I decided at the start of 2017 that I wanted to visit every country in Europe by the time I turned 40, which doesn’t seem that hard until you think about visiting countries like Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kosovo, but I’m up for the challenge. Before starting the planning, I had already visited France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and obviously England, Scotland and Wales.
I had usually just visited other countries on family holidays or trips with partners, apart from when I lived in France for a couple of years.
Being single, trips with partners is obviously impossible, but I’m quite a confident person and I don’t mind being alone, so I decided to book some trips on my own, as well as booking some trips with friends for stag dos and lads holidays.
In 2017 I visited 5 new countries, and re-visited a few more.
In May, around my birthday, I decided to take my first solo trip aboard and visited Brussels for one night, and it went really well. You can read about this trip in my post about Brussels.
Following this trip, I decided that travelling alone was fine, so I started to book more solo trips and ended the year with a trip to Eindhoven and Warsaw, both were in countries that I’ve never visited before and I don’t speak Dutch or Polish so it was a bit different to Belgium. I chose Belgium as the first country that I’d visit alone because I can speak French, so it wouldn’t be too daunting for a first trip. For the three planned solo trips, they were only for 1 night each, so I didn’t really have to find much to do, but I had booked to go to Paris with my cousin for 5 nights, but she dropped out, therefore, I ended up in Paris for 5 nights on my own. Obviously speaking French gave me an advantage here as I was able to just go about my days like I was in England, and there was quite a bit of football on whilst I was there, so I just went to the pub to watch the games. My friend from Bordeaux came up for a couple of nights too, so I didn’t spend the whole 5 nights alone, that would have been pretty boring in Paris in my opinion. It’s somewhere that you should go with somebody, preferably a partner.
A few of the trips I took in 2017 were for stag dos, in Prague, Magaluf, Dublin (second time) and in south Wales. They actually cost quite a bit more than visiting the other countries as a lot was spent on alcohol and so on. I don’t think I’ve got any stag dos coming up in 2018, but there is quite a few in 2018 that I’m aware of already.
Right at the end of the year, I took a short trip to Rome with an old friend as she wanted to get a real Italian pizza, so we got two. Rome was decent, but you need more than one day to explore it – I’d say to go for two or three nights. I like to pound the pavement whilst discovering a new city, racking up tens of thousands of steps, tracked by my phone, but she had worn boots with a heel on and had to take a pair of my trainers later into the day. Also, we were up at 4am so by about 9pm we were both exhausted.
As I wanted to visit lots of different countries, I probably won’t return to Italy anytime soon, but I’d still recommend going to Rome – I did get to tick The Vatican off my list, which was good for the European goal.
So far, I’ve only got Iceland booked for 2018, but I’m sure that I’ll get a few more trips in before the end of the year to increase the 31% of Europe that I’ve covered to somewhere a bit closer to 50%.
I have a fear of flying, which sounds stupid, even to me, considering I went on 22 flights in the last 12 months, but it was weird. When I went to Bordeaux, I literally decided when I sat on the plane that I wasn’t scared of flying, and that flight and a few flights following it were great, it was like riding a bus. However, I generally fly with RyanAir, on the same plane a Boeing 737-800, but on the way back from Prague, we were with EasyJet, on a different plane, an Airbus, and they may not seem to different, but they are. As we were descending, I just went white, silent and started sweating – I was frozen, and my friend was trying to talk to me, but I was ignoring him as I was too terrified to speak. I vividly remember why, and I blame the flight attendant as what he did was ridiculous. For no reason, he decided to say, as we were descending quickly, over the tannoy, “Remember, in the case of an emergency landing, please do not take your hand luggage.” Why would you just say that out of the blue? After he said this, all of the attendants started fussing about, calling each other, going into the cockpit and being really jumpy. It took me about 20 minutes to calm down, and the fear literally disappeared when I saw the same attendant cleaning the toilet door handles, as my brain said, why would you clean a toilet door handle if you knew we were going to crash. So from this, I’ve now become terrified of flying again, even on short flights to Dublin, which are not much longer than 30 minutes.
I have decided that in 2018 I’ll conquer the fear again, and during the last 3 or 4 flights, it has got better, but then randomly during the flight, I’ll just become terrified. I’ve heard hypnosis works, but I’m not sure it’d work on me, however, I will give it a go as I want to go back to America soon, and there’s no chance you’ll get me on a flight for that long anytime soon. I plan on going to Antarctica at some point, but for this, you need to fly to Argentina, and that’s not going to happen with this fear.