Reaching 40: These are my 40 best travel experiences in Europe (part 1)
A big birthday is a time for reflection, not at least when you’re turning 40! I can’t believe I’ve reached the big 4.0, but I do prefer this compared to the alternative.
On this occasion, I choose to reflect on the best travel experiences I’ve had around Europe – mainly throughout the past 8 years where I have been working as a freelance travel writer.
As I’m writing this, the world is not in a state for us all to travel much. But this just makes it an even more fitting time to cherish previous trips. And who knows, you might even find ideas for when we can finally hit the road, board a plane and get back on the tracks again.
To avoid making it too long, I’ve split this post into two parts, so here are the first 20 of my 40 best travel experiences in Europe (in random order).
1) Making friends in Paris
Since my first visit to Paris, on a school trip in the late 90’ies, I’ve been in love with the city. And my strong relationship with the City of Light developed from 2003-2006, where my friend and I met a bunch of cool people from all over the world who studied or worked there. In turn, this inspired me to keep travelling and to try and live abroad myself.
2) Working at a hostel in Edinburgh
During a 3-month life-changing journey around the UK in 2015, my girlfriend and I ended up working a couple of weeks at a backpackers hostel in the Scottish capital. I was in my mid-thirties by the time but really enjoyed feeling young again (and old) while hanging out with some amazing travellers from all parts of the world.
SEE ALSO: Hostel life: Strangers in the night
3) Living in Cardiff
The capital of Wales has been my second home since my first short period living there back in 2007. I ended up living there again on and off from 2012-2013, and I have since been back visiting many times. The city (and Wales in general) has a special place in my heart. It’s where I met my girlfriend and I still have many friends there.
4) Volunteering in West Wales
Due to a stressful lifestyle, my girlfriend and I chose to ‘pull the plug’ and go volunteering back in the summer of 2015. A bit by chance, we ended up back in Wales where we first met, but this time at the west coast of Pembrokeshire. We helped out at a small eco-friendly hostel which turned out to be an extraordinary experience and the owners became our great friends. Therefore, we returned for more the following two years.
5) Living in Bath, England
The English city of Bath is a beauty, and I can’t believe I was fortunate enough to call it home for a couple of months back in 2017. This was when a couple of good friends let us stay in their empty student house during the summer. The perfect opportunity to get under the skin of the unique spa town as well as exploring the surrounding Somerset region.
SEE ALSO: 10 spots to soak up the beauty of Bath
6) Exploring Isle of Man
It was while living in Bath that I got the opportunity to head to Isle of Man on a work assignment. IOM is a self-governing island in the middle of the Irish Sea and a mystery to most who haven’t been there. It is a place of stunning nature and charming towns that is worth much more than just a “tick off” on a list of tiny countries.
7) Dogsledding in the Swiss Alps
Snow-white alpine landscapes and a bunch of excited Siberian huskies. Dogsledding in the Swiss Alps was a dream-come-true in 2017 when a work trip took me to Crans Montana and to Husky Lodge in Muotathal. A couple of memorable days “at the office”.
8) Interrailing through Europe
Contrary to popular belief, Interrailing (or Eurail) is not just for the 20-somethings but an extraordinary way of travelling that can be done by anyone. I did one trip in my late 20’s and two more in my 30’s. I love travelling by train and the freedom of an Interrail pass is pure bliss. I sure hope I will get to do at least one trip in my 40’s also.
SEE ALSO: 3 reasons to love train stations
9) Island-hopping in the Azores
The Azores is an exotic yet often overlooked archipelago of Europe. It belongs to Portugal but is found far out in the Atlantic Ocean, and I was excited when I got to do some island-hopping on a work-trip out there in 2018. The journey included visiting pineapple farms, tea plantations and lava-shaped landscapes as well as spotting dolphins on a whale-watching trip. I can’t wait to return one day.
10) Snowshoeing and sledging in Graubünden
Snowshoeing and sledging is a ton of fun and both activities were part of a work trip in Switzerland a couple of years ago. An extraordinary journey on the Bernina Express train through the snow-covered canton of Graubünden. Definitely one of my most memorable work trips that I got to enjoy with colleagues from around Europe.
11) Work-trippin’ in Lisbon
Within less than a year (2019-20), I got the chance to do no less than three work trips to the Portuguese capital. It was an opportunity to get under the skin of one of Europe’s most exciting cities that offers a ton of charm, culture and atmospheric neighbourhoods. And who can resist the original Pasteís de Belem? (Custard tards, also known as Natas).
12) Staying Rural in Galicia, North Spain
My partner’s family is from gorgeous Galicia in Northern Spain. A unique opportunity for me to experience rural life in one of Spain’s most beautiful regions. This way, I have collectively spent a couple of months in their tiny mountain village and have had the chance to explore a lot of the region. As authentic as it gets.
SEE ALSO: Discover Spain’s green corner
13) Watching ice hockey in Bern
I’ve been a huge ice hockey fan for almost 25 years, and I always try to catch a game where ever I travel in Europe – from Stockholm to Belfast, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and more. But one of the most memorable was getting to Watch SC Bern in the Swiss capital. A highly atmospheric arena packed with thousands of fans in one of my favourite cities.
14) Bogshoeing in Latvia
Latvia might not be high on most people’s list when it comes to travelling in Europe, but I got pleasantly surprised when I did a work trip there a few years ago. I was writing an article about the Kemeri National Park, where I got the chance to go bogshoeing in some spectacular nature. Besides this, the capital of Riga gave me some really good first impressions too.
15) Attending big travel fairs in London
Life as a freelance writer can be lonely, so from time to time an inspirational boost is welcome. Like the two times I have gotten to attend major travel fairs in London – ‘Destinations’ at Olympia in 2017 and ‘World Travel Market’ at ExCel in 2018. Feeling the buzz, attending talks by great travel writers and soaking up inspiration from exotic destinations, it’s brilliant! Fingers crossed the world will soon allow for big events like these again.
16) Mini-cruising to Oslo
While living in Denmark, my girlfriend won a mini cruise from Copenhagen to Oslo, and it was a welcome opportunity to try something new and to discover the Norwegian capital. The stretch through the fjord of Oslo was worth it alone, and we were both positively surprised by the Oslo too. A European city that seems strangely underrated.
17) Hiking and biking in Tenerife
The Canary Islands offer some extraordinary landscapes for hiking and during a work trip focused on Tenerife’s Walking Festival, I got to experience the island’s nature first hand. Besides hiking, I also got to try some mountain biking in the Anaga mountains and a whale safari setting out from Puerto Colón.
18) Travelling by train through the Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands had long been on my list of places to see when I managed to set up a work trip there a few years back. It was focused on an unforgettable train journey that took me through the spectacular scenery of the western highlands to remote towns like Oban and Mallaig.
19) Road trippin’ in Spain
Due to my close relationship with Spain, I have had the opportunity to explore the country extensively on a handful of road trips throughout the last few years. From the mountainous north to the beaches of the southeast, Spain is extremely diverse and I keep falling in love with a new region.
20) Playing petanque tournaments in France
I’ve been playing the French game of petanque (boules) for many years, and on one of several road trips in Southern France, my older brother and I ended up playing a tournament on a big stadium in the centre of Nice. We didn’t do too well on this occasion, but it’s one of many French tournaments that stands out in my memory.
SEE ALSO: Movie set magic in Mogrovejo