30 days ago I reached a milestone in my life. I turned the big 3-0. For most people this seems to be upsetting but I’ve been excited about reaching my thirties. Most people seem sad to leave the ‘young’ twenties behind them but I’ve always looked at it as reaching a good level in life. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun in my twenties, maybe on some occasions too much fun!
My twenties were the stage where I set up my life. I went to university to learn how to be independent and actually look after myself. I took the time to date around to see what I wanted out of a partner. More importantly though, I took the time to travel alone and discover the kind of person I really was.
I spent my twenties working through the ‘crap’ part of my career where I got paid very little to basically look after clients. I took the time to learn from my peers and worked my way up to a decent salary. More importantly for me, I reached a point where I had enough skills to be ‘sought after’ and went freelance.
This was huge for me as it meant I could plan my work around my travels. If I want to take a month off to travel it’s my decision. There’s no boss to tell me I can’t go and with the day rate I earn I can afford luxury over budget. I’m sorry hostels, you were a huge part of my twenties and I loved you but I am too old to share a room with 15 strangers. These days I’d much rather stay in a place with it’s own private pool or bathtub on the balcony.
As someone who loves travel I have many travel friends on Facebook, I join in on many travel forums and I read plenty of travel blogs. There’s one theme I’ve noticed that many travelers deem as important. Reaching 30 countries by the age of 30. Some are much more ambitious and want to hit 50 countries by 30 but the ‘standard’ goal for travelers is 30 countries.
Why 30 countries? I have no idea. I guess 30 countries before 30 has a nice ring to it. I’ve never been one to care about the amount of countries I’ve been to which is why I don’t count countries. You run the risk of caring more about the count than the experience. I’ve seen people rush through a country just to check it off their list. That’s just not my way of traveling. As I’m writing this I have no idea how many countries I’ve been to.
So, do I need to have reached 30 counties before 30? Does it matter? I don’t think so but now that I’ve reached 30 I keep wondering if I did hit this milestone everyone goes on about. While I don’t care how many countries I’ve been to, my curiously is getting the better of me. I am Curious Claire after all!
But how do you even count countries. Do you include the country you were born in? Technically you have been there but just being born there doesn’t mean you’ve visited the country. Is there a time limit to how long you have to be in a country before you can count it? Can you count a stopover if you never leave the airport? Do you count a country if you just drive through it without getting out of the car? Already I’m finding this too much hard work!
So let’s do this. For the first time ever I am going to count my countries. I will not be counting a country if I never left the airport. For me, driving through a country is not enough to count it so if I didn’t leave the car to enjoy something there it’s not going on my list.
I’m going to start my list with the UK because even though I was born in England I have taken the time to explore my home country (as I believe everyone should!) and I’ve also been to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Countries Countdown
1. United Kingdom
I actually had a conversation with my mum not too long ago about my first trip abroad so I know it was Portugal. After that I have no idea of the order I went to countries so these first few countries that I went to as part of family holidays will be in no particular order.
As far as I know these are the only countries I went to as part of family holidays when I was a child. I’m sure if I’m wrong my parents will correct me!
7. United States of America
The first ever trip I took without my family was to USA with my college. I took media studies at college and we had the chance to visit Hollywood and San Francisco. We got to visit Universal Studios, Sony Pictures, Alcatraz and many important movie sights around San Francisco.
8. Czech Republic
My trip to Prague was the first trip I took with friends and it felt like my first non grown up trip. We were college kids and certainly didn’t feel like adults! It was great just to be able to wander around a new city without an agenda. I’m pretty sure this is the first country abroad I ever had a beer in. I wasn’t a fan of beer back then and only had one in Prague because we found one called Viagra… like I said, we weren’t grown ups!
I wasn’t the first one in the family to have the desire to travel. Back in 2010 my brother and his best friend decided to take a year out to backpack around Australia. My mum hated the idea of a Christmas without both her kids so she and my stepdad bought tickets for us to fly out to Sydney to see him over the holidays so we could all have a sunny Christmas together. Just a shame for my mum they actually came home after 5 months which meant they came home before Christmas. My mum would have lost the money if we cancelled the tickets so she ended up paying for both my brother and his friend to come back out to Sydney with us! How lucky are they!
