“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is the order of those other UEFA countries that I visited.1.Northern Ireland 2.Republic of Ireland 3.Portugal 4.Scotland 5.England 6.Wales 7.France 8.Greece 9.The Netherlands 10.Spain 11.Germany 12.Poland 13.Austria 14.Denmark 15.Cheatzerland 16.Liechtenstein 17.Russia 18.Belarus 19.Czechia 20.Luxembourg 21.Belgium 22.Latvia 23.Iceland 24.Sweden 25.Slovakia 26.Italy 27.Slovenia 28.San Marino 29.Hungary 30.Israel 31.Turkey 32.Georgia 33.Azerbaijan 34.Armenia 35.Romania 36.Moldova 37.Bulgaria 38.Northern Macedonia 39.Kosovo 40.Montenegro 41.Lithuania 43.Estonia 44.Finland 45.Norway 46.Gibraltar 47.Faroe Islands 48.Ukraine 49.Kazakhstan 50.Serbia 51.Bosnia Herzegovina 52.Croatia 53.Malta 54.Cyprus 55.Albania
Other countries based in Europe that I have been to that are not recognised by UEFA.
1.United Kingdom2.Monaco 3.Austenasia 4.The Vatican City 5.The Basque Country 6.Bavaria 7.Nagorno Karabakh 8.Transnistria 9.Lovely 10.Don’t Stop Living 11.Uzupis 12.Adammia 13.Catalonia 14.San Escobar 15.Romkerhall 16.Kashubia 17.Lagoan Isles 18.Christiania 19.Ladonia 20.Krolestwo Dreamlandu 21.Kugelmugel 22.Wallachia 23.Northern Cyprus 24.Druze 25.Empire of Atlantium 26.Bosnia 27.Herzegovina 28.Sark 29.Herm 30.Jersey 31.Guernsey 32.Podjistan 33.Republic of Srpska