Today’s prompt asks me to write about the most beautiful place I have ever seen. While I have been in a bit of a frustrated wheel lately, when it comes to seeing a beautiful place, I have seen too many to pick just one. Travel is my itch. God, it makes me a better person….so less sufferable to be around when it’s just barreling through me.

Mizen Head….the southernmost tip of Ireland. All of Ireland is beautiful. Let’s just get that out of the way. But I was obsessed with driving all the way down. I don’t know where I had heard of that place but it was part of the mission. It’s a bit of a drive and much of it is done on a one lane dirt road. If a car is coming from the other direction, you kind of have to drive up onto a grassy embankment and stop there so the other car can pass while driving up it’s side of the embankment. And yes, the trip is made more complicated by the obligatory sheep crossing which is a very real thing there.

I just remember thinking I was probably a little nuts doing this in a standard on the wrong side of the 1 lane road but once I get an idea in my head, I just keep going. And then suddenly, there I was at what felt like the most remote place on earth surrounded by ocean. It was a slightly lighter bluish green than the ocean back here but not tremendously different. And it looked very cold. There was a very steep stairway down to get a better view and I took it. I was still very fat when I went to Ireland so this was a challenge but I did it. Same trip, did the stairs in a major London Cathedral as well as L’arc de Triomphe. No small tasks when fat and winded. Anyway, nothing much at Mizen Head other than the bluest ocean on a very sunny day. I loved Cliffs of Moher but everyone goes there. Mizen Head, pretty damn beautiful and I am the only person I know who went there.

Savannah, GA is one of my favorite cities. Food is amazing and I was still fat for that trip too so I could eat. If I went now, I wouldn’t be able to eat too much. Glad I went when I did so I could experience the food. But the beauty in that city were some of the squares filled with flowers and surrounded by weeping willow trees marked by amazing architecture….plantation style buildings everywhere. Kind of my dream home style. 20 minutes out is Tybee Island, a very not built up beach town. Their zoning laws are strong in order to preserve the feel of the town. Don’t be fooled, very wealthy people live there and Miley Cyrus was filming a movie there when I went. Whatever movie it was when she met Liam Hemsworth I think. I digress. Tybee Island beach is gorgeous! And for whatever reason wasn’t at all crowded when I was there. I just enjoyed the view and drank pina coladas all day. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

What stood out to me in a London was walking down side streets where buildings were lit by really cool lamps which were fire lit, or at least carried a very realistic appearance to fire. There was a very “old” colonial feel to it.

There are many churches and Cathedrals to see in Paris but lesser known, and my favorite is Saint Chappelle….the stained glass windows are like nothing you have ever seen. It’s like the entire inside of the church is lit from the sunlight filtering through the colored glass. And I think I recall really amazing chandeliers inside. I took some very cool pictures in there.

Lisbon is a neat city to walk around. Lots of gorgeous views depending what height of the city you were at. This city has elevators to take you from one level of the city up to another because the gradient in some areas is quite high. Not obese on this trip so I walked all the stairs, hills, gradients you can imagine. I only used an elevator to go down after stopping for a couple sangrias on the water. You really can’t find too unattractive parts right in the historic part of the city. What’s fun is when you find a stairway entry into the tightly wound neighborhoods where basically once you start to descend, you have to just trust the twists and turns will eventually spit you out onto a Main Street. It’s the most historic part of the city and there are so many beautiful murals painted on white stucco as you maneuver your way through. Closer to the top you get to a few glimpses of ocean view but once you get in, it’s just all the houses clustered together where you can tell many generations of families grew up. It’s an “old” beauty. Very authentic and you know you are nowhere near home.

Outside of Lisbon I fell in love with Cascais. Not just because it’s where the Irish vacation but because it’s kind of amazing and surrounded by ocean. I took a long Oceanside walk which was a stunning view in and of itself. Then, I hit a turn and stumbled upon this huge cliff full of tourists. I wondered what might be so interesting down the little stairs so I wandered down….holy crap the most amazing cavern with the sea crashing up against it. Really, really beautiful and treacherous at the same time.

