Firstly, I just want to say thank you to every one who reached out to me since Friday about my post How to Shift from Self-Hate to Self-Love. I was terrified to hit "publish" but it has been incredible to be connected and re-connected with women who have read the post and can relate. It makes me really sad that we're all plagued by this, so try my advice from Facebook again today:
Put your phone down or close your laptop and find the nearest mirror and just say 3 nice things to yourself*. I'll do the same.
*Out loud and without qualifiers, excuses, or second guesses.
Again, thank you for reading, for sharing, for commenting, for texting, for messaging. Just thank you. I hope that I will continue to be more positive and loving to myself and that you will too.
When I started telling people in Colorado that I was going to move to England, most people had a romantic notion that Luke and I would be jetting off across Europe all the time, seeing the world, and exploring beautiful, historical places. Perhaps I did too. After all, I love to travel and I always wish I could do more.
Now, when people here find out I'm from Colorado, they ask me why Luke didn't move there. I don't blame them. My morning view was this, Monday through Friday:
Back in August, I wrote about The Real Reason I Moved to England, and while that is a very large piece of the puzzle, another part is the ability to travel. It's a lot easier--and a lot cheaper--to see places I've always wanted to see when starting from England instead of the middle of the US. Obvious reasons include:
Cheaper travel (Luke and I have flown to both Ireland and Denmark for £60 roundtrip, total for each of us.)
Shorter flight times (I think we can get most anywhere in Europe in 3 hours or less)
Smaller time changes (Iceland is an hour behind, Western Europe is an hour ahead, and Eastern Europe is 2 hours ahead, not considering Day Light Savings, which some but not all European countries have)
In addition, Luke and I both start with 25 days paid annual leave, with the option to buy up to 10 more and we both have 30 days for 2018. With an hour or two flight time, it's easy to visit a foreign country over the weekend, but as an American, that's really only a reality if you're Monica Geller on your first date with Pete, the billionaire. At my last 2 jobs in the States, I (technically) had 10 days of paid holiday for the year, and I think that's about average for most Americans.
When I think about moving back to the States someday, one of the biggest cons is losing out on that opportunity to travel. So while we don't have a timeline for moving back (and don't plan on having one unless we decide to move back), I certainly want to do a lot more travel before that would happen.
In 2017, I visited 6 new countries, all in Europe: Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. And yes, I count the four countries that make up the United Kingdom individually since they all have their own unique, rich history and culture. Unfortunately, our 2018 adventures probably won't cross off as many new countries as we have tentatively planned on more than 1 trip back to Colorado, using most of our time off and travel budget. But that's not to say we can't dream big, and dream big we've done, indeed!
Really, Luke and I would both love to see the entire world. I'd love to visit all 196 sovereign nations across the globe, but it's just 1 country at a time for now. So answering the question of which 5 countries we would visit next if money and time were no object, here's our answer:
The main reason I want to go to Argentina is to visit Patagonia, which is shared by Argentina and Chile. There are so many beautiful things I want to see in South America, including the salt flats in Bolivia and of course Machu Picchu in Peru, but I think Patagonia tops the list. I'm not a terribly outdoorsy person, which some people can't seem to wrap their heads around being from Colorado and all, but I would be for Patagonia. From where we are now, it feels like Argentina, and even South America as a whole, is on the opposite corner of the globe. No doubt it would be a lengthy flight and it would have to be a long trip, but I think it would be well worth it. Maybe one day we'll follow in the footsteps of my friend Julie who was able to do a lengthy tour of the continent in 2016, even managing to get tickets to Olympic events in Rio!
I thought about including this on my list, but I knew it was Luke's second choice. Besides, I've already been to Australia! Okay, not really, but in 2nd grade we did a big study of Australia and turned our classroom into the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, the Outback, and maybe the rain forest as well. There was a corner of the room designated to each section and we spent a week making huge illustrations on butcher paper. We even took a field trip to Denver International Airport to "fly to Sydney". When we got back to school the next day, our teacher had hung up all our decorations and we spent the next few days learning about Australian history and animals and ecosystem and all of that fun stuff. It was so much fun and I've wanted to go ever since!
Last year, Luke stayed up to watch the Super Bowl and we made a friendly bet on who would score first in the game, the winner getting to pick where we would travel to next (honeymoon not included). I ended up winning the bet and told him I wanted to visit Austria, but I would love to visit in the winter. Now that I live in England and snow is a lot more rare than it was in Colorado, I definitely want to visit in the winter. I considered putting together a surprise weekend trip in December to visit the Christmas markets and celebrate Luke's birthday, but we just couldn't swing it last year. There are so many places I want to see in Austria and I think Halstatt ranks at the top. Once we've experienced the beautiful winter wonderland, I definitely want to visit again in the summer.
