Grateful. That is the best way I can describe my last year. Over the last eighteen months, we have visited and traveled more than I ever could have thought. Living in Canada, the urge to travel was never there. Sure, you always want to “see the world”, but the opportunity never arises. Life always gets in the way… Money is never there… You can dream of where you want to visit, but you feel you never will. Given this opportunity by my husband’s work to live in Europe, has made the last year and a half the best ones of my life.
What is on your bucket list?
Mine has been progressively getting smaller and smaller. There are many places I want to see, and many places I have no interest in. It’s all about making your list, and “sticking to it”. Well, as everyone knows, “sticking to it” is not easy. I have been planning Italy since the first summer here – July 2015. It is now January 2017, and Italy just hasn’t happened yet. You need to have an open mind about where to go, and be prepared to change at any given moment. Flights become cheaper to go to a lesser known area. Hotels as well can change at the drop of a dime for pricing. A well known world landmark you really want to see – well now it is undergoing construction… Anything can happen.
We have now visited 19 countries (other than Canada and the United States) in a matter of eighteen months. Sounds like a lot right? Well… It is! We have some absolute favorites on that list, and some not as nice areas. Do we regret any of it? Not even a little bit! Every place we have gone to, has made our minds more open to the rest of the world. How others live. What countries have gone through hardship… My mind has been opened in ways i never thought I would ever experience.
My family likes having a car. I hate having to rely on a train system. I like the idea of knowing if I have nothing to do in the morning, I can get up and go wherever I want! I can leave at the total drop of a hat without waiting for a train to come and get me. Of course I use public transport in a big city. When in Paris, you do not want to drive! There are tons of cars, lots of traffic, and the drivers are kind of crazy… Whereas we drove right downtown Prague and Ghent and Dubrovnik and Brussels with no problems. It’s all about doing your research beforehand. Knowing whether to park on the outskirts and take a metro into town, or driving in yourself can either save you a lot of time, or waste a lot of your time…
So 19 countries. Germany (where I live), Netherlands, and Belgium are the three countries we go to the most. We shop in Germany and Netherlands on a regular basis, and Belgium is usually on a Sunday morning for the 3km flea market. We don’t usually buy much, but the walk along the water in the summer heat is always nice! My kids even go to school in the Netherlands, so it’s a normal country for us. We have been to France many times. Being only a three hour drive to the France border, we usually go there if we really need something to do.
We have been to Paris three times, Mont Saint-Michel which was high bucket list got crossed off this past summer. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much more I could see in France, but if I never get to any of it, I am happy with what I have done! Just seeing the Eiffel Tower would have made me happy enough!
Croatia was a great trip! We were supposed to relax here, but after so much research, there was too much to see and do to relax. We woke up every morning early, and went to bed late – but we didn’t miss anything! On this trip, we were also able to make it into Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. That’s four countries in nine days!! That’s impossible in North America… Slovenia we need to go back to – we barely spent an hour there, it was just to say we’d been. Montenegro we went twenty minutes past the border to a beach and swam for a couple hours. Bosnia we spent a day, and Croatia we spent all our time. Montenegro was nice, we wanted to go an hour in, but once we crossed the border, we lost all GPS connection, so we didn’t go where we wanted. BUT…. – it gives us an excuse to go back! In Bosnia, we went into Mostar. Mostar and the bridge were beautiful, but getting there was a journey. You can literally still see bullet holes in the buildings from the war. We are very glad we went, but it was eye opening to see some countries still living like this… It’s not a place we need to go back to..
Austria we went to Ehrenberg Ruins which was great (gotta go back to Austria for sure!), Switzerland we went to Basel to the tri-border of Switzerland, Germany and France; we will go back if we get a chance, but it’s not a place we will go out of our way for. Poland we went for the tri-border of Poland, Germany, and Czech Republic. We didn’t go inside yet (bucket list..) but we can at least say we have been to Poland. In the Czech Republic, we went to Prague, where we spent 3 amazing days! I would go back tomorrow if someone asked me! There is still a lot to see in do in the Czech though!
We went to Portugal, and spent 4 incredible days in Porto (where we had coffee where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter!), and then took a plane to Madeira (an island!) where we spent an amazing week! If it rained in one spot, you drive to another and saw sun. One week and no rain at all was seen. I learnt how to make Madeira Wine, and Porto. Two totally different experiences, both equally amazing.
From Porto, we then spent a week in Spain. Again, incredible. We road tripped from Madrid down to Gibraltar (UK btw, so we went to the UK as well!) back up to Madrid. Stopped in Seville which houses the largest Cathedral in the world. Coming from a church background, this was a big highlight! We also toured the oldest bull fighting ring in the world. We swam in the Mediterranean Ocean and saw the most seashells we have ever seen! We ate authentic paella and churros – wonderful! And the “real” Sangria… I can officially say, other than needing to go to Barcelona, Spain is done for me. There’s a ton more you could see of course, but I am satisfied with what we did!
We spent one weekend in Denmark (Copenhagen) and in Malmo, Sweden. It was cold and crappy in February, but you make the best of it – bring warm clothes and enough gloves and hats and scarves to keep you warm. And if it gets unbearable, you find a spot inside to warm up before heading back out. That isn’t stopping us though – we are heading back in three weeks – February again, and probably just as cold as last year!
We did a day trip to Luxembourg. We had all four seasons in that one day, so we didn’t stay long. But being only two hours away, it gives us a nice excuse to go back!
Last but not least, our latest new country was Egypt! A country I didn’t want to go to at all, I enjoyed a million times more than I thought! All inclusive resort was the best way to go! We even took a day trip to the Pyramids – not on my bucket list – which I am so happy to have seen. My husband keeps saying “see, told you it would be fun!” and I am more than thankful he “forced” me to go!!! This is the first trip we have taken where we actually just RELAXED! It was incredible, and the kids cried when it was time to leave. I guess a trip to go back will be in the works!
So there it is. My last eighteen months in a nutshell! Here’s to hoping the next eighteen are just as incredible. And if we don’t get to see “as much”, again, I am 100% grateful for what I have seen and done!!! ❤