The travels of 2012 and 2013

Luxembourg - one of this year's travel highlights. Well, definitely in the top eight countries I've visited this year.

I realised, on my way back from Luxembourg in November, that I’d been lucky enough to tick off eight foreign countries this year.

First up was a work trip to Romania, swiftly followed by our wonderful five-country overland trip through Europe that took in France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Germany. Then our weekend in Luxembourg also saw a couple of hours in Belgium.

It’s the most countries I’ve been to in a year since 2001, when Niall and I did our big four month journey from Frankfurt to Cairo. That trip took in sixteen countries (I think), and I’ve not come anywhere near that total since.

2012’s eight countries is halfway to that record, which isn’t bad for stuff done mostly in leave from work, so it proves that with a bit of saving and planning you don’t need to quit your job in order to travel.

That said, I’m less chuffed that this year’s countries were all repeats. In thinking about it, I haven’t actually visited a new country since Spain (and, briefly, Portugal) in 2010. A trip which, incidentally, I still hope to explore in blog form one day.

Now I’m not one for travelling with a checklist, and arguably it’s better to visit one country in depth than five superficially. After all, I’m saying I visited Belgium this year on the back of about three hours, and claim I’ve visited Portugal in 2010 after a mere thirty minute hop over the border from Spain. So it’s always an inexact and misleading indicator of one’s travels.

It’s also nice (and, on the whole, cheap) to do things more domestically, such this year’s hillwalking (1|2) or the trip to Edinburgh for The Next Stop. Scotland’s a great place that I am sure I’ll never bore of exploring. That said, as someone so keen on travel I find it too tempting to keep a running total of countries sometimes.

I think that total is somewhere in the mid- to late-thirties, which means I’m now lagging seriously behind Niall, with whom I’ve had an informal “country total” competition for some years now. Of course, it’s been some time since he began working on oil rigs around the world and then commenced his wonder hunting, so it’s fair to concede that the comparison has been dead and buried as a meaningful contest for some time.

I’ve no idea where my next travels are. For a few weeks earlier this year I entertained the idea of going to the world Esperanto congress in Rejkjavik in August 2013. Iceland is a country I’ve long wanted to visit, and indeed it’s probably at the top of my wishlist. For cost reasons, though, I had to rule it out. I would have wanted to not just participate in the congress and see a bit of Rejkjavik but would also have done a tour of the country as a whole. Even with cost-cutting measures such as camping or Couchsurfing, research suggested that it would still have been a prohibitively expensive trip. Another time, then.

There’s also the as yet unvisited half of the list of 28 mullet places, mostly in the USA. They, however, are firmly on the back burner until I get my second book out and perhaps earn a bit of money from it to fuel another mullet trip. And frankly I really ought to be focussing more on both my forthcoming books rather than indulging in new large-scale trips I can’t yet afford.

That said, there’s talk of a more modest adventure in 2013 – another wonder hunt with Niall to pick off more French candidates. That should, if it goes ahead, be reassuringly close by, easy and enjoyable.

So apart from that, then, I think I need to focus on the writing. 2012’s travels have been fun, but there are books to get done. Major new travels can wait.

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