TOP 5… As Yet Unseen: Europe

I love reading and writing reviews of places travelled, sharing experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. However I also love the buzz and excitement, dreaming of exploring those destinations as yet unvisited – a viewpoint I seldom see on other blogs / websites.

I wanted to share my excitement prior to visiting these locations so we all go on the journey together; from day dreaming, to trip planning and then finally living the dream and exploring each of these amazing destinations with each and every one of you. So here goes…

5. Bosnia and Herzegovina

First up, its Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yes, I know it’s a bit cheeky having an entire country on the list – but it is a land far too amazing to limit a trip to one spot. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most underrated and unexplored natural wonders in Europe, with just under 1.5m foreign tourists per year visiting the Balkan beauty based on 2019 figures (I have excluded 2020’s stats for obvious reasons).

For some the initial mental image conjured up when I say Bosnia & Herzegovina will be Mostar Bridge, however sadly for many the scenes of war from the news in years gone by will dominate.

Bosnia & Herzegovina has a troubled recent history – between 1992 and 1995 the Bosnian War saw an estimated 97,207 people killed. There have been many convictions for war crimes in the Bosnian war, including Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić & Ratko Mladić for committing genocide. It is incredibly important to bear this in mind when travelling to this region and be respectful of this. I strongly encourage you to visit the memorials across the country such as the Srebrenica–Potočari Memorial to pay your respects and learn about the history of the country.

Despite the troubled past, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a thriving country bursting with amazing culture and natural beauty. Bucket list activities include walking across the UNESCO world heritage bridge in Visegrad (pictured above), visiting the Pliva Waterfall located in Jajce town centre, exploring the capital Sarajevo, a trip to the aforementioned Mostar, climbing Maglic Mountain to swim in Trnovacko Lake in Sutjeska National Park, and finally rafting down Štrbački buk in Una National Park pictured below.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country rich with history, culture and natural beauty all bundled up in to one fantastic package. Whilst I love finding hidden gems off the well trodden tourist path, it feels wrong that only 1.5m foreign tourists visit this nation each year. For perspective, that means that on average the UK has more tourists in 2 weeks than visit Bosnia and Herzegovina in an entire year. This is definitely one to add to your bucket list!

4. Tibilisi & Batumi, Georgia

So number 5 was a little cheeky, but number 4 is as cheeky as it gets. The country of Georgia is in the Caucasus, right on the borderline between Eastern Europe and Western Asia – however as they are eligible for membership of European institutions including the EU and most importantly Eurovision… that qualifies Georgia for the European list in my book.

Now for the second elephant in the room. Yes, Tbilisi and Batumi are 2 separate cities approximately 400km apart – but let me explain…

The former Soviet state of Georgia is widely known as just that – a part of the old Soviet Union, but Georgia has so much culture and excitement to offer! A melting pot of Ottoman, Persian, Armenian and Soviet history and influences and a former stop along the famous Silk Road, Georgia is an intriguing and relatively unexplored nation. Tbilisi, the capital city, is one of Europes most up and coming cities, and is a must for my Top 5 list!

After exploring Tbilisi, the city becomes the perfect hub to launch out for day trips, my selection being;

  • the Monuments of Mtskheta, photographed above
  • a visit to Josef Stalin’s birthplace of Gori
  • exploring the oldest cave city in Georgia, Uplistsikhe

If a wine tasting floats your boat, then a trip to Sighnaghi is a must. Whilst visiting Sighnaghi is something I would like to do, this will be the trip I am prepared to sacrifice given I don’t really drink!

The chances are I will only ever visit Georgia once, so it makes sense to travel between cities & locations as and when required to ensure that key sights are not missed. So on that note…

Following exploring Tbilisi and the surrounding areas, a road trip to the Black Sea resort of Batumi is top of my list of priorities in Georgia (photographed below). The drive to Batumi would take at least a day, as there are a minimum of 10 stops to make along the way, my number 1 priority being a visit to Borjomi-Kharagauli national park in the lower Caucusus.

