I have a confession to make. Well several confessions really. I like to travel. No scratch that, I love to travel. And spend money on travel. And I also love counting countries, and see a new country each year at a minimum.
What is counting countries? At a basic level, it’s just keeping track of how many official countries you’ve visited. At the moment, we have 193 sovereign countries recognised by the UN. And there obviously quite a few ongoing disputes over territories and new countries are formed, so the list evolves. My count? One for each year of my life at the moment, I’ve been to 37 countries.
Where I’ve been
I now live in London, which I have professed my love for in this post. Interestingly my first solo trip was UK based and multi-centre. I was 17 and visited London myself, then went on an outdoors course in Dartmoor. I had a blast, loved both the big city, the tourist sights and then exploring the outdoors.
And since then I have moved on to exploring a little further afield. Living in the UK, Europe has consisted of the majority of my travelling, and I’ve made many visits to destinations such as France, Italy, Spain and Greece. I was lucky enough to first visit the US when you got $2 to £1, which made even NYC seem like a bargain. On the other side, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Americas and Africa, and only officially visited Asia via a few stays in Turkey.
In true FI geek form, I obviously have these in a spreadsheet. But I thought I’d share my list here, counting countries I have visited in alphabetical order.
- Barbados / Belgium / Bolivia / Bulgaria
- Cuba / Cyprus / Czech Republic
- Germany / Greece
- Ireland /Italy
- Liechtenstein / Lithuania / Luxembourg
- Malta / Monaco / Morocco
- Netherlands / Norway
- Peru / Poland
- Slovakia / Slovenia / Spain / Sweden / Switzerland
- Tanzania / Turkey
- Ukraine / United Kingdom / United States of America
My way of travelling
I am a budget traveller. Similar to my general spending philosophy, I happily spend on items that bring me value and joy, and skimp on the others. So as a rule, hotels and taxis don’t appeal to me and I try to avoid them. It’s just not my personal way of travelling. But I do spend on things I want to see. I happily pay admission fees to see cool museums and unique places. And nothing beats an ice-cream in the moment. Or a coffee and cake with a fabulous view. Hence you could say I take the pick and mix philosophy, and matching my holiday experience to my mood at the time.
Where to stay
Accommodation is usually hostels or apartments, somewhere with a kitchen and a relaxed vibe. Hostels are a great place to meet people, and the staff are generally just on my wavelength. As an example, I went to Lake Bled last year. It was fabulous by the way, picture postcard perfect. There is a really cool gorge a few miles away, and everyone tries to tell you need to take a taxi or a tour there. Whereas the hostel staff differ. They say, it’s only an hour walk, and an easy walk at that. Here’s a map and directions. So obviously I walked there, and they were right. By walking you get to see the edge of the town, and enjoy some fresh air and rolling countryside en route.
I use public transport as much as possible, and enjoy walking to explore new places. And as a hiker, I am comfortable walking much more than your average tourist. If my place is just a 30 minute walk from the old town, you can bet I’m walking it. But more than for money saving and fitness, I find I just see more walking. I can stop and take pictures of unique or interesting places. I can pop in and purchase a cake from that yummy looking bakery I pass. Or stop for a Prosecco at the cool bar enroute. And that’s what I love about walking, you never know what you are going to experience. These random cool places are as much of the travelling experience as the famous sights.
I’m the biggest fan of solo travelling. Mainly as it fulfils some of my travelling needs, complete freedom and challenge. I’m not adverse to travelling with others, but as you get older I find it hard to find people with the same interests, budget, travelling style and free time. And as I am happily single, as detailed in this post, there isn’t a partner to come along. So I travel solo, and find it very liberating. You are relying on yourself, yet free to indulge your every whim and fancy. Want to spend hours in the outdoor history museum as I did once in Oslo? No problem. Or hang around the Ibsen museum waiting for the English language tour of his apartment? No issues. And this particular art museum isn’t doing it for you, then it’s fine to leave. As you travel solo more and more, you develop this amazing confidence. You know you will get there, maybe make a few wrong turns but you will enjoy the journey.
Why I love travel
So what makes me love it so much? Being a naturally curious person, I love seeing how others live their lives. Even countries that are meant to be similar to the UK, I’ve found cultural differences abound.
The challenge of getting by in foreign countries also appeals, nothing is ever really easy and I love learning new approaches to do things. For example, there are so many different approaches to paying for public transport, do you need to buy a ticket in advance? From where? And do you need to show your tickets on boarding? Validate it? All these little things are mini challenges in a puzzle. Once I conquer them one by one I feel awesome.
I speak no foreign languages well. And I am a fussy eater. So it’s always extra rewarding managing to get the food I want. And nothing beats that satisfaction of the meal arriving, and it is exactly what you think you ordered. Or a reasonable alternative. I can now get my Croque Monsieur without ham, served with a side of pity by the waiting staff who don’t understand vegetarianism. My spanish pronunciation needs some work as they gave me onions not mushrooms in my omelette, but I’d consider that another success.
And maybe it’s the oddball in me, but I like being somewhere I am considered the other. In a place where I don’t understand the culture or language I have a certain calmness and contentment. Knowing I can never fit in, and am not expected to is actually a relief. I am then free to wander undisturbed.
Over to you
- Are you a traveller?
- Do you travel solo?
- Another country counter?
- Where have you been?