I asked Luke why this was on his list and he said he wants to see the Amazon Rain Forest and São Paulo. I don't know a lot about Brazil, but I do remember really wanting to go leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics when everyone wanted to go to Brazil. From what I understand, there's a lot of wonderful culture and incredible sights. It may not be the first (or second or third) country I think of when thinking about travelling to South America, but it would certainly a waste of a trip if we went all the way there and didn't spend a decent amount of time in Brazil as well!
Cuba was Plan A for our honeymoon. After President Obama made it possible for Americans to travel to Cuba as tourists once again, I knew a handful of people who made the journey. The more I heard about the country and their experiences, the more I wanted to go! I remember sitting in Heathrow before flying back to Colorado back in April dreaming up travelling to Cuba later that year for our honeymoon (back when we planned on doing the big wedding in September). We were going to have a wonderful week in Havana and on the beach, soaking in the sun and all the beautiful colours, and we were going to do it super cheap because it was super cheap. Everyone said to get there before Americans turned it into a popular tourist destination and we were going to do it. Now it's a bit more complicated than that. From what we've found, Americans can still travel to the island, but not directly from the US because it's the US restricting tourism, not Cuba itself. (My sincerest apologies if this is incorrect information.) My dad warned me there might be some trouble for Americans once there, but I hadn't done any research into those kinds of reports myself. Ultimately, we decided it's best to put off the trip for another time--or possibly another presidential administration. It seemed like too much of a risk to book a trip in late 2017 or early 2018 for over 6 months out and then not be able to actually do the trip because of changing policies and diplomatic relations.
It's the only country on the list that either of us have been to. Unsurprisingly, Luke has travelled to France a number of times, but I've never been. I would love to spend some time in Paris and take a long holiday to the Provence and the French Riviera and see more of the countryside. It seems like France might be the easiest one to cross off our list as we can literally drive to France (via ferry or the Chunnel). It's just a matter of picking a weekend over which we can escape to Paris or carving out some time to see a significant portion of the country.
Let me be clear, Italy is high on my list, but I gave this one to Luke because I know it's been his #1 dream destination for quite some time. When we've talked about going to Italy, we've dreamed of taking a month-long holiday and exploring as much of the country as we can. We'd rent a car--a convertible, to be sure--and make a huge loop throughout the whole country, visiting as many museums and historical landmarks as possible, eating as much pizza and pasta as possible, and drinking in as much culture as possible. We'd do and see it all! When I think about visiting European countries, there isn't another country that even comes close to having as many cities as I want to see as Italy. Maybe someday we will get to do our month-long roadtrip around Italy, but sadly that won't be this year.
One word: sushi. Since we both love sushi, we often go out for sushi to mark important dates in our relationship and also used to have sushi as our first meal when we would visit each other as a long distance couple. Don't get me wrong, there are a million reasons to visit Japan, but that's definitely number one. I think I would like to visit in the springtime. I don't know why, but I always seem to think of Japan in the spring. It's got to be the cherry blossoms! If we went, we would absolutely spend some time in Tokyo and living the city life before getting out into the rest of the country and seeing as much as they have to offer. And it sounds like the have a lot to offer!
We almost went to Morocco toward the end of last year when my friend Greg was living in Spain and his friend Zane went out to visit him. They invited us along on their quick trip to Morocco, but like Austria, we couldn't swing it at the time. It seems like it's becoming a more popular tourist destination, which means I just see more and more photos and it looks beautiful. I love the colours and the sand dunes and all of the above. It seems like it would be the perfect winter getaway when we're ready to escape the cold and take in some sunshine.
Let's be honest, who among us has seen Lord of the Rings and not wanted to travel to New Zealand? We met some of Luke's relatives from New Zealand over Christmas and it was lovely talking to them about their homeland. (And it's great to know we have family there to visit when we do make it down there!) I would love to visit Hobbiton and see some of the incredible landscapes that they used to make up Middle Earth. Like Argentina, it feels like it would be a quite outdoorsy trip, but boy would it be worth it!
We've agreed that at the beginning of each year, we'll set our a list of our top 10 countries to visit (adding 5 each) and try to visit at least 1 from both of our lists. The list will hopefully change year-to-year as we cross some off, but maybe we'll add new countries to replace countries we haven't yet visited. Maybe some years we'll be able to visit more than 2. Maybe some years we won't be able to tackle any. Maybe some years we'll visit countries not on the list. (Like how we only have 3 European countries on the list right now and I just swooned over how easy it is to travel within Europe.) But travel is a priority to both of us as individuals and us as a couple, so it feels like a good place to start to try to make our dreams a reality.
So, in the words of Dwight Schrute: "I can travel anywhere--except Cuba--I will travel to New Zealand and walk the Lord of the Rings trail to Mordor and I will hike Mount Doom."