Once in Batumi my priorities are; taking the Argo Cable car in to the Anuria Mountain to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and its skyline, enjoying the pebbled beaches on the Black Sea, experiencing the restaurants & nightlife, and exploring the eclectic mix of neoclassical architecture alongside modern interpretations of architecture from the elite of Georgia in the present day.

Special thanks to for the inspiration to travel to Georgia and for some of the locations suggested above! If you want to check out their comprehensive Georgia travel guide, is is available here.

3. The Lofoten Islands, Norway

I have done it! At last, I have chosen an individual location. To be completely honest with you, there were 2 or 3 places in Norway that could have made this Top 5 list however I plan on multiple trips here and so I settled on just 1, and the winner is…. the Lofoten Islands.

The four main islands of Lofoten are Moskenesøy, Vestvågøy, Austvågøy and Flakstadøy. Located in the Arctic Circle, you would think that this is going to be a pretty bloody cold trip, right?! Well, you’d be wrong… or kind of wrong. The climate of the Lofoten Islands is described as mild winters and warm summers. Average winter temperatures are around 0 and on average in summer you can expect the low teens – so I would suggest the words “mild” and “warm” are a little generous by most standards, however this is the Arctic Circle after all!

Within the Lofoten Islands you will find beautiful fjords surrounded by imposing snow capped mountains. For the winter sport enthusiasts amongst you, if you travel here in the winter months one of the most popular activities is skiing. The winter is also the best time to see the humpback & killer whales around the Lofoten Islands – considered to be the best location in the world to see these ginormous species in real life, booking a whale watching trip is a must!

I will be travelling here in the winter months, but not primarily for the winter sports or the killer whales, but more for this…

The Lofoten Islands are the perfect location to see the aurora borealis, better known as the northern lights. This natural phenomenon occurs due to disturbances in the magnetosphere cause by solar winds (I have no idea either). But it is incredible!

Seeing the northern lights has been at the top of my travel wish list for years. Visiting Norway has been up at the top of that list for years too… I think its rather fitting that I check both items off the list in one trip! I know it is very much dependent on the weather conditions, however I will be booking a few days here to give myself the best possible chance to experience the northern lights in real life rather than through computer / TV screens!

2. Sardinia, Italy

Sadly, as I am writing this post, news has broken of wildfires burning through Sardinia. Already over 900 families have been forced to flee their homes and the fire has consumed over 20,000 hectares of land. The Italian fire fighters, with support planes from France and Greece are battling to get the fires under control. I wish them all the best in their brave efforts, and I send my love and support to the families impacted in this tragedy. Sardinia will be back just as beautiful, and stronger than ever.

From one extreme to the other – the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The warmth, the perfect golden beaches, and the clear waters with their famous turquoise shimmer sounds like the perfect trip to warm up after near frost bite conditions in Norway!

Sardinia is a large island, second only to Sicily in the Mediterranean, but wherever you choose to spend your time, you will be sure to make memories that last a lifetime.

I have previously had a full trip to Sardinia booked, but unfortunately had to cancel last minute due to injuries sustained in a car accident… but that’s a story for another time! It does however mean that I have a well researched plan of exactly what to do and where to stay, so here goes;

Starting with my number one tip for Italy, and specifically Sardinia, a stay at an Agriturismo. In short, taking the translation quite literally, they are tourist farms. Set in the rolling hills of Sardinia, there are hundreds of Agriturismo’s to choose from, some with views down to the sea, a chance to eat and drink produce directly from the farm, what is not to love?

Yes, I am sure some will be enhanced reality for the tourist trade, but that’s the same wherever you go! And it is certainly not a reason to avoid these little gems. I would recommend that you don’t spend your full trip here though – a night or 2 will suffice!

Next stop for me is the ancient walled city of Alghero, situated on the north west of the island. Alghero, captured by Catalan conquerors in the middle ages is one of the most beautiful and interesting destinations on the island. The historical charm of this stronghold has been preserved brilliantly, giving a chance to admire both its beauty and its history. The Catalan legacy is still visible today – with many inhabitants the direct descendants of the Catalonians, the co-official language of the town is the Alguerès dialect of the Catalan language.

