30 before 30

I was 28 and I had just come back from a Trip around South America, a trip I’d been keen to do for years and then after the trip I saw that I was close to visiting 30 countries so I decided that I wanted to get to reach that landmark before I turned 30. Now I’ve turned thirty I get to relive it all by writing it out and bore all four of you reading it.

I promise to make hardly any of it informative and I promise even less of it will be funny.

A big thing worth mentioning is, I was young for some of these trips and so if you’re expecting long detailed accounts of every trip you’re going to be disappointed, in fact, if you’re expecting anything more than a glorified diary with some personal anecdotes then you will likely be disappointed. In fact disappointment will be a running theme.

Now the low expectations have been set and I’ve mitigated any of the abuse I’ll get from my friends we can get started.

Here are the 30 countries that I visited before I was 30.

One final disclaimer, in order to record the countries I have been too I used the “been” app, some of the countries listed on there aren’t recognised UN nations, I’ll get over it I’m sure you will too.

  • Portugal
  • France
  • Spain
  • USA
  • Andorra
  • Bulgaria
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Scotland
  • Sweden
  • Germany
  • Vatican City
  • Wales
  • India
  • Bahamas
  • Mexico
  • Saint Martin (French side)
  • Sint Maarten (Dutch side)
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Peru
  • Uruguay

This list started when I was about 6, my parents took me to Portugal, this is where my first ever clear memories came from, questionable parenting lead me to being taught how to swim at four in the morning in the hotel pool. I was really lucky because my parents took me to other places as well like Spain and Greece so I had loads of great holidays when I was a kid and though it was lost on me then I was crossing off countries. Then I got to 18 and the holidays with my friends started.

I think the most enjoyable thing for me to do is pick out a couple of highlights from certain places then I’ll answer some specific questions….that I asked my self.

France

My parents took us to Disneyland Paris when we were kids, it was a surprise, we knew we were going somewhere and then in the morning our parents told us to wake up as we had to go and get on the coach because we were going Disneyland, I probably cried with excitement. I remember loads about the trip. We stayed in a cowboy hotel, we watched a firework display, my parents watched the Disney parade whilst me and my brother went on Thunder mountain 7 times. It really was amazing, even if I was too small too go on Space Mountain!! (I probably cried at this point as well). We went on a coach with a load of my Dads mates and their kids just a quality long weekend away.

That’s the kind of insight in to locations you’re gonna get so if you’re looking for actual insight on hotels and shit…..you’ve definitely come to the wrong place (glorified diary, remember).

Andorra

So this one was a school trip I think I was in year 9 or 10, it took forever to get there on the bus! The teachers made me sit down with them…..probably cos they knew I’d be the most entertaining over the rest of the kids, I’ll tell myself that’s the reason at least! I learnt how to Ski on this holiday …..well snow plough. Years later when I went skiing again with my girlfriend and her family I naturally thought you snow ploughed down every hill, FYI you don’t, my girlfriend and her family found my technique questionable! It was a trip that stuck out in my mind just cos it was something I’d never done before. Lovely place though! And skiing is quality.

Netherlands

More specifically Amsterdam, been a few times now.

It’s such a weird place, everything is so “in your face” the drugs, the sex, the drinking……i might sound like an actual pretentious writer here but the city has sooo much more to it. It’s so pretty. One time we woke up and my mate smoked with breakfast and I just took him out on a walk we walked so far out of the city, we walked for so long that my friend sobered up and got annoyed that we’d gone so far. I was pleased we did it though as I got to take in more of the city than I usually do on trips to Amsterdam, the architecture, the culture is so much more than just a decent stag do location. If you’re prepared to slum it you can get flights and hotel from London for a midweek stay for well under a hundred quid.

I think everyone should go there once despite it being expensive when you get there.

India

Me and my mates done a quality trip in India we went to Delhi, Goa and Mumbai. I need to split these out

Delhi

It is the most crowded place I have ever been in…..my……life. We got on the underground and it was empty….we turned up at Delhi station and I laughed out loud. It was RIDIC!!! Picture the scene of kids trying to get on their school bus all that pushing and shoving, it was like that just out in the open.

It seemed like every man and his dog was telling us we needed a security pass and to go to “Connaught place” which it turns out is a hot bed of conmen and excursion outlets. Thankfully a cab driver took pity on us after our will had finally been worn down and we were about to hand over some money to the conmen just to get them off our backs. The taxi driver took us to our hotel which was still standing despite multiple accounts from the conmen saying that it was “burnt down”.

