There comes a time when you have been working for a few years, have a little bit more money and want to travel further. As your affluence increases, you have many more options open to you. You can opt to visit and see what life is like in more expensive countries and long-haul flights become an option as you have the means to explore all of Europe and beyond.
I was in my twenties and working a mediocre job and wanted to see more of the world. The Scandinavian countries have such a good reputation as happy and equal societies, not to mention amazing natural beauty – what is their secret? I wanted to visit to find out. Outwith Europe – what is life really like? I wanted to know and so I made my first tentative steps exploring Asia and Africa. Here are my thoughts as I starting exploring Europe and beyond.
Having been taken to places in Western Europe as a child and explored a few on my own, I had a reasonable understanding of the differences between countries – sometimes very vast and others times mainly superficial. I was also lucky enough to have spent time sampling Eastern Europe as well with its own unique flavour as it distances itself from the Soviet and socialist past. Nonetheless, there was one area I had not yet ventured to: Northern Europe and the Scandinavian nations.
Hence I planned a long bank holiday weekend in Stockholm and Gothenburg. I deliberately kept the trip short in duration given the expected high prices and planned for a whirlwind type tour. Out of the two cities, I personally found Gothenburg much more to my liking. There was a lovely buzz about each and every one of the neighbourhoods, and I just felt at home.
And you know what? Compared to UK prices it was a little pricey, but nowhere near as bad as I expected. Alcohol was the biggest outlier with inflated prices that I couldn’t believe were true on menus. When it came to food, as a veggie it was very disappointing. Which worked out well – cheaper self-catering for the win!
I’ve always thought of Denmark as such a small country, yet actually very important in the history books. Kind of like the UK? Anyway, another weekend break was taken to explore Copenhagen courtesy of budget airlines.
There was lots of walking and just admiring the place. Copenhagen is an architectural delight and the colourful waterside buildings are very iconic. Despite it getting poor reviews now – I actually loved going to see the little mermaid – a lovely statue – even if it is on the small side and easily dwarfed by all the budding amateur photographers.
I would like to announce that I made a conscious decision to explore further than Europe and decided to visit Asia. The truth is much less cool. We wanted an interesting beach type holiday – where there was warmer weather and loads of cultural things to do – and Turkey met the criteria. Hence my first (and only) trip to Asia was accidental.
Why did we end up in Turkey? Mainly as the price was right and it looked interesting. The weather did not disappoint in any way – being warm and sunny at all times. The beach resort itself was as expected; we appreciated the convenience of the facilities but were not here just for a beach holiday.
Turkey has two of the wonders of the ancient world, in addition to many other archaeological sites worth visiting. Truth be told given their ages they are basically ruins nowadays, but interesting to explore nonetheless and well worth taking a few days away from the beach. Remembering that ancient civilisations also existed on the same ground we walked on is such a cool and moving holiday experience.
Similar to Asia, I sampled Africa-lite first: hitting the reasonably Westernised Morocco. Simply put, despite my desires and dreams I was not brave (or rich) enough to go to the more adventurous countries yet. I had experienced Europe and beyond was out there, tantalising me. Small steps were taken at first giving me experience and building up to later travels.
Lured into choosing this destination by the winter sun and promises of amazing souks, Morocco and Marrakesh did not disappoint. And this was the first place I visited where no one spoke English – you needed to speak Arabic or French to get by. Now given my Arabic is non-existent, my school-time french was needed.
There were some things that grated; I was stared at by men everywhere, for being a woman without a veil. Morocco was the first place I experience this all the time (most places it’s just a few misogynistic dudes) and it was hard to get used to. But I didn’t let it spoil my holiday.
By far the best experience was wandering the souks in Marrakesh, it’s just so fun to get lost without a care in the world. And it was in Marrakesh that my most memorable travelling meal was had. They seemed happy to make me something off the menu, which was a good sign. It was an atmospheric rooftop riad, sitting on cushions around a low table. We could see the sparkling lights below and an amazing veggie tagine was served for me. Which tasted divine.
Don’t let the above fool you – I am not a natural foreign language speaker. Hence visiting the Americas has always been something that appeals. And in most places they seem to have got over the colonial legacy, letting Brits travel easily and freely.
United States of America
Such a vast and varied country as the USA has so much appeal for me as a traveller. Although I’ve since been back a few times, the memories of my first trip are the best. We did the classic road trip: LA, San Fran and Vegas. So many good memories! And it was all funded by matched betting – in the good old days where there were still many offers.
And nothing was as I expected it to be. I expected to love LA but in reality, it was a bit too sleazy for me. Las Vegas was expected to be trashy; but boy I loved it – where else is there a canal on the first floor? Anywhere that gives out free drinks is ok by me.
Moreover as well as the cities; nature impressed me. Yosemite was absolutely amazing – only the Yanks would plumb in water fountains half way up a hill. Thanks! Despite the rain, death valley was stunning – as was the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. Not to mention the simple joy of driving through desert landscapes – I absolutely loved it.
Europe and beyond
So there we have it – increasing affluence allowed me to start exploring the pricier affluent bits of Europe and beyond. I don’t deny that I was privilged to be able to do this. My UK passport opened doors and my £16k-£25k income during this period helped a lot. But what really made this possible was prioritising travel in my life and making it happen. Wanting to go is not enough – you need to make it happen.
Related Posts – Counting Countries Series
- Travels as a Child – Countries 1 to 6
- On my own dime – Countries 7 to 16
- Going East – Countries 17 to 22
Over to you
- What are your thoughts?
- When did you first leave the continent of your birth?
- Did you also start with easier countries in each continent?