16 weeks. 42 countries. And it is time to bid farewell to Europe - for now.
I said goodbye to my dreary but beloved England and was greeted by the quaint, breath-taking views of Czechia.
From dinning in the sky and skinny dipping in Slovakia,
and admiring the sunset in Hungary,
to watching lighting storms in Serbia,
and learning about the horrific history of Bosnia and Herzegovina but it's beautiful future,
the first few weeks were a magnificent blur. But nothing is as blurry as dancing the night away in Croatia.
Montenegro welcomed me with countless opportunities to embrace the wonders of the outdoors,
before exploring the caves of Kosovo,
and dragging my reluctant friends on a kayaking adventure in Macedonia.
Saying goodbye to this beautiful group in Albania was hard, but I knew there was more in store.
Like the history and mystery of Greece,
And the relaxing beaches of Malta.
Realising that food alone is a good enough reason to go back to Italy,
And that the views of the Vatican City are much better from above,
Were only a few of the lessons I learned along the way.
In San Marino I learned that size has nothing to do with beauty.
While Slovenia taught me it’s okay to spend a day doing nothing when depression and horrible weather gets you down.
Austria brought back memories from my first trip to Europe as a teenager,
And Liechtenstein taught me that size also has nothing to do with price.
Switzerland gave me the chance to fly,
and Monaco gave me a glimpse into life of the rich.
Though I was underwhelmed in Andorra,
Seeing my aunt and the beauty of Spain reinvigorated my soul.
As did finally seeing the Eiffel Tower in person, enjoying French wine, and frequenting Parisian cafes.
The cold of Belgium didn’t stop me,
Neither did the rain in Luxembourg.
And though I said goodbye to the homeland of my ancestors – the Netherlands – far too soon,
Hitchhiking to Germany for some rock n’ roll and flaming shots was well worth it.
Soon it was time to make my way to Denmark to start leading my first tour,
Somehow surviving the drunken overnight ferry to Norway to enjoy a peaceful sunset.
And then surviving an overnight bus with a very disruptive and borderline scary passenger to be greeted by the magnificent of Swedish fall.
Of course we can’t forget Carnival of Lights in Finland to say farewell to the summer season – even though it was already “cold as balls.”
Then it was time to say goodbye to Scandinavia and greet the Baltic States. First up, the equally cold but lovely Estonia.
And then to celebrate my MA results in Latvia with some new friends
Before making our way to the eerie Hill of Crosses Lithuania, eating pizza on the side of the road, and saying farewell to my new friends who made leading my first trip so special.
Sometimes unwinding is necessary whilst travelling, and Poland provided just that. But not before I enjoyed some delicious food and mulled wine.
Solo travel is great, but Belarus proved to be much better with a group of new friends from all over to ride tanks with.
But then there was the time some of those friends go detained at the border before we arrived in Ukraine to get some radiation poisoning from Chernobyl.
And then there was the time I almost had my passport stolen when entering Transnistria, the country where we got invited to a wedding and partied in a soviet garage with Mario, homemade vodka, and lots of laughter.
Moldova had it’s hard times – but the underground winery and support of friends made it special nonetheless.
Of course we can’t forget about the wild train to Romania where Andrew and I almost got in a fight for no reason.
Or when we arrived in Bulgaria to the first snow of the season, and desperately tried to find a kebab shop at midnight to satisfy our hunger.
The past 16 weeks – from England to Bulgaria – have been a rollercoaster that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.