Hello Explorers! Welcome to another installation of 25 Things To Do Before You’re 25!
Today’s item to check off the list is ‘Leave the Country’!
So if you who already know me, or if you have seen some of my other posts, you already know that I’ve left the country several times. I added it to my list because, like skydiving, it was mentioned to me a few times and I know a lot of people who have never left the country. I thought it was a good goal to have before you turn 25. So I thought I would do another list (I happen to love lists, if you couldn’t tell) of the countries i’ve been to and a few tidbits about them complete with plenty of pictures, of course.
1.) Germany Germany was the first country I ever visited, and because of that (and simply because it is so awesome) It has a special place in my heart. I left the country and went to Germany the first time as part of an exchange group with the Englewood Sister City Youth Exchange. I was 15 when I left, so you are in for a treat with these pictures.
Highlight: Getting bit by the travel bug and realizing for the first time what an amazing place the world is, and what incredible people you can meet.
2.) The Netherlands One of the trips we went on during my time in Germany was to Amsterdam. And no, in case you were wondering, we didn’t go to any cafes while we were there. We were, unfortunately, not allowed to. I also couldn’t find any pictures from my trip to Amsterdam.
3.) France Another mini trip we took was to Paris!
Highlight: It was right after France won a big game during the 2006 world cup and the best part was getting off the bus early in the morning to find three French people dancing on top of a car celebrating the victory. When we got back to the bus in the early evening we were surprised to find them still there on the car, but this time laying down telling us that we had “very nice European faces”.
4.) Italy The second time I went abroad was to Italy for a family vacation. We traveled to Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii, Florence (where I turned 20), Tuscany, the Dolomites, and Venice. I have to say Rome was maybe my favorite, but Pompeii has so much breathtakingly sad history to it that it is hard not to find it enticing.
Highlights: The beauty and history of Rome, and the unique experience that is Venice, getting to attend mass at Saint Mark’s Basilica, plus spending that time with my family was pretty cool too.
4.5) Germany (again) I traveled to Germany again after our family trip was over to visit my German exchange students once more.
Highlights: Getting to stay with Maria, my beautiful exchange student, and getting to see all the other exchange students again!
5.) England As a birthday present I traveled to London with my exchange students! I definitely have the coolest friends.
Highlights: Going to see a performance of Blood Brothers and meeting up with my friends Will and Matt whom I met while at a hostel bar in Rome (The Yellow Bar to be exact). The beauty of traveling is finding and making friends from all over the world. One of these guys has stayed with me in Ohio, and i’ve stayed with him in England. It is amazing the people and connections you make while traveling.
6.) Switzerland The next time I went abroad was when I studied abroad in Geneva, Switzerland during my junior year of college.
Highlights: Actually getting to live in a foreign city for longer than 1 month. There are things you have to adjust to, but overall I can’t see not ever living abroad again. Geneva itself was such a beautiful city and I loved getting to know it’s ins and outs.
6.5) France (again) Geneva is right on the border of Switzerland and France and we went across the border several times just for the hell of it, or to watch a rugby match.
7.) Ireland One weekend trip away I went on was to Ireland, a place I’d always wanted to go to and really want to go back to.
Highlights: The countryside. I’ve never seen so much green and stark beauty.
7.5) England (again) Another weekend trip I went on was back to England to visit and stay with the before mentioned friends again.
Highlights: Getting to see a bit of the English countryside and not just London.
8.) Morocco What could I possibly say about Morocco that will do it justice?
Highlights: The mint Moroccan tea (which I continue to crave to this day), the vibrant colors, walking down the never ending alleys of the souqs and haggling with the shop keepers, and getting to experience a culture that was so different from my own.
9.) Austria For our spring break 4 other girls and I decided to go on a 10 day 5 country mini Eastern European loop. It was 10 days of sleeping on trains, getting lost, and lugging around a duffel bag on my back because I didn’t yet own a nice backpacking backpack. Our first stop was Vienna, Austria.
Highlights: Classical music is to Vienna, like Jazz is to New Orleans. Even the street musicians are wonderful.
10.) The Czech Republic Our next stop was Prague.
Highlights: Climbing the seemingly never ending stairs that led to the Prague Castle, going out to the 5 story club and doing shots of absinth. It wasn’t my favorite memory at the time, mind you, but looking back at it is hilarious.
11.) Hungry Next stop: Budapest.
