Just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to take a photo that millions of people have seen splashed across travel brochures the world over.
I was standing in the sunshine in a white-washed city with royal blue cupolas. The tiered city overlooks a caldera filled with the Aegean Sea. It is called Oia on the small but famous island, Santorini.
Greece has thousands of islands, and Santorini is one of them.
Like many people, I’d seen photos of Santorini growing up, but I didn’t know where it was. And, even a month and a half ago, when we booked plane tickets to Greece and ferry tickets to Santorini from Crete, another nearby Greek island, I didn’t necessarily have an urge to visit.
But my passion for travel combined with my resolve to live life completely and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves led me to be in this particular city on this particular island in this particular country on this particular continent in this great big world we live in.
And what a beautiful world it is, with so many things to experience and see.
After my brief trip to Poland earlier this year, I realized I was enticingly close to marking something off of my Life List: Travel to as many countries as I am years old.
At the time, I scribbled out a quick list and found I was just a few countries short of reaching this goal. It turns out, my calculations were wrong: No, unfortunately I am not younger than I thought I am, but I have been to more countries than I originally noted.
And so, after our recent 10-day holiday in Greece, in which I walked along Oia’s cobblestone pathways, I can officially say that I have been to as many countries as I am years old. At age 35, I’ve have been to 35 different countries.
This may be the only time I publicly share how old I am. But it also goes to show how much of the world I have left to explore. There are so many places I want to visit (and revisit), and I am so thankful for the chance to live in a place with accessibility and time to travel more often.
In honor of this monumental Life List achievement, I thought I’d share all of the countries I’ve been to, in chronological order. (Also, I’m not keen on arguing semantics about the United Kingdom. Just let me enjoy this moment.)
- United States
- South Korea
- Turks and Caicos
- Dominican Republic
- Costa Rica
- Cook Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Czech Republic
A few interesting facts about this Life List milestone:
- I didn’t visit my third country until I was in high school.
- I didn’t visit my sixth country until I was 20 years old. The vast majority of my international travel experiences have been as an adult.
- Yes, I have been to six continents. Yes, I want to visit all seven. That’s another Life List dream.
- Of the countries I’ve been to, the only one I really, truly have no interest in revisiting is Curacao.
- Though I have no “favorite” country, Norway, the Cook Islands and Iceland are among my favorites.
- None of these are “only in the airport” countries, however, I’ve never actually stepped foot in France. I took the train across it and spent a few hours watching it pass by through a window.
- I have ridden trains on five continents.
- I’ve defended cruises before, and I’ll do it again here: Though you certainly can’t experience much local color from port stops, cruising has allowed me to visit the Bahamas twice, Turks and Caicos and the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman). Technically, my week in Ecuador (the Galapagos Islands) was aboard a cruise as well.
The real question, of course, is summed up in the words of my favorite poet, Carl Sandburg: “Where to? what next?”