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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?