Between Paul and I, we have been to 57 countries. Well we think it is 58. There are a whole bunch of places that are not quite countries (French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Vatican City, etc) that we have visited, but we are not counting as separate sovereign nations.
We actually have a spreadsheet where Paul keeps track of the countries each member of the family has visited. Ella, our eldest has been to 19 countries at 10 years old. There were a couple of years where we really increased our country count. The semester of uni I spent in France in 2003, I added 9 European countries. When we took a 6-month RTW trip in 2006, we added two new continents and 19 countries. There have also been dry years where we haven’t added any new countries. We don’t travel to get passport stamps and since adding kids to the mix, we travel much slower these days.
I thought it would be a fun little project to look back at our travels and pick one photo from each country. The amount of photos we take on a trip has grown drastically over the years and there were loads of photos to look through. I didn’t doddle; I picked the first one that spoke to me. Some are iconic photos of that destination and others are more nuanced. We actually don’t have photos from each of those 57 countries because some we visited before digital photos and we have lost files and folders over the years (we have learned and backup like crazy now!).
So let’s get started:
We visited via cruise ship, so just a short introduction to the island. We rented a car and I remember lots of cacti and desert landscape into blue waters.
Australia will always be special to us since we are currently living here and have so many incredible memories here. We also have millions of photos, but I chose to go with the classic Opera House shot.
Austria was my first time skiing in Europe and the place I met up with my family while doing a uni semester in France. Most memorable part of the trip was when my brother and his friend got heli-lifted out of an avalanche area when they went off-piste.
Another country that holds a very dear place in my heart. This is where my childhood travels began and where I realized travel could be a lifestyle. When I was 14, my family sailed from Canada to the Bahamas and I saw a totally different way to live. In 2015, our kids got to experience this lifestyle as we spent 5 months sailing the Bahamas.
I first visited Belgium on the uni semester abroad, when I spent a weekend with our dear friends there. They completely spoiled me with Belgian waffles and chocolate and a lovely break from student life. In 2012, we went back with the kids and again met up with some good friends that we had met in Malaysia.
We visited Botswana on our 6-month RTW trip in 2006. That trip saw us visit 8 countries in Africa as we traveled on an overland tour. Botswana was about the elephants and exploring the Okavanga Delta by dugout canoe.
Of course Angkor Wat was the highlight of our visit to Cambodia, but it was learning about the horrendous Khmer Rouge rule and visiting the Killing Fields that left the biggest mark on us.
Our home and native land! Like Australia, Canada is a vast nation with so many amazing places to see. While we don’t live in the mountains, we kind of wish we did!
The thing I remember the most about Curacao is the very colourful buildings in the harbour. Strangely enough we decided to make this photo black & white, so you can’t see that?
Visiting Prague at New Years with family was a super memorable holiday. Between the picturesque Christmas markets, the cool train restaurant and the historic streets, Prague is pretty special.
This was the first real stop on our 6-month RTW. The Pyramids and Egyptian history was fabulous, but I also remember the pollution in Cairo, our first experience in a Muslim country and the the constant request of baksheesh.
Another special country where I spent 4-months studying abroad with good friends. Also special because it is where Paul and I got engaged. I love everything about France; there is just a different attitude of life there, that feels so compelling.
I remember beer halls, bratwurst and beautiful old buildings in Munich.
India really is a country that evokes so many emotions. It captured us with its colours and sounds, frustrated us with its bureaucracy, and left us wanting to see more.
Bali has such a special, spiritual feel to it that we immediately fell in love with. Seeing the carefully prepared offerings everywhere and the gentle and sweet people left the biggest impression on us.
Even though I visited in January, Ireland still struck me as a very green country.
Pizza and gelato. That is what I remember the most about my trips to Italy! Grateful to have visited Cinque Terre before tourism was over-developed and the lakes of northern Italy, Rome, Naples and Venice.
Visiting Japan was such an incredible cultural experience. We saw lots of temples, bathed nude in public, learned how to use hi-tech toilets and ate the freshiest sushi.
Our first introduction to Africa. I remember being a bit frightened in Nairobi, but also thrilled to be beginning an 8-week long trip through Africa.
This was our favourite country in SouthEast Asia and while we would love to go back, we are scared to ruin the magical memories we have from our first visit. The highlight was spending a week in a small remote village accessible by boat in a thatched bungalow for $1/night.
