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“Wait, how many chocolate factories are there here?”


I had just arrived at the little Spanish town near Alicante where I’d be spending a couple weeks, so I would have plenty of time to taste test each one.

Just a 10-minute walk from the apartment and I was on the beach—a calm stretch of blue with a cafe-laden promenade alongside…palm trees in clusters offering convenient spots of shade. The clean, turquoise sheen of the sea made me want to dive right in.

When I wasn’t doing just that, I biked around the quiet roads, indulged myself at all three chocolate factories—and at an addictive chocolate cafe I found near the beach…and simply lingered under the perfect palm trees, watching the soft waves, eating sun-ripened Valencia oranges that I’d picked right from the tree.

That was back in April.

By May, I was in Portugal, settling into Lisbon life and making day trips here and there.

One day, I went with a friend to Evora, a lovely little town just an hour east of Lisbon, surrounded by medieval walls and boasting a university from the 16th century. We had lunch at a cozy fish restaurant that grilled whatever fish you chose, and the waiter who served us took his time to slowly and carefully separate the fish from the bone and place it on our plates.

A few weeks later, I took an all-expenses-paid trip to the Algarve, spent a night at a marvelous beach side B&B…free-of-charge…and returned to Lisbon on a train that smoothly cut through red-stone terrain and the small hills and valleys bursting with cork oak trees whose trunks were peeled away in various layers from being harvested.

I also stayed for free at a hotel in Barcelona, and got free entry into several museums and famous attractions in Barcelona, Prague, and Lisbon.

And I was invited to Luxembourg for a few days…my accommodation would be paid, as would my dining…but I had to decline. I simply didn’t have the time.

I often feel like I’m always on vacation.

While I lie on a breezy, cliff-adorned beach just outside Lisbon, I ponder what I always ponder: where to next? I like to follow the warmth, and winter is the best time to explore South East Asia…here I go again.

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