We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Sam Flanagan (@sam_flanagan) discusses her favorite locations around Europe.
I’ve lived on the edge of the English countryside for nearly two years which, I admit, I never imagined as an American who dreamed of living in Europe. My husband and I picked Cambridge for purely practical reasons — it was central for both of our commutes and provided easy access to the train for me — but I quickly fell in love with the area because of the surrounding landscape and its charm. I love to wander through nearby villages and fens with my camera, typically stumbling upon buildings that are hundreds of years old and ending the day in a local tearoom. Most people think Cambridgeshire is a big trip from London, but I used to commute to the city nearly every day. It’s a simple, beautiful escape from a more chaotic life.
When the sun is out, you will probably find me in Grantchester Meadows, two miles southwest of the Cambridge city center. I could bike the whole way from my house, but my favorite way is to walk the 30 minutes along the river from Sheep’s Green to the Orchard Tea Garden or the Red Lion pub, where they sometimes have movie nights under the stars, complete with classic, striped British beach chairs.
On summer days, there are hundreds of people out for picnics, the river is overcrowded with punts and boats, and some people even swim. Cambridge is about a two hour drive from the nearest beach, so I think everyone decided Grantchester would be our local waterfront escape instead. It’s definitely my favorite place to spend an afternoon with a blanket and a bottle of prosecco.
The most incredible part of living in England is the proximity to so many other fairytale places. Flying out of the country is actually often more affordable than taking trains within England sometimes, so I try to visit somewhere new at least once a month, even if only for a few days.
The Amalfi Coast has always been a dream of mine, so when I learned that some members of my family had planned a trip here, I jumped at the chance to join them. Positano was the one place I had to see while I was there, and all I can say is that it is as magical as it looks in photographs. I was only there for one day, but I’m going to spend a lifetime thinking of the pastel hues of the buildings and the shades of blue of the sea.
While on my trip to the Amalfi Coast, I based myself in Sorrento, where my younger cousin was studying abroad and my extended family was staying. I honestly didn’t know anything about the town when I booked my hotel, but the day I spent wandering the streets with my camera and ended up being the highlight of my trip.
I started my day in the lemon orchards on the east side of town, pushed my way through the tourists in the market, and made it down to the Marina Grande, which, despite its name, is actually the smaller of the two marinas in town. Eventually, I stumbled on the bright and beautiful Hotel Bellevue Syrene and had to stop for the view. I treated myself to pizza and rosé on the balcony under a canopy of wisteria and against a backdrop of Mount Vesuvius towering over the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was breathtaking.
The Balkans might be my favorite region of Europe. The area is so wild, untouched, and free.
The coastal roads to Kotor were completely empty as I drove them. I climbed to an abandoned fortress on a hill, befriended the shopkeepers and stray cats, and had the most unique, homemade wines and cakes. I hesitate to even write of it, because part of me wants to be selfish and keep it all to myself.
This was one of the most incredible trips I’ve taken since moving overseas, and it terrified me before I went. No matter how many times I travel solo to a new place, I always feel anxious. But I force myself to ignore those feelings and I am a completely different person because of it. Living in Europe is an incredible opportunity, and I am so lucky to travel and to see these places with my own eyes. These adventures — the ones that push me my limits, the unscripted kind — these are the adventures I always love most.