I have set a personal goal to travel to 40 countries before my 40th birthday. As I’m sure you remember, I just took the month of May off from blogging to celebrate my…. 37th birthday! Therefore, I feel sharing this post now is relevant and timely. This means I now have three years left to accomplish this feat.
Why I set this goal for myself
Really, this goal is just something I ultimately want to do for me. It’s not really about creating a bucket list or anything like that, although I do have one. This started with my love of travel and the basic premise of wanting to see the world, but spending several years sitting at home during my twenties. Things are different now. There’s simply way too much I’d like to see and do together now with my hubby. I still have that same desire to see the world, although the way I experience it and approach it may vary. I’m so glad to finally be at a place in my life where I can chase this dream! Setting a goal of 40 by 40 does many things for me. A few of these reasons include:
- It helps me maintain my sense of enthusiasm about the possibilities ahead of me.
- This goal gives me something to look forward to.
- I have something to work towards.
- It holds me accountable.
- Its something fun to do personally and blog about as I type this post up now.
- This is a SMART goal (specific*measurable*achievable*relevant*time-bound).
Personally, I don’t always think you need to know where you are going in life. But, I do think it’s important to remember where you’ve been.
I wanted to start with a synopsis of the 33 countries I have visited up to this point.
- USA – I’m proud to call this country home. While I couldn’t tell you the order of the states I visited when I was itty-bitty, I can tell you my first three states were Wyoming, Colorado, and California. By this point in life, I’ve visited spots in over 30 states.
- Mexico – I’ve visited our neighbor to the south many times over. These trips include Puerto Vallarta, Cancun (3 times), Cozumel (2 times), Isla Mujeres, the Riviera Maya, Ensenada, and countless trips over the Arizona border to Nogales.
- Bahamas – My grandparents took me on my first cruise to the Bahamas when I was little. I don’t remember much about it here other than getting a jelly fish thrown on me. I’m glad that my hubs and I will be returning here in late 2019.
- Jamaica – My second cruise as a kid took me to Jamaica for the first time, where I climbed Dunn’s River Falls with my dad and sister. My husband and I returned to Jamaica to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary a few years ago.
- Grand Cayman – That same cruise as a kid also took us to Grand Cayman island. This is another spot I would return to on another Caribbean cruise as an adult.
- Canada – The first time I went to Canada was a visit to Toronto and Niagara Falls as a pre-teen. I really liked Toronto and added it to my long list of potential future colleges possibilities. My second visit was on a cruise stop in beautiful Victoria, B.C. with my hubby. Recently, we also crossed the border to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls as part of our New England Road trip.
- France – I was 15 when I went on my first overseas multi-country European tour and it changed my life. Let me say that again…. IT CHANGED MY LIFE! The first stop on my month long summer tour was Paris. I had been studying French in school for several years already and was obsessed with the culture. From Paris, we ventured on an overnight train south to Marseille and Nice. In the last few years, my hubby and I have returned to France twice – both enjoying the experience of being in Paris and Marseille as a married couple.
- Monaco – I spent a day in this luxurious country. I recall marveling at the yachts and Ferraris, and wondering what it must have been like to be Grace Kelly.
- Italy – The third country we ventured through on that tour was Italy. I fell in love for the first time in my life here – with Florence. I feel like this must have been some early form of foreshadowing in my life… my first love was some foreign city… Interestingly, it would be almost exactly 15 years later in life, when I really needed a fresh start, that I looked very deeply at packing up my life and moving to Florence. Fate intervened when the man who is now my husband entered my life. Now, we explore this amazing world together! Anyway, back to Italy… Other stops on my first trip to Italy included Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, and Brindsi. As an adult, my hubby and I have found ourselves in Italy three different times. First exploring Rome, Pompeii, Naples, and Florence. Our second trip was a stop in Venice. Our third trip was a Mediterranean cruise with stops in Civitavecchia, Palermo (Sicily), Cagliari (Sardinia), Genoa, and a few more days in Rome.
