On Visiting Every European Country, and Goals that Matter

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I landed in Cyprus with a smile. More than 17 years after I first set foot on the European continent, I had visited every country in Europe. (47 countries by my count, which includes all UN-recognized nations plus Kosovo and the Vatican. I count Turkey but I don’t count the Caucasus.)

To be honest, I can’t remember when that became my goal. Maybe somewhere around 2013 or 2014? I realized I was visiting so many different European countries, and it might be cool to visit all of them.

I love Europe. No, that’s not strong enough. I adore this continent, and have since I first set foot on it as a sixteen-year-old in 2001.

Kate’s Europe Timeline

  • 2001: France, Ireland, UK
  • 2004: Italy, Vatican, Monaco, Hungary, Czech Republic, Switzerland
  • 2006: Belgium
  • 2011: Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Turkey
  • 2012: Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Faroe Islands (Denmark), Sweden
  • 2013: Netherlands, San Marino, Malta, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Romania
  • 2014: Slovenia, Finland, Norway
  • 2015: Andorra, Greece, Albania, Serbia, Latvia
  • 2016: Slovakia, Poland, Luxembourg
  • 2017: Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia
  • 2018: Cyprus

Europe is my place — from the elegant streets of Paris and St. Petersburg to the rocky Adriatic beaches of Albania and Croatia, from the peaceful pine forests of Finland to the mountains of Austria.

And…part of me feels like I belong in Europe. Long-term.

I usually roll my eyes when someone says, “Wow, I BELONG in this place I discovered on vacation!” but I honestly, after all these trips, I feel like half of my heart is in Europe and the other half is in the US. I’m very American in mindset, but much more European in temperament.

In an ideal world, I would split my time between New York and Paris. Or maybe London, Berlin or Amsterdam. (Germany’s artist visa would make Berlin the easiest option.) If I’m going to be living there half the time, it has to be a big city where I have lots of friends.

This isn’t the time, though. America needs people on the ground fighting for justice.

Fact: I didn’t have style until I turned 30. This photo was taken when I was 29 years and 11 months old in Zadar, Croatia. Is that a black and white checked belt?!?!

This matters because it matters to me.

To be honest, visiting every country in Europe seems like a small, cute, easy goal compared to what my friends are doing. But only because of the circles in which I run. I have several friends who are working toward visiting every country in the world, who are at well over 100 countries with no sign of stopping.

And that’s when I smack myself in the face and remind myself that my experience is atypical, as is my circle of friends. I shouldn’t minimize this accomplishment; this is something I worked hard to achieve, even with the privilege I had to make it possible in the first place.

But there are a few things about this achievement that make me particularly happy.

I’m happy that I traveled deliberately. Sure, I could have visited every country in Europe within a few months — hell, I even know a couple that did it in 30 days, during which they would arrive in a country, do a quick loop around the city center, then leave — but I didn’t want to do that. It always makes me cringe when I see a blogger land in a capital, spend a day and a half, say, “Country done!” and move on to the next place.

My goal is usually to visit three destinations within each country (microstates excluded), to at least get a sense of what different regions have to offer. I don’t always succeed — sometimes due to limited time (Slovakia), sometimes due to bad weather (Latvia) or cancelled tours (Estonia), sometimes due to exhaustion (Luxembourg). But I try to make an effort when possible.

I’m glad that I financed these travels myself. No rich family members, no rich partners. When I took friends, family, and partners on my travels, I bankrolled most if not all of it, either with my own money or in exchange for my work. And for the last two and a half years, I did it while simultaneously paying for an apartment in Manhattan that I didn’t rent out once.

I’m proud that I planned my travels cannily. Over the past few years, I’ve used conferences and campaigns to subsidize the other trips. Speaking in Scotland and Germany? In between I went to Slovakia, Poland, and Luxembourg. Speaking in Romania? Afterward I went to Moldova and Ukraine. Working in Finland? Afterward I went to Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia, and Russia. Speaking in the Netherlands? Afterward I went to Cyprus.

On each of those trips, flights from New York were covered so I saved on long-haul airfare. And nobody ever cares when you want to stay longer than the conference or campaign.

This is a fantastic way to maximize your business travels — add on a few extra days and visit somewhere nearby. You’ll save a ton in airfare. But even if you’re not a business traveler, you can do the same thing if you need to travel for a wedding or family event. Just add on a few days.

