Needing Space: How We’ve Built Our Individuality into Our Relationship

IF YOU ARE JUST HERE FOR LINKS TO CHECK OUT/BUY THE DESK AND DECORATIONS, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST, FRIENDS!

Our Instagram may give the impression that we spend every waking minute together. Society itself may also give the impression that couples should always love spending their time together. To us, that seems silly and even somewhat unhealthy. Nick and I love each other deeply, but we are still individuals and - in many ways - we are very different from one another. Part of being the best for each other means finding ways to continually explore our individuality. 

It took some life-learning trial and error to realize that love isn't a fix-all for every problem in a relationship. No matter how deep the love is, relationships take work, and it's silly to think that love alone will make them work. 

It took some life-learning trial and error to realize that love isn't a fix-all for every problem in a relationship. No matter how deep the love is, relationships take work, and it's silly to think that love alone will make them work. 

Perhaps the younger generation following us will be less inclined to think love is a heal-all fix, but we definitely grew up in the 1990s Disney-movies-where-love-overcomes-all era. Looking back on our past relationships (pre-Justin and Nick, if you will), it is easy to see how we both clung to those 1990s Disney values. When things went poorly or if we encountered hard times, it was easy to throw in the towel. If love didn't fix it, it wasn't real, right?

Wrong. People - individuals - are the sum of their experiences. We all bring so many different experiences to the table, and these shape our viewpoints on so many things. No two person is the same, and part of learning to navigating amongst diverse perspective is just realizing that it's really damn diverse. Nick and I are no exception, and I'm sure a lot of you who have followed us - particularly on our YouTube - for awhile have noticed some of those difference. I tend to be the more reserve, more serious one. I dislike public displays of affection, I really dislike messiness, and my political viewpoints tend to be much more liberal. On the other hand, Nick is more carefree and fun. He loves public displays of affection, he functions much better in messiness than I do, and he tends to be more center-of-the-road politically. To each other, we find ourselves highly different from one another. 

Here is Nick,  obviously  reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" for the millionth time! We've both had to learn how to navigate being individuals while also sharing so much of our lives together. The most important thing is that we've built a foundation on love, but we also realize that love isn't a "fix-all" for all of our problems. Individuality needs to be nurtured, and we've both come up with our own ways to do just that!

Here is Nick, obviously reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" for the millionth time! We've both had to learn how to navigate being individuals while also sharing so much of our lives together. The most important thing is that we've built a foundation on love, but we also realize that love isn't a "fix-all" for all of our problems. Individuality needs to be nurtured, and we've both come up with our own ways to do just that!

We embrace these differences though. Speaking for myself, I know that Nick helps keep my mood light and forces me out of my comfort zone. I also appreciate that he doesn't think like I do and that he challenges me to re-evaluate my own thoughts, perceptions, and ideas on things I otherwise would not have. I also know Nick feels the same about me (he's talked about needing someone serious to help balance him out, and he also has said that my passion for social justice - in particular - has made him think deeply about current events). If it says anything about me, I also got Nick hooked on NPR, haha!

Embracing our differences also comes with the caveat that we must find time for our individuality. We must have places where we can go to be in our own head without constantly needing to feel like a "couple-entity." Especially thanks to social media, the impression for many is that we constantly adore each other's company. The truth of the matter is that we often need breaks from each other. We get mad at each other. We argue. We disagree. Sometimes, we just need "me" time for no reason. For me, an escape for my individuality comes in two places: my journals and planners as well as my personal space. 

Here it is! This is my personal space. Sure, this is in the bedroom, so it isn't exactly always the most private spot. However, it works perfectly for a quick, quiet getaway. The desk also functions as a nightstand (yay, smaller space functionality)! The desk, pillow, and throw are from West Elm. The mid-century modern chair is from Wayfair. Scroll down if you are interested in checking out any of these items for yourself!