- Vatican City – Yes, this counts as it’s own country. We just finished our third visit here too.
- Greece – During my time in Greece, we stopped at Delphi before making our way to Athens, then on a cruise of the Greek Islands. Seeing the Acropolis was so cool! Getting lost as a teenager in downtown Athens was not cool!
- Turkey – The last stop on my first tour of Europe was Turkey. Actually, because we visited Kusadasi and Ephesus, this technically counted as my first time in Asia as well. Turkey may have been the last stop on that first multi-country tour, but I still remember the taste of apple tea and the smell of the piles of Turkish rugs.
- Spain – After a long travel break, I was antsy to get out there. It’s a long story, but I went to Madrid with a group of complete strangers, some of whom have become dear friends. It was my first time traveling, first time out of the country in 6 years. It would be my last big trip for about three more years too. Eight years later, my hubby and I were able to return to Spain, visiting both Mallorca and Valencia.
- Puerto Rico – Not long after we were married, we embarked on our first cruise together. We were able to spend a bit of time in San Juan prior to setting sail on what would be one of many grand adventures ahead of us. This is probably where the travel bug worked its way a little deeper into our systems.
- U.S. Virgin Islands – While a U.S. territory, this beautiful spot still counts as its own island nation. I feel like St. Thomas is a little chunk of paradise!
- St. Lucia – Idyllic might be the best word to describe the view of the Pitons jutting out from the sea. We visited here as another spot on our first cruise. I would love to go back one day and explore St. Lucia a little more.
- Barbados – As much as I hate to admit it, Barbados was an island that neither of us really enjoyed. We just didn’t have the best time there in any of the multiple activities we participated in.
- St. Kitts – We spent our day golfing on St. Kitts and exploring Basseterre. It was a great way to spend a day.
- St. Martin – Our day here was spent at exhilarating Maho Beach. This is another spot we hope to return to one day.
- Belize – Our second cruise together took us to Belize. It was our first time visiting a country in Central America proper. The people here were warm and welcoming, although the weather was not! It’s strange to think how cold some of these tropical places can be.
- Honduras – We also stopped in Honduras – on the island of Roatan. It was an enjoyable day filled with beaches and monkeys.
- Antigua – We celebrated our first wedding anniversary on this beautiful island. Although a hurricane hit the island hours after we arrived, it didn’t hamper our time there. We also saw first hand how resilient the people of this beautiful island are.
- Dominican Republic – On yet another cruise, we spent a day chasing waterfalls in the Dominican Republic. Because this took up most of our time, we didn’t get to explore the island much. Definitely on our list of places to return to one day.
- Turks and Caicos – We also had a great time by land and sea in Turks and Caicos. I was honestly surprised at how incredibly flat the island of Grand Turk is. You can seriously see from one end of the island to another. Not a hill in sight…
- Panama – Perhaps one destination that surprised me the most was Panama. I was not expecting Panama City to be as cosmopolitan as it is. I really loved it here and oftentimes recall our time spent wandering this spectacular city without a specific plan in place. It was somewhat symbolic and cathartic in my little life.
- Costa Rica – Long on our list of places to explore, Costa Rica did not disappoint. But, it was much colder than anticipated! We participated in a group tour of the country’s volcanoes and cloud forests. It was stress-free and fun!
- England – By the time we headed to England, we were both itching to get back to Europe. We kicked off our “working adult” version of a European backpacking tour in London. Against the advice of many, we also ventured out to Stonehenge for a few hours. You know what? I’m glad we went…
- Belgium – Next stop on the itinerary was Brussels. We spent some lovely time here strolling, eating chocolate and waffles, and relaxing in the city park.
- Germany – Berlin was a great city; feeling both somber and progressive. We enjoyed the people, sightseeing, and great food.
