This is my story of how I traveled to 30 countries before I turned 30. And how you can work towards achieving your dreams however big or small!
At the age of 29, I decided that I wanted to do something big for my 30th birthday.
I had heard about a trend where people set to visit 30 countries before turning 30. This seemed like the perfect challenge!
I knew that this would be particularly difficult for me as I had only a year left until I turned 30 and at that time my country count was at about 16.
Planning and preparing
I put a plan into place in order to achieve my goal before the deadline of 4 August (my 30th birthday!).
The first step was cutting back on my expenses and putting money aside for travel.
I had already been planning to apply for a Canadian working holiday visa and move to Vancouver at the end of the year. So, I started the visa process in February. I decided that I would finish up at my current job in April, then take a few months in between to travel before settling in Vancouver in September (after my 30th birthday).
Obviously, not everyone can or should quit their job in order to travel. Also, not all nationalities are eligible to apply for working holiday visa programs. If it is possible, I would recommend living abroad in another country on a work or student visa. Some countries will even let you work whilst on a student visa. Not only is the experience culturally enriching, but it can also give you access to a totally different region of the world that is far away from your home country.
Strategically choosing my destinations
I decided to take two month-long trips to South East Asia and Europe. These are great places to travel as you can cover a lot of ground in a shorter amount of time.
However, not all international trips need to be long. I also took quick trips to New Zealand and Bali (from Brisbane, QLD, Australia), Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean (from Dallas, TX, U.S.A.).
In addition to cutting back on initial travel time, another benefit of taking longer trips is that it can be more cost-effective. Especially, if you are living far away from the destinations you want to visit. This can reduce the expense of taking multiple flights to multiple destinations.
Next to flights, accommodation is one of the biggest costs associated with traveling. Central America, South East Asia, and Eastern European countries are all great places to travel in if you are traveling on a budget.
Breaking it down
In the end, I managed to visit my 30th country just four days before my 30th birthday!
The majority of the 30 countries I visited were within 4 months and on 5 separate trips, one of which I had taken previously:
- 32-day camping tour of Europe (June – July 2009)
- 1-month backpacking around South East Asia (January 2015)
- 1-week Caribbean cruise (May 2015)
- 5-week solo backpacking around Europe (June – July 2015)
- 1-week solo backpacking in Central America (July 2015).
30 countries before 30
Here is the list of the countries I visited, including the cities I stopped in. Some of these countries I have visited on more than one occasion, however, I have included only the most recent or relevant visits.
June to July 2009 – Group tour of Europe
1. France: Paris, St Emillion, Arles, and Nice.
2. Monaco: Monte Carlo Casino.
3. Austria: Vienna.
5. Switzerland: Jungfraujoch Mountain and Lucerne.
6. Netherlands: Amsterdam.
7. Indonesia: One week vacation with friends in May 2010 to Bali and Gili Trawangan.
8. United States of America: Lived in New York City, NY from September 2011 to September 2012, Wilmington, DE from October to December 2013 and Dallas, TX from May to September 2015.
9. Brazil: Lived in Sao Paulo from September 2012 to March 2013.
January 2015 – Backpacking South East Asia
10. Thailand: Bangkok, Chang Mai, and Krabi.
Read the top 7 things to do in Bangkok, Thailand.
11. Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur.
12. Cambodia: Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville.
13. Laos: Vientiane.
14. Singapore: Singapore.
15. New Zealand: Four-day road trip to Auckland, Rotorua, and Waitomo in March 2015.
May 2015 – Cruise of the Caribbean
16. Jamaica: Montego Bay.
17. Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman.
18. Mexico: Cozumel.
June to July 2015 – Backpacking in Europe
19. Scotland: Edinburgh and Glen Coe.
20. England: London, Salisbury, and Bath.
21. Belgium: Antwerp.
22. Germany: Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin.
23. Poland: Warsaw.
24. Czech Republic: Prague.
25. Hungary: Budapest.
26. Slovenia: Ljubljana.
Read my 24-hour itinerary for Venice, Italy.
28. Spain: Madrid.
July 2015 – Backpacking in Central America
29. Nicaragua: July 2015 – Granada and Managua.
30. Costa Rica: July 2015 – Liberia.
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