Whether you’re dreaming of taking a career break to travel around Europe or you’re already in the planning stages, use this list as inspiration for your journey.
These are some of the epic, wondrous, soul-soothing moments I had the pleasure and privilege to experience as a solo traveler during my career break. Fasten your imaginary seat belts and get ready for an invigorating ride!
- I. Career Break Travel Ideas in Western Europe
- 1. Austria
- 2. France
- 3. Ireland
- 4. Italy
- 5. Malta
- 6. Portugal
- 7. Scotland
- 8. Spain
- II. Career Break Travel Ideas in Eastern Europe
- III. Career Break Travel Ideas in Southeastern Europe
- 10. Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 11. Croatia
- 12. Montenegro
Career Break Travel Ideas in Western Europe
Dance an imaginary waltz on a Danube River cruise
I kept humming the tunes of the Blue Danube on this whimsical day tour down the river, surrounded by medieval castles, swans and countryside perfect wineries. Getting there: from Vienna, I took a commuter train to Krems an der Donau and walked 20 minutes to the docking station. Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance: I bought mine on Viator and highly recommend this trip. And hey, perhaps you do get to dance a real waltz while there!
Attend a classical music concert where Mozart performed
Step back to 1700s Vienna in the beautifully restored Mozarthaus in the heart of downtown, where the genius himself played for the first time in the city. With ceilings and walls covered in richly ornamented frescos, you feel like you’re inside a work of art. The performance room is intimate and the quality of the concert was impeccable. I kept imagining the brilliant Mozart playing the piano with his extravagant blonde wig. Another treat: from the outside patio you can see his apartment windows. I recommend the Classical Concerts at Mozart’s House that I found on AirBnB.
Visit Dr. Sigmund Freud’s favorite spots in Vienna
Whether you love or hate Dr. Freud, the man delivered groundbreaking findings and theories to the field of psychology. If you’re on a quest to better understand the human mind and behavior, this is a great activity to add to your itinerary. The walking tour is offered by a local Viennese who took me and a few other ladies to some of Dr. Freud’s favorite hangouts. Soon after, I visited his home office, now the Sigmund Freud Museum. I felt the chills in his waiting room and a fleeting thought crossed my mind: could I have been a patient on his psychoanalytic couch 100 years ago? Tour info and tickets: Freud – Inside the Mind of a Genius.
Go wine tasting in Bordeaux’s 300+ year old vineyards
Ooh la lah, mon chéri! Raise a glass (or two, or three!) in the über charming vineyards, chateaus and cellars of one of the world’s top wine regions. I purchased a day tour at the Bordeaux tourist office and melted into the spirit of Baccus, visiting cellars that have been producing wine since the 1600s. The tour also included stops at medieval monasteries and churches in picturesque villages. Santé, cheers!
Eat fresh seafood at an artisanal oyster farm in Cap Ferret
The more than 300 oyster farms along the silvery waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Cap Ferret represent 10% of France’s oyster production. Not an oyster fan? Don’t worry: you’ll also find all kinds of shellfish and crustaceans. Pair them with luscious local white wines and rejoice in the spirit of joie de vivre, the “exuberant enjoyment of life” as the French call it. Oui!
Hike alongside 5,000 year old magical portals
Ireland’s green landscapes are just as mystical as they’re beautiful. I hopped on a commuter train from Dublin for a day hike in Howth, a coastal town only 40 minutes away. My tour guide was a sweet young man who immersed us in nature, local tales and mythical legends. It was there that I learned about dolmans, ancient burial sites aligned with the solstice, home to fairies and otherworldly beings (what? you don’t believe in fairies?). We stopped for pictures on the dolman where a brokenhearted princess was buried in 200 AD after the death of her beloved prince. The breeze blew gently on my face whispering a million Celtic stories. I strongly recommend the Coastal Hike with Howth Adventures, which I found on AirBnB Experiences.
Drink Guinness at the original 1759 factory
Even if you’re not a beer drinker, your trip to Dublin can’t be complete without a stop at the original Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate. The immersive museum-like experience is top notch, a sensorial ride into the history of the beer and the city itself.
Singalong to Irish music in a charming pub
To me, Irish music has joy and nostalgia joined like lacework. Dublin delivered some of the most captivating moments of my career break when I was right in the middle of the musical action singing along with local musicians and tourists alike.
Discover ancient Rome by bike
The eternal city feels even more fascinating with the breeze blowing on your face as you pedal over its ancient cobblestone streets and bridges filled with stories and might.