The Locals had an odd trait of asking for pictures with us but to take them with our own phones…..here is an example –

The picture was taken at the Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, one of the largest mosques in India. Well worth a visit it’s a proper impressive building.

I will probably go in to more detail about India at a later date but key points are it is Cheap and it is busy!!!!!

Goa

This was probably the best beach holiday I have ever been on. We stayed a few nights in the north of Goa then went south for a few days. There are so many beaches there you can just go to a different beach every day some of which you’ll turn up to and be the only people on the beach…..the only people….surrounded by cows and dogs.

I didn’t actually realise how big Goa was before I went I naively believed we could just stay Central and get a cab north and south as necessary but that was not the case hence the split in the trip. The good news is the cabs were like 40 quid for a 2 hour drive so not bad at all.

The north has more bars and clubs and when you think “Englishman abroad” this is more their location I think a massive plus to the North is the ability to get naan breads in the nightclubs at 3am if you really want and tbh you really should!!!!

In the North we turned up at our “hotel”, for want of a better word and after the hotel manager painfully slowly counted our money four times he led us to our rooms. We’d paid for two twin rooms, a fact which was lost on Jabba the Hutt. (Pictured below)

This man was so greedy, the way he fingered our notes as his counted them still gives me the creeps to this day. I think it’s safe to say that Grant HATED this man, much of our holiday was made up of listening to Grant rant about how much he hated him.

Anyway Jabba opens the door to our room, and we find two beds and two mattresses and we were like “nah nah nah, not in this heat” we need two twins. So he proceeded to knock on the next door neighbours room and tell them they needed to get out the room as we needed it. Rightly so, the other guests were confused and refused, giving Jabba an even bigger headache. Then he opened a third door and there was an empty room, why didn’t give us this room before trying to kick the Russians out is a mystery I don’t think we will ever get to the bottom of.

The south was much more chilled out just days spent on the beach then nights in a beach bar, the more spiritual amongst us can partake in Yoga and there are a few activities you can do in land like visiting the elephants.

Watch out for Crabs (they nip, don’t they Grant).

There’s a funny anecdote in the South of Goa, and it’s a bit of an inside joke but it ended with me with egg on my face after paying for Grant’s taxi.

Mumbai

The most cosmopolitan city. It was busy but no way near as busy as Delhi.

There were a few stand out parts to the trip to Mumbai and the number one stand out part was the hotel staff, Hotel Apollo.

Sorry to skip right to the end of the trip but it was a highlight. When we left the hotel a fight almost broke out over who would take our bags, we didn’t really understand what was happening until we got downstairs when the entire staff on this hotels payroll were standing at the bottom of the stairs in a “give me a tips” arms outstretched position waiting for us to put notes and coins in their greedy hands. Running out of money made it harder to keep track of who I had and hadn’t given money too! Then when we got in our taxi they were all standing in the road waving us off. For us this was very odd behaviour!!

Shorts were banned at one of the bars we went to. Alex and Jack were wearing shorts and the workers made them borrow trousers from the hotel and they were the worse fitting trousers ever, why none of us have a picture I’ll never know so instead –

Here’s a lovely picture of us doubling our entire holiday spend by buying one cocktail at the Four Season Mumbai.

Grant is taking the picture

Saint Martin

Famous for its beach by the airport runway and the colourful town Phillipsburg St Martin is a very nice island. I went last year with my girlfriend Carolina.

On the island You get around by “bus” or it’s more like a shuttle service-ish….these minibuses just pick you up on the side of the road. At the beginning it is very difficult to navigate these buses but once you get the hang of it you can get round the island for well cheap. The minibuses get very crowded with locals and the greedy drivers will fill their buses as if they’re trying to beat some sort of world record.

There is loads to do on the island and some of the beaches are ridiculously nice.

I would recommend staying on the Dutch side of the island as the French side was decimated by hurricane Katrina. There is a rebuild in progress but the people we spoke to have said there is not enough money to do it properly apparently the French government isn’t giving them any money……surprise suprise fucking French 😛

One town on the French side that didn’t get destroyed was Marigot, there is a really short (but steep) walk up to Fort Louie and you can get some great panoramic shots of the town. Instead of doing that I took a bang average photo as seen below.

On the walk up this Fort both Carolina and I were cat called by a bunch of community service workers. They were trying to be helpful but only came across sinister!

