It seems like now, on the eve of my 30th birthday, is a better time than most to reflect on my world travels and all the awesome countries that I’ve visited.
I didn’t set out to visit 30 countries before the age of 30 (I didn’t even realise it was a thing that people did until I started reading travel blogs), but now that I’ve done it, it’s probably the best thing I’ve done in my first 30 years.
These are the 30 countries I visited before turning 30…
I left my home country of New Zealand for the first time when I was 16 years old. A school mate of mine had family in Surfer’s Paradise, so I managed to convince my parents to let me head over there with my mate for a couple of weeks.
I visited Australia again – this time Sydney – at the end of 2006, to mark the completion of four years at university. Check out 5 awesome things to do in Sydney.
Then I went back to Australia for a third time in 2012, stopping in Brisbane before backpacking around Southeast Asia.
In 2008 Mrs Man vs World and I embarked on our big trip to London, stopping in Thailand first for a couple of weeks. We visited the land of smiles again in 2012 while backpacking in Southeast Asia.
Check out the best places to visit in Thailand for a complete list of all the places we visited in Thailand.
We lived in London for nearly four years, during which time we managed to see a fair bit of the country, including Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bath, Bournemouth, Blackpool, Brighton, Windsor, Oxford and much more.
The highlight of our time in England? Probably the time we went on a weekend-long boat ride from Rugby to Warwick. The worst place we visited in England? Probably the so-called English Riviera.
Check out these top 5 London day trips.
I visited Paris several times (it’s just a train ride away from London, after all), but I also visited the French Riviera (much nicer than the English one), Biarritz (to go surfing), Bordeaux (to drink wine) and the Perigord province (to eat).
I love France. One trick I learnt is to tell the locals that you’re a Kiwi and not English, and then they’ll be a lot nicer to you.
I visited Monaco for a day, where I watched the changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace, saw some Ferraris and some extravagant yachts, and generally had a very pleasant time.
Now Italy is a country that I love. The Amalfi Coast is one of my favourite places to visit in Europe or the world (it came second in my list of the top 30 places to visit in Europe), and I also spent time in Rome (expensive), Milan (fancy), Florence (classical), Naples (filthy), Venice (beautiful) and the island of Capri (extravagant), among others that don’t immediately come to mind.
7. Vatican City
Should I include Vatican City? I guess I have to; I’ve been there, and it is technically a country.
Remember how I said that Italy’s Amalfi Coast was my second favourite place in Europe? Well, Santorini in Greece is my first favourite place in Europe. If there is a heaven, I hope that it’s a lot like Santorini in Greece.
I also spent time on the islands of Ios and Paros, as well as dirty old Athens (see things to do in Athens).
In 2008 I was in Belgium for three weeks or more, during which time I visited Bruges (lovely), Brussels (lovely), Ghent (lovely), Namur (lovely) and Antwerp (lovely).
Unsurprisingly, we had a lovely time.
I was robbed in Spain. That remains my single worst travel experience ever, and it kind of ruined my opinion of Spain as a travel destination for many years.
Thankfully, time heals all wounds, and now I can look back and remember having a brilliant time in Spain on a tour that took us from Barcelona to Ibiza, to Valencia and Madrid.
I learnt to surf in San Sebastian, but the highlight of my time in Spain was easily La Tomatina – the giant tomato fight.
I firmly believe that Lisbon, the capital and largest city in Portugal, is hugely underrated. But that’s a blog post for another time. I also stayed at a friend-of-a-friend’s holiday home in Cabanas de Tavira.
One of the highlights of the last 30 years was the Croatian sailing trip I went on in 2010. Split is beautiful, Hvar is spectacular, Korcula is cool, Makarska is magnificent, and Dubrovnik is one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever visited. Read more about my Croatian sailing trip here.
How many people can say they learnt to ski in the Swiss Alps? Probably a lot of people from Switzerland, I’d imagine. I remember falling ass over backwards on the slopes at Interlaken, and having a terrific time doing it. It’s still the only time I’ve ever been skiing.
14. Czech Republic
New Year’s Eve in Prague seemed like such a good idea, until we arrived there to sub-zero temperatures. The cold weather only heightened the gothic atmosphere of the Charles Bridge.
I spent a long-weekend in Copenhagen. It’s a beautiful city. It was a shame that the little mermaid was away at the time (more about that here).
I caught the train from Copenhagen to Malmo in Sweden, just because I wanted to tick another country of the list. Later we spent a weekend in Stockholm, which is a cool little city. I mean that literally – it was ruddy freezing when I visited in the middle of winter.
