh fruit and vegetables. I can definitely see why this vibrant county is so popular with college kids! For dinner we shared a couple slices of pizza and a tri-tip sandwich. The best thing was that we could try all of this delicious food on a traveller’s budget! After a walk in the outdoor market we grabbed a drink at SLO Brewing company before making our way home and coming across Bubblegum Alley. Although unclear when this strange toursit attraction originated, thought to be sometime between the end of WW2 and the 1950’s, it’s worth a visit just for the quirkiness of it. The next day we dedicated to exploring more of Wine Country.
Me at Kynsi Wines
Kynsi Wines – Our first stop was at this lovely barn setting vineyard. With a family run atmosphere and chilled out vibes, it was the perfect start to our own wine trail.
Saucelito Canyon – This particular weekend in June there was a SLO wine tasting event with Saucelito Canyon being one of it’s stops. As a result there were tacos on offer and live music. We chatted to some lovely American’s for a couple of hours over wine, where we absorbed as many tips from them as we could. Here’s a shout out to Neil, Deb, Bebe and Jim!
Biddle Ranch Vineyard – Set in the Edna Valley, we enjoyed some wine outside overlooking the stunning vineyard which is pictured in my featured image of this post. I’ll let that do the talking.
Edna Vineyards – The largest and most established of them all. This winery was impressive and beautifully presented, with each item of decor carefully chosen. Although I personally preferred the smaller wineries with a more laid back vibe, the beautiful grounds and good service was worth a visit.
Later that day we made a trip to Avilla Beach, a small town within San Luis Obispo. To our delight we attended another Farmers Market. Although on a smaller scale to the downtown market in SLO, the quality of produce didn’t suffer. If we had more time I would’ve liked to have a spa day and enjoy the mineral hot springs, go shopping or dare I say, sip some more wine! Instead my boyfriend and I enjoyed the views of the oceanfront as the sun came down.
Late afternoon at Avilla Beach
Before we left SLO we made a trip the next morning to Pismo Beach. Unfortunately our timing meant we were there during the “June Gloom” period. Nonetheless we visited it’s iconic pier and renowned turquoise waters that did not disappoint. You can also enjoy horseback riding across the dunes and capture memories that will last a lifetime at Pismo Beach. SLO CAL was named “the happiest city in the world” by Oprah, and I can definitely support this! It is a beautiful and more affordable county with so many stunning beaches and scenic hikes to complete. There is even something for culture and history lovers to do with Spanish missions to see that date back to the 1700’s! With all the charm and glamour that California holds, San Luis Obispo really appealed to me and I became more and more convinced that one day it may just be a home away from home.