South America

There is so much to say about South America. I wrote notes on the who trip so I’m gonna put that in a different blog so fully expect that.

Answers to questions that no one has ever asked me.

What’s your favourite ever city break?

What a convenient Segway to talk about my favourite city in the world……Florence. I first went there about 8 years ago, I thought it looked quality. Old school buildings, famous history, places to go out and small enough to walk around. It’s somewhere I think you could as a couple, alone or as a group of friends. I would happily go back again and again and I am sure I’d always discover something new.

Not only did the place look amazing I found myself intrigued by the history of the place, we grow up learning so much European history and I thought to myself that considering Florence had such an important part of that history we learn so little about it. So many famous people of history we know about today lived or visited Florence! I won’t bore you because you’re likely not as interested as me but research Florence when you have a chance.

Things to do there can be quite expensive but if your after cheap then it’s worth going and just looking round at all the buildings the big churches, the buildings that are now museums, you can go to neighbouring towns Sienna, Pisa which also have things to do and if you are there long enough you can easier do a train journey to Rome for the day.

At night there is plenty to do. My friends were skeptical when I suggested it as a venue for our holiday and were all pleasantly superprised by how good it was for food and drink at night.

It helped that our AirBnb was located in an amazing location right by the famous bridge ponte vecchio which made getting around so convenient.

I massively recommend this place.

Favourite “activity” holiday?

I was eleven we went to Florida, is that enough explanation?

Seriously though it was good of my parents to take us there I absolutely loved it and I am part of that creepy group of people that wants to go back there before I have kids…..then get moaned about by other adults on social media “ThE qUeUe WaS sO lOnG aNd It WaS aLl ChIlDlEsS aDuLtS”….yeah and what Monica? Just tell Tarquin and Erica they’ll have to wait, I wanna go on Thunder Mountain.

We stayed on International drive and had buffet for breakfast every day and steak every night. Hi America, the English have arrived.

So many of my most vivid early memories are from here, if you have kids (and there is two sad facts here 1) the people reading this are only ever gonna be my friends 2) I’m getting older so those friends have kids) then you have to go here start saving now!!!

What’s your favourite ever holiday?

So, I wanna say South America or India BUT for my 30th birthday we went to Vegas and it was the bollocks. I absolutely loved it people say “you’ll love it when you go there ” and “it’s amazing” and you go there with high hopes and think you can only be let down but you won’t be it was everything I wanted and more, if I was rich I’d go back again and again.

There was 11 of us 7 in a House 10 minutes away from the strip and 4 of us in hotels on the strip. The house was booked on air bnb and for how nice and how big it was it was so cheap I think we paid 300 each for five nights or something like. I loved staying in the house it was a highlight of the trip to spend so much time with my friends but I was envious of the guys staying in the hotels I suppose it felt like that we’re getting a more authentic Vegas holiday. Looking back though I don’t feel like I missed out at all maybe if I go back in a smaller group I’d stay in the hotels instead.

There is so much to do there for gamblers (obviously) non gamblers, drinkers and non drinkers, all types of musics, food entertainment just so much you won’t know until you go.

My favourite hotel/casino was probably New York New York on the inside but from the outside it was the Encore which is where my friends were staying.

One thing I hadn’t accounted for was how BIG the place was. It was so big! You go there thinking ahh we’ll spend the day walking up and down the strip popping in to hotels and casinos and such……you won’t you might be able to get to three maybe four a day if you whizz round them!

We took a day out of the trip to go to the Grand Canyon, it was probably the highlight of the trip. It’s mind blowing how big the place is. We went to the West ridge as it was a closer drive than the more popular South Ridge, I didn’t feel like we missed out though.

In England we would have fences up all over the place and you wouldn’t be allowed close to the edge, here though you can walk right up to the edge no barriers it was madness and sent my anxiety through the roof! All completely worthwhile. I loved it.

Get yourself to Vegas and to the Grand Canyon it’s a trip of a life time. Or perhaps I felt that way because of the company I keep, who knows.

I keep notes on most of my holidays so I think I am going to post this once or twice a month. Hope to keep myself entertained and hopefully not come across too cringey to the 8 people (it’s gone up four) that read this. My plan is too work my way down the list in a bit more detail probably break it up with the South America blog at some point as that’s already written 🙂

Other places you can see my ramblings are my twitter and facebook @dukeross and Ross Tunnicliffe

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