30 countries before 30

I have set myself the goal of travelling to 30 countries before I turn 30. I think 30 gigs and 30 countries would be a perfect way to say farewell to my 20’s. As I have already seen more than 30 gigs and I am closer to 30 than I am to 25, I thought now would be a good time to share with you a bit about where I have been and where my wanderlust came from. Brace yourself! It’s a long long post!

As you can see in my adventures below, I didn’t really get to travel all that much when I was younger but I am conscious I was luckier than some. I went on 3 package holidays, 2 school trips abroad and a city break before I turned 18. My family’s decision to move to Saudi Arabia (KSA for all you expats) when I was 14 resulted in me being able to tick there, and the neighbouring Bahrain off my list. My parents were, and still do not view travel the way I do. It might be a generational thing or a cultural thing or maybe just personal preference? Who knows. My grandparents never went abroad, nor had any desire to and my parents see travel as a necessity and prefer to enjoy a rare treat of a package holiday at the height of summer, spending 2 weeks sitting on a sun lounger by a pool once every 10 years or so to switch off.  Each person holidays different and it doesn’t make it a less enjoyable experience, nor does it make them less happy or feel like they have not lived life to the fullest.

I am not opposed to package holidays, although it may sound like it later on in my post. I have been looking at potentially doing a package holiday at some point in the next few years but I don’t think I could stay longer than a week at this moment in time.

09A2CDD0-3B7C-4678-BF50-7F8D0374A250

2009 until 2015 also saw little travels. Whilst most of my friends ventured on gap years exploring every corner of the globe, I went straight to university at 17 and worked. I spent a considerable amount of my free time in Glasgow, Northern Ireland, Manchester, Liverpool and London. My only trips abroad were in 2011 when I ventured to the stunning Lake Garda for a wedding and spent a month in Beijing completing an internship. I then didn’t go abroad again until 2015 where I went to Kraków and Barcelona (which was my Honeymoon). Despite having the hunger to explore more places during this time, I was set back by a demanding work and personal life schedule on top the overall expense of my periods moving around a lot and living in the not-so-cheap cities of London and Edinburgh… oh and then paying for a wedding as well! Time just escaped me as I grew from strength to strength at work, the only annual leave I would take was to not leave my bed for 3 days due to burnout. I just didn’t have the energy, money or time to put travel as a priority on my list.

Similar to what I said in a previous post, I just played the hand I was dealt with. I had a wonderful time doing what I did in my late teens/early 20’s and I wouldn’t be the person I am now without those things, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the places I explore as much as I do now.

On top of that, it has honestly taken me until 2017 to finally be able to disconnect from work and switch off during periods of annual leave. I might be a ‘late bloomer’ to putting time and energy travelling but being able to take a break is sometimes harder than you think!

My dream of seeing new places was further fuelled when I met Mr Ramblings. For those who don’t know my husband, he is originally from Australia and emigrated to the UK in 2013, a few months later we met and the rest is history. I have always loved seeing the world through his eyes as I seem to forget how lucky I am to live in Europe and be a 90 minute flight away from a new city with a new language and a new culture. I also love visiting sites around Scotland with him, some of which I have passed thousands of times on the bus or in the car throughout my childhood and never paid attention to it. It’s a warming feeling to see the boyish wonder on his face as he points at castle ruins and details the history of the rubble and exclaims how much older everything is to the exact year in comparison to his country of birth. His feeling towards places even after being in the UK for nearly 6 years is something I can appreciate but never can, and probably will not fully understand. When I accepted the offer to complete my Master’s Degree in 2017, we decided to make the most of my 8 months where my schedule was a lot more flexible and I put my career on hold to qualify to become a HR practitioner. This was around the same time as I started writing my blog and publishing one of my first posts about my adventures in Berlin. Every piece of annual leave we can get is dedicated to seeing something new, from a castle several miles away from our home to a new destination to be a map pin to stick our cork globe that sits in our sitting room.

So that brings you up to date with my travel history! Scroll further to see my previous adventures!

1. The United Kingdom
Ok so before you say anything…. I think I have full eligibility to say that I have visited the UK even though I have lived here my entire life. I spent 8 years of my childhood living in South Wales and lived in London for 18 months when I was 21. I also spent a majority of my holidays in my late teens/early 20’s in Northern Ireland. There has been much debate as to whether or not I count the UK as 1 country or recognize each individual state. According the UN, the UK is just one country so I shall stick to my guns and count is as just the one country.

Major cities I have visited/lived in include:
Scotland: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth & Stirling, 

England: Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Carlisle, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Preston & York.

