Today is my birthday. I’m now officially 30 years old. I still can’t believe it. I swear I just graduated high school yesterday. As a child, I remember the summer school holidays lasting for months. But, now as an adult, I blink and a month is gone.
My 20s were filled with lots of up and downs, but I can’t deny that my 20s were great. While I was never able to find a career that I loved, I got to dabble in a lot of industries, and I finally feel that I’m getting closer to discovering what I’m “born to do.”
During my 20s I graduated college, completed a masters degree while working full-time, paid off my undergraduate student loans, became obsessed with triathlons and became an Ironman, started a business, and traveled to 31 countries.
I don’t believe that travel should be about ticking countries off a list or trying to be the first or the youngest or the fastest person to visit all the countries of the world. But, I will admit, I had this secret goal of visiting 30 countries before I turned 30. I achieved my goal on April 3, 2016, when I landed in Sydney, Australia to begin my working holiday visa.
30 Countries By 30 Secret Challenge
Italy was the first country I ever visited outside the United States in 2006. I was a 19-year-old college student traveling on a two-week short course with my university. We spent time in Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, and Pompeii.
Later that year I traveled with a group of ski kids from my university to Quebec City for a long weekend of skiing and partying. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I traveled again to Canada, this time to spend time in Montreal.
I didn’t travel internationally again until 2010 when I partook in a two-week medical mission to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. While we didn’t get to spend much time exploring either country as tourists, we did get an insider look at the health and economic status of many local communities in each country.
Belize in 2014 was my first “real” vacation ever. One of my best friends randomly booked two weeks in Belize, and I decided that I would spend a week with her. We spent a day in the western jungle before spending a few days island hopping off the coast. This was the trip that sparked my interest in backpacking and ultimately led to my “Great Escape” plan.
During my vacation in Belize, Lindsay and I spent a few days in Guatemala exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. Last December I started my Great Escape in Guatemala. Guatemala has quickly captured a place in my heart and is one of my favorite countries.
I haven’t made it to mainland Portugal, but the Azores Islands hold a very special place in my heart. If you have the opportunity to go, then you need to visit the Azores Islands.
In 2015 I spent about ten days in Greece. I hate when people ask me what my favorite country is, but if I had to pick one, it would be Greece. From the incredible MedSailors tour I did to the delicious food to the breathtaking landscape of Meteora, Greece was unforgettable.
Prague is probably one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. With its fairytale architecture, yummy food, and friendly locals, I’d love to head back to Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic.
My time in Brussels was spent eating chocolate and drinking a lot of Belgium beer. I didn’t really like the city of Brussels but look forward to spending time in the smaller cities like Ghent in the future. But I will certainly stop in Brussels for some Mary chocolate!
I spent a long weekend in September in Mexico City. Mexico City is everything you can imagine from a large, chaotic city, but it has its charm. The food is fantastic, and I loved the history and culture of the city. I look forward to visiting more of Mexico someday. Mostly to scuba dive.
There are no words on how incredible Iceland is. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Mostly for the yogurt. From its surreal landscape to Icelandic ponies to natural hot springs, I need to go back to see the Northern Lights!
Honduras has a very special place in my heart as it was where I learned to dive. Perhaps I’m biased, but the diving and backpacker culture in Utila is one of the best in Central America. Plus, I got to go horseback riding in Copan Ruinas.
During my time in Barcelona, I did a day tour that brought us to Andorra. I’ll be honest; I did it so I could check Andorra off the list. While Andorra does have some incredible ski mountains and hiking trails, I’m not sure I’d ever go back. It’s just not my cup of tea.
Morocco was my gateway to the African continent. I’ve heard many stories from friends about how amazing Morocco is, and I would have to agree. My favorite part was exploring the Sahara Desert by 4×4 and camel.
I spent five days in London visiting a close friend from home and celebrating my 29th birthday. The weather wasn’t the nicest (typical London weather), and I was exhausted, but I did manage to explore parts of the Big Smoke.
Amsterdam is one fascinating city. The weather was cold and rainy, but I made the best of my short time in the city. From a city cycling tour to a sex show and lots of lattes, I’d like to go back and cycle the countryside along the tulips.
I spent time in both Berlin and Munich. Much of my time in Munich was spent working and drinking with my Scottish roommates, but I loved the city. Berlin was an exciting clash of history, art, and grit.
Poland is incredible, and I definitely want to go back. I spent time in both Warsaw and Krakow. Unlike most people, I preferred Warsaw over Krakow. I also spent a day at Auschwitz, which broke my heart and left me with a lot of unanswered questions.
I spent five days between my travels in Europe and Australia in this Middle Eastern country. Dubai is a fascinating mix of Old World meets modern. With its over-the-top shopping malls to ever-growing skyscrapers, Dubai is constantly growing. I much preferred Ahu Dhabi and the Grand Mosque over Dubai.
My travels around the world are nowhere near complete. There is never enough time or money to explore everything that I want, but I’m going to try as hard as I can to see as much as I can. I doubt I’ll ever visit every country in the world, but I hope someday I will visit at least 100. But, you won’t see me jetting around trying to set any records.