Here it is! This is my personal space. Sure, this is in the bedroom, so it isn't exactly always the most private spot. However, it works perfectly for a quick, quiet getaway. The desk also functions as a nightstand (yay, smaller space functionality)! The desk, pillow, and throw are from West Elm. The mid-century modern chair is from Wayfair. Scroll down if you are interested in checking out any of these items for yourself!

As I've already pointed out, I'm very type A. This includes being very detail-oriented with planning out my weeks (and sometimes months) ahead. I have a planner by which I live and die (not even an exaggeration sadly), and then I also love creating loose plans for our upcoming trips in fun ways that make me tap in to my artistic side. Getting lost in my planner gives me a creative outlet (I know it sounds silly, but it really does), and it also gives me a sense of peace to be able to tune everything out for a bit while I plan and draw. In order to do this, though, I need a space to do it at.

Here's my travel journal! I love planning out trips and at least having a general sense of the things I want to see during a trip. I also get a lot of personal clarity out of channeling my energy into drawing and other outlets. 

Here's my travel journal! I love planning out trips and at least having a general sense of the things I want to see during a trip. I also get a lot of personal clarity out of channeling my energy into drawing and other outlets. 

Another shot of the travel journal! So many people have given us great recommendations for our trip to Italy, so I made sure to write down some of the most promising ones (leave some comments on this blog post if you have some travel tips for Northern Italy, too)!

Another shot of the travel journal! So many people have given us great recommendations for our trip to Italy, so I made sure to write down some of the most promising ones (leave some comments on this blog post if you have some travel tips for Northern Italy, too)!

Perhaps the most complicated thing is the personal space. Nick and I love the location of our apartment; we are right downtown in close proximity to so many things. However, what we gain in convenience and location, we lose a bit in square footage. Our apartment is plenty big - perhaps bigger - than what we need, but an apartment still doesn't lend itself to creating private spaces to "get away" at home. In order to have some space to ourselves, we've had to improvise. I created literally the smallest nook to do work, draw, and read, and the center of it all is my West Elm Ladder Shelf Desk (and it's the Sand/Stone color in case you're curious)! 

If you've been following us for awhile, you've seen plenty of the bedroom! However, you might not have seen the whole thing yet! Honestly, it's newly become my favorite room in the house (not just because I have my special nook here) because of the yellow/blue/grey theme and all the urban greenery (and, as always, we love these 12 foot tall industrial windows)!

If you've been following us for awhile, you've seen plenty of the bedroom! However, you might not have seen the whole thing yet! Honestly, it's newly become my favorite room in the house (not just because I have my special nook here) because of the yellow/blue/grey theme and all the urban greenery (and, as always, we love these 12 foot tall industrial windows)!

This Langley Street Whiteabbey Side Chair from Wayfair was a steal, and it looks perfect here. It's also comfortable. Did I mention it was cheap (it actually came with two chairs)! The pillow and throw are from West Elm, and I absolutely love them! Again, I have links down below in case you want to snag any of this.

This Langley Street Whiteabbey Side Chair from Wayfair was a steal, and it looks perfect here. It's also comfortable. Did I mention it was cheap (it actually came with two chairs)! The pillow and throw are from West Elm, and I absolutely love them! Again, I have links down below in case you want to snag any of this.

The West Elm Ladder Shelf Desk is the perfect size for our apartment, gives me some space above the desk to decorate with some of the favorite books and plants, and easily holds our MacBook Pro and a desk lamp. We did a story with Nick reading in bed where you could see the desk, and so many people responded to the Instagram Story asking where the desk was from. Honestly, it's my favorite purchase ever when it comes to furniture, and now is the time to snag it up. It's currently on sale at about $100 USD cheaper than normal. While West Elm isn't always known for being the cheapest, they often have great sales (like now on the desk), and I often find steals with other pieces. For example, I used Wayfair to grab a cheap, lightweight chair for the desk: the Langley Street Whiteabbey Side Chair. From there, I just added my favorite books (trying to match the yellow-green-blue-grey color scheme of the room), my favorite plant (a maiden hair fern), and voila: I created a space for myself to escape. 