Watch a professional tennis match at Foro Italico
I was lucky enough to land in Rome when the then #1 (Novak Djokovic) and #5 (Stefanos Tsitsipas) top world players were facing each other at the Italian Open final. Sure, my last minute ticket wasn’t necessarily cheap, but for 300 euros I saw a battle of titans.
Honor pre-history in the oldest free-standing structures on Earth
Located in the island of Gozo, Malta, the Ggantija Temples were built between the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. They’re older than the Egyptian pyramids and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The on-site museum will also take you on a fascinating journey through time. For more Malta travel tips, visit my Best Things To Do in Malta.
Channel your inner goddess at Calypso’s Cave
Unleash your inner goddess by visiting the site believed to be the island of Ogygia described in Homer’s Odyssey. The Greek goddess Calypso lived in this complex of caves that extend to the sea, holding her shipwrecked human lover Odysseus captive. The Mediterranean views are stunning. For more Malta travel tips, visit my Best Things To Do in Malta.
Sail into sunset like 16th century explorers
I love boats and had the honor and privilege to fulfill a bucket list by sailing in Lisbon’s Tagus River (Rio Tejo). My motivation was to see what 16th century explorers last saw before they ventured into the Atlantic ocean and “discovered” my native Brazil. I purchased a 2-hour sailboat trip on AirBnB Experiences. Learn more about this experience and many others on my Lisbon-Portugal Travel Tips.
Sip Port wine in a Douro River Valley cruise
The Douro River Valley is one of the most ancient wine regions in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy delicious Port wine and appetizers as you move through the tiered terraces filled with spectacular vineyards and history. For more information, visit my Porto travel tips: Things To Do in Porto, Portugal.
Visit the Sanctuary of Fatima, the 4th biggest Catholic pilgrimage site in the world
Fatima is a bucket list for Catholics, the town where the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared to three little shepherds in 1917. I’m spiritual, not religious, but grew up Catholic and always wanted to visit Fatima. Make sure to stop by the village where the children grew up and consider attending mass at the Basilica. Curious fact: the dome hosts the bullet that pierced Pope John Paul II during his assassination attempt. It’s only a day trip from Lisbon and a popular itinerary among tour operators. For more information visit my Lisbon-Portugal Travel Tips.
Take a road trip in the Scottish Highlights visiting lochs, mountains and whimsical castles
The Scottish countryside is pure bliss for your senses: green mountains, serene lochs and vast green fields that connect you to peace. I met up with my wonderful friends Lucci and Thamine in Inverness and from there we drove to Glencoe for the evening. We stopped at places like Loch Ness (the monster!), Urquhart Castle and the spectacular mountains around Lagangarbh Hut (where the “Wee White House” is located). Read my article with tips for a 4-day road trip in the Scottish Highlands.
Taste whiskey at an underground medieval jail in Edinburgh
Yes, you may have noticed that tasting local libations was definitely top of mind during my career break. Even though I’m not a regular whiskey drinker, I had to immerse my taste buds in the local elixirs (had to!). This Underground Whisky Tasting at The Lost Close is fun and unique. You’ll sip several whiskeys and learn about their history in a unique space uncovered right before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Continue reading after this brief pause for an important announcement 🙂
Let it burn in Valencia’s Las Fallas (Fire Festival)
I honored a childhood dream to visit this beautiful coastal city, choosing Las Fallas as a symbolic way to burn the past to create space for a new life. The festival is loud, crazy and wild, but not only did I have a blast (pun intended), I also saw miracles unfolding in my life soon after. Read about my Las Fallas experience here.
Watch a bullfight
Definitely not an event for sensitive souls, but a bullfight was a bucket list item. Back in 2008 when I went to Seville, a torrential rain poured over the arena moments after I entered it, cancelling the event. This time around in Valencia I knew I had to finish what I started. A bullfight is brutal, bloody, savage. I had been warned, but chose to experience it anyway. I left with a knot on my stomach as soon as the second bull was killed, from a total of six. I’m glad I attended and no, I wouldn’t do it again.
Learn to cook paella
From picking fresh ingredients at the farmer’s market, to chopping and prepping vegetables and meats, this paella cooking class in Valencia is both fun and delicious! Red wine sangria flowing, the smell of saffron rising: olé! I strongly recommend My First Paella (I even heard from locals that this is considered one of the best paellas in town).
