One thing I mention fairly often on the blog is my key travel quest (‘quest’ sounds so much cooler than ‘aim’) to visit every country in Europe before my 30th birthday – on 9 May 2020.
However it occurred to me recently that I never really went into any detail about the thinking behind my aim quest and the parameters that come with it. So as a frame of reference, I want to explain it now.
First of all: why?
Why is a very good question. And possibly the hardest to answer – simply because I don’t really have an answer besides “why not?”
The idea came from my love of Europe and the realisation that there is nowhere in Europe I wouldn’t like to go. In all honesty, there are few countries in the world I actively would not go to, but I would probably pick most countries in Europe ahead of anywhere else.
But anyway, who doesn’t like a silly aim that starts with “Before I’m 30, I want to…”
What is ‘Europe’?
This is also a very good question. Europe has seemingly thousands of different definitions depending on who you talk to: some (mostly Americans, let’s be honest) consider political Europe to be the member nations of the EU; some (mostly Russians, let’s be honest) consider cultural Europe to exclude East Slavic nations; while some (mostly Brits, let’s be honest) consider geographic Europe to end at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel.
So who is right? No-one. And every one, really.
Basically, no all-encompassing definition exists but in my opinion, the best is that of geographic Europe. This defines Europe’s borders with Asia as being the Ural Mountains and Ural River in the East, and the Caucasus Mountains in the South.
This means that Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey have territory in both Europe and Asia, while Cyprus and Armenia lie completely within in Asia (despite their political ties to Europe).
So are you really going to visit Kazakhstan?
One day: yes, hopefully. But as part of this challenge? No.
Realising that quite a number of countries can claim to be at least partly European, I narrowed my criteria down to countries which have their capital on European soil. So that means Russia is in, but Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Turkey are out.
“But what about dependent territories?” I hear you cry out. They are out, too (sorry Faroe Islands, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Gibraltar and Åland).
And partially recognised territories? Kosovo is in, the other fringe post-Soviet microstates are not.
How have I done so far?
So now that I’ve defined where I’m not going, let’s talk about where I am going – and where I’ve been.
|Andorra||Czech Republic||Hungary||Luxembourg||Norway||Slovakia||Vatican City|
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||France||Latvia||Monaco||Russia||Switzerland|
Total: 45 Done: 25 To do: 20
In short, my quest to date (January 2015) is: 62.5% complete already. Hoorah!
Problem-solving: the downsides
As much as I love the idea of the quest, it does raise a few issues regarding travel and long-term plans.
Won’t this make travelling to any new countries after the age of 30 really expensive?
This was first raised by Virginia over at Well-Travelled Postcard and was something I hadn’t actually really considered before, but I suppose the unavoidable answer is yes.
However, there is some silver lining. Firstly, I hope that I will be earning more in my thirties and therefore should theoretically be able to afford more long-haul travels. Secondly, there will still be plenty of cities and regions to discover in countries I’ve already visited – this should keep me occupied past my 30th birthday.
Don’t you want to travel outside of Europe?
The answer to this is of course, but Europe is still my primary focus.
However, I do recognise that the quest could lead to my travel experiences becoming slightly narrow – what’s the point of seeing the whole of one continent if I have little to compare it to? Therefore, I am hoping to take one trip a year to a destination not included in this list – whether that be Morocco (hopefully this year), Mexico (hopefully one day) or even Cyprus.
Don’t you want to return to some places instead of just seeing new ones?
Again – of course I do. This is something I have done a lot more in the last two years – particularly now I am living on the continent. I think it’s important to have a mix of new and old in travel plans, which is why I am planning on returning to both Amsterdam and Vienna this year.
My other quest of visiting each Eurovision-winning nation between winning and hosting the competition should also help me to revisit some places.
Once again: why?
Now that I have gone to the lengths of explaining my thinking, it’s possible it might be less clear than ever as to why I actually want to do this.
Admittedly, it seems like a lot of work and effort. But I really, really want to do it – and I want to be able to say that I’ve done it. The bottom line is Europe has a huge amount to offer and I want to see as much of it as possible – and sooner, rather than later.
So what do you think? Do you have any travel goals of your own?