A trip to Sardinia wouldn’t be complete without heading down south for a night in Cagliari before flying home! The historic capital of Sardinia, located on the seafront, the city rises up to Il Castello, giving breath-taking views back over the city itself. On the southern tip of the island, Cagliari is the most traditionally Italian city in an otherwise very unique island. The tight streets with plant lined balconies, Vespa scooters weaving in and out of tourists and locals alike. What is not to love?

1. The Bay Of Kotor, Montenegro

Here it is, my number 1 destination of my Top 5… As Yet Unseen: Europe list is the Bay of Kotor, or Boka Kotorska, Montenegro.

The Bay of Kotor has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, and encompasses several medieval towns such as Kotor, Tivat & Perast. It is incredibly hard to describe Boka Kotorska and do it justice.

Gorgeous, breathtaking, majestic, divine; however hefty your thesaurus, the brain-blowing beauty of the Bay of Kotor will leave you struggling for superlatives

Lonely Planet

They’re not wrong…

In the 18th century Boka Kotorska rivalled the naval fleets of Dubrovnik and Venice, however in the years since then its popularity declined. Kotor has had various ruling forces occupy their land…

From the French to Napoleon and the Italians, back to Montenegro with Russian backing and then to the Austrian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire before becoming part of Yugoslavia, and then Serbia and Montenegro following the collapse of Yugoslavia, until 2006 when Montenegro seceded from the union gaining full independence.

Since then, Montenegro has flourished. Approximately 2.5m foreign tourists visit the country each year, of which a large proportion travel to Boka Kotorska. This figure is still relatively low compared to other destinations, however it has increased by over 50% between 2016 and 2019. The positive being that the infrastructure improves to accommodate the increased numbers of tourists, with the negative that some of the charm will inevitably be lost as the tourist trade is capitalised upon.

From kayaking through the Blue Cave on the Lustica Peninsula, to exploring Our Lady of Rocks and Perast old town, or hiking the Ladder of Kotor for the ultimate view back over Boka Kotorska, there are endless activities and amazing things to see in this region.

Flights from the UK are direct in to Tivat, meaning holidays here are very easy to arrange and flights often start around the £90 return mark meaning they are also incredibly affordable! This is a popular destination, and given its status as a not so hidden gem, it is not as cheap as some other locations in the Balkans. Boutique hotels will cost around £350-450 for a week based on 2 adults sharing, however there are good quality apartments for approximately £150-250 per week. If you want a luxurious stay, dates in September currently cost around £540 for 2 people flights and accommodation for 7 nights. Given the location and the experiences, I would suggest that is fantastic value for money!

So there you have it, my Top 5… As Yet Unseen: Europe! Are there any destinations here you have added to your travel plans? Or anywhere else you think I should have considered? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a good ‘un guys!

Maximising Your ‘Dash’

From time to time we all get a sobering reminder of our own, and our loved ones mortality. It is something I have always struggled with, and ultimately feared. Why? Because I am not ready to go! There is so much I want to say, so much I want to achieve, to see, to experience. Life is delicate and time is not guaranteed, its about time we all started maximising our dash!

father and son
Photo by Sam @ Pursuit of Purpose


by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own; the cars, the house, the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

Live In The Present

Its part of the human condition that we are forever planning the future and working for tomorrow and neglecting the present day. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, or even if there is a tomorrow – we all need to start living in the here and now.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy), John Lennon

To Plan, Or Not To Plan?

Of course it is important to make plans and to have some form of structure – to know the desired destination – but let life grow and manoeuvre organically towards that end goal. That isn’t to say we should be passive along the way, some gentle, and maybe a few firmer, steers every now and again are likely to be required.

Are you a planner? Making sure every little detail is considered and planned for, every hour of each trip has a planned activity, every event runs to pre-set fixed agendas?

