Surprise! And olá from the Azores Islands!

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Hey guys! So…surprise! I’m writing to you from the Azores Islands. Never heard of the Azores? You’re not alone. They’re a part of Portugal and are basically located in the middle of the Atlantic! (PS – thank you for all the comments on my last post! I have read them all but have not had a chance to respond, but I will catch up soon! Thank you, thank you, thank you!)

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I’m traveling alone, which is the first time I’ve really done my own solo international trip. I planned this trip several months ago but didn’t really tell very many people about it, the reasons for which I will explain next week. Although Jamaica was technically solo, that was planned for me, so that’s different. Anyway! I’m here. And it’s been…kind of a shitshow.

Here are some things that happened within the first 36 hours of my trip, in chronological order:

  1. I got no sleep on the plane and arrived at 6:50 am local time, 2:50 am my time. Ok, fine.
  2. Decided to push through and left my hostel to go on a hike. Could not find the correct bus, so I got on a random one, figuring there are hikes all over the island and I would just consult my guidebook to find one. I did! Hooray! Then I told the driver the wrong stop. Had to pay again when I reached the wrong stop and realized where I was.
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    City gates in Ponta Delgada. Right before I got on the wrong bus.
  3. Finally reached the trail and start climbing. It is basically straight up. I meet a farmer along the way who points to the sky and starts speaking in rapid Portuguese. I figure he is saying he wishes it was sunny so I’m like “Yeah, totally! Me too!” and smile and go on my way.
  4. Farmer chases me down after I go the wrong way on the trail and then explains the signage system on the trail to me. The trails are EXTREMELY well marked if you know what to look for…I was just deliriously tired and not paying attention. I take this as a good sign and continue on my way.
  5. The trail is still going straight up and my body is like “LOL YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE IN SHAPE. YOU ARE NOT.” Take off the 4 layers of shirts I am wearing because I’ve now sweated through all of them.
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    “I can do this! Hiking is great! YAY HIKING!”
  6. I try to take a picture of myself hiking using my lovely new camera and new tripod! Cannot figure out how to work the tripod and spend probably 20 minutes on the trail trying to get my camera to stop falling off of it. I do not succeed.
  7. Finally give up and continue on my way. It starts to rain.
  8. It starts to rain harder.
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    Right around the point when I was thinking that they lied when they said the weather changes every 5 minutes on the Azores. I had long since put my fancy camera away.
  9. It is torrentially downpouring. I’m like LOL NO PROBLEM and put my rain jacket on and my rain cover on my backpack. My HOKA hiking boots are waterproof so my feet are dry and I am happy.
  10. It is still raining. I am no longer happy, but I figure I have to be close to the lake I’m trying to reach, so I keep going. I am NOT close and now the rain is coming in sideways and I can’t see. I’d turn around, but I’m almost there and I’m already wet, so I keep going.
  11. I REACH THE LAKE! Can’t see it because it’s raining so hard. I take a video on my phone of the moment because I am very, very stupid.
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    Sheer joy at reaching the top! See the lake in the background? Yeah. Exactly.
  12. I turn around and head back. I see a couple on the trail about 10 minutes behind me and they ask me if the view was worth it. I laugh and say no, because it wasn’t, but I did report a strong sense of accomplishment. They look displeased.
  13. I check what time the bus will be coming back and realize if I run down the mountain, I might be able to make the 3 o’ clock bus. Otherwise, I have to wait 2.5 hours in the pouring rain for the next one. I pull out my phone to check the time.
  14. NONONNONONONONONONONONONO my phone is waterlogged despite being inside my jacket NONONONONONO it’s not working and NONONONONONONONONONO
  15. I turn around and head back down the mountain. Rain runs down my legs into my previously bone-dry boots and within minutes there is water literally coming out of the tops of my shoes with every step.
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    Random spot along the trail. The thing that looks like a trough next to me is carrying water down the mountain from the lake.
  16. I see a couple at the bottom of the trail about to get in a rental car and I ask them what time it is. “3:05,” they say.
  17. For the first time in my life, I hitch a ride with the complete (very nice) strangers because if the alternative is sitting in this freezing cold rain for 2.5 hours and signing my phone’s death warrant, I’d rather take the risk of signing my own (sorry Mom and Dad!)
  18. I have not eaten any food yet during the day at this point, so I make it back to the city and rush to buy some rice for my phone and some food for myself. Finding nothing gluten free, I buy a block of cheese and some rice cakes. I then eat the cheese on my bed without using a knife.
  19. Realize I have no outlet adapters and therefore cannot charge my laptop or do anything else.
  20. Try every method I can think of to dry my soaked clothing. My roommate kindly lends me her hair dryer. EVERYTHING I own is completely soaked but thankfully, my camera still works and my passport is ok. That’s about it.
  21. I go to dinner with some girls from my hostel (from Germany, the Czech Republic, Brazil, and Canada). They ask me WTF is going on with America’s elections and I laughed, then almost cried, because REALLY, what is going on with our elections?  I eat a risotto that I was promised was gluten free. It was, but it was apparently very high fat because my gallbladder-less body rejected it very, very quickly. Am sick for the rest of the night, but walk to the nearby mall to buy some gluten free food and an outlet adapter.
  22. Get back to my room and realize the adapter does not fit my laptop charger. Give up.
  23. Go to sleep. Wake up and my phone is still not working. I put it back in the rice and try to straighten my hair with my new adapter. The straightener worked last night, and now it does not. I have broken my very expensive hair straightener somehow despite the fact that it can be used both European and American voltages. I tell my roommate this and she says “The Azores are like the Bermuda Triangle for your possessions.” I have never heard a truer statement.
  24. My phone now turns on but has 3% battery left. The charger now no longer fits in the charger hole and I can’t get whatever bits of rice are stuck in there out, so although my phone technically works, I still can’t use it. I figure this out after the mall closes for the day.