Wales: Cardiff & Swansea.

Northern Ireland: Belfast & Derry/Londonderry.

I know that there are many many more places left to explore as part of my UK travels. I am planning on exploring Scottish Islands later this month by visiting the Isle of Mull and I would love to go to the Channel Islands and/or the Isle of Man sometime in the future.

2. Ireland (2010-2014 & 2019)
No trip to Derry is complete without popping over the border to Donegal. I’ve spent some time up the picturesque coast towards Quigley’s Point in my late teens/early 20s. I was fortunate enough to revisit the Emerald Isle and tick Dublin off my bucket list in January 2019 as well which you can read about in my blog.

3. Switzerland (1997)
I was lucky enough to visit Zurich when I was younger, I think I was about 6 or 7 when I went. I don’t remember all that much but I do remember going to Heidi’s house (as I was obsessed with the book and was super excited), eating my weight in gorgeous Swiss chocolate and being super confused at all the different languages that Swiss people can speak. I’d love to go back and visit someday soon and take Mr Ramblings as I most definitely did not appreciate the trip.

4. Greece (2000)
My first big family holiday was to Crete back in 2000. We spent 2 weeks in Agios Nikoloas. In particular I enjoyed walks along through the scenic costal town and the day trip we took to the former leprosy island of Spingalonga.  I remember it was the first time I had ever properly swam in the ocean (with the exception of paddling at the shores of Ogmore Bay near where I lived as a child.) I don’t know what I was expecting the Mediterranean sea to be like but I wasn’t expecting it to be so salty! I was in awe at how crystal blue the waters were in the bay and thoroughly enjoyed my first (and only to date) experience of snorkelling.

img_5942

5. Cyprus (2009)
Just before I started my undergraduate degree, I went on another family holiday to Paphos. My Dad rented a car whilst we were there for a day and we visited some great sites including Aphrodite’s temple, Aphrodite’s rock (which was stunning) and drove all the way up to the Turkish Cypriot border, stopping along the way to eat some local food and visit some stunning churches.It was most definitely the best day of the the entire trip.

I don’t think I would go back to Cyprus. Probably because my experience was dampened by my inability to enjoy any sort of activity once the weather exceeds 30 degree Celsius and the thought of going outdoors was (and still is) unfathomable. It also didn’t help that I wanted to experience history and culture on the island whilst my parents had a different sort of holiday in mind. My parents have returned to Paphos over the years and enjoy is more than ever… I guess it’s just not my cup of tea.

6. France (1994 & 2006)
I spent nearly 2 weeks in the Loire Valley in my teens on a French Exchange. I got to explore Tours, Loches and Amboise. I explored a few castles, stately homes (including the Chateau de Cheverny which is the home of Tintin) and Futuroscope. It was a great time eating way to much Brioche and enjoying the beautiful weather while me and my friends trying to speak French to boys.

I also went to Disneyland Paris when I was two when it had just opened. I don’t remember much of it but according to my parents I was absolutely terrified of Aladdin to the point where I was screaming and crying the entire park down until he went away. I would love to re-visit Disneyland in the future and spend a few days in Paris. However, I am still skeptical as to whether of not I could go up the Eiffel Tower as I have a crippling fear of heights.

img_5944

7. Saudi Arabia (2007-2011)
Saudi Arabia is such a cool country. I spent 2007-2011 bouncing between Scotland and Khobar on school and university holidays. If you ever in your life time have the opportunity to go to this country. GO! Yes, there is a lot of restrictions on women and women’s rights have drastically improved since I first went out. Women can now drive and cinemas are now open for the first time in thirty years. In my years regularly visiting the country, it was a cultural eye opener, especially seeing so many people in throbes and abayas. I could talk about my experience living the expat life there for days. I never felt unsafe whilst I was there, despite the horrors that you hear on the BBC – I definitely felt safer there than I did in some European countries I have visited! The only negatives I would say about my time in KSA is the unbelievable hankering for bacon sandwiches as beef bacon is not quite as good and of course, the heat! The hottest day I remember was it being 52 degrees. Safe to say I stayed in the house with the air conditioning on full blast that day eating Baskin Robbins straight from the tub!

If you are planning a trip, I would definitely say keep an open mind and be respectful of their culture and have a great time.

8. Bahrain (2007-2011)
Just off the eastern province on the causeway, the little island of Bahrain is a gem in the Arabian Gulf. It is repeatedly on the list for the best place for expatriates to live and work. I couldn’t agree more. This 25mile island is full of wonders and is a like a less crowded Dubai. If glitz and glamour without the Dubai crowds if your thing, Bahrain is the place to visit!

