I have been incredibly lucky having the opportunity to travel quite a bit since our first family vacation in Greece when I was about two years old. Since my dad also likes to travel constantly and I get restless if I’ve been in one place for too long, I am convinced that I have the wanderlust gene. Since exploring the world makes me incredibly happy, I’ve always prioritized it over other means of “investing” my money. We have often talked about buying a house, for instance, but I can’t stand the thought of not being able to travel as much as I would like to in order to be able to pay off a mortgage. Even though I started appreciating a bit of quiet time at home when we got our cats, I feel like I can only truly recharge my batteries when I am far away from home, where I can’t do household chores and am not thinking about work calls and social media.
7. Visit 5 new countries or the 3 remaining EU countries
While living in Canada, we got really into travelling to more exotic places. I had been to most of Europe and North America, but hadn’t explored much of the other continents. I had been to Africa (Tunisia) and Asia/the Middle East (Turkey and Jordan), but was itching to visit more countries. I calculated that if I wanted to visit all countries in my lifetime, I would have to visit about five countries each year. I have managed to achieve this goal every year since formulating it, but it’s become harder and harder because some countries are just not too safe to visit and are further and further away from home. I am still not sure if I actually want to visit all of the world’s countries, but I will keep ticking countries off my bucket list until I run out of ideas. According to my Matador map, which keeps track of my travel adventures, I have been to 73 countries, but I still really want to visit Bhutan, Bolivia, Peru, Botswana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Iceland, Montenegro and Greenland. The three EU countries I haven’t been to are Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria. I don’t know if this goal is actually achievable this year because one of our bigger trips will be to the US and Canada, which I have already been to. However, I haven’t travelled to most of Southeast Europe, which is only a one to two hour flight away from Austria, so we’ll see.
8. Take at least one bigger trip with Herbert
I’ve already been able to tick this item off the list because we just spent ten wonderful days in Tanzania. We booked this trip very last minute because I desperately needed to recharge my batteries, but it was one of the most relaxing and amazing vacations we’ve had. Additionally, we’ve had a trip to New England and Eastern Canada booked for almost a year. There’s a slight chance we might have to cancel it because I am discouraged from taking time off work when parliament is in session. However, I am still hoping we’ll be able to go since we booked the trip before I started my new job and a co-worker specializing in foreign affairs could potentially help me out if there’s an EU Committee meeting while I’m away.
9. Trip with mom & granny
Travelling keeps my grandmother young. She took her first flight when she was 74 years old, if I am not mistaken. After my grandfather’s death, she started travelling quite a bit with her brother and her girlfriends and it brought her so much joy. Sadly, her brother passed away more than ten years ago, which left another void in her life. In order to fill that void, my mother and I started travelling with her. It began with my mother and grandmother visiting me in London five or six times, as well as twice in Canada, once for my grandmother’s 85th birthday — her first transatlantic flight, by the way — and once for our wedding. After moving back to Austria, the three of us have taken trips to London, Scotland, France, Belgium, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, as well as Ireland. I’ve probably even forgotten to mention a few places. It is so refreshing to heartwarming to see how much my grandmother enjoys travelling with “her girls.” Whereas she’s often lethargic at home and even shows signs of dementia, she’s full of energy and back to her “old self” when we are travelling. Even though my mother is a bit skeptical if we’ll be able to fly with her this year because she’s getting older and recently spent a few weeks in hospital, I still want to try going on a weekend trip with her, even if we just take the train to Munich or Prague.
10. Trip with my dad
My dad and I have travelled to exciting places together — just the two of us — since I was in high school, starting with my first transatlantic trip to the US in the summer of 2000. We both love to travel and get restless if we stay in one place for too long. Probably, I got the wanderlust gene from him. We are experts in whirlwind-travel, as we’ve for example seen Delhi, Agra, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur in just four full days, and visited one of my dad’s friends in Johannesburg for three days, followed by a quick two-day trip to Cape Town. Our travels are certainly very exciting and we really enjoy seeing more “exotic” places. We’ve talked about going to Montenegro this year after really enjoying our trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina last year, but we’ll see. My dad really wants to see Baku, Azerbaijan, but Austrian Airlines stopped flying there last year or the year before. Our biggest problem is finding places to visit that both of us haven’t been to, but I am fully aware that this is a luxury problem. In any case, I am really grateful being able to spend quality time with him while exploring the world, which we both love. It’s certainly a win-win situation.
11. Take at least two weeks off in the summer
In the past few years, I’ve never taken more than a few days off in the summer, primarily because my mother doesn’t like to watch our furry babies when she is off work (she is a high-school teacher and has the summer off). Of course, I could have taken vacation days and just stayed at home, but I’ve always wanted to maximize the days we could travel. I also started my current job, as well as the previous one, in June, so it wasn’t possible to immediately take more than a long weekend off. This year, I’ve accumulated quite a few vacation days and overtime hours, so my plan is to treat myself to a week or two off in the summer, which is a perfect time not to be at work because parliament isn’t in session and thus work is a bit slower than usual. We also have our ten-year anniversary as a couple coming up in August, as well as our seven-year wedding anniversary, so we will probably also try to squeeze in at least a weekend trip within Europe.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my travel-related happiness projects. Since I also really care about the environment, I’ve decided to start doing carbon offsetting a while ago. I would love to be able to travel less frequently to minimize my carbon footprint, but it feels good to at least compensate CO2 emissions. I would really encourage you to also consider it. It’s cheaper that you’d think. For instance, it only cost 20 Euros for my round trip flight to Tanzania.
I will also write a final happiness project post on the rest of the items that didn’t fit into any of the two previous categories. Hopefully, you’re as excited as I am.