Similar experience in the Algarve when I stayed in Carvoeiros. Behind my hotel was this little path with a rock which had “plaia” written on it to indicate the beach was that way. Turns out it was quite a downward, harrowing hike down the side of a mountain. Next time, sneakers, not flip flops. There were parts where I thought I should probably turn around but, once again, once I get something in my head I just keep going. And thank goodness for that. There was one turn which gave a small hint of a view to entice me the rest of the way. So glad I went down, it turned into a beautiful cove with a beach and bar. The waves were fierce so I only got as far as putting my toes in the water. It was that Caribbean blue but not warm like the Caribbean. And the rocky landscape was beige and caramel. Ever seen the Depeche Mode video for “Enjoy the Silence” when he takes his chair to a beach? That’s an Algarve beach.

Algarve has a number of ocean towns. I think some may be more developed than others but none developed the way we see developed beach front in the US. Where I went still had a little bit of a primitive feel to it and that’s what you want to experience in a place like that. When you order fish for dinner, it was caught down the street that day. Be prepared for it to come with its head and skin in tact. Get past that. It will be the best meal you ever have. I almost wouldn’t mind owning a little apartment out there someday. But it’s a little bit of a pain to get to. You can fly into Lisbon but have to drive the rest of the way. Or you can fly from Lisbon to Faro and still drive 45 minutes in the opposite direction because Faro is closer to Spain. But if vacation time is long enough, it’s so worth it.

This brings me to Spain. I have to go back there and see more. But there was this one moment driving in the car with my friends from Granada to Malaga where we were on a deserted highway going alongside some mountain terrain but able to see ocean on the left side. They were playing “Enjoy the Silence” in the car and that was a moment, a real moment of gratitude I quietly had in the back seat when I realized what a beautiful part of the world I was experiencing. Something about that song on that stretch of highway at that moment, I don’t know. I don’t really have the words for it but when I am having a bad day, I sometimes flash back to that moment and take a deep breath to restore my balance. And once you know all the places to stop on the highway to get to a beach, you get to beautiful beaches with adorable bars on every one so you can enjoy a beer and tapas with friends. The lifestyle itself is a thing of beauty. What’s really cool on the Malaga coast is every beach section has a themed bar. You can decide whether or not you want to do Indian or African night. We did African for tapas one night. Oh my God! That was the coolest place. I can see why my friends almost had their wedding reception there. If I were to own a summer home, I guarantee the interior design will be based off that place. It oddly felt like home to me.

I have been so blessed to have such an imagination for the things I want to see and the determination to keep going down the dirt roads which are a little scary but always promise to yield something life changing. I have yet to travel anywhere I haven’t been moved by.

I think what has me so stressed lately is the anticipation of not knowing if my salary is going to get straightened out or if I am about to go another year moving money between four accounts and using bonus and tax returns to bridge the gap in my pay to get by. I have been doing it for too many years now and it’s exhausting. My only goal to make all that worthwhile is travel. I can usually get my travel paid off within a couple months of getting back and then start saving for the next trip. This year, it’s been tough and I have nearly maxed out my credit card on vacation and day to day expenses due to my pay not being where it should be by now. I’m still not at the paid credit card and saving for next trip phase yet. It’s really depressing. Travel is my marriage and children.

I want Norway next. It would give me a reason to dedicate myself to some serious fitness goals to prepare for outdoor activities which are a big deal there. Sightseeing is great and I’m sure there is more than enough to experience but being able to stretch myself with hiking or kayaking or any of that stuff would be cool. I mean, I am strong enough to do those things now without too much challenge but I’d like to be more than passable. It would be cool to have a goal and then put my body into something which would give me a different view of that landscape. But, I don’t think I am going to be able to pull it off financially. What’s worse is, I don’t even know if I can pull off any trip next year financially and if I don’t have a trip to look forward to, I feel claustrophobic and almost asthmatic. I just can’t go another year like this financially and I certainly can do it even less when I have nothing to look forward to. When I made the decision 2 years ago to get back to traveling, I got a lot healthier mentally. I’m scared about next year.