I realized last week I had miscounted how many countries I had been to. I was doing some 'check how much of the world you've been to' map and I could NOT figure out what #26 was. I really thought I had been to 26 countries, when in fact, it was 25. Not saying this is a small number, but this shows how good I am at math apparently.
By the end of this year I will be at 12.96% - that means I would have stepped foot into almost 13% of the world's countries. I still have St. Lucia, UAE and Maldives left in December to fly to which would get me to that number and put me at 28 countries visited. To me, it felt like I had been to SO MANY countries, but when I had seen that percentage it was a little disheartening.
I need more.
This blog post is to talk about those first twenty five. A reflection on them because each of them had something special or left some lasting impression on me. I would say this is in chronological order, but it most definitely will not all be in perfect order. Also, I do not count layovers in airports as 'having been' in a country. Unless I actually stepped foot in the land outside of customs, I was never there.
1) Bosnia - Let's say I was here in 1986. I was born in Bosnia and that will forever be my home. The great memories of walking to city hall with my mom to see my dad were in this city. Unfortunately these memories are also compounded with the images of what it looked like when I returned for the first time (in 2002) after we fled back in 1992, I also will remember my apartment building riddled in the holes from the shelling in Banja Luka.
2) Croatia - Happy childhood memories are all here. Before I could even walk, this was the country my parents were always taking me to. My grandma and grandpa lived there and making the trip to Crikvenica was awesome. Having gone back twice since leaving as a child, this is probably one of my favorite places in the world.
Pula. Rovinj. Verudela. - Croatia, 2015
3) Serbia - I wish I could remember anything about going here. My mom says I had gone twice, once to Vojvodina and once to Belgrade. Really trying to return to Belgrade now as an adult to see if it is still as awesome as my parents describe it being.
4) Hungary - Another place I wish I could remember more about. When I was five and a half this was the transit country my mom and I fled from Bosnia through to get to Slovenia. When I see pictures of Budapest it looks like the most majestic place and I really hope to one day return and get to fully take it in.
5) Slovenia - Incredible country with incredible people. I lived here for two years between fleeing Bosnia and eventually getting to Canada. We lived in Ljubljana while in Slovenia and if we could have stayed there, I would have been more than happy to grow up there. I have been back twice since and it is just as beautiful every time I return. If you ever have a chance to see Bled in Slovenia - more than enough reason to fly there.
6) Canada - Oh Canada! The country that took me and my parents in. Forever grateful to be here and especially grateful to live in the greatest city in the world - TORONTO (yes I said it, and who doesn't agree can go walk barefoot on a Lego.)
7) USA - The first time I remember going to America was to see my family in Detroit. I guess I was too young and thought there wasn't too many differences between Americans and Canadians. Boy was I wrong. Awks. I appreciate America because it has the NFL and the city of Chicago. Thank you for that.
Chicago. - USA. 2014, 2016, 2017
8) Italy - I'm not sure why I put Italy here, but in all reality, I cannot even remember how many times I have been to Italy. Mostly to Trieste because that is usually the airport some of us land in to get to Croatia or Bosnia for a cheaper price. I like looking at structures in Italy because when you're there you feel so much history in the country. I have now also been to Venice and Rome with the hopes of one day returning to go to Pisa and Sicily.
Rome. Venice. - Italy, 2015
9) Belgium - Probably the most forgettable place I have ever been to. I ended up in Belgium immediately after graduating college for a job opportunity I probably should have never taken. The company flew me to a little place called Overpelt and between that place and Brussels I just was not impressed by it. The food was OK but everything else just was an overall meh. The only positive from going there was the proximity to go to other European countries within a week of quitting training at the job.
10) Netherlands - I did not spend a lot of time in Amsterdam, but from the time I did spend there I was also just unimpressed by it. I can't ride a bike, I don't smoke weed and I don't buy prostitutes. Therefore, all the 'fun things' people go to Amsterdam for is really something that didn't do it for me. Just another place I'm more than happy to never return to again.
11) Germany - My aunt lives in Germany and she one of the coolest people in the world, therefore Germany is FINE BY ME! I spent a week or so in a small city called Dinslaken and also had the pleasure of seeing a bit of Munich and Frankfurt. To this day, I can say no one really parties like the Germans do.
12) Austria - To me, Austria was just another pretty place with a lot of greenery. Almost like a Belgium part 2. I do recall seeing an enormous Ikea while taking a train through the country. Austria was just another country that was slightly bland to me. Unlike Belgium, I would give Austria another try now that I am more educated on the House of Habsburg and the Austro-Hungarian empire. I feel I would appreciate it more now with all this information.
13) Ireland - I was lucky enough to have a day to roam around Dublin via a layover when I was flying home from Croatia. Such a beautiful and quiet place with incredibly nice people. Being in Dublin was one of those times I REALLY wished I liked beer because the pub life seems so fun and neighbory (I don't think that's a word).
