I am writing from the Azores — a chain of islands off the coast of Portugal. It took me about 48 hours of being on São Miguel, the biggest island, to figure out where I am. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the weather I would probably still be oblivious. The temperature has been between 60-70 degrees, which is usually perfect, except for the fact I was under the impression these islands somewhere south of Portugal and north of Morocco (and warm) — WRONG. 

I am WEST of Portugal in the middle of the fucking Atlantic Ocean. I am so far east of Portugal that when my friend sent me a screenshot of my location on Snap Maps, I swear my Bitmoji was drowning. I am so far off the coast of Europe that they should go ahead and rename these islands to “Europe’s Bermuda”. But, here’s the kicker: I booked the flight.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, you MORON. Well, you aren’t alone.

A little over a month ago, I told Arianna that I would plan our first destination — she was busy writing her thesis and I wasn’t busy. What Arianna doesn’t know is that I “researched” for about all of five minutes. I googled the cheapest flight to Europe, did a quick search to see which country the Azores belonged to and I looked at the first four pictures on Google Images to make sure it was pretty. Then, I told her that it was the perfect place to start our Europe backpacking expedition and booked the flights.

When people asked me where I was going, I kept saying that I was going to the “Azarks”… For the record, that’s not a real place. I think I was combining the Azores with the Ozarks?

Even though I am not tan (because it’s 60 degrees) and haven’t laid out on a white sandy beach (because it’s a volcanic island) — I am grateful we started our journey here. 

São Miguel is beautiful. During our short time, we’ve wandered the quirky city of Ponta Delgada, hitchhiked to and bathed in hot springs, swam in a thermal pool next to the ocean, saw the Twin Lakes and I even made it to a beach. Granted, it was black sand and I have mild burns on the bottom of my feet but I still enjoyed it. 

The Azores are Europe’s best-kept secret, a little paradise in the middle of the *fucking* Atlantic Ocean.

I retract my former statement, I am not a moron. I just prefer to wing it when it comes to traveling. It forces me to go out of my comfort zone and promotes spontaneity. I like talking to strangers, getting lost in cities, going where the locals go and befriending other travelers. So far, winging it has always worked out for me… except for that time I accidentally went on a party cruise. But at least I got a good story out of it.