The year 2020 started off for me with plans to visit the USA twice and exploring more of the North American landmass. But that never happened and you know why. As of now, there is nothing I can do to travel for the rest of this year. I can’t deny that I am feeling very dreadful about it. I thought it would be a good idea to reminisce and be thankful for all the international travels I have been able to do so far in my life.
Over the last two decades, I was lucky to be able to tour and travel 13 countries. This may not be a big number for many of you travelers out there, but it’s a big number at least among the people I know in real life.
The 13 Countries:
Below, I will list all the countries I have visited so far and share some impressions and photos from those countries.
Oman was the first foreign country I travelled to. It was also the time when I experienced my first commercial flight and it was in Oman Air.
I have visited Oman twice so far. But I didn’t really get to explore the country, I vaguely remember visiting the Al Alam Palace and places around it. These travels happened way back in 2007 when smartphones were a luxury. I don’t think we even had a camera to take pics – I couldn’t find any pics related to this travel. Oman is a country that I desire to explore more.
Singapore is the country which I have visited the most. Since my first visit to Singapore in 2011, I have been to Singapore four times. Two of those times, I was only transiting through Singapore. But that didn’t stop me from taking the opportunity to explore Singapore a little bit – thanks to the Free Singapore Tour offered in the Changi International Airport.
Though Singapore is really small country, it has lot going on in there. Universal Studios, Jurong Bird Park, Gardens By the Bay and Sentosa Island are some of the most popular attractions.
I visited Malaysia back in 2011 on a family tour package. I think I traveled there for barely 2 days and visited KL Tower, Batu caves, and Genting Highlands. The tour package was supposed to take us inside the Petronas Towers, but we barely got a glimpse from across the street.
Compared to Singapore, Malaysia is little messy in 2011. I wonder how much they have improved since then.
Germany is yet another country that I visited but barely explored. On my European tour in 2016, we landed first in Frankfurt, took a bus to Stuttgart, and spend the night there. I got to travel on the Autobahn where there is no speed limit. But I was not lucky enough to see cars going over 200 km/hr.
The next day, on our way to Switzerland, we got to visit the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart and that was all I got to see of Germany.
Switzerland is still my most favorite country I visited. If the beautiful green hills and amazing landscape in this country is not enough, you might be impressed by this nice little fact that Switzerland is the land where Toblerone chocolate is made.
My visit to the top of Mount Titlis was really the first time I ever got to feel the snow and feel like I no longer had a nose. I also visited the city of Lucerne and an interesting thing I saw there was that the locals there walked around the city with no shoes. The streets were pretty clean, who wouldn’t love to walk barefoot in Switzerland in such a beautiful and naturistic country!
France was the next country that I visited after Switzerland. Though France lagged behind Switzerland in terms of cleanliness and natural beauty, the beautiful architecture of the buildings in the city is a sight that you cannot find anywhere else.
I got to see and climb the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is really worth it. I also spent a day at Disneyland Paris – I wished I could work there.
Honestly speaking, USA was the last country I though I would get to visit – getting US visa is quite hard as an Indian. But I was lucky. I was able to secure a valid US B1/B2 Visa for the next couple of years. US Visa is the most valuable visa I ever got – it makes getting visa to other countries much more easy.
My trip to the USA was also my first solo international trip. I explored major hotspots of Los Angeles such as Griffith Observatory, LA Zoo on my own. I also visited Santa Monica Pier and the ever popular Venice beach – too bad it was dark and the shops were closed, there was barely any crowd there.
I got to experience the good and bad of USA. I wrote them about in my previous posts.
Jordan is another country that I visited but didn’t get to explore much. We landed in Jordan for the Holy Land Trip package in 2018 and spent a night in Amman before taking a bus to Israel the next morning to explore the holy land sites. Jordan really surprised me with its climate. Jordan’s desert-like landscape fooled me. It was pretty cool in the day there and it got chilling cold by the night – I loved it!
Israel was the most unwelcoming country I have ever been to. The border crossing from Jordan to Israel took several hours of waiting and scrutiny of cold faced armed officers. They got no chill at the border crossing office – you are supposed to be totally silent and expressionless through the whole process if you don’t want to get called into their special room for additional scrutiny. It certainly didn’t give a good first impression of the country.
You get that feeling of hostility in almost all border checkpoints between Israel and Palestine as well. The Jewish people don’t even smile or look straight – they walk fast with their heads looking to the floor. It was very odd!
Though the impressions of the people in Israel were not that great, the historical landmarks and traces mentioned in the Bible and heard from Sunday school classes were just amazing! I could say I became more religious just visiting there once. The landscape in Israel on the way to the border with Egypt was mind-blowing! It is pretty obvious that these middle earth regions were once under the sea.
Fun fact: I didn’t really realize how much Christianity and Islam overlapped with each other until I saw the Old city!
I visited Palestine – that is for sure. But as a first-time visitor, there was no easy way for me to tell if or when I was in Palestine or Israel. As I understand, the known regions of Palestine – at least the ones I visited, are actually inside Israel.
The border officials at Israel – Egypt border were quite refreshing to see after what I experienced in Israel. They looked familiar – chill, relaxed, and maybe even a little more humane. However, there was a casually dressed Egyptian police officer who joined our trip in the tour bus and monitored where we went in Egypt.
Egypt was obviously rich in their culture and history from the days of Pharaohs. I actually saw horse carts and donkey carts racing through city streets among other traffic – it’s as if Emmett Brown ( Back to the Future scientist ) suddenly appeared except from medieval times.
The Pyramids of Giza and dinner cruise on Nile river were my favorite highlights from Egypt. I definitely got to visit Egypt another time – I didn’t get to properly see all the mummies and historical things in there.
Australia was my last international trip and it was in 2019. I visited Sydney for a 3-day event at Google’s Sydney office and flew back to India right away. I got to walk around the streets of Sydney for a bit, go under the Harbour Bridge and see the Lotus Temple from there and that was it.
Sydney was surprisingly a very calm despite being a metropolitan city with lots of traffic. There was barely any noise!
I hear there is a really long straight road in the middle of Australia. I wonder if I will get a chance to drive there in future..
UAE is the most accessible and cheapest international destination I can fly to any time! I even have close family relatives living there – which makes things a little bit more safer and easier. But I have never really traveled within UAE – I just spent a few hours in Abu Dhabi International Airport during my layovers. But hey, it still counts as a visit to the UAE!
I don’t really have an opinion of UAE yet, but from what I saw from the sky over Abu Dhabi, it looked like there are pretty interesting stuff to explore there. Maybe next year, I will finally explore UAE.
As I finish up this post, I realize that I haven’t traveled as much as I think I did in many of the countries I have been to. Of the 13 countries that I have visited, I got to travel and explore as I actually wished only in Singapore and the USA. The other countries I visited were part of an organized family tour package that had strict and rushed schedules. Here’s to hoping that I will get to explore them all as I wish in 2021 and beyond.
Which are the countries that you have explored? Why don’t you write about them in your blog and share with me..