Here’s some things that DID NOT happen:

  1. I did not have a panic attack.
  2. I did not give up.
  3. I did not cry.
  4. I did not ever lose faith that everything would be ok.

Here’s some things I learned:

  1. I’m a lot more calm in other countries than I am at home. Every time something went wrong, I briefly felt my heart race and then I said “No, stop. No one can help you except yourself. Figure out what you’re going to do.”
  2. People are kind and wonderful and incredibly helpful, even when they have no idea what you’re saying and vice versa.
  3. That farmer was probably telling me it was about to storm really bad for the next 6 hours.
  4. I can rely on myself to get through challenging situations.

Thankfully, Day 2 went much better – hiking with my roommates, visiting hot springs, and exploring the towns around the island! I’m  about to tuck away to sleep. Here’s a few photos to whet your appetite for more in the coming days! Spoiler alert: it rains here. A lot.

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Day 2: The islands are breathtaking and endlessly green. This is because apparently it is a rainforest in March.
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Visiting some of the geothermal sites in Furnas! The islands are formed from dormant volcanoes. We watched a movie today that explained that they could erupt at any time, so that was reassuring.
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Thanks to the geothermal energy here, they cook food under the ground in Furnas! It’s called Cozido das Furnas. Restaurants each have their own pits at the geothermal sites. These men are pulling a pot out of the ground!
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Everything is green…and pink!
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And the houses in every town are perfection
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The weather is a disaster and so is my hair. I’ve given up. Good thing the scenery is on point!
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The colors are incredibly vivid
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In case you were wondering how far away everything is from the Azores
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Like I said…it’s spectacular and also rainy
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I kind of like my new camera…yeah, I’ll keep it.
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As seen nailed to a tree on one of the trails today…OK, UNIVERSE. I GET IT. Consider me relaxed.

This has been one hell of a learning experience so far and I have to say…even the worst travel day is still a pretty damn good day. The kindness that my roommates, hostelmates, and complete strangers have shown me is incredible and I feel overwhelmed and so thankful. Do unto others, you know? You never know when you might need it. So thank you, Universe. Now please, please, please fix my phone. Amen.

 

37 thoughts on “Surprise! And olá from the Azores Islands!