I have an addiction to coffee table books and this "California Captured: Mid-Century Modern Architecture" is probably my favorite that I've ever purchased so far! In addition, I do love all the other books here as well as the maiden-hair fern. I snagged the ceramic birds on Etsy, and I think they are just the cutest!

I have an addiction to coffee table books and this "California Captured: Mid-Century Modern Architecture" is probably my favorite that I've ever purchased so far! In addition, I do love all the other books here as well as the maiden-hair fern. I snagged the ceramic birds on Etsy, and I think they are just the cutest!

Adding all these items is a reflection of me in my personal space. I love architecture (particularly mid-century modern) and urban planning. I also am a huge fan of cerebral science fiction ("Authority" is one of the books in the Southern Reach Trilogy, which includes "Annihilation" if y'all have seen the female tour-de-force film earlier this year). Travel is also my number one passion, and chief among it is East Asia (I lived in East Asia for three years). All things thrown together, this space is mine, and it's my escape.

Adding all these items is a reflection of me in my personal space. I love architecture (particularly mid-century modern) and urban planning. I also am a huge fan of cerebral science fiction ("Authority" is one of the books in the Southern Reach Trilogy, which includes "Annihilation" if y'all have seen the female tour-de-force film earlier this year). Travel is also my number one passion, and chief among it is East Asia (I lived in East Asia for three years). All things thrown together, this space is mine, and it's my escape.

Another angle on my "escape" nook! Here, you can also see my stationary pens, highlighters, and felt tips! I often use this space to doodle and draw in my notebooks. I hope you've enjoyed this blog by getting this glimpse into how I bolster my own individuality by creating a personal space just for me! Let me know what you all think in the comments!

Another angle on my "escape" nook! Here, you can also see my stationary pens, highlighters, and felt tips! I often use this space to doodle and draw in my notebooks. I hope you've enjoyed this blog by getting this glimpse into how I bolster my own individuality by creating a personal space just for me! Let me know what you all think in the comments!

By having activities that I can do to calm myself in a space that I love, I've been able to create a sanctuary of sorts. I love Nick, and I know that he loves me. Nevertheless, we also know and respect that - inevitably - we will need our space from time-to-time. If you were like us in thinking that everything was suppose to play out like Stockholm syndrome-turned-into-daddy-beast-fall-in-love realness, I highly encourage you to re-evaluate your definition of love. I'm not saying you need to throw away what you think about it. I'm just saying to take a moment and think how you come to the conclusions you did. I, personally, know I am a much better partner for Nick by realizing that we are individuals who need space. I also know it makes me work harder. Knowing that love takes and deserves work elevates its importance. It became something I no longer take for granted by simply assuming the presence of love was a salve for all my problems. Relationships take work. Ours is no different.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you all do to nurture your individuality? I'd love to hear in the comments below! If anyone is interested in what the plants are, one is an orchid (I'm sure a very common variety, but I can't recall the name) and the fern is a maiden hair fern. Also, if you are interested in any of the items I used to decorate my space, I'll compile them here:

Love you all! 

The Yucatan Peninsula: Gay Couples' Vacation

It’s impossible nowadays to not hear about Mexico. Unfortunately, very little of what we hear in the United States is positive. We are constantly bombarded by hearing about the dangers, illegal border crossing, asylum seekers. In many ways, the current political climate has framed Mexico and its people in the worst possible light. This couldn’t be farther from representing this beautiful country and its wonderful citizens. 

With that said, any travel requires safety considerations. This is true for domestic travel in the United States and international travel to places one would consider safe, such as Western Europe. It goes without saying that Mexico has tons to offer, especially for United States citizens and Canadians looking for a more affordable getaway with a variety of amazing locations (but seriously, who doesn't want to go from beautiful beaches to ancient ruins and then finish the day off with one of the world's best food and drink cultures).