Career Break Travel Ideas in Eastern Europe
Listen to jazz in an underground club
I knew that the Czech Repulic produced some of the best classical musicians on the planet, but I never thought that American jazz, which I love, would be a thing in Czechia. Prague’s Old Town nightlife led me to two excellent places that delivered beautiful music and stairways into the core of the Earth:
Ungelt Jazz and Blues Club: this fairy tale-like tavern with a cellar and medieval armory adorning the walls is located in a 15th century building.
Jazz Republic: a modern looking venue that supposedly served as a nuclear shelter in the Soviet days. Arrive early to save a table and enjoy the intimate vibe.
Career Break Travel Ideas in Southeastern Europe
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Visit the 15th century home of the mystical Dervish in Blagaj Tekke
Bosnia and Herzegovina is so much more than the history of the atrocious 1990s Balkan war. It has both magnificent natural beauty and a fascinating, rich cultural past. Blagaj Tekke, just 6 miles outside of Mostar, was a 15th century Dervish (Sufi) monastery built next to a cave on the banks of the crystalline waters of the Buna River. The house is extremely well preserved and hosts a hammam (Turkish bath). Though surrounded by modern cafés, Blagaj Tekke is a jewel of mysticism, history, beauty and tranquility. From Sarajevo, you can book a day tour with the excellent Meet Bosnia tour operator.
Join pilgrims in Medjugorje, the site of the Virgin Mary’s 1981 apparition
The Vatican doesn’t recognize Medjugorje, claiming that the Virgin Mary’s apparitions are neither approved nor condemned. However, this hasn’t stopped more than 40 million people from all over the world from coming to this small town of 4,000 people to honor their faith and seek miracles. The apparitions supposedly still happen in the present days. I took a 1.5 hour bus from Mostar and spent a morning in Medjugorje, where I attended mass and climbed the rocks of Apparition Hill.
Go island hopping on a speedboat
The Croatian coastline is splendid! During my stay in Dubrovnik, “the Pearl of the Adriatic,” I spent eight hours on a speedboat visiting gorgeous islands, snorkeling and eating delicious seafood in picture perfect villages. Lucky me: the other guests canceled at the last minute and I had the entire boat to myself! I highly recommend the Sea, Sun and Fun by Boat with Mario. He’s professional, kind and a local who knows the region really well.
Swim and hike on the island where quarantine was invented (and sit on the Iron Throne!)
We all became familiar with the term “quarantine” in the Earth shattering 2020, but did you know that the term was invented in Croatia? Back in the late 1300s, at the peak of the black plague, the Croatian authorities instituted a mandatory 40-day stop in Lokrum Island to all boats arriving in Dubrovnik.
Today you can reach Lokrum by ferry or kayak and spend a peaceful day hiking or swimming in its crystal clear waters, including a salt lake perfect for floating. It has charming restaurants and cafés, a museum and an HBO Game of Thrones experience that includes the original Iron Throne used on the show (many scenes were filmed on site). Of cooooourse I had to channel my inner Khaleesi with imaginary dragons.
Taste wine and olive oil on a mountain overlooking the Adriatic Sea
The smell of pine, apricots, wild figs and earth; vineyards and olive groves swaying gently against a backdrop of towering mountains; the blue Adriatic scintillating golden afternoon sun rays on the horizon: the Sunset Wine Tasting experience I found on AirBnB is the stuff romantic dreams are made of (and I was having a passionate love affair with myself).
Paddleboard to an oyster farm at the Bay of Kotor and be greeted by dolphins
Jaw-dropping mountains, pristine sea and extremely well preserved medieval towns: the Bay of Kotor may very well be what heaven feels like. I was stunned at the beauty of this tiny former Yuguslavian country, selfishly hoping that the rest of the world won’t overcrowd it in my lifetime. Too late. I’m sharing it here.
I took a cab from my rental apartment in Dobrota, only 30 minutes from Tivat (Montenegro’s capital) and spent an unforgettable sunset on an SUP board paddling into the night. We stopped to eat mussels and oysters at one of the numerous farms that speckle the bay with colorful buoys. On the way back, as the night veil covered us with stars, the first dolphins of the season came nearby to greet us. Magical sprinkles, I vow to forever channel you! I strongly recommend the SUP-tour in Kotor Bay to Oyster’s Farm experience I found on AirBnBn.
Do you need more information about any of these experiences?
Send me a message and I’ll reply shortly after!