I’ve been traveling abroad for three months now and the running tally I have on flights and countries has grown to the point where I’m not sure I’ll ven keep track anymore. Whenever I post an update about how many countries I’ve visited so far, people always ask what my goal is. Like there is a specific number I’m shooting for. Not to be a dick, but what a stupid way to look at world travel.
If I was hung up on visiting as many countries as possible, simply to check them off some list in my head I would miss out on some of the best experiences I’ve had. Deciding to stay longer in a country I want to explore more and even going back to a country I’ve already visited, just to spend time in a another city wouldn’t be possible if I was just trying to fill up my “been to” map.
Sure, I like to keep track so I can see what I’ve accomplished and so I can assess where I want to go next, but I certainly don’t have a magic number I’m shooting for. Since my last post, I hit two more countries. Visits to Prague and Paris have given me a tally of 14 countries in 12 weeks, thanks to 18 flights and various other modes of transportation. So far, Italy is the only country I’ve re-visited, but this weekend I go back to Spain – this time hitting Madrid and Barcelona. From there I’ll head back to Greece for a couple weeks and do some island hopping while it’s still warm. If I was focused on cramming as many countries into my trip as possible, I’d miss out on seeing more of beautiful places like Spain and Greece.
Except for a brief cross-over into Canada during a family trip when I was about 10, I’ve done all of my traveling as an adult. It started with Mexico and the Bahamas when I was in my late teens and graduated to heading overseas in my early 20’s. In total, I’ve been to 29 countries, which makes up about 11% of the world. Clearly nothing to brag about. And again, that’s not the point. The numbers aren’t important. As of now I’ve seen more counties in Europe than states in the US. (19). Meaning in the few years I’ve been going to Europe I’ve seen 33% of it and I’ve lived in America my whole life and I’ve only explored 38% of my own country. That’s because I only go where I want to go. You can see from the map that I couldn’t possibly care less about the middle of the country. I’m also clearly drawn to places near water. And as I’m discovering with Paris, rivers don’t count. Sorry Seine.
Paris is just SO not my jam. Even if it wasn’t rainy and cold, I don’t see myself falling in love with the city anytime soon. Granted, I’m not the romantic type, so a lot of its campy charm is lost on me. The Eiffel Tower looks exactly the same as the pictures and I felt nothing when I saw it in person. It looks like it’s perpetually under construction. I just don’t get it. The highlight of the week (at least visually) was definitely Versailles. The gardens were gorgeous and it wasn’t super crowded; the only benefit to the rain. Prague also had its moments. For a land locked city, it was quite beautiful and very moody, which I appreciate. It’s also super affordable, which almost made up for how crowded it was… Everywhere. The locals kept saying August is the worst time to go because that’s when most of Europe takes off work, making the entire city almost impossible to see through the crowds. But August is also the “warmest” month. And it wasn’t warm. By any stretch of the imagination. Unless you call wind and rain and jacket weather, “warm.” So my options are: Be cold and trip over every tourist on a Segway or go when there are less people but it’s too cold to go outside. That’s why, unfortunately, Prague appears to be a “one and done” city for me. I won’t say that about Paris yet… But I’m not holding out much hope.
The shitty weather aside, the people are kind of assholes. Made worse by the aforementioned shitty weather. When it rains, the locals are about as friendly as wet cats. But even the “nice” ones are fickle. In keeping with the animal analogy… They’re like those fancy long haired cats who rub up on you like they want to be pet, but the minute you reach down, they bite you. Then all you’re left with is a pant leg full of cat hair and a throbbing finger. Welcome to Paris.
As an aside: Just to make my time here slightly more unpleasant; my friend Ira nominated me for the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. Not only is it cold here, but there’s no ice to be found… anywhere. So while I fight the good fight in search of ice, I donated my daily allowance of $60 to the cause. I was annoyed at first when I was challenged but I think it’s a good exercise in resourcefulness and sacrifice.
Even though I’m living on $60 a day, I should still be willing to help those less fortunate than me. And Ira helped me see that. When you have a steady paycheck, making donations doesn’t resinate with you as much. Or at least it didn’t with me.
Now that I have no income and need to make the money I have saved last me a whole year, giving it away means a hell of a lot more to me. I encourage anyone reading this to make some kind of donation, if not to ALS, then to an organization you’re passionate about. (I’m partial to animal charities, but you can help humans if that’s your jam) If I can find money to spare in the biggest rip off of a city I’ve been to so far, you can too. Yes, I’m totally judging you right now. Stay tuned for my Ice Bucket Challenge. I’ll probably post it to my Instagram, which is public. I have zero problem wasting water in Paris. Lets be honest, they don’t shower very much, so it all evens out.