I don’t want to go to every country in the world.

That might seem like the next logical step, but I couldn’t have less desire to travel to every country. Why? Because I know it will turn into a burden. Imagine being a year into this goal and feeling exhausted, and just wanting to go to Italy and eat pasta, but all your time and money needs to be spent on trips to Kiribati. And Suriname. And Central African Republic.

I don’t want to get to the point where I hate travel. Some of my friends have ended up in that position. And associating travel with burdens would do that to me.

Plus, I love my life in New York. I currently spend about 75% of my time in the city, and that feels like a good amount for me at this point in time. I love my routines, I love my friends, I love a special little baby who is looking more like a little boy each day. I’d actually be open to traveling even less than I am now, but as my fellow itchy-footed travel people know, it’s very easy to succumb to temptation.

So, what’s next?

Nothing at the moment.



You’re not going to do another continent?

Nah. I mean, it would be nice to visit my two remaining countries in Central America, Honduras and Panama (though technically I drove overnight through Honduras so you could count it, though I don’t). But beyond that, I don’t have any desire to do so.

Europe was special to me. I love Central America fiercely, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to Europe.

So are you done visiting Europe now?

Hell to the no. Europe is still my favorite continent and a place that I adore. Plus, the wisdom of a traveler is realizing that the more places you visit, the more you realize you haven’t scraped the surface.

In fact, I feel a great freedom now. The next time I have a conference or campaign in Europe, I don’t have an obligation to visit Belarus or Moldova or Serbia. I can explore Italy more extensively! Walk the Camino de Santiago! Visit my Balkan oversights, like Piran in Slovenia, Kravice Falls in Bosnia, and Vis in Croatia! Explore a ton of cities along the Rhine I’ve already visited — but at Christmas!

So…where do I want to go next?

Karersee, South Tyrol. Image by Eirien

My NEW Most Wanted Destinations in Europe

South Tyrol, Italy. I’m nuts for mountains and this is one of the most spectacular mountain destinations in Europe. South Tyrol is home to the spectacular Dolomites, and while it’s technically Italy, the landscape and food are more similar to Austria or Germany.

San Sebastian, Spain. One of the best culinary destinations in the world. I’ve been intrigued by Basque Country since reading The Sun Also Rises for the first time when I was seventeen. This would be the place to pintxo bar-hop like never before.

Northern Norway. Norway is one of the most visually spectacular countries in Europe, but I’ve only been to Bergen and the surrounding fjords. But the far north is where it gets really gorgeous, especially around the Lofoten Islands. And the Northern Lights viewing is great up there.

Lviv, Ukraine. Ukraine surprised me with its loveliness last year, and apparently I missed the most beautiful city of all: Lviv. From what I’ve seen it looks like Krakow and Ljubljana, two of my favorite European cities.

Corsica. This island south of the mainland in France has occupied my thoughts for a long time: its cliffs, its beaches, its food. I especially like that it isn’t overly discovered by international tourists. For now.

Cornwall, England. I consider myself an “accidental Anglophile” and have seen so much of Britain — but this southwest peninsula eludes me. It’s home to beaches that look like they’re part of the Mediterranean, and gorgeous rolling hills. Plus a cool pirate-y accent.

Finnish Lapland. Finland is a county I love dearly, but I’ve only been in the summer. I think I’m overdue for a winter visit in Lapland — all the snow, all the ice swimming, all the early pink sunsets. And maybe a dogsled ride or two.

Fact: By the time I turned 33, I found my style. Tom Ford sunglasses, Zara leather jacket, silver earrings from El Salvador, dress from Albania. Pictured in Minsk.

Sweet Satisfaction

I feel very content right now with my travels. And that’s a bit unusual. Happiness is one thing; contentment is something different altogether. I’m used to feeling restless and driven, already planning my next trip (and let’s be realistic, one or two more trips) before I’ve even finished the first.

For me, getting to my final country in Europe meant a lot to me. I’m going to be riding this pleasant buzzy feeling for a long time.

Stay tuned — I can’t wait to write a post about my absolute favorite places in Europe! Maybe the top 50 places overall, with special distinction for the top 10? I’ve been thinking about this!

What is one of your special travel achievements?

