Iceland, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Ukraine, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. These visited 39 Countries in total over 7 ½ months traveling. While that is a pretty large list, it only represents 20% of the 195 countries of the world. We skimmed over a few of these countries and didn’t get to know them as well as some of the others, but here’s a list of some of the memorable ones:
Most beautiful: Iceland. While increasingly full of tourists and fairly expensive, the road trip around the island was amazing and highly recommend it as a destination…especially given how relatively easy it is to travel to from the U.S.
Most exciting: Vietnam: The country, it’s people, and it’s culture constantly kept me on my toes. From a shop lady screaming at me and chasing me down a street (still have no idea why) to museum exhibits that put the U.S. aggressions and atrocities front and center in their exhibits to millions of scooters running in all directions nonstop, my senses were on overdrive while there. Columbia would come in a close second.
Most likely to change: Albania. Albania still feels raw in comparison to Croatia and Greece, but one could get the sense it wasn’t going to stay that way and would soon be much more touristy like it’s nearby countries of Croatia and Greece given its natural beauty. Likewise, the island of Lombok in Indonesia felt like it was on the cusp of turning into its neighboring tourist island of Bali. Additionally, given the global pull toward religious isolationism, I’m concerned these two countries will run the risk of becoming tougher to travel to in the future. Roughly 80% of Albania and 87% of Indonesia residents are Muslim and I’m fearful that religious divides will make future travel more difficult.
The country where I could see myself living: Spain. Great geography, weather, pace of life, culture, and people. It’s such a large country with so much to offer on many fronts.
The country I would like to visit again: Columbia. We visited Cali, Medellin, and Bogota, but felt there was so much more to get to know this interesting country. I heard great things about its coastal regions as well as the more rural areas of the country while there.
Countries where reality just didn’t meet expectations: Costa Rica and Australia – both for differing reasons. Costa Rica. While serving in the Peace Corps in Honduras 20+ years ago, I had always wanted to visit Costa Rica because of the positive reviews of its beauty and great lifestyle (“Pura Vida”), but I was never able to make the trip back then. Costa Rica was on the “must see” list for me on this trip. While beautiful, Costa Rica was very expensive (relative other Central American countries) and the people/culture portrayed an aura of apathy toward tourists. There was a “take it or leave it, but still pay at an inflated price” attitude.
Several Australian cities are perennially on the “Best places to live” lists. I’ve met many wonderful people who are from there and know many people who’ve traveled there and stated they had amazing experiences. It was almost always sunny, there were beautiful beaches, serene hill country, and there was an insane “workout” culture on the Gold Coast and in Sydney. It was nice and very glad we were able to spend time there…it just didn’t “wow” me the way I had hoped and suppose I had erroneously built up unrealistic expectations of Australia.