I have always thought of myself as a reasonably experienced traveller. Admittedly though at 31, I have not been to many of the of the world’s continents. Living in Western Europe I know that I am ideally placed to see a larger percentage of the world than if I was living in Australia for example. One of the great benefits is that there are so many countries, amazing cities and fantastic capitals within a short flight away. In just a few short hours from Schiphol, Amsterdam’s airport, I can be in London, Paris, Brussels or Luxembourg (and they are just the capital cities).
It is often said that European’s take it for granted that there are so many countries to visit in such a compact area of the world. These places are all on our doorstep, yet we Europeans venture to warmer or more distant countries for our holidays and forget to explore what is right under our noses. I cannot imagine what it would be like living in Australia, Canada, and USA or in the middle of Russia where it would take hours before you even reached the border to another country. I suppose that distance is relative, depending on where you live in the world, and to people living in those countries 6 hours on a flight might seem like a short trip away. Here in The Netherlands you would find it a challenge to travel more than 2 hours and remain in the country. This country is tiny!
I completed my Travel Map from travBuddy.com and was genuinely shocked at how little of the world I have seen in three decades (I expected a percentage closer to 20%). But I see from the results (11%) that I have a busy time ahead of me. One consolation is that friends on Facebook have completed the same map and ended up with similar results to myself.
In 1999, I travelled to the eastern part of USA and worked as on a summer camp (part of the Camp America scheme). After weeks on camp I travelled to the east coast of Canada. It was the furthest I had ever been from home and I loved the experience. I also did quite a bit of travelling during my University years including my exploration of the Scandinavian and Nordic countries*. People in Europe rave about the undeniable beauty and charisma of France, Italy and Spain, but for me Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland win hands-down every time. Stunning landscapes, friendly people & attractive people (and I mean very attractive…Denmark especially!)
This summer I set off with my partner to ‘do Europe’. We planned to travel for just under four weeks to journey through eight countries**. The tent was packed, the sleeping bags were at the ready and all the supplies for weeks of back-to-basic- living were gathered. Travelling by car through Europe proved to be a great way of exploring each country. We stopped off whenever we wanted to, took the routes that weren’t always the quickest and made the most of unexpected ‘spur of the moment’ visits to towns and villages that we had never heard of.
But if I’ve travelled to so many places already how can it be that it only adds up to 11% of the world? Europe is the most compact continent when it comes to the number of countries by area and there was me thinking that the world was small. Where to head to next? I think my New Year’s Resolution will have to be…. Visit more countries.
*Although in the rest of the world the words “Scandinavian” and “Nordic” are happily used in similar manner and are interchangeable, in northern Europe they are not. Europeans love to magnify even the smallest difference between neighbouring countries and you will probably be corrected if you don’t use the words in their appropriate context. The problem comes when even Europeans themselves can’t agree on the meaning of “Scandinavian” and “Nordic”…
** The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, United Kingdom, Belgium.