Ms ZiYou Europe Road Trip
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On my own dime – Countries 7 to 16

It’s no secret that I, alongside many other FIRE bloggers, love to travel. I’ve told the tales of my travel as a child, the countries I have visited, and how I remember them in retrospect. And now for the next instalment in my country counting – the first countries I visited on my own dime.

Beach Breaks and City Breaks

One of the first visits on my own dime was revisiting a country I had already been to again. A friend and I did a beach break in Greece which was relaxing and fun. But after two weeks of sunbathing, going out to dinner then drinks each night it got a bit too repetitive. And I started to want more from my breaks.

Next, I did some UK trips to visit friends which were awesome and about reconnecting and seeing different parts of the country. Also managed a city break to see Paris again – a city I doubt I will ever tire of and still love visiting.

Ireland

Ms ZiYou Temple Bar

Now the first new country I visited on my own dime was the Republic of Ireland – and Dublin specifically the first time. I’d love to say it was a really interesting cultural trip, but really it was just a party weekend to visit a friend who had moved there.

We certainly made the most of the Irish pubs – after deciding Temple Bar was indeed a tourist trap with overpriced drinks, we went more local. And found many great pubs playing traditional music in which to spend our time. Nothing like an afternoon drinking listening to the fiddle.

The only cultural thing I remember was a flying visit to Trinity college, There is no doubt it is a stunning building, and it was a good pit stop between pubs. Perhaps I need to revisit Dublin as a more mature adult? I don’t know –  think I’d prefer to see the countryside nowadays.

Solo Travel Road Trip

I managed to secure a graduate job after university and hence pondered my last summer of freedom. A full 2 months with nothing to do after my graduation. What to do to fill my time? I could work, but truth be told I didn’t need the money. What I really wanted to do was to get out and explore the world. And so my first European road trip came to fruition. I loaded up my trusty car with my belongings, booked a ferry crossing and went off on an adventure with a European atlas. Starting in Calais, France, I solo travelled around Europe.

BelgiumMs ZiYou Brussels

My first new country was reached on day one – a few hours drive from Calais lies Belgium. I marvelled at the architecture in Antwerp and Bruges. Ate lots (and lots) of chocolate and tried to gain an appreciation for art.

One destination that always seems underrated to me is Brussels  – the capital of Belgium itself. I loved the Grand Place and found the city welcoming and very multi-lingual. And truth be told, I prefer Brussels to Bruges and Antwerp. The good news is they are all very close, so you can visit them all and choose your own favourite.

Netherlands

Ms ZiYou Amsterdam

I have to admit to only spending a few days in the Netherlands as a taster visit. Absolutely everything about Amsterdam agreed with me and I even took to hiring a bike. I have fond memories of street kiosks selling falafel – a rare vegetarian snack when most are dead animal based.

My feminist self bristled at the legal red light district, and wondered where no men were selling their bodies? I immersed myself in cheap wine and art and explored the cultural offerings such as Anne Franks house and various museums.

Germany  Ms ZiYou neuschwanstei

Not being a fan of the language or cuisine I did not want to spend a lot of time in Germany. I specifically went to see this beauty – the best castle in the world. And it was breathtaking – a castle suspended up in the sky behind trees.

The freedom of being on my own dime was awesome; I was able to pick and choose where to linger and admire and where to drive right through. And I made the most of those German Autobahns.

Liechtenstein

Ms ZiYou liechtenstein

And this tiny kingdom was a drive-through visit – there really was not much at all to see, Moreover, they would not stamp EU passports.

But even at a young age, I was a country counter and determined since I was on my own dime, that I was going to visit this new country or is it a principality?

LuxembourgMs ZiYou Luxembourg

Unexpectedly, Luxembourg turned out to be ace.  This was a surprise. In addition to the cheap petrol, Luxembourg dished up surprise after surprise.

The city itself was a really pleasant place to wander around and relax. Moreover, the countryside was also exceptional. I visited country parks that had easy parking and lovely trails and everything was so simple to navigate.

Austria

Ms ZiYou Salzburg

Somewhere that always pleasantly surprises me is Austria. It was amazing, unexpectedly so. I ended up spending extra time in Salzburg, as I was enjoying it so much. Mozarts’ birthplace really moved me (despite not liking classical music at that time) and the bakeries were divine.

Given it was the summer, you could go up in the ski lift to experience a Sound of Music type experience. It was lovely, the cowbells were gently clanking away……until I spotted the speakers playing them. Despite the fake sound effects, it was fun.

Italy

Ms ZiYou Milan

Nowadays I love, like absolutely adore Italy. But truth be told, my first foray into the country was not that amazing. I visited Milan and was expecting to love it. The Duomo was lovely, as was the arcade. But after seeing them I felt strange.

It turns out Milan is the fashion capital. I know nothing about fashion. Everyone was so well dressed it looked like a runway show. And it all felt a little soulless to be honest. At least the wine was good.

Monaco

Ms ZiYou Monaco

A millionaires playground, where even the affluent feel poor. Well worth visiting to see how the other half live and wander around marvelling at the size of the yachts. And the casino is also top notch to visit – if you are anything like me, you will want to imagine you are in that James Bond movie.

Since I didn’t exactly fit in, and I was on my own dime this was a flying visit to Monaco – just a day trip really to see what it was all really about. And I got my answer: money.