  1. I do know where The Azores are, but then I am a complete nerd. I would fit in well with the crew from The Big Bang Theory. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  2. A bad day on a tropical island is better than a good day at work. 🙂

    Seriously, I keep wondering WTF everyday. November has me shaking in my shoes!

    1. Couldn’t agree more! It terrifies me. Maybe I’ll move out of the country before then, just in case.

  3. Oh.my.God Danielle!!!! Things can only get better, right? You’re handling all of this amazingly well and I’m sure, after a good night’s sleep, all will be better! Looking forward to getting an update 🙂
    And, I was in Portugal two years ago and it was one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been too! Of course, I was on the coast and not an island!

    1. Oh, I absolutely fell in love with Portugal! It did all get better throughout the rest of the trip, as you’ll see. Such a wonderful experience but man, that first day was ridiculous!

  4. That sounds crazy, glad you were able to make the bet of the situation. To be honest, I think I would have panicked…not because I didn’t have a cell phone but because I didn’t have a phone and didn’t know where I was.

    The photos from hiking are absolutely gorgeous. I also can’t believe you hiked after not getting any sleep. I would be exhausted. Enjoy the rest of trip and it has to get better right?

    1. It wasn’t such a big deal not to have the phone itself – it’s not like I could use it to call anyone or look up anything anyway, since I didn’t have service! It was more that I didn’t have a way to tell time or any way of getting in touch with anyone once I got back to a Wi-Fi area since my laptop was about to die. I was definitely exhausted, but it was worth it – I didn’t want to waste a single second of my trip! It all got so much better 🙂

  5. First off, you are maybe the coolest person ever. Secondly, I know about the Azores from House Hunters. Third, UGH your rainy hike would have been my nightmare (I hate wet shoes more than just about anything). and Fourth, BOOM Signs from the universe! Lol I hope everything improves and can’t wait to hear more!

    1. OMG, I totally want to live in the Azores now so maybe you will see me on House Hunters soon. It’s surprisingly inexpensive there! I definitely hate wet shoes too, but at that point, there wasn’t much I could do. I missed my boot dryers (I have them for when I work in the field) for sure, though!

  6. Danielle, you are my spirit animal.
    I read about your (mis)adventures and LONGED for the days I was backpacking around gorgeous foreign countries, getting lost, making friends, “talking” to nuns in remote Spanish locations about horrible weather (your farmer was my nun!) and not freaking out. Safe travels, Friend!

    1. That sounds amazing, Colby!! The experiences from solo travel are unlike any other. What an incredible experience!

    1. I ended up getting a Sony a6000 with two lenses! It’s a bit smaller than a DSLR but takes similar quality photos (well, if you know how to use it properly, which I admittedly do not). I wanted something that wouldn’t weigh me down when I was hiking or walking around cities. Not waterproof, but it survived this trek, thankfully!

  7. So glad day two was a lot better than day one and continues to be great! I have to admit I may have giggled at a few unfortunate parts but I am glad you are alright! 🙂 Be safe and continue to enjoy for us!

    1. Oh girl, I giggled too! I kept thinking “Wow, this sucks, but this is going to make a GREAT blog post” and laughing to myself. Hey, make lemonade out of lemons, right?

  8. I know where Azores are because I spent a little more than a year there with the USAF. I was stationed on Terceira island. I did go to Ponta Delgada because my grandfather had been there at the end of WW1. Glad you were still able to get around a see the beauty of the Azores.

    1. That is so awesome!! I wanted to island hop a bit but the flights are very expensive and there are no ferries this time of year there. I would love to go back one day! I bet Terceira is beautiful!

  9. So awesome, Danielle! I’m not sure what I would’ve done had I been in your situation…but I’m sure it would have involved crying!!

    Yes..the camera is amazing! Pics are phenomenal! Enjoy your trip ~ can’t wait to read more posts!

    1. The closest I came to crying was rehashing the whole thing to AJ via Skype that night. It seemed so much worse when I strung it all together and said it out loud! But in the moment, I was just trying to think as clearly as possible, and crying would definitely not have helped that. I’m surprised at myself!

