Monday, June 12, 2006

An Impossible Dream

I've come across this Visited Countries Map on various blogs, a great idea and amazing to see how little I've travelled (when I thought I'd travelled a lot). Ask most people what they would do if they won the lottery, the typical answer would usually be: buy a big house with a gym and pool, buy a new car etc. How boring is that? I can't think of anything better than leaving it all behind to travel the world. I'd love to be able to visit every country in the world before I die but, alas, I guess that's an impossibility unless I win the lottery tomorrow. I love visiting new countries. I can't think of anything more exciting than seeing new places, sampling new food and discovering new cultures.

Here are the countries I've visited:

Italy, France, Monaco, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland,Thailand, Australia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Oman, The Vatican (the smallest independent state) and San Marino (the world's second smallest republic). Sixteen countries sounds pretty impressive I must admit, but it amounts to a mere tiny 6% of the world. I won't bore you with the details of every country so I'm going to outline a few trips which really stand out for me:

First trip abroad - Lyon, France
My first trip abroad was actually Italy but at 6 months old I was too young to remember so we'll turn to France's capital of gastronomy where I spent two weeks whilst studying for my A-Level. It was my first time away from my family for a long period and was a fantastic experience (apart from the distinct lack of hygiene from my host family). I worked as a waitress in a Pizzeria for a week which was superb and I'll never forget the chef's Creme Caramel which was to die for. I also experienced my first taste of Kronenbourg - I drank a mini keg on the ferry on the way home and remember feeling distinctly queasy.
By the time I came back I was fluent. Now I've forgotten most of it but can still remember the odd useful phrase like 'Quel pu!' and 'Ou est le sapone?'.

My favourite city - Siena, Italy
I was here on my ERASMUS year abroad for a year with my mate Toni. Two British students with a big appetite for drinking and socialising in the most beautiful city in the world - perfect! I think we attended about two lectures while we were there - most of the time the classrooms were spilling out into the corridors so we couldn't even get in - and all we had to do was a dissitation at the end about our experiences. We made loads of friends - Italians and English, and sampled all the bars, pizzerias and generally anywhere you could socialise. We went back in August for the famous Palio di Siena, the bareback horse race around the piazza which is probably one of the most amazing spectacles in Europe. Siena is even more special to me as my boyfriend Mike was also at the Palio at the same time, and this was before we even knew each other.

Country I most want to return to - Thailand
Maybe it was the culture shock with it being my first visit to a country outside of Europe, but the impact of the heat and humidity when I first went out of the air conditioned airport and the smell of Bangkok is something I'll never forget. I visited the temples of Bangkok, travelled north on the train and saw the bridge on the river Kwai, took a boat to a couple of the islands where I got my divers license. The sea was the most inviting blue I've ever seen, the vegetation luscious and green and in every city, the food was amazing.

Most special holiday - Poland
We went to Krakow and Warsaw for five days and was our first holiday together. Both cities are lovely in different ways. We spent our days walking around, exploring, visiting places including the Salt Mines of Krakow and always began our evenings the same way with a shot of Zubrowka before heading out for dinner to sample some hearty Polish food. Our trip is also memorable as we were there when the Pope died and witnessed a whole nation in mourning.

By the beginning of next year I'll be able to add Portugal to the list (as we are going in September) and hopefully Germany (with a trip to Berlin around Christmas time). Other countries I really want to visit are Japan and Brazil so I'd better start saving.

create your own visited countries map


wrinkled weasel said...

I found this interesting a.c.t. We get such formative experiences from travel and it is a fact of being poor that I am unable to do as much as I want.

I loved travelling around Italy. Italians are infuriating and adorable at about the same time. I would always trust one because they seem unable to hide their true feelings for long!!!!!

Thanks for sharing a very special experience.

Any more photos would be appreciated by me.

martinobhoy said...


Excellent post. I've told family and friends that if I ever win the lottery they wouldn't see me for at least a couple of years. I'd be travelling the world taking in as many sporting events as I could.