9 & 10. Italy and The Vatican City (2004 & 2011)
I have been to Italy several times, exploring Rome (including the country #10, The Vatican City), Lake Garda and the bay of Naples. As beautiful as the country is, the customer service has always put me off and I have never been able to relax on any the times I have been there. I have always been cautious of pickpockets and overwhelmed with the hoards of tourists, more so than I was in Barcelona.

I visited Rome, the Vatican City and the Bay of Naples back in 2004 on a school trip. I remember how excited I was at the prospect of having my very own passport (I was only named on my Mother’s passport prior to that). Rome was chaotic and full of ancient wonders in every sight. The Vatican City was an incredible experience and I particularly enjoyed climbing the 551 steps up to the top of St Peter’s Basilica’s dome (this was way before my fear or heights set in). I was disappointed that the Sistine chapel was closed for refurbishments during my time there and would love to go back to see it one day.  During the second part of the school trip, we stayed in the small town of Vico Equense with sweeping views on the Bay of Naples. I was fortunate enough not only to climb the active volcano of Mount Vesuvius but also visit the wonders of Pompeii. Both activities were not only highlights of my Italian travels but of my travels overall.

img_5943

11. China (2011)
I was lucky enough when I was 19 to receive a scholarship to complete a marketing internship in Beijing. I spent the entire month exploring the city during the evenings and weekends. My month in Beijing ignited my love of travelling and wanting to experience new cultures and see new places. Never in my wildest dreams did I think little me from Dundee would walk along the Great Wall of China, light incense and pray at Buddhist Temple and party on rooftop bars as the sun went down over the beautiful skyscrapers of the CBD with sweat sticking to my forehead from the humidity.

I learnt a very important lesson whilst I was in China and that was that no matter how long you are in a place, you can’t do everything. Whilst the rest of the internship group was visiting the Summer Palace, I was curled up on the sofa of my apartment watching Australian Masterchef as I was suffering from culture shock and burnout. China may have been my 11th country but for some in my group, it was their 30th or 40th country and maybe their second or in one case, their third trip to Beijing. It was also my first time travelling on my own where for many it was one of many trips.

China was also where I started collecting Lonely Planet guides. Some people buy shot glasses or fridge magnets as souvenirs but my favourite thing is as soon as I gave booked a flight somewhere to pick up a guide from Amazon to help me plan my latest adventure. My Beijing one is probably my most thumbed through to date. My wonderful collection of neatly stacked spines of various destinations has become a great stand for my lamp in my lounge.

12. Poland (2015)
Poland was the first trip that I took with Mr Ramblings. After having a lengthy chat about how we wanted to travel as I had not been abroad in 4 years and he had never been abroad with the exception of emigrating from Australia to the UK, we agreed on a country we both never dreamed of visiting, Poland. In our working lives, we had several Polish friends who told us that we needed to go to Kraków We had such an amazing time and enjoyed the mini heatwave that happened when we were there to the point where we didn’t get up visiting the city’s most famous site, Auschwitz and just enjoyed the old town and Jewish quarter.

img_5949

13. Spain (2006 & 2015)
I had been to Tenerife as a teen on a family holiday but apart from taking an excursion to Mount Teide, I pretty much felt like I was in the UK from all the tourists. I don’t think I would want to visit again as it was just not my sort of place. Most of the reasons why I disliked the place is similar to those as I have said as to why I don’t want to return to Paphos.

My second visit to Spain almost a decade later was to Barcelona for me and Mr’s honeymoon. Whilst people are spending eye watering sums on once in a lifetime trips to the Maldives or Fiji, we opted for a European break as the thought of lying on a beach for a week or two did not sound appealing at the time. We spent 4 nights in an incredible suite with a jacuzzi in the middle of the room, drank way too much Sangria, ate way to much tapas and paella and got to explore some beautiful churches and sites. Barcelona was definitely indulgent from landing to take off!

 

And that is where my blog starts! Country number 13 in Berlin, nearly 2 years after our Barcelona adventure. So you are all up to date now on my adventures 🙂 I don’t know where my next adventures will take me as they days count down until my 30th Birthday but I am excited to find out! I plan on revisiting some of the countries I’ve already explored with Mr Ramblings like Italy, France and Greece as well.

 

Have you been to any of the countries that I have explored? Or are any of the ones mentions on your destination list?

 

AJ x

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s