So, How Many Countries Have You Been To?

Round the World Family Travel

We get this question a lot.

My first answer is…NOT ENOUGH. My second answer is…IT DEPENDS. Does Gibraltar count? How about Slovenia, which we drove through in a matter to hours en route from Italy to Croatia? Our tires have Slovenian dust on them but we didn’t speak to anyone between the borders. Anyway, I can’t remember them all anymore, so together Scout and I compiled this list. Yes, yes. We all know travel isn’t about checking boxes…this is just for fun.

As a family, Mark, Scout, and I have have been to 24 countries. Our dog Archie has been to 18! I’m not counting any pre-kid travel here.

What shocks me is how much Scout remembers, even from trips we took when she was preschool age. The hairy kiss of elephant trunks taking bananas from her tiny hands, the scent of orchids carefully arranged in her hair by our favorite Thai lady boy, the sight of giant sea turtles lumbering up a Costa Rican beach to lay their eggs, and hundreds of other things. Anyone who thinks international travel is wasted on little ones is mistaken.

So here is a ridiculously long post about where we’ve been, along with a few (out of many!) stand-out memories.

The United States

We’re from the US. I was born in San Francisco, and Mark is a New-Orleans boy. Scout was born in the US, but she doesn’t like to admit it because in her Vancouver-loving heart, she is Canadian.

Canada

We are naturalized Canadians and love, love, love our adopted country. Together we’ve explored the West Coast and parts of Alberta, including Banff National Park. I am absolutely dying to see the Maritimes!!!

Indonesia

Pacific-Rim Pregnancy Tour: Mark and I spent two weeks in Bali. The food (arguably the most important thing) was meh, but Bali is a physically beautiful place, green and lush. Mark discovered he was born to wear a skirt, and I recall some particularly delightful rose-petal spa baths. If you go though, take care, because apparently Bali makes you pregnant. (That’s why I’m counting this as family travel…:-))

Australia

Pacific-Rim Pregnancy Tour (cont.): Road trip from Brisbane to Port Douglas. Scout spent the last half of her first trimester here. We counted more than 100 road-kill kangaroos between the two cities. Best memory: Diving along the Great Barrier Reef, or in my pregnant-lady case, snorkeling and evading harmless sharks that appeared rather man-eating at first acquaintance.

New Zealand

Pacific-Rim Pregnancy Tour (cont.): Scout’s first camping trip…sort of. We rented an RV and spent two weeks driving around the North Island. Stunning, stunning, stunning. Heaven on earth, truly. Best memory: Driving up 100-Mile Beach and standing at the end of the world.

Costa Rica

We took Scout to Costa Rica when she was three. It was interesting. We got stopped and shaken down by a crooked cop, and later all our luggage was stolen from our car. Best memory: Going to the beach at midnight to watch giant sea turtles come ashore, dig holes with their flippers, and lay dozens of eggs the size of ping-pong balls. Frankly the best thing about Costa Rica is that we made a last-minute change to go there for Christmas 2004 instead of to a Thai beach, so we were far, far away when the horrible Indian Ocean tsunami struck on Boxing Day.

Thailand

RTW Family Travel Chiang Mai Thailand

We brought Scout to Thailand for a month when she was five, and she’s still talking about the food. Mark and I have spent lots of time in Thailand, one of our favorite countries. Best memories: every street-food meal, riding three on a scooter with Scout who, wearing her ladybug helmet, fell sound asleep between us. She was pressed in so tight, she just stayed upright. Other highlights include eating kahnom krok (coconut pies) made fresh from the vendor in Chiang Mai, getting caught in tropical downpours, speaking Thai with locals, and watching Scout play with local kids. We’re all dying to go back to Thailand and I’m always checking Emirates for flights to Bangkok. Hopefully we’ll get back there soon!

