Meet Suzanne Murray, our globe trotter tells us about a day in the life at Jah Shaka Surf Lodge in Portugal...

Last September 2013, I graduated from UCD with a degree in Food Science, an exciting four year degree relevant to the Irish Food Industry. While friends discussed the possibilities of masters and PHDs', I had a feeling that the direction I was heading would be a stark contrast. At times I was envious of my classmate's plans and prospects and questioned myself as to why I didn't have a plan or desire to keep studying or begin a graduate programme.

So, instead of getting a head start on my career, I flew to Meribel in the French Alps for the winter season where I worked for an Irish chalet company. Living and working with like-minded people with the same sense of adventure and love for the outdoors led me to realise that I was not ready to give up this lifestyle just yet. With over 600km of piste to cover, the three valleys, Meribel, Val Thorens and Courchevel were guaranteed to drive my reasoning to hold off on the full time job I previously believed I was destined for. Finishing work in the chalet at 11am and hitting  the mountain to meet friends to explore the vast amount of piste the three valleys has to offer or in search of some adrenaline off piste offered me a happiness that I had lacked when I was drowning in science literature.

April in the Alps saw the snow melt and snow bums begin the seasonal migration to warmer climates. I had always wanted to learn to surf properly and what better way than to live and learn in one of Europe's' hottest surfing destinations. After a two day stop off in Dublin, I left for Portugal, a country I had never been to before. put me in touch with Jah Shaka Surf Lodge, once I arrived I knew it was the perfect place for me. The chilled out vibe means you are instantly relaxed and feel like you are at a mates place for a great never ending gathering of friends and sunshine. Over the past two weeks, a variety of nationalities and personalities have passed through the door, each person as intriguing as the next. That's the reason I love this lifestyle, everyday meeting new open minded people with different backgrounds and stories to tell.

An average day at the lodge involves waking up to yoga on the rooftop terrace, followed by a healthy filling breakfast. Surfing is the main topic of interest, with kitesurfing and stand up paddle boarding following close behind. Getting back to the lodge after a full day of surf lessons to laze in the hammock, take a dip in the pool, laughs about the falls of the day and the times we got back up, not to mention the colours of the sunset seen from the terrace. The lodge hosts incredible dinners cooked by the live in chef and infamous BBQ's where friends gather around the table by the bonfire with endless glasses of Sangria.

Jah Shaka is central to two villages, Luz and Burgau via a scenic coastal cliff walk which you can walk or mountain bike. Burgau is a traditional Portuguese fishing village with so much character and a cove perfect for swimming on a lazy rest day. Praia da Luz is filled with cafes, restaurants and yet another beautiful swimming beach. The lodge is a 10 minute drive out of the bustling party town of Lagos, from where amongst all of the culture, shops and street art is the renowned Jah Shaka Surf Shop with some of the best value surf boards in Europe.

During my first days in Portugal, we took the paddle boards from Batata Beach, Lagos around the caves and the Grottos. Paddling through the impressive famous rock formations such as "The Kissing Rocks"  "The Sphinx" and "The Elephant"  we casually passed by Praia Don Ana (Number #1 beach in Europe 2012). In another direction, a scooter ride away is Sagres (The most South-Western Point of Europe) with West Coast waves, traditional lighthouses, fortes and monstrous rugged cliffs which remind me of summers on the West Coast of Ireland. It's breath taking. Each surfing beach has its own character while the Portuguese are incredible people with a laid back attitude to life. There is always something different to experience here and I'm not surprised that Portugal just got voted #1 country in Europe. It's only been a few weeks and already I am hooked on Portugal.