I started my first big solo backpacking adventure in 2010. Before that, I had actually done some travelling in Greece, the Baltics and my own backyard, Australia. All of this was done by myself, but it wasn’t until June 2010 when I set off on a grand adventure that I had always dreamt about. This trip involved taking the trans-Siberian railway, starting in Beijing, passing up through Mongolia, crossing Russia and then city hopping all over Europe’s capital cities. This was when I realised I wanted to live a life of as many travel experiences as possible, and since it has almost been five years since then, I’ve decided to make a blog post detailing the 9 of my destinations which I visited between then and now.
As of September 2014, I have made it to 36 countries on six of the world’s vastly different continents. This post is about my personal favourite countries that have provided me with amazing memories and the most rewarding and enriching experiences.
In the United States I had a truly amazing time travelling across the country by Greyhound bus over the spread of two months. It was particularly a pleasant trip, for one thing, because of the lack of language barrier. I could get along with all of the fellow travellers in English, without the challenges a continent with several different languages would offer. Previously, I had travelled to Europe, where the language barrier sometimes made it difficult to socialise, so this was significantly easier in the US and as a result, naturally, I was able to have a better time with people, not only fellow travellers but with locals as well. In many cities, I met plenty of warm, friendly and open-minded Americans and it was a genuine pleasure to have a conversation with them.
It’s also an incredibly beautiful, scenic country to road trip across. Tours are very well organised, major cities are very well connected. The majority of my point to point travel method was by Greyhound buses, using a Discovery Pass. Occasionally, I would hire a car, which was easy and affordable, and it made it easier to get to places that were somewhat out of reach by tour companies or public transport. I road tripped across Arizona, Utah and Colorado, which were incredibly beautiful states and are among my favourites.
I loved atmosphere of the different places I visited. The US is a vast and diverse nation. Locals are curious to hear about where you come from. Even the homeless people are genuinely very friendly and have something to say. I remember having conversations with a few.
The United Kingdom is great for many reasons. It is very well interconnected with other European cities, and it’s location makes it a convenient place to have a base and plan travels to a lot of continental European destinations. The countryside is beautiful, and the capital, London, is a melting pot. There are a lot of people to meet, and you can find just about everything, as it’s a major global capital. But that said, London is not a cheap place to live. I earnt just enough money to support myself, but it was the living experience that made it memorable and cherishable, where I made some of my best friends. Living in a shared house with people of all different nationalities, we were able to integrate and get along like a family. The UK is great as a tourist destination, but also as a place to live as an expat. There are people living here from all over the world, and that’s probably what I liked the most about it. The UK is also one of the countries that has embraced travel, and encourages students to take gap years after finishing High School. It has a particularly open-minded and diverse culture, housing people from all different walks of life, and I don’t mean just people who travel.
That said, my favourite place in the UK is Bath. I love the town, the ancient sites, and most of all, the thermae. I try to plan visits there at least once a year, just for the spa!
Mongolia is a truly breathtaking and beautiful country. It is sparse, pristine and much of the country is unaltered. It’s the kind of place the soul craves – I’m a proponent of the saying “The human spirit needs places where nature has not been re-arranged by the hands of man”, and this country offers just that. I spent six days in the country, two of which were spent camping in a ger tent in a national park. The scenery was amazing, and the night sky was full of stars. The ger tent itself is something to remember. I had a fire going in the fireplace to keep me warm at night, and it felt really cosy and comfortable. It’s a good place to spend some time away from civilisation, which does the mind and body good.
I love France. Being the UK’s nextdoor neighbour, I get to visit it frequently. Paris is an amazing city to visit, and there will always be new things to see on coming back. Even visiting the same locations doesn’t get old. It’s an iconic city, and with many sites being featured in movies and hearing so many people talk about how much they love Paris, it just feels awesome to be there.
