Guide

Episode 1: How I’m travelling 52 countries in 52 weeks

52 weeks and 52 countries, travelling around the world at random on the cheapest ticket every Tuesday? Some call it crazy. We call it ex-STA staff member and all-around solo backpacker extraordinaire Finding Alexx.

Ever hear of those crazy adventures that you’d LOVE to do but have no idea how? This is one of those adventures, and I’m going to show you all the ins and outs of how I’m making it happen. 

I’m Alexx. A Kiwi, long-time STA Traveller, and now a full-time travel blogger at Finding Alexx, and I’m exploring the world solo for a whole 365 days! I’m visiting a new country every week for an entire year, and my route is based entirely on the cheapest flight available each Tuesday. Yes, I am crazy. Here’s all you need to know about my 52 in 52 adventure, and how you can follow the journey. 

How’d you come up with the idea?

I’ve just been living in London for two years on a working holiday visa, working at STA Travel’s head office in the global marketing team, but unfortunately my visa expired mid-June (sob!). Not quite ready to make the 18,000km move back to my little corner of the world in New Zealand, I knew that I wanted to travel long-term, but had no idea where to go! I suffer from major analysis paralysis (it’s a thing, okay…) so having to decide where to spend my limited funds to visit was super tough – it just forced me into an endless downward spiral of Google research, going around and around in circles looking at travel costs, flight logistics, events that I wanted to see and trying to prioritise my wanderlist (Which is impossible, by the way!) 

Then I thought, why not just book the route based on the cheapest flight available each week? That means I avoided decision-making anxiety, kept costs down, AND added in some places I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. Win, win, win! 

Won’t you just be going round in circles?

My route is to a new country each week, so once I’ve been to Paris for example I can’t fly into any other French airports. If France is the cheapest option from a future destination, I just skip past that and choose the next country that I haven’t been to on the trip. 

Why are you doing it?

Aside from the fact that I think it’s a super cool way to explore some new places, I’m doing it to show how flexibility can massively keep costs down! If I had decided on a route that I needed to stick to with specific dates then that means I have no room for movement when I’m looking at flight costs, but by just checking out all the options and not having a set idea of where to do, I’m able to stick to a super tight flight budget.

I’m also obsessed with building out ultimate itineraries when I travel, like the absolute best things to see, do, eat and experience in each destination, and I love the challenge of finding the things that are totally worth spending your money on in 52 random destinations. Sometimes that might be an experience to splurge on, like a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, but sometimes it could be just a specific meal at a funky cafe, like the breakfast sharing plates at Holybelly in Paris. Divine! No one likes wasting money on their trip so I’m here to share some tips on what I reckon was worth the money (and what wasn’t!). 

So, are you travelling on a budget?

Ab. So. Lutely. I do have some savings (around £12k total after accounting for all my flights) but you can run through that incredibly quickly while overseas. I’ll be doing a little bit of remote freelance work on the road which can help with free stays and day tours, but in each stop I’ll be sussing out the best ways to save money too. 

How much will it cost in total?

It’s impossible to know, because I don’t even know the full itinerary yet! From some test itineraries it looks like the flights for the whole year will cost between £4,000-£4,500, but that includes a check-in bag (and would be about £1,500 cheaper with cabin luggage only, if you’re a packing wizard). Accommodation will range drastically depending on the location, but dorm rooms probably won’t be any more expensive than Paris, which was £35 a night. Some places, like Cambodia and Vietnam, will be more like £5 a night!

To keep costs down I’ll be cooking my own food as much as possible, taking public transport or walking instead of private transfers and taxis, and constantly searching for the best deals on activities and experiences. 

How do you prepare for a trip like this?

To be totally honest, I’m probably not prepared enough! I like to say that I’m winging it with confidence. I’ve travelled a decent amount, have moved abroad solo and I really thrive in fast-paced and slightly stressful situations which is usually a curse, but in this case, it’s been really helpful. I have my inter-country transport booked up until January but only have a small amount of accommodation booked so far, this is something I’m working on at the moment. I’m a mega-nerd for organisation so this is one of my favourite parts! 

In terms of preparation tools, I can definitely share some secrets. I’ve got a Google MyMap for every single recommendation that people have given me for each different destination, colour coordinated into eating places, photo spots, activities and accommodation. Airtable is also a lifesaver, it’s a spreadsheet/database hybrid with some amazing functions that are ideal for itinerary planning. Then I use Google Calendar to plan out my days and make sure I’m making the most of my time in each place, as well as setting aside some down time for recharging. 

Are you travelling solo?

I sure am! I do have some friends and family coming out to see me at various parts of the trip, but for the majority of the time I will be literally flying solo. Always keen to have travel buddies though so if anyone is crossing over with my itinerary please let me know!

Any solo female travel tips?

Ask me in a year and I’ll probably be able to give you LOADS more, but I have previously written a blog with some of my solo female travel tips right here.

Will you be staying in the city that you fly into?