 

We recently were able to travel to Playa del Carmen, a tourist area just shy of an hour south of Cancun. Playa del Carmen is equally known as a gateway to the island of Cozumel and the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum. Without a doubt, Playa del Carmen is a convenient place to have as a home base for exploring the wonders of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. For us, home base was The Fives Downtown, a newly built Curio by Hilton location right in the action of Playa del Carmen. The rooms were beautiful and spacious, the lobby was magnificent, but the undoubted highlight was the amazing rooftop infinity pool and awesome bar.

We can't stress it enough: The Fives Downtown easily has the best view in Playa del Carmen. What makes it even better? One amazing infinity pool and a bar that serves some amazing food and drinks while relaxing poolside!

We can't stress it enough: The Fives Downtown easily has the best view in Playa del Carmen. What makes it even better? One amazing infinity pool and a bar that serves some amazing food and drinks while relaxing poolside!

Only 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Tulum is a must-see experience. One of the few Mayan complexes built right against the ocean, Tulum is a beautiful complex that demands awe and wonder. 

The Yucatan Peninsula (along with parts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) was the home of one of the ancient world’s most advanced civilizations: the Maya. In many ways, the Mayan culture closely resembled that of ancient Greece in that the Maya were a conglomeration of non-unified city-states. Some of these city-states were massive, such as El Mirador, Chichen Itza, Tikal, and Palenque. In addition, the Mayan culture was extremely advanced, developing a complex writing system, utilizing advanced agricultural techniques, extensively studying astronomy, creating a detailed calendar, and even being among the first to discover zero. When staying in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, it’s not hard to get to locations like Tulum or Chichen Itza, but there are a myriad smaller ruins throughout the region. More importantly, the Mayan culture lives on with Mexico’s largest indigenous population: the modern Mayan people. Small villages and lesser-traveled towns in the region are now home to the Mayans, and they are extremely welcoming and kind.

One of Justin's favorite movies are the Indiana Jones movies. If you couldn't tell from this photo, that is, haha! Tulum is definitely a must-see ruin complex in the area, particularly due to its location right along the coast.

One of Justin's favorite movies are the Indiana Jones movies. If you couldn't tell from this photo, that is, haha! Tulum is definitely a must-see ruin complex in the area, particularly due to its location right along the coast.

This is the same location from above, except there are no tourists trying to be cute and adventurous in it (see: Nick and Justin trying to serve Indiana Jones realness). Honestly though, Justin was obsesses with the light green-deep maroon natural color scheme here.

This is the same location from above, except there are no tourists trying to be cute and adventurous in it (see: Nick and Justin trying to serve Indiana Jones realness). Honestly though, Justin was obsesses with the light green-deep maroon natural color scheme here.

Cozumel is also a must-visit location in the area. We utilized the Ultramar Ferry and its short 40 minute trip to travel between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel comfortably. There is another ferry company available, but we feel as though Ultramar is the best choice for travel. Once you disembark, your first order of business must be renting a scooter to traverse the island. This was by far one of our favorite excursions while we were in the area. On scooter, it is possible to see the entire island and – for us – the highlights were the less touristy beaches on the far side of the island. These beaches offered crystal clear, light blue waters and white sands. With that said, our scooter did break down at one point, but the rental agency got us fixed up with a replacement within 30 minutes. This is absolutely a must do experience.

Justin was horrified by Nick's moped driving the entire time, but Nick was really feeling the gay biker fantasy. Nothing says badass quite like a lollipop though, am I right?!

Justin was horrified by Nick's moped driving the entire time, but Nick was really feeling the gay biker fantasy. Nothing says badass quite like a lollipop though, am I right?!

Cozumel easily had the best beaches we encountered in the area. The water was crystal clear and the sand is an amazing white. Coupled with zipping around the island on the mopeds, this was easily one of our favorite days.

Cozumel easily had the best beaches we encountered in the area. The water was crystal clear and the sand is an amazing white. Coupled with zipping around the island on the mopeds, this was easily one of our favorite days.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from traveling to the Yucatan is the disparity between tourist areas – particularly designed to attract foreign visitors – and inland areas in the Yucatan Peninsula. Please, take the chance to step outside your comfort zone. Experience a Mexico that isn’t all-inclusive resorts. While beautiful resorts and pristine beaches aren’t a bad thing (on the contrary, they are amazing), Mexico is a beautiful tapestry of cultures and people and it is hard to experience and dive into the full beauty of this country from the gated fences of a resort.