Lovely Lake Malawi was beautiful, but our worries of bilharzia (parasite in the lake) kept us out of the water.
Malaysia is another one of those special countries. It was our first time living overseas and Miles was born there. The thing I love the most about Malaysia is being able to experience the three cultures of Malaysia. From celebrating Chinese New Year to delicious Indian curries to hearing the call of prayer throughout the day, Malaysia was an amazing country to live in.
Mauritius was the bridge between the Africa part of our RTW trip and the Asia part. It was only because our flights routed through there that we opted to spend a week seeing this beautiful island in the Indian Ocean.
Mexico is a country we need to get better acquainted with. My best memory is glorious fish tacos that I have spent years trying to re-create.
Monaco certainly felt like a country that people didn’t really live in; It was all shiny and wealthy. It is also probably the smallest country we have visited.
Paul had the special opportunity to travel to Myanmar with a friend who works for a local NGO. They visited the typical tourist hot spots, but also visited remote villages to assess the impact of the clean water filters that the NGO gives out.
I remember being surprised by the German influence in Namibia. The sand dunes were my favourite part, where we had the opportunity to go sand-boarding.
I was surprised how much we enjoyed Amsterdam and how great it is for families. We did accidentally stumble into the Red Light District, provoking some interesting questions from the kids.
This was one of those trips that at the time we debated doing: it was expensive and ambitious with two little kids. But, it is trips like this that we never regret taking. We did lots of epic hikes and I have fond memories of breastfeeding on the trails and stopping to do diaper changes with breathtaking mountain views.
I loved the many volcanoes of Nicaragua. I also loved that we spent a special week at a Spanish school where we stayed at a home stay with a local family. It was awkward as could be since we have minimal Spanish skills, but it was also a really special experience.
Paul visited when North Korea tourism was in its infancy. He got to visit with two of his best friends and he has so many funny stories from that trip.
Papua New Guinea
Visiting PNG was truly like stepping into an anthropology textbook. The people were so welcoming and we were so humbled at how they showed us their villages and shared their way of life.
I loved spending March days on the beach in the Algarve, but what I remember the most is getting in trouble on a Lisbon tram for not validating our tickets.
Singapore was our first view of Asia back in 2006 and it was wonderful to take Gavin there on our special trip last year. It brought back so many wonderful memories of Malaysia – the hawker stalls, oppressive humidity and rich cultures.
South Africa was the last country we visited and one that we struggled with. While we appreciated the beauty of Capetown, the inequality and violence confronted us.
My favourite part of Spain was definitely Barcelona and definitely all of the Gaudi buildings and parks. Oh and the sangria and tapas were pretty great too!
Sri Lanka was a huge family favourite. Miles celebrated his first birthday there. I loved the fiery curries, beautiful beaches, tea fields, temples, and wildlife.
We love the mountains and Switzerland checks that box. While I remember it being crazy expensive, I have super memories of our cute little ski lodge, the lakes and hiking up to the snow.
This was our first safari and it was just as amazing as we hoped it would be. It also was a country where Paul became really ill and had to be hospitalized. It was definitely our scariest health moment of travel.
Thailand isn’t called the “Land of Smiles” for nothing. We have been quite a few times, but we never get sick of the wonderful people, delicious food, rich culture and of course amazing beaches.
Turkey really does feel like the point where east meets west. This was our first big trip with a baby and it was great. It did help that we brought the grandparents along!
Paul’s birthplace and home to lots of family and good friends, we are hoping 2018 brings us to England. After spending time in Australia, we might not think the UK is as expensive anymore.
We take our nearest neighbour for granted and when we return to Canada, we definitely plan to spend more time exploring America.
I didn’t like Vietnam based on our first week in the country. It was just so chaotic and crossing the street and dodging the motorbikes felt like suicide. But, we did come to love this country, especially since we travelled from the top to the bottom.
We spent a few days at Victoria Falls and crossed into Zambia to see the Falls from a different perspective and to get a new passport stamp!
As an Economics teacher, visiting Zimbabwe was fascinating. I remember buying huge wads of cash on the black market, where only one-side was printed. Sadly I also remember empty stores and people on edge.
The Rest (lost these photos): Barbados, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Malta, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martaan, South Korea.