14) Jamaica - I went to Jamaica in the summer of 2010 as a gift from my mom and dad for getting into the University of Toronto. Where did I choose to stay while in Jamaica? Hedonism. (I won't explain the resort, but if you Google it - you'll know ITS LIT) I loved Jamaica. The food. The people. Plus I ran around 7 Mile beach in Negril trying to find Street Vybz rum to take home to Toronto. This was where my love of jerk pork and oxtail really exacerbated.
15) Cuba - If there was any place in the world I would spend ALL my vacation time, it would definitely be Cuba. I have been there five times and I have no issue returning another 50 if given the chance. My love of Cuba is so deep that I even wrote a blog post JUST about my travel to Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba. Cayo Guillermo. - Cuba, 2012, 2013, 2016
16) Barbados - One of the places in the world where I have only happy and fun memories. One week from today I am returning to Barbados for a third time to attend their carnival. Although this time it is costing me an arm and a leg, it is well worth the limbs in payment. This small island has welcoming locals, amazing rum, amazing beaches and the kind of soca that will keep you awake for the length of a double shift at work.
17) Spain - My best friends and I went to Spain in the summer of 2015, it was the first leg of our Euro Trip. The only reason we went into Spain was that it had the cheapest flight for entry into Europe. This was not one of our goal destinations but once we got there, we fell in love. The city of Madrid has everything I could ever want. Their food, their culture and their lifestyle is so perfect. Who doesn't love clubbing until 7am but work doesn't start until noon? Wonderful. We also went to Barcelona, which I know other people fawn over - to me it was just OK.
18) Greece - Stopping in Athens and Santorini was the second leg of the Euro Trip in 2015. Athens is awesome because you have so much history in it and Vouliagmeni beach was one of the most chill and welcoming places I had ever been to. Going to Santorini was also a bonus because the pictures you see of the island don't do it justice. We all see the photos of the sunset over those little white houses - it isn't even CLOSE to as beautiful and perfect as when you see it in person.
Athens. Santorini. - Greece, 2015
19) Holy See (Vatican) - I won't pretend to be smart enough to have known this actually counted as a country. During our Euro Trip we were in Rome so it only made sense to go to the Vatican and see St. Peter's Basilica. Incredible place to be. It will take your breath away seeing all the historical monuments and hoards of devotees.
20) England (Anguilla) - The only way to explain this as a visit to England is to refer to colonization. The island of Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory therefore when entering it, I received a stamp on behalf of Britain. Most important point I can definitely tell you about Anguilla is that just as surreal as Santorini is, as is Shoal Bay beach in Anguilla. Places that just are more breathtaking in person than pictures could ever depict.
21) France (St. Bart's) - While in St. Maarten I took a boat over to Anguilla and also made the decision to take a trip over to the super expensive island of St. Bart's. Just like Anguilla, the island of St.Barthélemy is a an overseas territory, but in their case it is for France. I wish I could have loved this island. It is really beautiful, but the prices of food and the pretentious nature of those who park their yachts there and then yell at you for not driving fast enough up a cliff made it a complete turn off.
22) China - During my 30th birthday trip in December of 2016 I had a 24 hour layover in Shanghai on the way to my final destination. I feel that Shanghai was just not enough for me. I loved the city's architecture, history and food, however, I need to return to China one day. Seeing one city is not nearly enough for this country.
23) Indonesia - My final destination (main) destination for my 30th birthday was the island of Bali. I won't even pretend like it wasn't the movie Eat, Pray, Love that got it in my mind to go to Bali one day. One of my favorite places I have ever been fortunate enough to travel to. Along with our Canadian dollar actually being worth something here, the beaches, the people and this tranquil feeling Bali gives you is boundless. If you ever want to feel complete zen and peace, this is the place for you. I hope to return there one day when life gets too hectic just to relax again.
Bali. - Indonesia, 2016
24) Malaysia - Although Bali was my main destination, during my 30th birthday trip I figured since I was in the neighbourhood I would take a flight over to some other countries. I didn't expect much from Kuala Lumpur because I didn't really know too much about it prior to plotting my travel there. If you are a foodie - you must one day make it to Kuala Lumpur. Up to this point my favorite countries for food were Jamaica and Italy, nope, Kuala Lumpur even surpassed them. For cheap eats and everything, literally EVERYTHING, tasting good? This is your spot.
25) Singapore - I am happy I got to see Singapore during my 30th birthday trip and I was elated to spend my Christmas there. This is the cleanest city I have ever seen. The joke of 'you could lick the floor it's so clean' could very well be taken literally in Singapore. There is a thriving nightlife and their impressive architecture mixed with advanced to technology is really something to awe at. The only thing I was completely unprepared for was that everything is expensive in such a perfect city - should have known better.
Here's hoping for another 25, or 100.