SwitzerlandMs ZiYou Geneva

Freakishly immaculately clean, and very, very expensive are my key memories of Switzerland. It was so different to anywhere else despite sharing languages and very similar cultures to its neighbours.

One of the most unexpectedly fun visits I remember here was visiting the UN. It was a great reminder of all the 193 countries in the world and we are just a small nation in the UK.

On my own dime vs my parents

Can you see a change compared to the places my parents took me? My parents were fond of child-friendly resorts in typical British tourist spots. On my own dime, I chose to move away from the tourist traps, getting to see and experience our immediate neighbours across the Channel. Looking back, I am so impressed at myself making this road trip alone. It was an awesome experience and a challenge at times – but what I learned will always stay with me.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Where was your first trip on your own dime?
  • Does your style of travel differ from your parents
  • Are you a fan of solo travel?

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

22 comments on “On my own dime – Countries 7 to 16

  1. I’m always in awe of people who do these solo trips at such a young age. There is no way I would have had the confidence or the wherewithal to have done this out of uni so all credit to you. I could now – one of the many benefits that comes with age is confidence.
    I think I may take a look at Luxembourg – not somewhere I would have thought of visiting but sounds right up my street – thanks.

    Family holidays of my childhood were a week in Pontins in the U.K. if we were lucky, but I loved them. When I think about it, my family holidays now are not that much different – just scaled up. A hotel, somewhere warm by the sea – more about recovery than discovery. I’m looking forward to changing things up in the future as the whole purpose of a holiday evolves.

    1. That’s so kind of you to be in awe, but in reality, I expect it’s more escapism and a desire to see the wider world. And a dose of pure confidence as you say – I have a lack of fear which is great in these sort of situations. Not to mention I’d been living independently for a few years in what some would call a very rough area of the city – so I had a few street smarts.

      Luxembourg is so underrated and under-visited – most people seem to stop on the way through rather than make it a proper destination which is a shame.

      Ah Pontins – the summer holidays of many in the UK escaping to the seaside. I love how you have upped the criteria to warm adding in additional comfort.

      1. A lot of respect Ms Zi You. For some reason travelling alone is seen as weird. Back in ‘the old days’ lots of people travelled on their own. As you know, I’m not a big traveller. But I enjoy wandering around London on my own and watching people.

        1. Hey YFG – I abide by the first rule of FI – who cares that some people find it weird? I find working 40+ years and going home to watch TV every night weird as well.

          London is a fab place for people watching….so many interesting things going on.

  2. We live to travel and it forms a large part of our budget. Belgium is great if you like the beer (We do) and I would recommend the city of Ghent.

    A friend recently travelled the Caucasus countries and that looked amazing. Maybe when the Little Lady and Master are older we will do the same.

    The best things about travel are the different people, different food (And drink) and cultural heritage.

    1. Cool to hear from people that live to travel. I don’t recall being impressed with Ghent but maybe I should go again and give it a go – it’s in day trip radius which means it might actually happen!

      Ooohh – I do fancy the Caucasus as well – the mountains and trekking look nothing short of amazing.

      1. I think that we lived in an age of really cheap international travel. Prices seem a bit more expensive now than a few years ago – but there’s always somewhere new to travel to (even if you’ve been there 100 times before).

          1. Sorry. Let me clarify; the under 2 tickets are a fixed price of £20 each way but our tickets cost less than that. Each airline has it’s own rules and it’s worth someone putting together a comparison table.

            One other thing to consider is that despite having a child in tow, Ryanair won’t automatically seat two adults together – you need to pay extra for that (nasty Ryanair)

  3. My first solo trips were to Paris and Barcelona with a good friend, and then Beijing (to do an intensive Chinese language study program), Thailand (only a beach resort island/Koh Samui though) and Cambodia. We didn’t have that many opportunities to travel as a family when I was young – we went back to Taiwan to see family a lot, and otherwise stayed with shorter trips in the US (Disneyland, Disneyworld each for one time when I was very young, Las Vegas, things like that) and my personal preference for travel style is a little different, I like smaller hotels and very relaxed wandering around when I travel on my own.

    I’ve also been in Monaco for a short stint and found it a pretty weird place. Definitely all about money, like you say, and not somewhere I’d want to visit for long. (Strangely enough, looking at the landscape and the apartment buildings, I was very reminded of Hong Kong’s more pricey neighborhoods, mainly near Central on the Island/the Mid-Levels, some of the same kind of somewhat steep hills and modern-looking high-rises on them. The rest of each city is, of course, very very different, so it was a strange connection for my mind to draw. Both places are arguably all about money though, at least that particular slice of Hong Kong, which is also immediately adjacent to the financial district, essentially.)

    1. Hey Xin – those are some good choices for first solo trips – and long haul from the US – how cool. And yes, just relaxing and wandering around is ace on holiday.

      I can imagine Hong Kong is like Monaco – although I’ve never been and do need to visit one day.

  4. Wow, impressive. I didn’t travel on my own dime until 24? I visited Hawaii with friends. I didn’t have any money before that.
    I’m not a big fan of solo travel and haven’t done it much. The only time was when I visited the Cook Islands. I was on the way to meet up with my parents in New Zealand and stopped by for a few days to chill out. Other than that, I’ve always had travel companions.

What do you think?