The Travelling Bag returns, setting out on a new adventure for 2018. Originally curated to connect our global community, by passing a bag traveller to traveller, The Travelling Bag's journey continues this year, encouraging each owner to delve deeper into the place they're exploring, to focus on travelling against the norm and creating deeper connections with the places they visit.
Our first adventure follows designer and art director Hannah Tomlinson, during a three-week stay re-discovering Lisbon. Her story perfectly illustrates how travel can inspire creativity and ideas as part of your working life, proving it's not just an escape from the 9-5. It can add a whole new perspective and excitement to your productivity as well as to the work you produce.
Words & Photography by Hannah Tomlinson
With only a month to go before I relocated to Switzerland for a new job in Zürich – and not wanting to miss an opportunity to squeeze out all the last juicy bits of life as a digital nomad – my trusty travel buddy Sarah and I hopped on a plane to our favourite city, the beautiful Lisbon.
We left the cold, grey skies of Manchester behind and arrived just before midnight. Although it wasn't either of our first times in the city, I still had that excited feeling you get when you arrive in a new place in the dark of night and don't really get a sense of where you are until you wake up the next morning and open the shutters. And nothing compares to waking up to sunshine lapping at your window, waiting to be let in. I jumped out of bed with the biggest grin on my face as Sarah and I opened our doors and said, in unison, "this was the best idea ever!".
Eager to explore, we went for breakfast at a little café down the street, pointing out places we'd been to before and those we wanted to go to again, before returning to our apartment to, reluctantly, start work.
Our weekday mornings were pretty routine after that. Alarms would go off, be ignored, and go off again. Quiet shuffles to the bathroom and cold water splashed on sleepy faces. Rolling out our mats and stretching through asanas as the sun came up over the mismatched skyline, warming the washing that was hanging out from the previous day, colouring the buildings golden-yellow, mint green and candy pink.
We'd do a coffee run down to Hello Kristof, or pad across the square to get fresh juice from Yao, then eat breakfast sat on wonky stools at the tiny wooden table in the kitchen, window open but socks and jumpers still on (got to love those fresh breezy mornings!). In the living room we'd open the doors onto the balcony and let in the sounds and smells of the street below; usually a mix of fresh pastries, laundry, cars honking and trams shuddering along. We'd excitedly rub suncream into our slowly freckling skin, then it was time to work.
Laptops open, notebooks poised, headphones on and Spotify playlists started. Our 'office' was the big white table in the living room, conveniently positioned right in front of the balcony doors so we would get the sun all day and fresh air would dance around us as we typed and Skyped and scribbled. It's incredible how much work you can get done with the promise of a walk in the sunshine at lunchtime, an afternoon trip to the beach, or an evening of wandering down windy cobbled streets in the dusty twilight.
On our first Saturday, we jumped on a train to Sintra. The train was packed and got increasingly claustrophobic as the sun's rays warmed us through the windows.
When we arrived in Sintra the sky was littered with clouds and the air was so humid it felt almost silky, like you could reach out and grab a piece of it and run it between your fingers. We walked through the old town, stopping by intricately-tiled fountains and taking photos of old shop signs with beautifully hand-painted typography. My friend said she remembered the way to Pena Palace from the last time she was there – as it turned out, she didn't, and we went the long way up, through a dense, slippery forest path and along steep, winding roads only wide enough for one car. It smelled like eucalyptus. As we continued further and further uphill, jackets were stuffed into our backpacks, our water bottles were emptied (the cookies we had packed didn't last long either), and most of the time we walked in silence, occasionally pausing to look around at the blanket of trees and laugh that we were, most likely, completely lost.
Almost two hours later, we spotted a few tourists parking up on the roadside and, through a break in the trees, we could see the bright yellow and blue of the palace, basking in a pocket of sunshine. We dragged our tired legs up the last 400m and walked slowly around the old buildings, hands reaching out to run fingertips over colourful tiles and cracks in the walls. From the edge of the palace walls, we could see all the way back to Lisbon and the ocean. It truly felt like a magical place, and it was with heavy hearts (and legs) that we began our descent back down towards the train.
The following Sunday we ventured out of Lisbon again, this time 3 hours north to Porto. We left our apartment before sunrise and got on the train just as the sky was starting to turn pink. We rolled past small towns and even smaller villages, with white-washed houses and old gas stations straight from a movie set, locals sipping coffee and gesturing expressively with their hands. Occasionally we'd catch a glimpse of the ocean across the fields or in between the trees. Although we didn't have long to explore Porto, we instantly fell in love with the steep hills and colourful buildings, the incredible gelato (Cremosi) and the surprisingly high quality of its buskers. The city was much busier with tourists than Lisbon, but we managed to find a quiet spot down by the Douro River and sat watching the afternoon sun dance over the water's surface, legs swinging over the side of the wall. On the train home that evening we ate cold pizza and pastel de natas that we'd picked up at a small takeaway near the Jardim da Cordoaria, vowing to return to Porto one day.
Over the course of the next few weeks, our apartment was affectionately referred to as 'our place' and Lisbon as 'home'. The staff in our favourite coffee shops started to recognise us and remember our orders, and we relied less and less on Google maps to help us find our way around the city. It felt good to 'live' there for a while and enjoy some downtime that you don't always get when you visit a city for a short break and feel like you have to 'cram it all in'.
A highlight for me was an afternoon we spent at Caparica beach – just 20minutes in a taxi from the city centre, but really it felt like worlds away. We walked down a creaky wooden boardwalk towards the ocean, squealing like kids when we caught the first glimpse of water and felt the first bit of sand between our toes. It was a Tuesday afternoon so the beach was quiet, just a few surfers out in the waves and the occasional dog walker. After a brief but wonderful dip in the freezing cold water, we sat on that beach for hours, just drinking it all in, the sunshine, the salty air, the calming repetition of the waves.
We left Lisbon after three wonderful weeks with freckled faces, fresh sea air in our lungs, new stories to tell, and having got more work done than we ever thought we would. It's true what they say, immersing yourself in new experiences and environments really does spark your creativity. Now I'm looking forward to a new adventure in Switzerland, and I'll be sure to take my Millican bag with me for lunchtime strolls by the lake, bike rides through the city and weekend trips to the mountains.