The Netherlands

Queen's Day in Haarlem, the Netherlands

In 2011 and 2012 we explored Europe and Turkey in an old camper. Our amazing journey started and ended in Amsterdam. Best memory: Spending Queen’s Day in Haarlem and—after more than a year of often-grimy RV living—collapsing into expensive sheets in the lovely Pulitzer Hotel, paid for by years of credit-card points. Also biking along the canals, exploring the Van Gogh museum, and walking past the bookcase and up the stairs into Anne Frank’s secret Annex.

Germany

RTW family travel residenz Munich Germany

My mother was German, so the country has a special place in my heart. Vibrant Berlin is one of my favorite cities. Best memories include camping for three weeks in Munich, freecamping at Sansoucci Palace in Potsdam and having the place to ourselves after closing time, stopping at farm stands every day during the ultra short white-asparagus season, watching Scout journaling in Hitler’s bunker, hiking, and finally putting my college German to use.

Austria

Family Travel Salzburg, Austria

Austria is stunning. Scout discovered one of her favorite playgrounds in Europe, Archie rolicked in the Mirabel Garden where the Sound of Music was filmed, and I enjoyed a wonderful birthday dinner at the Salzburg Castle. Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit the Konditorei (bakeries) in Vienna…next time!

Switzerland

Hiking in the Alps, Jungfrau, Lauterbrunnen

I spent a summer working in Switzerland during college, but on this last trip we only popped in for a weekend. It’s very expensive. We camped in the Jungfrau at one of the best campgrounds in Europe (they even had a dog shower with heated floors). We spent one of the best days of our lives hiking in the Alps with Archie and having the mountain all to ourselves. Scout befriended fellow campers from Geneva, and the next day went on an all-day hike alone with their family. We camped in view of waterfalls and meadows. Perfection.

Czech Republic

RTQ Family Travel Prague, Czech Republic

Are we the only people on the planet who didn’t fall in love with Prague? Yes, the architecture is gorgeous, but the place felt touristy and unfriendly. Glad to have seen it once though.

Monaco

Drove through it. Still counts though! My main memory is having to back up the camper on a narrow lane on a disturbingly high cliff.

Italy

RTW Family Travel, Lake Como, Italy

Best grocery shopping (therefore best camper food) of our entire RV trip through Europe. Can you eat too much fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and organic tomatoes? No, you can’t. Best memories: Discovering the best gelato in Rome (Cafe Monteforte), hours in the Uffizi, countless great meals, Pompeii, visiting the Pantheon in Rome and Il Duomo in Florence, scoring a perfect camper pitch along the shores of Lake Como.

France

RTW family travel france

We camped at D-Day beaches in Normandy, visited Monet’s gardens in Giverny, had the Bayeaux tapestry to ourselves for an hour, spent a wonderful week with new friends in Agde. In Paris, at the end of that trip, Scout was so cultured out I excused her from every single museum. She can overdose on art another day. Instead Mark took in all the art while my girl and I drank overpriced cocoa at cafes, consumed too many macarons from Pierre Hermé, and hung out at the campground throwing sticks into the Seine for Archie.

Gibraltar

PS_Gibraltar

Weird, memorable. It’s so small you have to drive across airport runways to get into town. During our single day there we took the cable car to the top of the Rock, visited the Barbary macaques, and marveled at the extreme Britishness of this little outpost.

Spain

Initially Spain was a little difficult for us. We’d been cruising through Europe on my French and German, and suddenly found ourselves back in a country where communication was  challenge. We had a blast free-camping in Barcelona, watching an small, intimate flamenco performance in Seville, trying (and failing) to be vegetarians while surrounded by an endless sea of Spanish jamón. The Basque country is gorgeous. Scout loved the City of Arts & Sciences in Valencia.

Belgium

Scout adored the Euro Space Centre in Transinne, but you know what I loved? Finding the exact spot in the Bois Jacques where American troops were pinned down during the winter of 1944 in the Battle of the Bulge. Based on descriptions in the book Band of Brothers, we tromped through fields and forests to find old foxholes, half filled with pine needles. Yes I cried. Yes, my daughter thought I was weird. Scout loved all the wonderful chocolates she devoured in Bruges.