Seen from the sky, it is easy to see the many wonderful resorts and hotels along the coast. A word to the wise and adventurous: escape the walls of the resorts and go truly experience the area. Mexico has so much to offer, and you're not going to experience it without adventuring into the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Seen from the sky, it is easy to see the many wonderful resorts and hotels along the coast. A word to the wise and adventurous: escape the walls of the resorts and go truly experience the area. Mexico has so much to offer, and you're not going to experience it without adventuring into the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

If you have decided to break outside the touristy areas, a great option is renting a car and driving between Cancun and Merida. Merida is the inland capital of the Yucatan state, and it is magnificent and vibrant. Merida boasts vibrant streets and beautiful architecture, such as the Palacio del Gobierno. Moreover, Merida is a very safe city. Between Merida and Cancun, you will also run into Chichen Itza – one of the most amazing ancient ruin complexes in existence – and Valladolid, a smaller city that has many hidden treasures. These cities give travelers a better glimpse into the vibrant Mexican cultures and the lives of the Mayan people in these areas. Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen offer some of the best beaches, but a trip to the region just wouldn’t be complete without truly diving in to Mexico.

Traveling is one of the best experiences to share with the people you care about. We were so lucky to have experienced it with some of our closet friends!

Traveling is one of the best experiences to share with the people you care about. We were so lucky to have experienced it with some of our closet friends!

Exploring the Yucatan Peninsula wouldn't be complete without the people you share those experiences with. For Nick and I, travel is absolutely our favorite thing to share with one another. I have been fortunate enough to travel much more than Nick (my degrees, studies, and background more easily lended to me traveling), but being able to take Nick places that I have experienced is truly a joy unlike any other. Moreover, sharing new experiences is something wonderful, too. We were lucky enough to also travel the Yucatan Peninsula with some of our best friends: Matt and Beau from Probably This, PJ and Thomas from The Property Lovers, and Devon and Rob from Dads Not Daddies. If you want to see a video blog of our antics together, make sure you check out our YouTube page and find our Mexico Vlogs (there are two parts)!

Finally, we are also so excited to let you all know that we are headed back to Mexico before the year is over! We honestly can't get enough of Mexico, and we will be in Mexico City from October 30 to November 4 to experience Dia de los Muertos! If you have any tips or recommendations for Mexico City, please leave a comment below and let us know what we can't miss! 

Finishing Touches on Our Bedroom

We moved to Virginia about ten months ago, and our mission was to create a space that we loved coming back to. Like many starving graduate students, our apartment back in Pittsburgh was passable, but it wasn't necessarily a space that we loved. Moving also gave us the opportunity to get rid of some Craigslist mismatched furniture that we had collected throughout college. 

Justin enjoying all his hard work! He tends to be the more type-A particular one, so he took most of the bedroom re-design on his hands. 

Justin enjoying all his hard work! He tends to be the more type-A particular one, so he took most of the bedroom re-design on his hands. 

We wanted to bring outside into the bedroom. We also try to go with yellow-orange-red hues to add a pop that compliments that old smokestack outside. Plants from left to right: bird of paradise, succulents, aloe vera, maiden's hair fern, and Japanese painted fern. 

We wanted to bring outside into the bedroom. We also try to go with yellow-orange-red hues to add a pop that compliments that old smokestack outside. Plants from left to right: bird of paradise, succulents, aloe vera, maiden's hair fern, and Japanese painted fern. 

We fell in love with our apartment for two reasons: first, it's a renovated historic warehouse that was used in Virginia's old tobacco trade (we love a backstory, honey), and second, the huge windows! As soon as we moved in, we set about snatching up furniture. Most of our focus was spent on the living room and kitchen areas for the first few months. We figure - why not hone in on the areas where guests will spend the most time? After literally months of dragging our feet to update our bedroom, we finally dove in last weekend.