- Czech Republic – As cliché as it may sound, Prague is one of the most magical cities we have been to. There is something about it that still resonates in my heart. If I close my eyes, I can still taste the hot mulled wine we enjoyed amidst the frenzy of crowded market stalls at Old Town Square.
- Austria – Vienna. What do I say about Vienna? I was so excited to visit this classy Classical city which is loved by so many. And, I was so mad at how poorly we were treated there. 1.5 years later, and I’m still not sure what to think about Vienna and the way it represented Austria to me as a first time visitor.
- Aruba – Aruba is one happy island! This really might be our favorite island in the Caribbean. It was pretty hard for me to get on the plane to go home, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
- Thailand – Our trip to Thailand was a couple of years in the making. When it finally worked out, it was well worth the wait! We had a great time here. I love that this was our first experience in Southeast Asia. I can easily see why so many people visit here and choose not to return home.
So, that sums up my 33 countries I’ve visited in the first 36 years of my life. It’s interesting to see how my travels have evolved and how I’ve visited some places multiple times. According to my personal travel map on TripAdvisor, I’ve visited 17% of the world, covering 247,603 miles. Something tells me its actually a lot more than that considering how many times I’ve returned to certain places.
This brings me to my next point on why I want to visit at least 40 countries by the time I turn 40. While I enjoy and appreciate every opportunity, I started to feel a bit stale in some of our travels. Like we were going to the same places or experiencing the same things. In fact, I even wrote a post a few years ago about swearing off all-inclusive resorts after visiting five in a row. It is true that earning my master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism had some influence on this. I have learned a lot that has changed the way we view travel. We have both grown as people and travelers too.There's something so exhilarating about arriving in a new destination for the very first time! Click To Tweet
But, that’s not all. I guess in a lot of ways, we feel like the world is huge and we want to experience so much of it. By setting a goal to visit 40 countries, that gives us further motivation to not invest time or money in consistently returning to places we have already been. I’m anxious to see where we end up in pursuit of my 40 before 40. As a side note, when I hit my 40 before 40 my hubby likely will too. Although we obviously traveled separately before we knew each other, our country counts are somewhat similar. Speaking of which…
I need to visit 7 more countries in the next 3 years to reach my travel goal!
While we will soon be visiting Scotland and Wales, I can’t really count these as individual countries as they are part of the UK. Therefore, we still need to work out a few more countries in three years. I’m sure we will easily both either meet this goal or break it. And by the way, my original goal was 50 before 40, so I’m curious to see where we actually land by my 40th birthday!
Here’s How We’re Going To Do It
- We usually go on about one cruise per year. I believe that as long as you get out of the immediate port area, this counts as a visit to one city in one country. This type of traveler is called an excursionist. So, we can easily go on one cruise with ports in a few new countries.
- We really enjoy exploring Europe. It is super easy to get from country to country. Before turning 40, I’d really like to visit Ireland. Anywhere else we go is gravy as far as I’m concerned.
- We have been pondering diving deeper in to Asia, so I’m sure we will head back that direction soon. Also on our immediate radar is South America!
Obviously, the question we get asked a lot is how we are able to travel so much while working full time. Mastering this is something that has allowed us to travel as much as we do. In fact, I wrote a post about this last year. You can read about it HERE! By using these tips and doing some forecasting on our vacation balances, we know we will have more than enough time off work to accomplish this goal. We are looking forward to seeing where our next few years of travel adventures take us!
This is an amazing post. I am sure, just as I did – anyone who reads it can “feel” not just your love of travel, but also the excitement and true passion you have for seeing the world. Your post takes the reader from the time you were a little child, to the present, and interjects your time spent in other countries. Very well written!
So glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for commenting!!
Great idea Jenn, and what a great goal! Might have to do the same for my 50th in a few years time! eek.
Time to start planning!
I love this idea. I feel like you are almost there and it’s totally doable. I can’t wait to see where else your travels will take you. I’m glad you found Panama surprising. It’s one of my favorite countries and we’re returning there in January. Maybe look into St. Eustatius, we enjoyed our time there this year. #WeekendWanderlust
Hope you have a great return trip to Panama! Where is St. Eustatius?
What a lovely way to recount the places you’ve managed to visit before 40! Here’s to many more travels! #FeetDoTravel
Happy travels to you as well!
It’s great to have goals especially with something you love. I’m sure you’ll surpass yours, you have 3 years. 🙂 #feetdotravel
I think I might land somewhere around 45 countries, but I guess time will tell!
You are an inspiration. It’s really remarkable that you’ve traveled to so many places while working too. Ireland is next on my wish list, too. OK– let’s plan for it!
Thanks Sharon! We will have to swap Ireland stories once we both finally make it!
I love that you made it a SMART goal! Our current country list looks very similar to yours. Ireland is on our short list as well, and hoping we can make it work later this year!
That will be so cool if you do make it to Ireland this year!
What a fabulous goal to have! I’ve been to quite a few countries in my 49 years but never thought of making myself a goal, I love the idea!
It’s a fun goal to have, plus its cool to reflect back on where you went to lead up to the goal!
I loved reading about the places you’ve been. I haven’t been to Europe yet but I totally agree that Aruba is a pretty special island. If you can you need to spend at least a week in st. Lucia. I broke my rule of not going to the same place more than once. I’ve been to st Lucia 4 times now. I love it. Also agree that Barbados wasn’t my favorite either.
I’m so glad to hear someone else who didn’t love Barbados! But yes, we would love to return to St. Lucia! So beautiful!!
It is! there is so much to do there as well.
Such an inspiring goal! I also believe these things help us keep the sense enthusiasm! p.s Ireland is also on my travel bucket list for the next years! #feetdotravel
Too cool about Ireland being on your list too – it just looks so magical!
I love this goal! I’ve thought about doing 30 by 30, but I still need to 25 countries in 7 years, so I’m not sure that will happen. I’d love to set goals for myself and make it happen though! Who knows!
You never know – it could happen!
I love this goal. Just think of all of the fun memories you will have before turning 40. Make it happen!
So true! Travel is the best way to make memories!!
This is such a good idea! I wish I had done something similar! Even though Wales and Scotland are part of the UK, I think you should still count them as individual countries. After all, they have their own football teams during world cup!
You make an excellent point!!
I love that you set a travel goal. I’m 40 now and haven’t visited that many countries yet, but hoping to get to them all some day. I also share your obsession with maps! Ever since I was little I’ve just loved looking at them. Now that I’m older I always have one hanging on the wall in my home. Reminds me of what’s important I guess.
Oh yes, we have a map on our wall too! I just stare at it and daydream about all the possibilities!!
That surely sounds like my travel goal! I would love to visit all 40 before I’m 40. My REAL travel goal though is to visit all the Wonders of the World before I’m 30!
That sounds like an attainable goal to me!
I’m going to advocate for Wales and Scotland counting. Since you counted US territories (Puerto Rico, USVI), the precedence is there, and we think it’s only fair. 😉 Go get ’em, Jenn! Have fun knocking out the next 7. Or 17, or 50, or…more!
I think your biggest problem reading this, will be narrowing it down to just 7! Your lust for travel shines through. I’ll be watching and waiting to hear if you do it and which countries you decide on visiting. Bon voyage!
Agreed – that list of places I want to go is much longer than the list of places which I do not!
This post caught my eye – I was approaching my 40th birthday when I did my country count & it came to 40! I ended up having an “Around the world in 40 years” party (fancy dress of one of the countries I’d visited being the theme!). Then I wanted to continue, 50 by 50, 60 by 60 etc. Then life took a turn, I focussed on travels & when I hit 50 last year I had clocked up 70!
Sue, I read your about page and totally related as I had the same unfortunate life turn awhile ago. I’m glad we are both traveling now. 70 countries by 50 is amazing!