Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

“A valued destiny comes to nothing”- New Order.

Although alphabetically first in terms of UEFA countries, Albania ended up being the last UEFA country that I visited. At the ripe old age of 41, I landed in Tirana, Albania on a flight from Vienna. This was no paradise or backpacker’s dream. Happiness, like many things in my life, had been and gone. Aside from that, I had blood and scars everywhere. I didn’t even want to promote any of this any more. But I did succeed in visiting every UEFA country.

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

There are currently 55 countries in UEFA. That means I visited 55 UEFA countries in 41 years. It is hardly an impressive record, an average of 1.3 per year. But I still finally completed that jigsaw. My reward for being a nice tourist was suicidal thoughts and long term depression. That’s life.

“Come on, se a vida e, that’s the way life is” – The Pet Shop Boys.

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

However, I was able to slightly celebrate my achievement with Shpetim, a former flatmate of mine from my time living in Warszawa, so thanks for that Shpetim.

My local mate Shpetim and I in Shkoder, Albania

My local mate Shpetim and I in Shkoder, Albania

What was my first UEFA country to visit?

It was Northern Ireland. I visited it when I was born in 1980 and have now been there EXACTLY 100 times. I have visited Northern Ireland more times than any other country in the world. I have also spent 23 years living there. It is the country that I have spent the most amount of time in. Northern Ireland is my favourite country in the world. That won’t wane.

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

Why was Albania the last one?

I have no concrete answer as to why Albania was the last UEFA country that I visited. It just happened like that. However, I had two almost visits to Albania in the past. Near misses. Post hitters. It was third time lucky that I finally backpacked it. It was fairly unlucky that I hadn’t been there before and here are those two near misses.

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

In Albania, I visited three cities – Tirana, Shkoder and Paskuqan. So far, all I have written about is about my stays at  the Central Hostel Shkoder and the Tirana Backpacker Hostel in the capital. Being injured and in deep depression didn’t help of course.

Dinner in Paskuqan, Albania

Dinner in Paskuqan, Albania

Touring Shkoder, Albania

Staying in Tirana, Albania

2014: Why I Didn’t Visit Albania

In November and December 2014, I spent 7 weeks backpacking in east and south east Europe. Albania was originally part of that plan. I aimed to visit in order Romania, Moldova, Transnistria, Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania.

Backpacking in Kosovo in 2014

The truth is I ran out of time on that trip. Albania was to be the last country and so it missed out. I axed it . Even Montenegro, second last was only afforded 4 days on that trip. I almost ran out of time for it too.

Gradski Stadion, Podgorica, Montenegro.

However, at one point on that trip I spent two days looking at Albania. I stayed in Ohrid by the lake border. From this town in Northern Macedonia, states right across at Albania. But at the time, physically entering Albania didn’t happen.

Ohrid Harbour, Macedonia – staring at Albania in 2014

2016: Why I Didn’t Visit Albania

Having been so close to Albania in 2014, I ended up back in the Balkans in October 2016. This time I backpacked Serbia, Bośnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro.

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

While based in Podgorica, Montenegro, there was a direct bus to a northern city in Albania. I was at Poddy bus station about to book it. I was heading to Albania finally! Or not. That night the bus was cancelled. So I skipped it. Fate wasn’t to be. I wasn’t meant to visit Albania back then.

No bus to Albania today…

In the meantime,after 2016, I relocated to Poland, my new base. I was in deep depression but I made plans to visit 200 countries by the age of 40,as well as releasing a lot of books. The Backpacking Centurion book series was finished in 2016, and released sporadically from June 2020. When Coronavirus kicked in, travels were put on hold. I didn’t want to visit 200 countries anymore. I just wanted to escape depression.

Backpacking Centurion in 2015: Original Chapter Completion Before Splission and Title Changes

The Backpacking Centurion Hat-Trick ( Trilogy/ Trójmiasto / Tri-City ) Is Now CompleteBackpacking Centurion in 2015: Original Chapter Completion Before Splission and Title Changes

When I finally landed in Albania in 2021, I was suicidal and depressed. It was the worst time of my life after September 30th 2021, my life would never be the same again.

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

Here is the order of those other UEFA countries that I visited.1.Northern Ireland2.Republic of Ireland3.Portugal4.Scotland5.England6.Wales7.France8.Greece9.The Netherlands10.Spain11.Germany12.Poland13.Austria14.Denmark15.Cheatzerland16.Liechtenstein17.Russia18.Belarus19.Czechia20.Luxembourg21.Belgium22.Latvia23.Iceland24.Sweden25.Slovakia26.Italy27.Slovenia28.San Marino29.Hungary30.Israel31.Turkey32.Georgia33.Azerbaijan34.Armenia35.Romania36.Moldova37.Bulgaria38.Northern Macedonia39.Kosovo40.Montenegro41.Lithuania43.Estonia44.Finland45.Norway46.Gibraltar47.Faroe Islands48.Ukraine49.Kazakhstan50.Serbia51.Bosnia Herzegovina52.Croatia53.Malta54.Cyprus55.Albania

Backpacking in Albania: On Arrival in Tirana, I Had Completed Every UEFA Country But Had Deep Depression

Other countries based in Europe that I have been to that are not recognised by UEFA.

1.United Kingdom2.Monaco3.Austenasia4.The Vatican City5.The Basque Country6.Bavaria7.Nagorno Karabakh8.Transnistria9.Lovely10.Don’t Stop Living11.Uzupis12.Adammia13.Catalonia14.San Escobar15.Romkerhall16.Kashubia17.Lagoan Isles18.Christiania19.Ladonia20.Krolestwo Dreamlandu21.Kugelmugel22.Wallachia23.Northern Cyprus24.Druze25.Empire of Atlantium26.Bosnia27.Herzegovina28.Sark29.Herm30.Jersey31.Guernsey32.Podjistan33.Republic of Srpska

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