While this wasn’t the first couples trip I ever took, the first was to Spain but that was already included in the ‘family holidays’ section of this list, this was the first couples city break I took. This trip was with my long term boyfriend from university and was also to be our last trip together. It was this breakup that led me to start traveling alone.
Not long after the breakup my friend who I was living with decided we needed a girls holiday. We had known each other for years and never been away together. We booked up an all inclusive holiday that her partner was so jealous of he ended up joining us. We made so many great memories that trip that we still laugh about to this day. Only they will understand why this is funny but just for them… “Hello Claire”
A few months after the breakup I started to think about the back packing trip my brother had taken and dreamt of doing something similar. I didn’t have a friend who I could go with so my big adventure would have to be solo. That thought scared me so I started taking short weekend breaks by myself to get used to the idea. My first solo trip was to Paris , the next Brussels before I then started taking some solo trips to places in England so I could explore my own country. After a while I gained the confidence to fly solo and that’s when I really started exploring the world. I would fly to Oslo, Copenhagen, Hamburg , anywhere I wanted.
The first trip I took with Danik was to Poland. Because I’ve never counted countries I’ve never noticed this until just now but country number 15 was visited in 2015. I’m such a geek with numbers! This trip to Warsaw and Lublin is what started my love of visiting Poland.
Back in 2016 when I was still blogging under Curious Claire I was lucky to be invited to be part of the Kerala Blog Express. This was my first visit to Asia and I got to spend 2 weeks exploring the beautiful state of Kerala with 29 other bloggers while staying in some of the most luxurious resorts I’ve ever seen.
Before I went to India the kinda relationship I had started with Danik had come to an end before ever really starting. This loss had hit me hard so it seemed like the perfect excuse to finally go on the big adventure I had been dreaming of since my last break up. Am I such a cliche? I handed in my notice at work, sold my belongings or put them into storage and headed off to Asia for one of the most amazing trips of my life. I took part in Songkran Festival in Thailand, stayed in a luxurious resort in Sapa, visited many cool cafes including several cat cafes. I went to night markets and ate crickets, visited stunning beaches and completed the open water diving course.
After I returned from Asia my mum and me headed to Ireland for a long weekend to see my great aunt. Considering i’m quarter Irish and have relatives living in Ireland I can’t believe Ireland is so far down on my list! I really should have visited this beautiful country much sooner.
While I was out in Asia Danik flew out to Malaysia to win me back and I couldn’t resist a man who would take an 11 hour flight just to spend 13 hours to try and get me back. We got together in Kuala Lumpur and since I returned home from Asia we started this blog which has now been going strong for over a year. Since I’ve been back we’ve been on so many amazing adventures together and we still have many more to come. Some of the highlights have been northern lights chasing, hiking the Great Wall of China, visiting the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen, hiking in Zermatt, visiting the northernmost brewery in the arctic. Our adventures have been non-stop!
32. South Korea
Last on the list we have South Korea. Just a week before my birthday I returned home from my first ever job abroad. I was lucky to be asked to take part in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. This was hard for me to travel somewhere and not spend the whole time exploring the country but I was grateful to have 1 day off to at least go and see Seoul, a place i’ve been dying to visit for years!
So it looks like I did hit the ‘goal’ of reaching 30 countries before 30. Do I feel good about it? Well to be honest, I don’t really care. It was my curiosity that made me want to see if I had reached this sought out target but I personally don’t feel any different now I know. I strongly believe travel is more about the experiences and not about setting goals. I don’t want to rush through countries just to brag about having a high number. Some countries I fell in love with instantly and I’d rather return to these countries and take the time to explore them.
What do you think? Is counting countries a good or bad thing? Who set themselves the target of reaching 30 countries before 30?
Like this post? Don’t forget to pin the below image