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33 thoughts on “On Visiting Every European Country, and Goals that Matter”

  1. For me, it is visiting the places in my favorite books. I read several books about Scotland (including Outlander..yea I love that series) and ended up visiting all the regions in the books I read. Fell in love with The Paris Wife, and visited and stayed in the neighborhood of Hemmingway. Also read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, and needed to visit the region of the Cathars (completed last year!). I think its fun when you fall in love with a place just by words, and then have that love be realized in front of you.

  2. Shanise Harris

    The way you feel about Europe I feel for Central America, I definitely believe I was Latina in my past life. Congratulations on the goal, and onwards and upwards to the goal. Whether that be travel related or not ☺️

  3. Congratulations on such an incredible accomplishment, Kate! My mom is almost 70 and she is nearing this accomplishment herself (I don’t think she’s counting Cyprus though?). She’s missing Lithuania, Belarus, and Moldova, I believe.

  4. My first trip to Spain in 2015. It was the first time ever that I traveled on my own as part of a tour group. The farthest I’d gone alone to this point was a flight home from Chicago. I was nervous about the trip as I left two days after the Bataclan in Paris was attacked in November of 2015. But there I was arriving at 6a.m. on Monday morning at Barajas airport in Madrid. The day got off to a bumpy start, but it ended up at the Puerta del Sol with both feet on the km.0 marker. I met the rest of the group that night and our week together began. The trip continued south, visiting Toledo, Granada, Sevilla and Cordoba before returning to Madrid right days later. The sights seen, from Guernica, to the Alhambra, the Plaza de Espana and La Mezquita took my breath away. I was at peace in Spain and it killed me to fly home to NYC. But I already had the return trip in mind for the following , as I couldn’t get to Barcelona. My Spanish football federation scarf is a permanent reminder of the trip, one I’ll never forget.

  5. I HATE people who count countries by visiting them for half a day and then ticking it off. This is why I love your travel style, because you have so much passion to actually see the countries! Congrats on such a great non-tick-box achievement. 🙂 It’s funny when you travel a lot and meet people on such crazy adventures (or read travel blogs like yours!) and you start to think “I’m doing nothing special here.” But loads of people (travellers) have been saying to me recently, “Wow! You’ve travelled a lot!” It kinda puts it into perspective. We are very lucky to be able to do it. I’m totally with you on not wanting to visit every country in the world, though. I travel to enjoy it and get away from pressures, not to put myself under pressure to achieve a goal! I feel like that kinda takes away some of the fun.

    (Your top 50 sounds like a good post, by the way!)

  6. I thought I’d be *everywhere* once we moved to Italy. But the reality (aside from having a baby and two dogs) is that I’m overwhelmed just exploring this country. There’s SO MUCH TO SEE and never enough time.

  7. Congrats! I made it to all 7 continents before my 30th birthday, which wasn’t even a goal until I started planning a trip to Antarctica, Chile, & Argentina with a friend years ago. After that I realized I only had Asia & Australia left & a little over a year, so I did it. Now my goal is every country in Europe before I turn 45, which gives me 7 more years to get to 21 countries, & 3 of them are already booked for this summer. I’m with you on not wanting to go to every country in the world though. Last year I traveled at least a couple days each month except November & December & it was too much. I got so burnt out! So yeah, no desire to get to every country.

  8. Wow, congrats Kate! I agree that too many people just want to be able to say they’ve visited so many countries, but end up seeing very little of any of them. As for future travel goals, what about every state in the US? Are there any you haven’t been to yet that you’d love to go too?

  9. Wow! I definitely admire your travels an I wish I had visited so many places in Europe, Kate! Walking Camino de Santiago sounds like so much fun! I loved your list and I hope I’ll get to visit at least half of these places!

  10. Really loved this post, not many travel bloggers admit to not having the desire to travel to every single country in the world. I can also understand that feeling of relief now that you’ve been to all the countries in Europe and having the “freedom” to go back to repeat places. There’s so many countries I’d love to re-visit, but the tug to go somewhere new is a lot louder at times.