Serbia

Just a pass-through on the way to Turkey. In the centre of Belgrade, where NATO bombs fell 12 years prior, we were welcomed to a local sandwich shop like celebrities and watched by the smiling crowd as we ordered chorizo paninis. Was weird and wonderful.

Bulgaria

Another pass-through on the way to Turkey. We didn’t get to know it well. I remember a slum in Sofia that depresses me to this day and street dogs being tormented by boys.

Turkey

RTW family travel Ephesus, Turkey

We spent five months in Turkey driving from the Black Sea all the way down the Aegean coast. This country is so special to us, we’re considering it as a future base. Our best memories include the Ramazan in Istanbul, the call to prayer, camping in the shadow of the Blue Mosque, Scout’s wonderful day at a village school in southern Turkey, three months in Fethiye, getting a soapy scrub down at a hammam with Scout and then watching Turkish soap operas together while wrapped in towels and sipping tea, watching Archie swim in the Aegean, camping at a Bayram stockyard, exploring Ephesus, and making friends all over the place.

Slovenia

With only a few hours to get out of the Schengen Visa zone, we had to race through Slovenia. A deep experience? No, but this is my blog so I’m counting it. During our European travels we’ve met several lovely Slovenian families, which makes us want to go back and stay a while.

Croatia

RTW family travel Croatia

Exploring Roman ruins outside of Rovinj, swimming in the Adriatic with Archie, and—while free-camping in a village near the Bulgarian border—transforming a group of surly-looking teens into grinning kids with my single word of Croatian: “bok!” (hello).

Greece

RTW Family Travel Nafplio Greece

Visiting the breathtaking Meteora monasteries, free camping in Thermopylae on the same battlefield where 300 Spartans held of the Persian Army long enough for the Athenians to get it together. Did you know there are lovely natural hot springs in Thermopylae? Hunkering down in our camper on the dock in Nafplio while being battered by a hellacious storm was lovely. Scout, an ancient Greece junkie, particularly loved exploring the ruins at Delphi. And we made great friends (wine-loving Brits parked next to us) while camping in Athens.

Mexico

IMG_3815

When we’d finished exploring Europe and Turkey, we sold our camper, headed back to Canada for a beautiful summer, and then drove down to Mexico. Though we miss Europe and Turkey every day, we’re enjoying getting to know Mexico and immersing in Spanish. Some of our favorites adventures here have include spending a weekend with a Huichol Indian tribe, experiencing Day of the Dead in Ajijic and Morelia, and watching Scout become fluent in Spanish. That was our goal in coming down here but it’s wonderful to see it actually happening.

So that’s it for our family. Tell me, how many countries have you visited?

Some of my traveling friends have been reminiscing about their travel histories as well. Check out their wonderful blogs here.

Gabi at The Nomadic Family

Erin at Travel With Bender

Alyson at World Travel Family

Heidi at Wagoners Abroad

Manfred at Renegade Travels

Amy and Andrew of Our Big Fat Travel Adventure

Jamie at Great Big Scary World

Emiel at Act of Traveling

Laurel at Capturing la Vita

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Manfred @ Renegade Travels December 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

Love the photos, especially of Europe, as we’re going next year. Never mind how many countries you’ve visited though, it never seems like a enough. Just so many great places to see,

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2 Renee December 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Thanks Manfred. It was fun tallying them because it brought back so many wonderful memories. 🙂

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3 Heidi (@WagonersAbroad) December 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Renee, you guys are just awesome! Oh I love looking at your photos and many of them make me long for that country as well. I have a special place in my heart for Mexico, as I have “lived there” and done extensive travel. That said, I can’t wait to go back to the Netherlands and many other places while we are in Europe. Such fond memories of it all and I love that the kids are making these memories too. I find it amazing that Scout remembers so much, a priceless gift for sure!
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4 Renee December 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Thanks, Heidi. Isn’t it wonderful to watch them creating memories abroad? Warms my heart. 🙂
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5 Patti December 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Wow! What an impressive list and what a wonderful gift you’ve given your daughter – to have such a worldly childhood! The memories you’ve collected our so special, I’m sure.
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6 Jamie December 21, 2013 at 6:28 am