I'm not even a fan of most of these sports but I would love to go to

The 100m final at the Olympics
The Monaco Grand Prix
An Ashes test match in Australia
A game in the baseball world series
A Boca Juniors v River Plate football match
The Palio
The Tour de France

And finish it all off with Celtic in the Final of the Champions League.

Well I can dream.......

a.c.t said...

WW, I haven't really got two pennies to rub together either at the moment but I'd go mad if I didn't get away somewhere at least once a year. Fortunately, we've got the budget airlines which fly to many destinations and the list of places is always growing.

Martinobhoy I was at the Ashes in Melbourne and Adelaide 4 years ago. It was fantastic and tickets are quite cheap too. I'd also love to see the Monaco Grand Prix and catch a game in Brazil - the atmosphere would be amazing.

Travel Italy said...

I have never been to poland, almost, but never made it there.

The southern hemisphere is also on my todo list.

the cappuccino kid said...

you get around a bit don't you?
france, ireland and benidorm(which i class as england, seeing as it is just as tacky as blackpool, only hotter).

Martha Elaine Belden said...

I'm with you on the choice for lottery exploits. If I won the lottery (which would be highly unlikely as I never buy tickets), I would quit my job, buy a bunch of cool journals, and just start traveling! And if it was humanly (and financially) possible, I too would attempt to reach every country in the world... and every state in my own country, 'cause I haven't done that yet either.

*sigh* maybe one day...

* (asterisk) said...

Hey ACT. Scary how little it all amounts to, isn't it? I've not been to many countries, and I'd love to go to many more. Unfortunately, I feel that travelling to certain parts of the globe is becoming less like fun and more like taking your life in your own hands.

Thailand is amazing, though. I've never had a holiday that left me so chilled for so long afterwards. Even returning to Harringay didn't get my blood pressure up for at least a week!

Red said...

As an Italian, I am always mortified that I have never been further south than Naples. So Sicily and Sardinia are very high on my list, as are the Lakes and Liguria. And that’s just Italy.

I’d also love to visit Corsica, Portugal, the US West Coast, return to Greece... We could be here all day, so I’ll sign off now!

Red said...

Hey, I’ve just noticed that you like Mina! I LOVE her old stuff: “Ancora, Ancora Ancora” has got to be one of the best Italian songs ever written.

Did you know that she writes a column for La Stampa? It’s called Secondo Me, and you can find it on the Stampa website under Editoriali. I would put a link here, but I’m a little simple like that...

a.c.t said...

Red, I've never been further south than Naples either. Corsica is such a beautiful place - I always say it has all the best elements of Italy and France put together.
I didn't know that Mina had a column I'll check it out. We bought back one of her CDs from Milan this year we loved it. My boyfriend has downloaded 23 of her albums off the internet. Haven't listened to them yet.

Fatfiz, you need to get out more. Flights aren't that expensive anymore, you can fly to most places in Europe for less than £30.

Susan in Italy said...

Wow, Erasmus in Siena! I can only imagine how exciting it would be "studying" abroad in such a beautiful city.

ginkers said...

I know its kind of small minded but I'd be happy if I could just visit the whole of Italy. Even though I've been over plenty of times and lived near Florence for a year there's so much I haven't seen. In fact, scratch that first statement, I'd be happy if I could just visit the whole of Tuscany. Siena is great, by the way, but Barga is better!

Spangly Princess said...

hehe I've never been south of Rome. Though I know some parts of north and central Italy fairly well. My milanese nonna already thinks that Rome is suspiciously southern and a bit dodgy, if I told her I've been seeing a boy from Molise it might send her to an early death.

a.c.t said...

Susan, it was amazing although my bank account certainly wasn't by the time I got back.
Ginkers, I've never heard of Barga where is it?
SP, my Milanese family are exactly the same. If they ever visited the south I think they'd take out death insurance.

Elitre said...

Hi, I've just read your post. If you're interested in Siena (and its Palio) take a look at my blog with pics, a link to see the last Palio movie (free) and to watch July's one. Ciao...

(Ps. If you like it, please feel free to link to me. If you have any Palio pictures to share, drop me a line.)