We've spent the majority of the last few months working on our living room! The floor lamp, the red chair, the couch, the coffee table, the media cabinet, and the bookshelves are from West Elm. It took us forever to find a rug that worked with our yellow-orange-red hue goal, but we finally found it at Crate & Barrel. Feel free to read us for still not hanging our new pictures...

We've spent the majority of the last few months working on our living room! The floor lamp, the red chair, the couch, the coffee table, the media cabinet, and the bookshelves are from West Elm. It took us forever to find a rug that worked with our yellow-orange-red hue goal, but we finally found it at Crate & Barrel. Feel free to read us for still not hanging our new pictures...

We love mid-century modern furniture, so we've been frequently checking out their website to find pieces that will tie in our look. We eventually settled on some dried flowers and a copper metal side table from West Elm. IKEA provided the console table, and we couldn't be happier with the pine wood brightening up our bedroom (especially since much of our furniture in there currently is black or off-black). What Justin wasn't happy about was spending the afternoon putting the HEMNES console table together (but who does like that). Many of the small items were just things we have slowly been picking up as we go out. 

Justin loves architecture and urban design, and Zaha Hadid is his absolute favorite architect. It just also happened to work out that the gold-orange tones in the coffee table book worked with the overall color scheme we were going for!

Justin loves architecture and urban design, and Zaha Hadid is his absolute favorite architect. It just also happened to work out that the gold-orange tones in the coffee table book worked with the overall color scheme we were going for!

After tackling putting together the IKEA console table, we got everything moved into the bedroom and started decorating. We wanted to create a space that we loved spending time in. For months, our bedroom has been mismatched and cluttered, simply because we had so little time to spend designing it with our busy work schedules. Now, though, we absolutely can't get enough of the bedroom. Even though the bedroom space is small, the light colors make it seem larger. The plants - along with being beautiful - help purify the air and just generally lend to us feeling so much better about our space.

It's sad and adorable how much Justin wanted a maiden's hair fern. He's been looking for one forever, and it was an intense moment when he finally came across one here in Richmond. We also can't remember the name of these dried flowers for the life of us, but they are from West Elm and pretty spectacular! 

It's sad and adorable how much Justin wanted a maiden's hair fern. He's been looking for one forever, and it was an intense moment when he finally came across one here in Richmond. We also can't remember the name of these dried flowers for the life of us, but they are from West Elm and pretty spectacular! 

Another shot of the finished room! We have a king size bed, and most of the square footage in our apartment is in the living room-kitchen area. Given that, we had to think about how we can both brighten the room, draw attention to the large windows, and incorporate the natural light. The end goal was to make the room feel welcoming, but also to brightening it up and make it feel clean, comfortable, and big.

Another shot of the finished room! We have a king size bed, and most of the square footage in our apartment is in the living room-kitchen area. Given that, we had to think about how we can both brighten the room, draw attention to the large windows, and incorporate the natural light. The end goal was to make the room feel welcoming, but also to brightening it up and make it feel clean, comfortable, and big.

We hope you guys enjoyed taking a peek into our bedroom redesign. It honestly was low effort and low cost for a whole lot of SHABAM. We are proud of it, and now we are looking forward to welcome our moms down to Richmond for mother's day (mainly to show them that we learned from their expert guidance growing up)!

The Case for Madeira: the Island You Probably Haven't Heard of, but You Should Know

If you’re like us, you probably aren’t familiar with Madeira, the Portuguese archipelago west of Morocco and north of the Canary Islands. Perhaps rightfully so; Madeira has long been associated with a much older tourist crowd predominantly from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Scandinavia. If you’re like us, you are blessed with having no preconceived notions about Madeira Island. If you aren’t like us and have only heard about Madeira as a sleepy island chain for older tourists, you are absolutely wrong. Let us change your mind, friends!

North of the Canary Islands, west of Morocco, and southwest of mainland Europe, the Madeira Archipelago is a top global island destination that's experiencing a tourism boom.