I spent a couple of nights in Bratislava at Christmas time. The markets there were like something from out of a fairy tale, especially when it was snowing.
I took a day trip from Bratislava to Vienna, to visit the city’s Christmas markets and to tick another country off my list. I must go back one day and see more of Austria.
Another country, another beautiful Christmas market. Although I spent a couple of days here, Budapest is high up my list of cities that I’d like to visit again someday.
Unfortunately when I visited Morocco I wasn’t as travel hardened as I am now. As a result, I found Marrakesh in particular to be more exhausting than fun, having to haggle for everything and just finding my way around the labyrinth of market streets and markets. I’d like a do-over.
I loved Dublin. I drank plenty of Guinness while I was there and not much else. The luck of the Irish was with me, too, because I got a phone call while I was there to say that I’d gotten a job in London that I’d interviewed for the previous week.
Germany is a country that I’d like to see more of. Besides a brief boat cruise through the Rhine Valley, I’ve only been to Berlin and Munich.
I was lucky enough to be in Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve a few years back.
I’ve been to Edinburgh twice – the second time was for the city’s world-famous Fringe Festival. I also did a brief bus tour that took me through some of the Scottish highlands to Loch Ness.
I went to a rugby game at Cardiff’s irrepressible Millennium Stadium between the mighty All Blacks and the Welsh national team. The game wasn’t anything great, but the atmosphere in the stadium was like nothing I’ve experienced at a live sporting match before and since.
One of my last adventures before I left Europe was a trip to Turkey, where I fell in love with Istanbul (one of my favourite cities in the world). I also made a pilgrimage to Gallipoli (a World War One battleground that is hugely significant in New Zealand’s history) and relaxed at the blue lagoon at Oludeniz (pictured below).
After leaving Europe, Mrs Man vs World and I went backpacking in Southeast Asia for nine months in 2012. The first stop was Vietnam, a country that kicked our asses in the first few weeks, as we struggled to get to grips with a haggle-based economy. Even crossing the street was tough in the early days (anyone who has been to Saigon will understand why).
But we persevered, I started this travel blog, and we gradually fell in love with Vietnam and Asia in general. Check out the best places to visit in Vietnam to see all the places we visited.
Probably my favourite place in Southeast Asia (at least of the countries I’ve visited in that part of the world) is Cambodia. For me, it just has the perfect mix of modern and ancient historical attractions, as well as great food and chilled beach-side towns. Check out the best places to visit in Cambodia.
If Cambodia is the best country to visit in Southeast Asia, then I think the Laotian town of Luang Prabang is the best place to visit in the region. Why I love Luang Prabang is yet another blog post for a later date, but let’s just say that this perfect little town is almost universally loved by backpackers for a reason.
In Laos, we also visited Vientiane, Don Det and Vang Vieng.
At this point, writing this blog post, I’m realising just how lucky I am. Malaysia is a country that I don’t recommend to other backpackers nearly as often as I should.
Kuala Lumpur is up there with the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong, Melaka is a noteworthy little town with a kick-ass night market, and Langkawi is a tropical paradise.
I got engaged in Bali, so, yeah, Indonesia is always going to be special to me. I also visited Ubud, Gili Trawangan and Sanur.
32. Republic of Singapore
East meets West in Singapore, where you can enjoy all the flavours and colours of Asia with a helping of Western home comforts.
33. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
Or just “Hong Kong” to you and me.
34. United States of America
As soon as we got engaged, we knew we wanted to do a road trip in America for the honeymoon. Sure enough, after we got hitched we set off on an adventure that took us from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, up to Lake Tahoe, to Napa and San Francisco, then down the Pacific Coast Highway and back to LA.
I’m also fortunate enough to have spent Thanksgiving in New York a couple of years earlier.
To cap off our honeymoon, Mrs Man vs World and I flew down to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico for a more traditional honeymoon, lounging by the pool and swimming in the ocean.
36. New Zealand
Home, sweet home. I was born and raised in New Zealand, but it’s only after travelling the world that I’ve come to appreciate my homeland. Growing up in a very small city on the North Island, I always found NZ to be a bit boring, to be perfectly honest with you.
But now I finally see what all the tourists see – a land of awesome natural attractions. I even finally did the famous Tongariro Crossing recently for the first time.
There are definitely worse places to spend your 30th birthday.
Note: I haven’t included any countries on this list that I’ve merely driven through or briefly stopped over in on the way to somewhere else.