As I was perusing Facebook on my way back home in the metro today, one of my friends was asking for travel suggestions. While I was able to draw upon my decent list of countries I’ve been to, I did have to think about this for a moment. Why is that? After all, I’ve been to 22 countries to date, so I thought it would an easy thing for me to comment on. Honestly, I’d attribute the brief struggle to the fact that all my trips have been great, but finding ones that really stood out and analyzing the ‘why’ is something I never consciously dwell upon. Thus, by creating this post, I hope to be able to not only help others in possibly planning future trips, but to put my thoughts down in writing.*
- Iceland. Back in the spring of 2012, my mom and I were casually throwing out ideas of where our annual summer trip would be, and I blurted out Iceland almost on impulse. At the time, the tiny country in the North Atlantic seemed so mysterious, given that you hardly hear about it (though their national soccer team’s recent success has gotten the media to devote more attention; I’m still proud of the boys for making it to Euro 2016!). One word I frequently hear when describing Iceland is ‘magical,’ and it was appropriate to use to describe the trip! From spending our first morning in the country at the fantastic, famous Blue Lagoon to munching on the legendary Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur chain ofhot dogs (it’s an institution in Reyjavik, and it’s ruined subsequent hot dog culinary experiences for me) to hiking glaciers to traversing the gorgeous nature, Iceland had it all for me. Coupled with the amazingly friendly locals, I was ready to book a return trip (and believe me, I’ve constantly had my eyes on flights to Iceland ever since) in the airport as we were leaving. I didn’t expect to have had the best pizza, hot dogs, and burgers in my life there, but I did; the claim has so far stood the test three years on, and I doubt it’ll be proven wrong any time soon. Really, if there’s any proof why Iceland captured my heart, it’s the fact that the majority of the populace believes in elves in addition to the government neither confirming nor denying this. Oh Iceland, ég elska þig.
- One of the two countries I’ve been to multiple times, Estonia may surprise some of you. However, there’s something that just attracts me to the northernmost Baltic country. I concede that I’ve only been in Tallinn, but I’ve seen enough of it to get a good idea of the city/thoroughly enjoy it. (Rest assured, I do have plans to see other cities such as Tartu and Parnu, if not the island of Saaremaa. A return trip definitely is in the works!) The reason why I like Estonia so much is that there’s a vibe of sorts that once you experience it. It’s hard to place what it is, but if I had to guess, it’d be a combination of friendliness, modernity, and the nature. Tallinn embodies this, as it doesn’t feel overwhelming compared to other capital cities, which adds to the stay. All in all, the country just feels like a homely place where you can stay for a while and have a good time. It may not be what some travelers look for, but it’s what appeals to me, thus landing it on the second spot.
- The other country that I’ve been to multiple times is the lovely Czech Republic, nowadays known primarily for beer. Depending on who you ask, three weeks for a second go-about in the country may not be a long time, but it was enough for me to see a lot of the CR. This time, I was able to visit not only Prague (which is an amazing city in its own right), but Plzen, Brno, and Olomouc. I chronicled my mishaps in getting to these other cities, which was a theme of that particular trip, but I got to see a ton of the gorgeous Czech countryside. Seriously, if you have been or are considering only visiting Prague, break away and get to the other cities. While they’re not as touched by tourists, they offered me a better glimpse into the Czech Republic. The gorgeous architecture was a highlight, and in Brno, Mies van der Rohe even designed some of the buildings! I also have to say that having plenty of Pilsner-style beer and meat made those three weeks a pleasure; I in fact visited the Pilsner Urquell brewery, which undoubtedly was a highlight of the trip! Basically, the reason why I love the country is because I grew up as a traveler there while soaking in the culture and history.
So, I know this may not have been the most comprehensive list of why I love these countries, but I hoped this helped to shed insight on why they’re there.
*In general, I only went on week-long trips there. Yes, I know that it may not be the best basic nor a lot of traveling, but money and scheduling prevented/prevents me from traveling longer.
I went to Estonia as a 15 year old, and I must say I did not enjoy it. However, I think as I’ve grown and have become more aware of what each destination has to offer, I would definitely give it another chance! I loved Iceland but I didn’t spend enough time there 😦 I’ve told people, “Go to Iceland for Iceland. Be prepared.” By that I mean, bring cold weather clothes, hiking boots, etc. I would have loved to go glacier walking and the likes but I wasn’t prepared. I’m excited to study abroad in Prague next semester! You’ll have to come visit me while I’m there.
Estonia isn’t for everybody, in fairness. I wrote about my time in Lahema national park earlier this summer, so getting to see some of the countryside is a nice change of pace. Regarding Iceland, you really have to prepare for all seasons there. Thankfully my mom had the foresight to pack for a lot of hiking. Also, I do plan on making a return trip to Prague, so I’ll definitely visit!