Nick and I arrived on Madeira Island at the end of March with absolutely no idea what to expect. The first thing that immediately struck us — aside from the very modern, but seemingly-precarious Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport built on a cliffside — is how mountainous Madeira Island is. Think Hawaii meets Jurassic Park. Every road was dominated by tunnels, making navigating the island easy and unique via newly built Vias Rápidas. Seriously, travel on this highly mountainous island would be a nightmare without the nearly 150 tunnels and 130 bridges. For reference, the island is only 35 miles (57 kilometers) long and 14 miles (22 kilometers) wide. Basically, it is small and jam-packed with major infrastructural developments. Many of our drivers talked about the “old days” before the infrastructural developments when the 30 minute trip from the airport to our hotel would take 3 hours!

This is just one of the many amazing homes along Rua de Santa Maria in the old area of Funchal. The old cobblestone street - once known as a shadier part of the city - is now packed full of amazing restaurants and shops.

This is just one of the many amazing homes along Rua de Santa Maria in the old area of Funchal. The old cobblestone street - once known as a shadier part of the city - is now packed full of amazing restaurants and shops.

Speaking of hotels, we stayed at Savoy Saccharum in the village of Calheta. Calheta is about a 30 minute drive from the capital of Madeira, Funchal. This tiny but exciting town features a sandy beach (with the sand being imported from Morocco) and this amazing resort, which is part of the Savoy Hotels and Resorts family. We honestly cannot recommend Savoy Saccharum enough. The rooms were well-apportioned and modern. The rooftop infinity pool was stunning. The restaurant and buffet were well-staffed and the food delicious. The spa was relaxing. It was an amazing place to stay. If you are going to Madeira Island, please consider staying here! We do have two words of advice for those wishing to stay at Savoy Saccharum: first, make sure you select an ocean view room and, second, consider upgrading to the Savoy Premium Experience. The rooms facing away from the ocean did not have great views (which may help if you are looking to save money). The Premium Experience package — for an extra daily fee — gives you premium amenities, in-room food, unlimited entry to the spa area, exclusive access to an amazing lounge area on the rooftop, and mini-bar service (because who doesn’t love those tiny shots).

Now, you are probably wonder what there is to do an such a small island. What Madeira Island may lack in size, it makes up for in sheer volume of things to do and experience. On our first full day in Madeira, Nick and I rented a car (a very easy process on the island) and literally drove around the entire perimeter of the island. I can’t recommend doing this enough; it gave us a very unique take on the island’s many different offerings. First, we traveled to Ponta de São Lourenço, the far eastern point of the island. This area of the island experience a great deal of wind, which makes it completely unique to other parts of the island. There are no trees in the area, just low brush and flowers. It honestly looks like coastal areas of the United Kingdom or Ireland. If you have time to spare, the hike from the parking area to some of Ponta de São Lourenço’s best sites takes roughly two hours total. Honestly, we think this hike is a must-see experience on the island, especially for Nick who was getting some hidden-horcrux-Harry-Potter-sixth-movie realness served to him. 

Ponta de São Lourenço couldn't be more different from the rest of the island. Owing to its geography and the high wind speeds in the area, Ponta de São Lourenço looks nothing like the rest of Madeira Island. This is just one of the many stunning views on the 2-3 hour hike here.

Ponta de São Lourenço couldn't be more different from the rest of the island. Owing to its geography and the high wind speeds in the area, Ponta de São Lourenço looks nothing like the rest of Madeira Island. This is just one of the many stunning views on the 2-3 hour hike here.

Following Ponta de São Lourenço, we headed north in the direction of Porto Moniz. One thing we immediately noticed was the drastic change in climate, leading to an equally dramatic change in the flora. Going from Ponta de São Lourenço to the northern coast highlights how unique the island is with its many changing climates (locals state that Madeira Island has nearly 24 microclimates). The north coast of Madeira Island looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park. The mountains are high and steep, while the weather is humid and hot. This leads to beautiful Mediterranean to tropical climates and temperatures. Adding to the wildness is the fact that — of everywhere on the island — the north to northwest coast of Madeira Island is the least developed. Whereas the south has many accessible highways and tunnels, the north is a maze of roads that wind precariously up the side of incredibly steep cliffs. If you are scared of heights like me, it’s definitely going to get your heart rate racing. Luckily, Nick drove us around during this part of the trip! Highlights for us along the northern coast include the black sand beach of Seixal and the volcanic pools of Porto Moniz (both are must-see). 