Naturally, I am. Knowing when to step back and to stop planning has been difficult, but finding that balance has been so rewarding.

Plan the big things, make a list of all the things you want to do – a bucket list of sorts! Make sure your life has direction and you are moving towards you goals, but leave room for happiness and enjoyment.

Your Dash

Ultimately your dash, your life, is just that – YOURS.

We spend so much time these days looking to please others, seeking validation or acceptance from friends, or even strangers on social media. Forget them. Step back for a second and think…

“Am I proud of how I am living my dash?”

We only get one dash, whether it ends up being a short story or a novel. So if the answer to the question above is no – consider what things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

Are You A Mindful Tourist?

I feel like I’m playing cliché bingo with these posts at times… but seriously, are you a mindful tourist? No, I am not asking if you meditate each morning, but rather are you conscious of your surroundings, mindful of your responsibilities as a guest of each location you visit, and maximising your travels?

Panathenaic Stadium in Athens
Photo by Pursuit of Purpose

I think it’s safe to say that when any of us go travelling, we take at least a few photos at standard tourist landmarks – like me above at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. Whenever you visit sites like this, there are countless boards and signs either at the entrance, or all around the site making clear the specific rules for that location. But are there any general rules we should always follow when travelling?

Cultural Awareness

My number 1 rule is to have a cultural awareness of the city / country / region I am visiting and exploring. Taking some time to research prior to travelling benefits everyone – it means that you get a more authentic experience and you can plan your trip accordingly, and it means that the local environment is impacted as little as possible.

For example, if I am visiting a country in the middle east it is likely that the weekend will be Friday & Saturday whilst Sunday is a normal working day and I will adjust plans accordingly. The working week as we know it – Monday to Friday – is based on Christianity, with Saturday a day of rest and Sunday a day of worship. Different countries with different official religions therefore follow slightly different working weeks.

In countries where religion is still a strong part of society, holy days often see shops and restaurants close for at least part of the day with only skeleton services operating. Plan your trip with this in mind, and be respectful of religious customs.

Seek Out Authenticity

Naturally, locations with high tourist footfall cater for those tourists with standard food & drink (e.g. pizza & burgers), and souvenirs – the vast majority of which will likely be drastically over priced and poor quality.

So whilst visiting the tourist attractions is likely going to form part of any trip – they are normally tourist hot spots for a reason – I will avoid eating and drinking in these areas, and search out restaurants serving local cuisine and bars frequented by the local population. Are souvenirs a necessity? For some, yes – a magnet or a shot glass maybe – shops throughout each city / location will sell almost identical items but often far better value for money the further you get from the attraction itself.

I know the point re food is potentially a little contentious, but for me personally I cannot understand why anyone would travel to a foreign country to eat the same food they do at home. I will avoid “English” or “American” foods as much as possible, and opt for local dishes. You don’t know if you like it if you never try it!

Plan Ahead… Be Prepared To Change

This one sounds a little stupid, but it’s one of the most important to maximise the experience. I will always make plans well before I arrive in a location – from day trips & restaurant reservations to the approximate route I will walk (or at least an order of certain landmarks I will visit). Despite this, I will also be prepared to change and cancel the plans I have pre-booked… and here is why;

No matter how much research and planning goes in to a trip, until boots are on the ground and the experience is being lived, you don’t really have a genuine feel for the place. Often when you are in a location new opportunities arise – maybe you get talking to a local and get invited to a gig or for a meal, you see a day trip to a location you hadn’t considered, you get told about a must see location off the tourist trail. Whatever it is, be prepared to say YES!

I have often found the best experiences come in these spontaneous moments. Even the ones that aren’t what you expect can provide a laugh and a great memory – if I hadn’t said yes, I wouldn’t have been driven around Bucharest in an old Lada in the middle of the night, with a guy who had a photo in his wallet of him with Pablo Escobar… it’s a long story.

Make The Most Of It!