Highlights: FOOD! Oh my god, the food. Also the historic beauty, I think this was one of my favorite places I visited in Europe. We also found an amazingly cheap hostel to stay in that was literally an apartment all to ourselves overlooking St. Stephan’s Basilica.
12.) Croatia Next stop: Zagreb & Plitvice Lakes National Park
Highlights: Absolutely Plitvice Lakes, no question. This was ultimately why I wanted to visit Croatia, because a few years prior I had stumbled across pictures of the lakes online and I decided I’m going to go there someday. They were worth every confusing second of the bus ride it took to get there.
13.) Slovenia Next stop: Ljubljana & Lake Bled
That third picture is a fresh milk machine! I seriously went nuts. The next picture is us taking a little break from a market to sit down with a glass of wine with the locals.. at 10:30am. When in Croatia!
Highlights: Even though I honestly hadn’t even heard of Slovenia except in passing before I went there, it turned into another one of my favorite places. Ljubljana is the capitol and is a beautiful, almost sleepy town during the day with old and modern statues covering the streets and bridges, but then at night it wakes up with a thriving college night life. We met some random Italian businessmen at dinner and they showed us around town to places we never would have discovered on our own. Including an underground bar that was themed like a haunted house, complete with bathrooms behind the bookcase.
14.) China I kept my feet in one place for about a year and a half when I returned home from Switzerland, but I grew restless and flew off again on another adventure. This time to teach English in China.
I just decided to use some pictures from my classes because that was why I was there in the first place, and they were such good kids! If you want to read more about my adventures and misadventures in China here are some places to get started: A Trip To Rural China, 8 Things I Like About China, or Shanghai Shananigans.
I also wanted to pay homage to some of the people who made my life in China more awesome than I ever thought it could be. The first picture is of my neighbor, Ada, and I when we made it to the top of a mountain in her hometown. She is one of the nicest people i’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. The second picture, well those two weirdos have seen me at my best and my worst and they still want to hang out with me. Go figure, I think they are pretty cool too.
Highlights: Seriously, where do I begin. I lived in Hangzhou, a city in Zhejiang province near Shanghai. While, there were times when I wanted to rip my hair our with frustration over things that I encountered in China, overall I really miss my life there. I miss meeting people from all over the world on a daily basis, I miss giving my students a lesson where they actually had fun and left with more than they came in with, I miss the food, and yeah I also miss going out all the time and getting the royal treatment just because. Can you really blame me!?
15.) Hong Kong I know ‘technically’ it is still part of China, but I also was able to go to Hong Kong to get my visa renewed and so i’m counting it as a separate place.
Highlights: This city has everything you could possibly want. It is, in my humble opinion, the perfect mesh of east meets west. It has mountains, beaches, and a big city. Honestly what more could you ask for? I would absolutely love to live in Hong Kong. You can also check out my Hong Kong blog here!
16.) Vietnam For my winter break I decided to travel to SE Asia with a fellow English teacher and friend. What we got ourselves into was a full month of long, hot days & late, boozy nights, and more good times than I can remember.
Highlights: I would have to say the food in Vietnam was my favorite out of the three countries we went to, and the people were very nice, but that ended up being a pretty common theme throughout SE Asia.
Highlights: I honestly never thought I would be traveling around in Cambodia, but I honestly had a hard time leaving. We stayed in Siem Reap (which was an awesome town where tourism and real life fit together perfectly) at least 2-3 days longer than we originally planned. If I didn’t have a job to go back to in China, I would seriously have considered getting a job there. I’m sure my parents would have been thrilled.
Highlights: Well the sunburn and food poisoning aren’t exactly high up on my list of memories I want to fondly look back on, but I can’t fault Thailand for that. Not after it let me experience late late nights and afternoon breakfasts, jungle parties, and long days lazing on picturesque beaches. I can see why people go there and never leave.
So those are the countries i’ve been to (so far!). If you have any questions about any of these countries feel free to comment below and i’ll be happy to share any tips I might have. Or check out any of the SE Asia, Hong Kong, or China blogs i’ve posted for a bit of light reading!
I cannot recommend enough that you travel. If you have never traveled abroad before, please go do it. You will not regret it. There will be plenty of time to buy that new TV later, or that new Iphone that you didn’t really need. But it will only get harder and harder to leave the country. Do it now while you can before you have to wait a long time to be able to leave again.
I can’t wait for the next time I leave the country, or just travel within this beautiful country of ours. I’m saving up my pennies as we speak!
I’ve been home from China for about 7 months after all… my feet are getting a bit restless.
Until next time, never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring.