My name is Chiara and I have a goal to visit 30 countries by my 30th year on earth! Let me tell you a little bit about myself and how I started my travel journey and set my goal!
As a kid I traveled a small amount to visit family in other states, a cruise or two to Mexico and finally hopped the pond when I was 15 on trip with my grandma to Italy. I always loved airplanes. Stepping off the plane to a new and exciting destination is the best feeling in the world! I went on one more trip in 2012 with a performing group to Ecuador, where we were submerged in their culture, spent time in orphanages, service projects and really getting to know the people. This was the trip that really spiked my travel interest!
In the summer of 2013, I took my first “big trip” as a college graduation trip and graduation present from the best mom in the world. I was getting ready to spend 25 days in Europe visiting 9 countries and multiple cities. The preparation and excitement for this trip was overwhelming and when me and my mom read the itinerary for the first time, we screamed with excitement for hours. When I touched down in Ireland I was instantly in love! In love with traveling, the process of getting there, the culture, the food and allowing myself to fall in love with the unknown, experiencing all the things that this amazing world has to offer. Seeing the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland was breathtaking and freeing. I thought if this is what the world was hiding, I was meant to see it. From Ireland I went to Wales and drove down through England to London. From London I took a side trip to see Stonehenge and Bath, England. Stonehenge and its history is fascinating! Although, I still think aliens helped create this amazing site 😉.
After England, I took a ferry over to the Netherlands for a couple of days. Wandered the canals of Amsterdam, biking the countryside of Holland past the most picture-perfect windmills and eating lots of cheese. From the Netherlands I drove down through Belgium and stopped for lunch, which consisted mostly of Belgium chocolate and a side of a Belgium waffle. I do not regret my decision at all! Life is short, so eat chocolate! Later that night as my sugar high wore off, we finished the drive into Paris, France. My friend and I hopped on the Metro and b-lined it for the Eiffel Tower. When I saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle for the first time I almost cried. How lucky was I to experience something so beautiful and bold? I was instantly immersed in the Paris experience! The Tower sparkling from top to bottom, sounds of champagne bottles popping, the smell of cafes and fresh coffee. From that split second and to this day, Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world! After a few days, enjoying my fill of chocolate croissants and crepes, I bid a farewell to France, knowing I would return and headed to Monaco and then onto Switzerland.
The greenery and the mountains are no joke in Switzerland. Obviously my first stop was to get some Swiss chocolate. As I write this out, I have noticed I plan at least 50% of my trip around food and it feels right. The main site in Lucerne was the covered bridge. It looks like it popped right out of a painting. From Switzerland, I made my way back to Italy for the first time in 8 years. The pizza was the same, and in my opinion needs to be eaten for every meal, but my outlook on travel was different, because I was different. After Italy, I finished my trip in Spain. Barcelona was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. Now if you like night life, this is the place for you! I have never seen anything like it before. If you like night life, I have some great recs! Heading to the airport on my last day I knew this could not and would not be the end. It was no longer a “want” but a “need” to see the world. Traveling resets me. It gives me something to look forward to, to plan for and daydream about. I was 22 and wondered how could I turn this into a goal? A bucket list? That is when “30 countries by 30” came to mind. I had already visited about 13 countries at that point, how hard would it be to get in 17 more in 8 years?
Now with this goal in mind, in 2014 I added Australia and New Zealand to my country list. I stayed with a friend In Australia that I had met/made on my trip to Europe the year before. The flight from LAX to Sydney is no joke! That was the longest flight I had ever been on and I did it alone. Hopping the dateline is a strange experience. Where does the day go? Coming back, I had a 38 hour Tuesday, who needs or wants a 38 hour Tuesday?
By 2015 I was ready for my next big trip, I had saved money for a year to pay it off and accumulate spending money, I was ready to head back to Europe. If only SoarFare had existed, then I would certainly have used them! This time I would be spending 35 days over the summer visiting 10 countries and dozens of cities. Some cities were places that I couldn’t wait to get back to! Some were brand new, I was ready to be on the go again and to see something new. My trip started in Athens, Greece and then over to Italy, up through Austria and into Germany. From Germany, I went to Czech Republic where Prague quickly became another favorite city on my list. The medieval feel of the city was fascinating and the history that I had only heard about in books was now right in front of me.
From Prague I went back through Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Spain. Side note, during my 35 days in Europe my dad and brother were river rafting the Grand Canyon. When I looked at how many miles the Grand Canyon stretched, it said 277 miles and it took them 16 days to raft the entirety of it. By the end of my trip my phone had tracked that I had walked over 315 miles. I know what you all are thinking and yes! My shoes were worn out, but my legs looked fantastic by the end of that!
In 2016, I made my way to Israel and figured if I am already out here, I may as well see Jordan. In Israel I was able to visit the Western Wall. To be in a place that is so important to almost every main religion, to see Jews, Christians, Muslims, and everything else you can think of in one place praying was very powerful. At the end of my trip, I made my way to Jordan. Petra is another world wonder and when would I ever get the chance to see it? Walking through the sandy mile-long canyon I learned very quickly that sandals were the wrong the choice of footwear, but I had no idea what I was doing or even what to expect. When I hit the Palace Tomb, I couldn’t believe it! I felt like Indiana Jones and instantly had to FaceTime my mom so she could experience it with me.
2017 and I received an e-mail saying cheap flights to Northern Africa. When my mom said, “what is in Northern Africa?” I said “I have no idea” but always say “yes” to cheap flights! To my surprise it turned out to Morocco! I had a friend that I knew I could convince to go with me and we jumped on it! As my hair color slowly started to change (again) so was my need for more interesting destinations. I didn’t want to just see the most popular places and If I was going to hit 30 counties, I needed to expand my travel horizon.
2018 and I set my sights on Bali. I wanted to go to Indonesia more than anything. Convinced another friend to join me and we were off! We spent half of our trip staying on the beach and the other half inland. The Hindu temples were some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and the people were amazing. One morning we decided to take a yoga class that was open air and I have never sweat more in my life. One of the women in the class said “you should try the hot yoga class” I looked at her completely dripping in sweat and said, “I think I’d die.” It was already 86 degrees and 97% humidity. It was an experience I’ll never forget and another experience I thought, yeah… I’ll pass.
Between 2017-2019 I had also gone on a couple of cruises with my mom as a way to get in some smaller countries and honestly take a relaxing vacation. Traveling and vacation are not the same thing and I will explain more about that in future blogs. During those Caribbean cruises, I was able to not only kickback and relax, but to also enjoy the sun and sea in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti and a few other places in the Virgin Islands.
2019 I booked a trip for my mom and me to Denmark and because I like to group trips with multiple places, we investigated where we could go from there. My country count was now in the high 20’s and I needed a few more. I found out you could take the train from Copenhagen to Sweden to spend the day. Then, adding one more place, we settled on Estonia. Tallinn is truly a hidden gem and has also placed itself on my top 5 favorites! We were there in December, sunrise is at 9:30 am and it set at 3:30 pm which is something I have never experienced. We bundled up the best we could and headed out to explore.
When 2020 started I was at 29 countries and turning 29 in April. I had so many ideas of where I wanted number 30 to be and then Covid-19 hit. 2020 was a hard year for everyone, but as a traveler, my heart felt empty. When I said traveling resets me, it really does! I would wait the year and pick something once it seemed right.
I turn 30 this April 2021 and I have booked my 30th country! I will be heading to Egypt to celebrate my birthday and reach my goal! (31 is also booked, Kenya because why not?) When in Africa! I will do whatever it takes to make this trip happen. A mask, a Covid test, a math test, I’ll take the SAT if that means I can hit my goal!
It’s true that the hardest part of any trip is getting there in the first place. I am so excited to be partnering with SoarFare where their whole mission is just that. A flight “savings account” is a traveler’s dream and best friend, and when you see that great flight pop up, SoarFare gives you the option and means to book it! Like I said, always say “yes” to cheap flights! 😉 Can’t wait to bring you guys along on my travels and have you spend my 30th birthday and 30th country with me this April.