Let the countdown begin

Mariana Machado
3 min readDec 4, 2023

We’re approaching the end of the year, which means I’m just days away from starting my greatest adventure. Deciding to travel full-time for a year was a pretty easy decision, however, when it comes to deciding where I’m going, well, that’s been a bit harder.

Before deciding on my first destination, I thought about three different aspects:

  1. January is an awful month in Portugal. It rains every day, it’s dark and it seems to last forever — so I knew I wanted sun.
  2. I’d rather have company during my first stop. Not every day, but I would like to be in a place where I wouldn’t be by myself all day — so I started thinking about friends and family abroad.
  3. I wanted somewhere new. Not necessarily a place I hadn’t been before, but rather a country that’s different from Portugal and where I can explore new things — so I excluded most European countries.

After thinking about it and considering different options, I now have the flights for my first destination: Luanda.
Angola ticks all the boxes as it’s in the southern hemisphere, meaning it is nice and warm in January. My father lives there, so I’ll have his company during my stay, and although I’ve been there before, I’m going to explore different parts of the country and I’m also heading to South Africa for a few days, which I never visited.

Now that the hard part is covered, I’m super excited about my first stop. Since this will hopefully be the first destination of many in 2024, I wonder how different my packing skills will be by the end of the year.
For now, apart from the obvious clothing and toiletries, my suitcase must include:

  • My computer: I will be working remotely, so this is my number one need;
  • My headphones: I need them for work, for the airplane and for keeping me company when I’m alone. I asked Santa for a new pair so let’s see how I behaved this year…
  • A ‘sun kit’: sunscreen, hats and bikinis: I will be going to the beach and trying to get a tan so I need to be prepared;
  • A book: I never travel without one so if anyone has recommendations for a good book that’s not too heavy to carry around, please let me know;
  • A ‘pocket-pharmacy’: I usually travel with some basic medicine and this time will be no different. I’ll make sure I have things for my migraines, back pain, sore throat and mosquito bites.

I think I’ve got everything planned so until then, I’ll try to enjoy Braga’s weather as much as it’s humanly possible — although it ain’t easy to enjoy constant rain. Since I know I’ll fail this last challenge, I’ll pop to Lisbon for a little bit before coming back to spend Christmas with the family, packing my bags and catching my flight ✈️.



Mariana Machado

I used to dream about becoming a poet and I’ve always loved writing, so I made it my job.