  11. What an amazing achievement! I wish I could do the same but I think I’m even a slower traveler and would be happy to even visit all continents, Idk maybe one country in each lol

  12. This is awesome–congrats, Kate! As I turned 30, I started to think about what sort of travel goals I could set to hit before 40: 10 new countries? 20 new countries? All 50 states? But the more I thought about, the more I realized that I’d rather just keep focusing on seeing new places BUT also having a rich, full life at home and not feeling discouraged about going back to places that I love! I think I’m going to put a bigger focus on seeing the corners closer to me that I haven’t yet explored: the red rocks in Utah and salt flats in Arizona, driving up the 1 and going to Yosemite in California, going to more cities and beaches in Mexico and Canada. Also: totally feel you on feeling like I’m “behind” when I compare myself to peers in the travel space, but also needing to remind myself that it’s a fairly atypical crowd! Very lucky to have done the travel I’ve done, aaaaand also glad that it’s been more to experience a place than just check it off a list.

  13. ” I can’t wait to write a post about my absolute favorite places in Europe! Maybe the top 50 places overall, with special distinction for the top 10? I’ve been thinking about this!”

    PLEASE!!! I’ve only been to Paris & Iceland but there is so much of Europe I want to see & explore its just that I feel sooo overwhelmed about when & where to go!! Would love to hear your expertise on this!

  14. Congratulations! this is amazing :)))

    I dont think I have a quantifiable travel goal aside from “travel more / see more / do more / eat more” but “every country in Europe” sounds pretty great actually, especially considering I am already 22 down. My list – like yours now – is about visiting PLACES: Brittany in France (the only part of the contiguous France I havent yet visited), the Dolomites and the great lakes of northern Italy, Croatian coast (I’ve previously visited inland), the Highlands in Scotland, more more more anywhere in Switzerland (after I’ve gone three times this year already), Asturias in Spain. And of course, there are whole countries that I havent touched but want to, mostly outside of Europe: Thailand, Japan, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Georgia, Norway. AND-and then there are so many more parts to my two homelands to see, from the Grand Canyon and PacNW mountains in the US, to Karelian forests and Altai Mountains in Russia.

    SO. MUCH. TO SEE!!!

  15. Congrats, Kate! It’s definitely a fun goal to have accomplished. And I totally agree with you about having NO desire to visit every country in the world. I had a loose goal of getting to 50 countries, but that was fairly easy to do without tons of complicated planning. I have too many places that I love enough to keep returning to, and frankly have no desire to visit certain parts of the world right now. And that’s totally fine! I enjoy my travels a lot more when there’s no pressure on me to be ticking things off lists!

  16. I love to visit places I’ve read about or seen in movies, places that catch my interest. Not necessarily because they are beautiful – although that helps – but because they are so very different from my home country. My most recent long trip was to Australia. I find that cities abroad are similar to home. One city is much like another in many respects. It’s when you get away from the tourist areas and really immerse yourself in another culture that you get to know a new country. It wasn’t until I went into the Outback that I truly felt I saw the real Australia. It was like that when I visited the Caribbean too. Islands like Anguilla that are non-touristy offer a true glimpse of Caribbean life. For me, that’s what travel is all about.

  17. Congratulations! That’s such an awesome goal to achieve. And I love that you took your time with it and actually ENJOYED seeing all of Europe instead of racing around like a crazy person to see every country in a month. I love your outlook and that you’re not immediately jumping into another continent to cross off. Also, San Sebastian is my partner’s favourite place on earth. I have never been but I am dying to!

  18. “This isn’t the time, though. America needs people on the ground fighting for justice.” <<< I want to like this a million times! Yes, yes yes!

  19. I was super happy when I had change to explore over 10 European countries with a car last summer. It’s not yet all of them visited but still. Your list is amazing, I wish I could one day visit all European countries – and all the US states as well! Exploring the world is just so much fun! 😀

  20. Wow! That’s one hell of a journey! I plan to do it in Asia first,after that I may try to join you in the all countries in Europe club 🙂

  21. what do you mean fighting justice? You finally have a president sorting out previous mess and creating jobs for all.

  22. Hey Kate,

    Love this post on Europe, I have started learning Spanish to help with visits to the epic cities of Barcelona and Madrid. I see you live in New York, I can’t wait to visit there! That is definitely on my hit-list.

  23. Congratulations on your achievement, Kate! I love how you are honest in admitting that you have no plans to travel to every single country in the world; not a lot of travel bloggers do that. Kudos! I have a dream to visit a lot of places but life has just been rough on us lately. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed and being positive this will all happen.

  24. Well done on seeing them all, and for not just ticking boxes. I d really recommend Azerbaijan and Georgia however, both have a very European feel and (for this European anyway) are part of my personal Europe list (as is Transnistria, so Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be on mine too).

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