What lovely memories! I also have a dog called Archie. He has been to exactly one country 🙂
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7 travelwithkevinandruth.com December 21, 2013 at 10:18 am

We’re on the same page with regards to Prague. Overpriced, and packed with tourists. Having said that, we spent three weeks in the Czech countryside, and loved it!
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8 Clélie December 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

So interesting to see Scout growing up in these photos! I am curious as to when you got Archie, as he has only been to 18 of your 24. And I have to say that that’s four whole countries more than me!

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9 Renee December 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm

We got Archie while we were in Vancouver, and he’s nearly five now. (He’s from Maine.) You know I think I miscounted…he’s been to 19 countries I think. Wait did I mention Lichtenstein? 20 then. I should do a separate post just for him.

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10 Clélie December 21, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Yes, do a post just for Archie. What countries did he like best/least. Which foods did he like best?

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11 Alex December 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Very cool. Loved, loved, loved Turkey. Would love to travel there for five months. Inside a week we fell head over heals.

Canada, US, MX, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Columbia, Turkey, Greece, Thailand, Japan. I lived in Okinawa for two years. I think camping is the way to go.
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12 Renee December 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Turkey is a delight. But you’ve been to Japan, for two years no less. That’s definitely on my bucket list.

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13 Amy December 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Wow, I think you must have the most well-travelled dog ever! You have a pretty impressive travel history; looking forward to seeing what you get up to in 2014.

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14 Renee December 27, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Thanks, Amy. Woof!
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15 Erin Bender (Travel With Bender) December 22, 2013 at 1:38 am

You have been to loads of places. Turkey was one of our favourites, I’d love to spend as much time as you did there. Merry Christmas & Happy 2014 travels! 😀

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16 Renee December 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Happy 2014 to you too, Erin!

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17 Gabi (The Nomadic Family) December 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm

renee, your pics are inspirational. your daughter is sooo lucky to have this world as her classroom. i love seeing how she is growing and developing out there in the world. really beautiful post. wow….. thanks for sharing it dear one. gabi
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18 Renee December 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Cheers, Gabi. 🙂

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19 Bill D'Antoni December 24, 2013 at 1:03 am

Rene, I sure did enjoy ur blog about y’all’s travels & all the countries that y’all have been to! And the pictures are awesome! And Scout is really getting big….& beautiful! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to y’all! Love & miss y’all a lot! Hope to see y’all soon!

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20 Mark December 24, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Thank, Bill. Glad you enjoyed the photos. I am hoping we can keep adding to the list. Merry Christmas to you and the family.

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21 Emiel December 27, 2013 at 8:20 am

I love your list (but hey, who is counting?), but moreover I love your slogan: “Anyone who thinks international travel is wasted on little ones is mistaken.” We can so understand your love for Thailand….we keep on investigating other destinations and all the time we end up in Bangkok! LOL
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22 Renee December 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Thanks, Emiel. We love Thailand too, even crazy, polluted, trafficky Bangkok. We’re looking for a travel base now, somewhere we can travel from and return to. Thailand is definitely on the list. Happy travels in 2014!
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23 Gem January 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm

I’m so envious =). I’m hoping to take my kids on their first international trip this year. We’ll see…
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24 Renee January 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Fantastic, Gem. International travel is the best educational experience in the world.

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25 Laurel- Capturing la Vita January 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

What a fabulous collection of adventures! Yes, we also did the Monaco drive-by. I remember there being a really scary bridge that put me balled up on the floor of the car, fearing for my life!

Have to agree with Italy having the best food 😉

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26 Renee January 17, 2014 at 8:48 am

Laurel, we had our very best meal in Florence!

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