“You better watch out,” a good friend said to me a while ago. “If you don’t slow down, you’ll run out of places to visit in Europe!”
I couldn’t help but snicker. We were chatting via Skype, and I had just recounted a list of trips I had taken in the past six months. The thought of running out of things to do in Europe, though? Nonsense!
“I’m being serious!” my friend insisted. “Keep going at this pace and you won’t have anything left to look forward to!”
Again, I let out a laugh.
I mean, she had to be kidding, right? We’re talking about a continent with 44 countries (and no, that’s not counting the Caucasus). A continent that’s home to world-renowned cities like Paris and Venice, London and Athens, Munich and Lisbon. A continent that, for better or worse, has pretty much been the guiding force behind Western civilization for centuries.
And you mean to tell me that it’s possible to run out of places to visit in Europe? Puh-lease. If I’m going to live in Europe, then I’m going to travel around as much as I can.
In fact, my mantra up until now has pretty much been eat, sleep, check for cheap flights, and travel (oh, yeah, and work. But let’s forget about that for a moment and pretend I earn my money by doing something cool… like being a professional ice cream tester).
The thing is, though, the past few weeks I’ve started to wonder if my friend wasn’t on to something. I mean, sure – there are parts of Europe I still haven’t explored in the slightest (I’m looking at you, Belarus and Moldova). And there are still a few places in Europe that are on my travel wish list.
But it wasn’t until it came time for me to sit down and plan a few trips this summer that I realized I might indeed have a problem. Because – brace yourselves – I was running out of ideas.
Barcelona? Check. Stockholm? Been there too. Venice? Oh yeah, definitely remember that one (although not for the best of reasons, as number 5 in this post shows.)
So I turned to the world map hanging next to my bed, hoping it would provide me with a few ideas (side note: it probably wasn’t the wisest idea to put a six foot-long map right next to where I sleep. Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night, I see country names like Chile or South Africa right above my head and start giddily researching flights and tour packages). And it was then that I began to ask myself: How many countries had I been to in Europe again anyways?
So I started to count.
One, two, three … tra la la la la … seventeen, eighteen, nineteen … fee fi fo fum … twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight.
Wait, what?! TWENTY-EIGHT?! Since when did that happen? Last time I checked, I spent most of the last six months binge-watching TV series on Netflix…
Which got me thinking: Maybe my friend was right. Maybe I should’ve paced myself better in Europe after all.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Gee, Danny, go put a sock in it. You’re so lucky!” And you know what? You’re totally right (about me being lucky, that is. I hope you don’t want me to shut up!). I’m super fortunate to have traveled to so many places, and I try to remind myself of that as often as I can.
And believe me, I didn’t write this post because I wanted to brag or sound cool (because let’s face it, after admitting to having taken Swedish classes for fun on this blog, my dorkiness level on a scale from 1 to 10 is basically 77).
Instead, I’ve been grappling with what my friend said a while ago, and I’ve been asking myself if I really do regret speeding through Europe.
It’s a tricky question, and to be honest, my answer is both yes and no (in German I could say “jein” – a combination of “ja” and “nein” – which, if you ask me, is so much cooler than “yeah nah”).
On the one hand, I’m glad I’ve taken full advantage of my time here in Europe. In fact, I have no qualms whatsoever about being labeled as a tourist and checking attractions off a list. As I wrote in this post more than a year ago:
I have a finite number of vacation days (albeit significantly more than my peers in the U.S.), and I have a finite amount of time. When I take a three to five-day trip to a European city for the very first time, I want to see the highlights. I don’t want to spend a weekend in London and not see Big Ben or visit Barcelona without checking out the Sagrada Familia.
And I still stand by those words today.
But I sometimes wonder if I should’ve gone about selecting my destinations differently. For instance, by scattering the things I really wanted to see over a long period of time and inserting more random trips in between.
You know, like visiting the French Riviera and then heading to some place unusual like Macedonia before working my way further down my wish list (not to say that Macedonia isn’t a cool place – I just have no clue what to expect). At least that way I could’ve traveled just as much while still keeping a lot on my bucket list.
So what now?
Good question. Like I said, I still have a list of places in Europe I want to visit in my head, and I’m going to do my very best to check them off slowly. Yes, it may take all the energy I have (which isn’t a lot for a scrawny guy like me who literally has a phobia of going to the gym), and – let’s be honest – I probably won’t be able to hold myself back for long. But it’s the effort that counts, right?
In the meantime, I want to get more creative with my trips in Europe. I want to go to more unusual destinations and simply let myself be surprised (speaking of which, I stumbled upon an article about Lviv, Ukraine, the other day and was literally blown away. How can a place that I’ve never even heard of be so beautiful?!).
So if you can recommend anything more off the beaten path here in Europe, definitely let me know! And hey – maybe I’ll come to love some of the things that weren’t originally on my bucket list the most. I’m willing to bet that on a continent as rich in culture and history as Europe, the odds are definitely in my favor.