I also love the Riviera region. I travelled down to Nice and Monaco this year, and between these two places there are fantastic little towns, villages and beaches. I walked from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer, and from Cap d’Ail to Monaco, which were very scenic. Nice itself is nice city, excuse the pun. It’s impossible to not use the word ‘nice’ to describe some of the city’s features, for me at least. I definitely recommend it and would like to see more of the country.
Slovenia is an incredibly beautiful country, and it’s often skipped out on people’s itineraries. It’s a hidden gem, right in between Italy and Croatia. The country has a lot to offer, including delicious food, and pleasant scenery. The most popular location is Bled, a beautiful castle by the lake, which resembles something out of a fairy tale. I also went to Bohinj and the Postojna caves. I’ve been to this country in the summer and in the winter, and both seasons are great times to be in the country! And of course, Ljubljana itself is very picturesque and I enjoyed my time spent there.
Egypt gave me some funny experiences. I ran away from vendors with swords after being ripped off at the Pyramids, and I jumped off a moving train after not being woken up for my stop. I felt like Indiana Jones. I explored the temple of Karnak, temple of Philae, the Pyramids, Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel. All truly magnificent places, but was only put off by constant asking of tips from people, for something as small as answering a question for you, or holding a door open. Taxi drivers would always try to take me to a shop to buy something, instead of first taking me to my destination. Aside from that, the country is truly otherworldly and incredible. I don’t regret my time spent here, and I would be happy to visit again.
Peru made possibly the best experience of my life. I was on a jungle retreat in the Amazon with spiritual-minded individuals, around the time near the end of 2012, when there was a hype about an upcoming ‘spiritual awakening’ for December 21st. There were about 10 or so of us people from different walks of life coming together momentarily, away from civilisation for 2 weeks with no electricity or internet, to experience an ayahuasca retreat, where the goal of all of us was to come together to be ‘spiritually cleansed’, given a helpful sense of direction in life and to be free of the burden of the thoughts and memories that weigh us down. It is a journey into one’s soul and shadow, a spiritual medicine that removes your ego and allows you to look at yourself with an unbiased perspective, which can be painful, but incredibly beneficial. The sense of community and bonding with these people who I shared the experience with was the most amazing thing to ever be a part of, and I am truly grateful for it. It was a very quick and spontaneous decision to come to Peru, and magic truly happened. The experiences here have helped shape me into who I am as well as put me into contact with some of the best friends I’ve made, as well as helping me realise what I truly want in life.
Italy is one of the countries in Europe I’ve returned to. It was an amazing experience first time around, with visiting Venice, San Marino, Rome and Pompeii, with a walk up to Mount Vesuvius. The country has it’s beauty.
The second time around was this year. I made a stop at an organic farm in Liguria, where I had my first workaway experience. I stayed at the farm for three weeks, visiting Cinque Terre and Portofino on my days off. Then I was off to Rimini to work at a party hostel and expand socially. Rimini finally gave me the spirit to become more outgoing and into the nightlife, and I have Cocorico night club to thank for the amazing times I’ve had dancing and forming a connection with people from the hostel. I made some of the best friends of my life here. It’s been truly amazing and serendipitous. I absolutely love Italian people and I very much want the Italian language to be part of my life. I will definitely come back, as it’s a country I would be happy to visit again and again, and possibly even reside permanently in.
Greece comes to number one on my list, and for many reasons. It is the first country I went to abroad by myself (back in 2007). I stuck my head in the travel books of Eleftheroudakis book shop, which is where my desire to travel grew. It’s a shame that same book shop no longer exists. But Greece is an absolutely beautiful country, where you can find nature of just about any kind, and to me it remains one of my homes. Because of my Greek ethnicity also, I feel a sense of belonging to this place. I’ve spent the most time here than in any other country besides my home country, Australia.
I definitely want to explore as much of the country as I can, including its many islands. Santorini is an absolute treasure; one of the most beautiful locations I have ever visited, and where I witnessed one of the best sunsets of my life. It is on my bucket list to spend a summer on one of the Greek islands and enjoy the nightlife that it has to offer.
It’s an amazing country, but also very unfortunate for it’s economic climate. I do hope things will improve.