Whenever I travel to a location I know the likelihood is I will not return there – no matter how much I love it. I just have too many places on my travel bucket list – and whilst maybe a little unrealistic, I want to travel the entire world before I go back to revisit locations.

Whether or not you share that ethos, the chances of you returning to that same city or location are pretty slim. So make the most of your time there! I travel with the sole intention of exploring, so I aim to maximise every moment I have there;

Need an early start a couple of mornings to fit things in? DO IT.

Have a couple of late nights to get the full authentic experience and don’t get a full 8 hours sleep? DO IT.

Get invited to spend an evening with locals? DO IT.

Life is uncertain – as we have seen over the last couple of years – so I live each trip as if it’s my last & do everything I ever wanted to do in that city or that location. If you have planned a holiday to relax, then do just that – chill out and don’t plan anything in. It’s not something I do anymore, but each to their own! To be honest, if you are booking a holiday to chill, I doubt you have got this far through the post…

English & Irish Bars

Here we go. The only ‘negative’ rule on my list. Do not go to an English or an Irish Pub unless you are in… England or Ireland!!!

As a young kid I used to be really confused as to why English tourists had such a bad name… and then I discovered English bars, such as The George and Dragon in Prague’s famous old town square and Irish Bars, with a variety of generic Irish names and often the image of a Leprechaun or 4 leaf clover. Normally frequented by people wearing English football shirts with either St George’s cross flag or bull dog tattoos.

Just no. Under no circumstance is it ever ok to go in any bars like this. If you see one, you are probably in the wrong part of town!

What are your travel do’s and don’ts? Leave a comment and let me know!

Why I Quit Drinking.

It is prime time summer, the pubs and bars are finally opening up properly again in post lockdown UK, the weather has been unusually warm, and the Euros are in full swing. Football may well be coming home, after 55 years away… so why on earth would I choose now to quite drinking? Why quit drinking at all?


A lot of these kinds of post can get very preachy and self righteous, so I will preface this post with a quick point of clarification – I am not writing this to try and make other people stop drinking. Neither will I be suggesting that people who do not drink are in some way enlightened or more intelligent than those who do, that simply isn’t true.

Why Quit Drinking?

In the UK, as I am sure in other nations, we seem to have this belief that there is an intrinsic link between fun, happiness and alcohol.

So over the last 18 months, I have completed 2 charity challenges to raise money for mental health charity, Andy’s Man Club and The Trussell Trust supporting a nationwide network of foodbanks across the UK. On both occasions, part of the charity challenge has been no drinking of any alcohol – for a combined total of 190 days. And I haven’t felt as good in years! Having an elongated period with no alcohol was amazing;

getting better quality of sleep – rising earlier, more refreshed

eating far healthier – lack of cravings for junk food / take out

increased energy – no energy dips later in the day

productivity through the roof – clarity of thought and output significantly increased

Yet on both occasions, following the end of the charity challenges, I slipped back in to old habits and found myself drinking on the weekends (or when the football is on). In more recent times, with lockdown restrictions lifting, I have been hosting BBQ’s for birthday parties, friend meet ups and so on… and who grills without a beer in their hand?!

In the past, I have genuinely enjoyed drinking, but having seen the positive impact it has on me when I stop, I no longer get any pleasure from it. If it’s not bringing any happiness, and it is having a net negative impact on my life, the only sensible option in my opinion is to get rid!

The Recovery Period

One of the key characteristics of my drinking habits in the last few years has been to not drink through the week, but then drink with the intention of getting drunk most weekends. It’s a habit a lot of people have, and one I am sure many of you can relate to. I was always the annoying one – never suffering from hangovers, and always fresh and spritely the next day. However what my friends couldn’t see, and what I didn’t want to admit was that whilst the after effects of the alcohol hadn’t left my clutching the toilet or unable to function, it would often have a huge impact on my mental health.

