Boarding pass in hand and backpack on my back, I walked across the chilly jet bridge at Edmonton International Airport and boarded the 737 like I had done dozens of times before. I sat down in my seat, buckled my seatbelt and gazed out the window, contemplating the trip I was about to take. It was the first day of November and I was heading to Los Angeles, a city I had never visited before. There is nothing unusual about a Canadian heading south in the winter, just like there was nothing unusual about me jetting off to somewhere new – I did achieve my goal of traveling to 30 countries before the age of 30, after all. But this trip was going to be different. After traveling around the world with someone else for the past 10 years, I was setting off on my first solo trip.
Over the course of six years, in pursuit of a personal travel goal, I traveled to 32 countries (some more than once), spent approximately 38 weeks abroad (not counting local trips), and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars. It was amazing, and exhausting, to say the least. On my 25th birthday I set a goal to travel to 30 countries before I turned 30, and on a four-week trip to Europe in September 2014, I achieved it. Yet two months after returning home, the itch was back. No matter how hard I ever try to return to a normal life, focus on saving money and relaxing, the wanderlust always comes back. So, on Boxing Day 2014, I booked a trip to Nicaragua.
Once in a while a country or a city will take you by surprise, and Bulgaria did just that for me. Aside from being a natural stopping point on our path from Budapest to Istanbul, Sofia had been on my radar before I ever even left Canada – since 2006 – thanks to my friend Christina who I met on a travel website and have been postcard pals with ever since. I didn’t know anyone who had traveled to Bulgaria, and read some less than enthusiastic words during my research. Many people suggested it was depressing, grey or boring. I know well enough not to trust those Internet doom-and-gloom folks, and I don’t like to go into a new place with many expectations one way or another, but Bulgaria felt like an undiscovered hidden gem.
We awoke in Skopje, Macedonia in the ungodly hour between late night and early morning. It was pitch black outside and the streets were deserted. My head was in a fog and I was still unsteady on my feet. It’s a familiar feeling for anyone who has to get up in that in-between time and move. In our case, we were moving on to our next destination; Thessaloniki, Greece. More importantly, I was moving towards achieving a goal, the biggest undertaking of my life; traveling to 30 countries before the age of 30. Greece was it: #30.
This interview originally appeared on Vibe Tribe Shop on February 21, 2015.
We had a chance to catch up with Karlie of @misswanderlustca recently. We have been a fan of her adventure and gorgeous Instagram pictures. What caught our eye first was Karlie’s goal. Karlie had a dream to visit 30 countries before she was 30 and she did it! Then we fell in love with her ig pixels. In the interview below, Karlie shares how she has worked towards her day dream and what the journey has meant to her. You can follow the adventures of Karlie on Instagram at @misswanderlustca. Thanks, Karlie, for taking the time to share your journey with us and for the travel inspiration – don’t quit your day dream!
Tell us a bit about your adventure…
I first traveled outside of Canada in 2008 when I was 22 years old. My husband and I went to the Euro Cup and to Italy, where my family, including my five-year old father, emigrated from in 1958. We started traveling every year, more and more frequently. By the time I was 25 I had been to 10 countries and set a goal to visit at least 30 countries before my 30th birthday. I achieved and surpassed my goal with eight months to spare! Continue reading Adventures in Wanderlust→
Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, 940ft at its greatest depths and millions of years old, nestled amongst a mountainous region of the Balkans. The lake and the town it is named after are a Macedonian UNESCO World Heritage Site, yet a third of the shoreline lies in another country: Albania.
My husband Dave and I were spending a few nights in the town of Ohrid to catch a bit of downtime during our month in Europe, but we can never stay idle for very long. We had a rental car with us that we had picked up in Skopje and were delighted to find out that we could take it into Albania for a small extra fee. We decided to circumnavigate the entirety of the lake, about 100km, and get a very small taste of what Albania has to offer.
One of my favourite things to do in Europe is take the train, no matter how long or short the journey. Book me onto an 8-hour flight and my mind fills with anxiety, but a train ride of the same length fills me with excitement; the satisfaction of slowly passing through countryside, crossing borders the old fashioned way, and staying firmly on the ground. The train from Budapest bound for Belgrade was nearly empty for the entire trip. We stopped at the Hungarian border, had our passports stamped, moved on for a few short minutes, and stopped again on the Serbian side of the border in Subotica. The border police seemed a little more tired, a little more weary, their faces a little more lined. Moments after we pulled into the station, the sky grew dark and exploded with rain. I grasped the deliciousness of the symbolism in that moment.
Three hundred and fifty days after our last month away in Europe, Dave and I were packing our bags again, going through the familiar motions and making the drive down the same stretch of highway to the airport, ready to embark on another month on the continent we love so much. This time, though, the trip carried serious significance. This would be the biggest trip of my life to date. This would be the one where I would finally achieve my goal, the purpose of my life for the past four and a half years; to travel to at least 30 countries before I turned 30 years old.
After three easy flights we touched down in Budapest, a city I’ve wanted to visit for years. We took the bus and then the metro into the historic centre. The second we emerged from the station I was stunned by the gorgeousness all around me. It’s common to be smitten with a place when you first see it, but this feeling held steady for our whole four days in Budapest, from the grandest buildings to flower pots lining the streets, from the great Danube and its bridges to multiple neon signs in the shape of teeth.
As the bus wound back and forth through the Rif Mountains, ever so slowly getting closer to Chefchaouen, the sun had already gone down. I did not get the spectacular welcome view that I had been hoping for, but two days in the blue washed village would more than make up for it.
It was pitch dark by the time we arrived and it felt like the desolate bus station was in the middle of nowhere. After getting ripped off by the taxi driver to the laughable tune of $1.30, we met Carlos, one of the Spanish owners of Casa La Palma, and dove into the winding, twisting, up-and-down, and full-of-stairs town that is Chefchaouen. It was raining that night, and for most of our visit. The cobblestones were so slick I’m surprised I managed to keep myself upright.
I got my first glimpse of Africa as we began our final descent into Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport. I noticed the vibrant green land, the huge sky and the immensely tall clouds like I had never seen before.