Not necessarily! In some places I will be staying put and exploring my arrival city in depth, but in some places I’m really keen to explore further afield.

Where is it taking you?

I’ve booked the first 26 weeks so far, so I know where I’m going to be until January 2020! Flight tickets are normally only released 11 months in advance so I can’t book all the way up til the end (July 2020) just yet, but will be doing that in the next few months. I’m currently writing this from my hostel in Zaragoza on the second week of the trip! 

So far, the itinerary is as follows:

Week 1: Paris, France 

Week 2: Zaragoza/San Sebastian/Bilbao, Spain 

Week 3: Brussels/Bruges/Ghent, Belgium 

Week 4: Warsaw, Poland 

Week 5: Vienna, Austria 

Week 6: Milan/the Dolomites, Italy 

Week 7: Budapest, Hungary 

Week 8: Jordan (exploring the whole country on a tour) 

Week 9: Cyprus (the whole island)

Week 10: Crete, Greece 

Week 11: Sofia, Bulgaria 

Week 12: Hamburg/Munich, Germany 

Week 13: Porto, Portugal 

Week 14: Zurich/Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Week 15: Amsterdam, Netherlands 

Week 16: Dublin, Ireland 

Week 17: Bucharest, Romania 

Week 18: Israel (various stops) 

Week 19: Turkey (various stops) 

Week 20: Baku, Azerbaijan 

Week 21: Dubai, UAE 

Week 22: Delhi & the Golden Triangle, India 

Week 23: Bangkok to southern Thailand 

Week 24: Malaysia 

Week 25: Singapore 

Week 26: Bali, Indonesia 

Week 27: A week off for a family wedding back home in NZ 

Week 28-52: No idea just yet! 

And where will the second half of the trip go? 

It’ll go through Australia and the Pacific Islands, more of Asia, North and Central America, and back over to Europe. Unfortunately, flights to Africa and South America are never really the cheapest option so it probably won’t take me there. Oh well, they can be for another trip! 

What are you most excited for?

It’s impossible to choose one but I do have a couple! Incredibly excited for Jordan and Israel because those are two places that I never dreamt I would visit, super keen to finally get to Budapest and Cyprus, and I LOVE Indonesia so I was stoked when that came up for my New Year’s Ever stop! 

Anywhere you’re not looking forward to?

Not at all, I’m a firm believer that all countries have something amazing for you to discover no matter what you’re into. I’m also not visiting anywhere with a serious safety warning because of insurance and also my parents’ mental well-being, ha. You’re welcome, Mum! 

Where are you going to stay?

I’ll stay in a mix of hostels, hotels and guesthouses, depending on the destination and living costs. In Europe it’ll mostly be hostel dorms to keep costs down, maybe a private room if I need a bit of a health kick and quiet time, but in Asia the guesthouses are super cheap and ultra-authentic which I love.  

What about your environmental impact?

This is a really important topic for travellers right now, and something I’m definitely keeping in mind. First of all, I’m not actually flying every single week! I built the route off the cheapest destination to fly to but then checked each week’s journey on trains and buses too, and booked them if they worked out logistically. In the first six months I’ve got three trains and two buses in there.

Secondly, while a flight every week does have an impact, it’s important for me to share that these flights are short-haul, mostly on low cost carriers who have newer fleets with more environmentally-friendly engines, and that I’m offsetting every single flight throughout the year. I use myclimate.org to check my carbon footprint and the first 21 flights actually have a 25% smaller footprint than a single return flight from London to New Zealand!  

We all need to be very aware of our impact on the planet when travelling, but I also think it’s about minimising your negative impact (offsetting carbon credits, watching plastic use etc) as well as maximising your positive impact (shopping local, opening your mind to new experiences and ways of life, and doing good wherever you travel). While carbon output is a necessary evil, I reckon we should all be using travel as a force for good. 

Some other ways I’m trying to be more sustainable are: 

  • Using eco-friendly shampoo, conditioner, body wash and laundry bars instead of travelling with those little plastic bottles. I use the ones from Ethique here. 
  • I travel with Huel powder which is a nutritionally complete meal, you just add water and you’ve got a shake with all the vitamins and minerals you need! I have this for breakfast each day just to ensure my digestive system has some consistency while I’m travelling to places with totally different cuisines each week. Huel is vegan and sustainably-produced, it avoids food wastage (ideal for hostels!) and it’s super easy to take with you for an adventure day, meaning there’s no need to buy plastic-wrapped snacks. 
  • Taking my Bobble filtered water bottle everywhere I go and never buying a plastic water bottle 
  • Travelling with tour companies with strong sustainability policies, like G Adventures and Contiki

I’d love to know your tips on sustainable travel as well, tell me in the comments below!

How can we follow along?

I’ll be writing some STA Travel destination guides for a variety of cities and countries throughout the trip, which we will be linking to just below! If you’d like to check out all my travel photos you can find me on Instagram @findingalexx, or read more about my adventures at www.findingalexx.com 

 

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