Alcohol is a depressant, and when its exiting your body and your brain is more conscious of its surroundings, it can wreak havoc. For me, that could manifest itself in a few ways, but often would lead to 2 or 3 days of feeling incredibly low. Beating myself up for wasting my weekend being drunk rather than doing something productive, feeling like I was was wasting my life. By day 4 I would be starting to level out, understand it was the after effects of the beer talking and looking back at the last weekend with rose tinted specs. By day 5 it was Friday and time to go again. And so the cycle continues…

Some people reading this may think that drinking to get a bit merry with your friends every weekend is absolutely fine & it may bring you ultimate happiness. I respect that. It’s just that for me personally, I no longer gain that happiness from it – it doesn’t give me purpose or fulfilment.

Why Quit Now Though?

Why not? If something like this isn’t bringing you happiness, it should be removed from your life as soon as possible. Yes, I am sure I will feel slightly gutted I am not drinking with my friends should football come home, as England win Euro 2020(1) – but I will feel a damn sight better the next day when I can remember each and every moment of the game.

As I embark on this journey, I need to clear the decks of distractions, remove anything that will hinder my progress. It’s time to focus on the goal.

Yes, you will still see the occasional post from me on my travels with a glass of wine with a meal or trying a local speciality drink – but the casual consumption is no more.

So here’s to weekends full of activities and memories, to watching the football with a can of Coke Zero, and to grilling with no beer!

I’m very serious about no alcohol, no drugs. Life is too beautiful.

– Jim Carrey

I have reached my limit. I have had some fun times, and some not so fun times along the way with it, but now its time to go our separate ways.

It’s not you, Beer… it’s me. I’ve changed.

Photo by Paul Skorupskas

And So The Journey Begins

 The last 18 months have been really difficult for millions of us all around the world. Life seemed good… until a global pandemic brought the world to a grinding halt. Life hasn’t been the same for anyone since February 2020.

Having fallen in to a dangerous cycle of working harder than ever, alongside consuming more of everything, I found myself in a downward spiral. I wasn’t sure where the spiral would end, but I seemed to be hurtling towards the final destination.

Whilst this spiral was exacerbated by the ongoing situation, it felt all too familiar. Somewhere I had been several times over recent years – a place always lurking in the shadows of my life. I had, like many others, avoided answering the difficult questions, content to drift through life, scared of what I would find if I strayed from the path well trodden.

It was time to shine a light on the shadows.

As the light crept in, the shadows melted away and left me with my greatest fear. My inability to answer one of life’s oldest questions. Instead of confronting it, I have continually pushed to the back of my mind. The catalyst for this had been the sudden passing of my Grandma in 2015. Intertwined with the deep sense of pain and loss was the reminder of my mortality. Despite working through my grief, there is one part I have been unable to reconcile. One itch I have failed to scratch. Answering one question…

What is my purpose?

Its so easy to ask, and yet so hard to answer. I have spent the last 5 years avoiding this question, for fear of not having an answer. Would that mean my life was pointless?

I threw myself in to my work, and reaped the benefits for my efforts. I spent the weekends with a packed social life, from meals out with friends to partying. But now I was forced to stop and spend time on my own with my own thoughts.

“Is this it? Is this my life?”

I have been incredibly successful in my career at a young age. It’s a line of work I have a talent for, but it certainly stops a long way short of being my purpose. My social life became non-existent, but even at its height – it was an enjoyable distraction. Was this combination my purpose in life; work long hours, and then party the weekends away, rinse and repeat?


With the answer resoundingly clear, it’s time to make some changes, and focus on my passions.

And so the journey begins.


Travel, Food & Nature.

Over the coming weeks and months I will be sharing written posts here, photos on my Instagram page and videos on my new YouTube channel later in the year. The focus will be on travel, food & nature. My content will focus on mental health, and the ups and downs throughout this journey of discovery.

We all believe on some level that our life need purpose. Whether that is following artistic talent, being a parent, playing your favourite sport, following your favourite team(s), or partying the long in to the night with your friends.

For it to be our purpose, it has to be our passion.

I’m Sam, and this is my Pursuit Of Purpose.