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Europe and Beyond – Countries 23 to 27

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.

Europe

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.

Sweden

MS ZiYou Goteborg

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!

 

DenmarkMs ZiYou Copenhagen

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.

Asia

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.

Turkey

Ms ZiYou Bodrum

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.

Africa

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.

MoroccoMs ZiYou Marrakech

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.

North America

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

Ms ZiYou Route 66

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

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?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

6 comments on “Europe and Beyond – Countries 23 to 27

  1. Personally, the first time I left my home continent was when I was about 30 years old, and it was for work. Over the next 16 years, till I quit my W2 job, I traveled internationally probably 7 or 8 times for work to the places we had offices, which were Italy, Thailand and Kenya, as well as some side exploring on those trips. Business class travel and paid corporate hotels certainly made that travel very easy, and helped me get my feet wet.

    In terms of non-work international travel, I definitely got a late start. We started with 2 simple family trips to Europe with our kids in my early 40’s, but in the last 1.5 years since I left my job we really turned it up, going to the Philippines, India, Greece, Costa Rica and UK.

    Once we are fully location independent next year, we intend to see as much as we can from our list of 100 travel destinations that my wife put together – https://costaricafire.com/travel/100-dreams-travel-destinations/

    Looks like you’ve gotten some great travel experience over the years – thanks for sharing and inspiring!

    1. Hi Scott – thanks for your comment. I love your blog, and that list of 100 places is awesome. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures as you progress through the list.

  2. There is something really beautiful about the American Desert. I never realized how much I liked it until I lived close enough to drive through it.

    It’s awesome that you’ve been able to visit so many countries!

    1. Hi Liz – I know there are some places that are so everyday to some people, but always seem really amazing to me.

      Indeed, it helps a lot to live close to so many countries – it’s much easier in Europe to visit a new country than it is in the US.

  3. Yuk, I hate Vegas. It is so artificial. My dad used to go gambling there so I visited many times when I was young. I like LA better. There are many nice spots in the sea of humanity there.
    My wife visited Turkey before we were married and had a great time. I’ve always wanted to visit. Maybe we should go soon. It should be cheap now, right? Morocco is also near the top of our list.

    1. That’s cool you have the opposite experiences – I’m sure there are lovely places in LA – and we just did not manage to find them.

      Turkey is always cheap and probably extremely cheap to visit now. And Morocco is also very reasonable and just so much fun.

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