  10. Honey, I am so glad you wrote this blog!! I feel a little better knowing you are with other girls and despite all the obstacles, you have come thru them like a rock star!!! Way to go! I am pretty sure I would have cried but I wouldn’t have gone alone in the first place….lol You are my idol! Have a good time on the rest of the trip, safe travels home and look forward to talking to you once back in the USA. Love you lots, xxoo

    1. Haha, thanks! I didn’t really have a choice. Sink or swim when you’re on your own, you know?

    1. I wouldn’t blame you one bit! Not having another choice but to solve my problems for myself put the whole situation in perspective. At home, I can vent to other people or rely on them for support or to fix my problems. In this situation, I couldn’t! No one to turn to but myself, so I just had to deal with it. I’m kind of amazed that I did!

  11. I enjoy every single one of your posts! You are such a good writer, and I love the voice you have! I love that you are able to add some comedy to a shitshow! Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    1. Thank you so much, Hannah! Looking at it from the outside, it was definitely a humorous situation, and I was able to recognize that as it was happening, which helped. It was just one thing after another! I did keep thinking “Oh, this is going to make such a great blog post!” 🙂

  12. Love all of this wonderful, horrible, exciting, terrifying mess of an update. So apparently there IS something that can defeat your glorious hair ,eh? 😀 Can’t wait for the rest … safe adventures!

    1. Oh yes, there is. It is called the Azores during the wet season! No good hair pics from this trip, for sure!

  13. Yeah, I’d say the first 36 hours of your trip earned the title “shitshow,” but it sounds like you handled it very well!

    I had my own “WTF am I going to do” moment(s), albeit on a much different scale, during my spur-of-the-moment trip to Montreal last summer. First was on the bus from the airport into downtown (pro tip: an $18 unlimited transit pass for 3 days, which is even cheaper in USD, is a steal when the airport shuttle is $10 each way… BTW, bus has wifi), when nearly everyone on the bus was speaking French, signage is mainly in French… and I know absolutely zero French. Thankfully, there’s enough signage in English, many people speak English, and taking Latin in high school gave me an inkling of the romance languages…

    Second moment (well, a series of moments) came the morning I was leaving, when I started getting alerts that my flight was delayed, and before I’d even gotten out of bed, the delay became a cancellation. Had some moments of frustration, but realized there was only so much I could do, and that I’d just have to roll with it and keep checking my options. Still made it out on my run that morning, just rerouted myself to the Vieux Port (Old Port), where there’s free wifi (see a pattern here?), so I could check my Delta app for any updates. Nothing from that point onward really went according to plan, but I made it home in the end, and the only real loss was that I missed my long run the next morning (I think I made it up the following day).

    OK, end ramble… your trip looks amazing so far, despite the challenges… looking forward to reading more about it!

    1. Free Wi-Fi is SO key! I think that is one of the hardest parts about traveling in other countries. We’re so used to being able to constantly connect to the internet and look up directions, change flights, or do whatever we need to that it’s hard not to have that to rely on somewhere else! I definitely relate. Sounds like you handled your challenges well, though! I have definitely gotten better about learning key words and phrases in other languages (especially for things like food, so I can read a menu!) because it makes life soooo much easier.

  14. Oh I would definitely have cried!! You are brave and awesome to travel alone and venture out to find and see the things you want to find and see. I always love reading your blog!! It’s so interesting! Better luck in the coming days!!!

    1. Thank you so much, Colleen! I don’t know that I’m brave, just impatient when it comes to wanting to go everywhere!

  15. Hi Danielle! First 2 days in São Miguel and if it makes you feel better, the first day started out as a complete shit show. I think it does start out crazy. I too, was close to panic mode but my mantra of “this is vacation, where do you really have to be?” Has helped!
    I hope my wireless bill is not monsterous due to my need for GPS and the fact that NO ONE takes AmEx and my visa has no chip, does not come to haunt me.
    It’s a glorious place, nonetheless. Even if driving is a nightmare. Happy travels!!!!

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