Our second and third days on the island involved a lot of relaxation, courtesy of Savoy Saccharum. Just check out the amazing pictures from this stunning resort!

Perhaps one of the most amazing experiences on the trip happened on day four during our visit to Fajã dos Padres. Inaccessible by almost all means except for an incredibly steep cable car and small boat, Fajã dos Padres is called “an island within the island” by locals due to its closed-off locations. Once you’ve descended down into Fajã dos Padres, you are immediately surrounded by the rustic beauty of the organic farm located below. Even better, this farm supports the amazing restaurant located on site. Everything at this restaurant is brought in directly from the sea and the surrounding farm, making for one of the most memorable restaurant experiences we’ve ever had. In addition, Fajã dos Padres features a number of generous, historic cottages that are available for vacation rentals. We were so fortunate to have the owner of the Fajã dos Padres complex give us a tour of the facilities, which included an amazing wine cellar in a 400 year old building. I know I’ve told you that everything is must see, but seriously, do not leave the island until you go here.

Fajã dos Padres is at the bottom of an extremely steep cliff face, making it accessible only by cable car. Locals have dubbed it an "island within the island" as no roads lead here, and it's easy to see how the beauty of this area has been preserved.

Fajã dos Padres is at the bottom of an extremely steep cliff face, making it accessible only by cable car. Locals have dubbed it an "island within the island" as no roads lead here, and it's easy to see how the beauty of this area has been preserved.

Day five took us to two unique extremes on the island, one being 6,000 feet above sea level and the other being right at sea level. With a wake up call of 4:45am local time, we gathered ourselves as best we could and made the trek up to Pico do Arieiro, the second highest peak on the island. To further give you an example of truly how mountainous the island is, Pico do Arieiro is nearly 6,000 feet (1,818 meters) above sea level! Any griping we had about the early wake up call melted away immediately upon seeing the sunrise from Pico do Arieiro. The views from 6,000 feet gave us nearly 360 degrees of amazing views, highlighting the incredible geography of Madeira Island. We spent a long time there, taking in the view while we celebrated our love, our relationship, and how spectacular our planet is. The day didn’t end here though! Following our trek up to Pico do Arieiro, we traveled right back down to the capital of Madeira, Funchal. 

Situated in one of the few gentle valleys and with an amazing port to boot, Funchal is a sight to see. Not only is Funchal the largest city in the archipelago, its population of over 100,000 makes it one of the largest cities in all of Portugal. The first settlement in the area dates back to the early 1400s, and the historic architecture of Funchal shines through to this days. The beautiful homes are packed tightly against cobble-stone streets in the old part of the city. Is shopping and luxury your thing? There are plenty of beautiful hotels and resorts coupled with great shopping centers in the newer part of the city to the west. Funchal definitely rounds out the island, truly making the island a diverse mix of climates, geographies, cities, towns, and villages. 

Funchal is the capital of Madeira, and one of the few places on the island that can be described as "gently sloping." With a population of over 100,000, it makes up a majority of the island's population and is the sixth largest city in Portugal.

Funchal is the capital of Madeira, and one of the few places on the island that can be described as "gently sloping." With a population of over 100,000, it makes up a majority of the island's population and is the sixth largest city in Portugal.

If you’ve read this far, you know what we are going to say here: Madeira Island is a must see travel destination, as is all of Portugal. For way too long, we’ve been sleeping on Portugal, drawn instead to the continual favorites of Italy, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Now it’s Portugal’s time to shine. With amazing options from Porto, to Lisbon, to the Azores, and the Madeira Archipelago, Portugal should undoubtedly be on your travel list.