I added up all the countries we visited in the two and a half years we were away from Australia and the total came to 38. (Or a nicer, neater 40 if you could England, Scotland and Wales separately. ;) Here is the grand rundown!
(Cities listed are those we stayed overnight for one or more nights and don’t include day trips or other places we visited on the way from one to another.)
JULY – DECEMBER 2010
Before settling in the UK we spent almost half a year travelling around Europe. This was something we’d always wanted to do and we thought once we’d achieved it we’d feel a sense of satisfaction and completion – gotten it out of our system, so to speak. Buuut, if anything, it only made us want more.
- THE UK: London, Bristol, Wales
- THE NETHERLANDS: Rotterdam, Amsterdam
- BELGIUM: Brussels, Bruges
- FRANCE: Tours, Toulouse
- SPAIN: Barcelona
- PORTUGAL: Lisbon, Porto, Faro
- SPAIN: Seville, Granada
- MOROCCO: Fez, the Sahara desert, Dades Gorge, Marrakesh
- ITALY: Milan, Levanto, Rome, Sant Agnello
- CROATIA: Zadar, Mukinje, Split, Dubrovnik, Zagreb
- MONTENEGRO: Kotor
- BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Mostar, Sarajevo
- HUNGARY: Budapest
- AUSTRIA: Vienna
- CZECH REPUBLIC: Prague
- POLAND: Krakow
- GERMAN: Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg
Total travel time: 21 weeks
Total cost including all transport, accommodation, food and expenses: ~AU$16,000 per person
2011 – JULY 2012
We then lived and worked in London for 19 months but we tried to squeeze in travel whenever we could. After all, it’s easier to pop over to Paris for a few days from London than is is from Melbourne, so we had to make the most of it while we were over there! As well as weekends and day trips to various towns around the UK (and a week each driving around Scotland and Cornwall) we also visited:
- IRELAND: Dublin
- GREECE: Athens, Naxos, Santorini
- FRANCE: Paris
- TURKEY: Istanbul
- ICELAND: Reykjavik
JULY – DECEMBER 2012
By this time I’d started this blog and did my best to post at least once for every country we visited. If you kept up on this second trip by travelling along virtually with us via this blog, thank you and I hope you enjoyed the ride!
- CROATIA: Split, Zadar, Zagreb
- SLOVENIA: Ljubljana, Piran, Bled
- ITALY: Trieste
- GERMANY: Munich, Mainz, Bremen
- DEMARK: Odense, Copenhagen
- NORWAY: Sjusjøen, Oslo, Bergen
- SWEDEN: Gothenberg, Stockholm
- LATVIA: Riga
- ESTONIA: Talinn
- FINLAND: Helsinki
- RUSSIA: St Petersburg, Moscow, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk
- MONGOLIA: Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Ulaanbaatar
- CHINA: Beijing
- SOUTH KOREA: Seoul, Daejeon, Busan
- JAPAN: Hiroshima, Okayama, Osaka, Shibu Onsen, Nagano, Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo
- MALAYSIA: Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang
- SRI LANKA: Colombo, Hikkaduwa
- AUSTRALIA: Brisbane, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Forster/Tuncurry, Newcastle
Total travel time: 20 weeks
Total cost including all transport, accommodation, food and expenses: ~AU$18,300 per person
(I feel like we actually travelled more cheaply in 2012 than we did in 2010 but I think the reason we spent more money is because the second trip included some particularly expensive countries (Scandinavia, Japan, etc) and the Trans-Mongolian leg cost a lot because it was privately organised tour and we also had to secure three pricey visas to undertake it.)
Occasionally Asked Questions
1. How did you afford it?!
Saved, saved and saved. I’d been saving for some a big overseas trip for as long as I could remember, but I really ramped it up in the year or two before we first set out. I spent about 75% of those initial savings on the first trip then had the leftover as a buffer while we settled into London (although luckily I didn’t need to use them). I saved particularly hard while we were working in London to be able to afford the return trip but I did have to dip into what was left of my original savings for the last month or so.
2. How were you able to work in the UK?
I was there on a 2 year Youth Mobility Visa and Alex was lucky enough to qualify for a 5 year UK Ancestry Visa. Theoretically I could have applied for an ancestry visa of my own with Alex as my de facto sponsor after my 2 years were up, but I would’ve had to have gone back to Australia to do it and I decided I’d rather spend the time and money travelling. Also, while we were sad to leave some very good friends of ours behind in London, by the time my visa was up I’d had enough of living in such a massive city and was ready to move back to Melbourne.
3. How far ahead did you plan/book the travel?
We mapped out a rough route for each big trip before we left and fine-tuned them along the way. We always had accommodation booked before arrival – I’m not comfortable with the idea of turning up in a new city without anywhere to go and I like to read reviews and see photos – we usually sorted that 1-4 weeks ahead. We booked the few flights that we took as far in advance as possible (4-12 months). Most other transport we just bought tickets a couple of days in advance at the station, although we did book a couple of trains and ferries in advance when it saved significant money (definitely worth doing in the UK, Germany and Norway).
4. What was your favourite place?
This, as you can imagine, is a very difficult one to answer! The best I can do is give you my top 10 (which is almost just as difficult). In the order that we visited them:
- Lisbon, Portugal for the laid-back people, the atmosphere, lovely tiled buildings and value for money.
- Zadar, Croatia for the gorgeous water and islands, beautiful old town, friendly people, tasty food, fewer crowds than Split or Dubrovnik, and value for money.
- Mostar, Bosnia for the wonderful people and special experiences we had there.
- Budapest, Hungary for the grandeur and beauty of the city, fascinating modern history, the cool, alternative vibe and value for money.
- Edinburgh, Scotland for the beautiful old city, it’s proximity to nature, and the refreshing contrast with London.
- Iceland for the stunning raw beauty of nature, and the warmest, most polite and friendliest people we’ve ever met.
- Lake Bled and Piran, Slovenia for unbeatable swimming locations, spectacular nature, nice people and tasty food.
- Copenhagen, Denmark for stunning contemporary design and people with a good attitude towards life.
- Trans-Mongolian tour. This is cheating a bit as it covers quite a few places, but this whole leg was a real highlight of our return journey for the fascinating history and wonderful people we met along the way (locals and fellow travellers alike).
- Penang, Malaysia for the FOOD!
5. What was your least favourite place?
Morocco. We had several unlucky and unpleasant experiences on our first day (culminating in being told to “f*** off back to our own country”) and the rest of the time I felt like we had to constantly be on our guard to avoid being taken advantage of or ripped off. It was the first time I hadn’t enjoyed myself while travelling, and I’m frustrated with myself because of it, but that’s just how it was. (FWIW, the best thing we did in Morocco was a 3 day private organised tour that transported us from Fez to Marrakesh via the Sahara Desert and the Atlas Mountains. If I could do it all over I would have done the whole thing as an organised tour. We met plenty of people doing it independently and loving it but I guess I just don’t have the right personality!)
6. Do you feel like you missed out on anything?
I feel like we did a pretty good job! But, it would have been nice to see more of the countries we did visit (particularly Greece, Turkey, Austria, France, Hungary and Ireland), and I feel like we should have included Serbia, Lithuania and Slovakia. We didn’t get to Switzerland (its expensive reputation put us off), Romania or Bulgaria – another time. Now that we’ve travelled through Russia we’re also rather intrigued by some the other former USSR countries such as Georgia, Belarus and the Ukraine.
7. How did you get around? Did you hire a car?
We weren’t that keen on driving in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar signage, on the opposite side of the road, or finding parking in major cities. We avoided flying whenever possible, preferring to travel by land. On our return journey we travelled from Croatia to Japan by surface: rail, bus and ferry. Flying seems like the quick option, but there’s so much mucking around with getting to and from airports, whereas trains and buses you can just rock up shortly before departure and hop on. Then you can enjoy the view, read, sleep, walk around, use electronics, write, get things done, relax, day dream… while someone else does all the driving and navigating for you.
8. What did you do for travel money?
We mainly used cash, just withdrawn from local ATMs on arrival in each new country. We’d withdraw large sums at a time to reduce bank fees. We avoided using credit cards because of bank fees. Sometimes we planned it well enough to use up all our foreign currency before moving onto the next country, but when we overestimated we exchanged on arrival (at a bank or post office whenever possible).
9. What did you do for accommodation?
On the first trip we mostly used hostels, occasionally budget hotels. On the second trip we mostly used Airbnb, which almost always worked out to be cheaper and nicer than hostels (although we have stayed in some very nice hostels!). We enjoyed staying in Airbnb properties so much we’re considering hosting ourselves once we’ve settled back into Melbourne.
10. What did you do about your phones? Did you buy a new SIM in each country?
We didn’t really spend enough time in each place to warrant buying a local SIM, except for South Korea and Japan where I tried and wasn’t able to. We just used our British O2 SIMs on roaming (with data turned off) for text messages or phone calls in an emergency.