Travel dad ticks off every European country and British city off his bucket list in epic venture

Daniel Blackman was never thrilled by travelling as a child. He was a homebody and the thought of leaving his home comforts filled him with dread.

By Hollie Busby
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 4:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 4:55 pm

So when the dad-of-one ticked off the final country in Europe from his scratch-off map of the world last month, there was a huge feeling of accomplishment.

Thanks to Covid, it was two-and-a-half-years before he could visit the final country on his quest – Liechtenstein.

But at 32, he can put away his passport for a while and proudly say that he’s not only seen all 44 countries in Europe, but he’s visited every city in Britain too.

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Daniel Blackman with the passport stamp he recieved in Liechtenstein, which marked the completion of his European travels. Picture: Mike Cooter (140422)

And it was all kick-started on a random day while he was in his 20s.

‘I looked at a map and I realised I’d done a reasonable number of countries in Europe from going on family holidays,’ he says.

‘Then when I started looking at where else there was to go I thought it would be quite nice to do some places that were a little bit off the beaten track.

‘Largely, with one of my mates we started going to places which aren't very popular, but when you go there are absolutely fascinating.

Daniel Blackman.

‘The more I got close to completing all 44, the more I kept wanting to visit these places,’ he explains.

It was Daniel’s mission then to visit the hidden treasures of the world that ‘haven’t been touched by tourists’ all while squeezing trips in here and there while leading a busy working life.

Each trip abroad lasted less than a month.

From living with a Sami tribe in Norway huddled over a hunted reindeer for supper – to trespassing through a Grecian district where tourists are prohibited – the HR employee could never have dreamed he’d be soaking up the cultures and traditions across the continent when he was sat in his university room 12 years ago – homesick and lonely.

Daniel Blackman's passport - with the all-important stamp from Liechtenstein. Picture: Mike Cooter (140422)

‘When I was younger I loved living at home and got a lot of homesickness. When I went to Reading [University] I felt very homesick and very lonely,’ he says.

‘Travelling really helped to broaden my horizons and it's opened my eyes up to the world.

‘It makes you appreciate what you've got.

‘It really makes you appreciate the little home comforts. In poor countries in Europe you can be spending 12p to go on a tube, then come to London and you're spending so much more.’

Daniel’s first official trip towards the challenge was to Turkey in 2010.

Prior to that, he’d ticked off the other 10 while going abroad with his family.

The switch clicked for Daniel when he couldn’t get his head around why it was a ‘done thing’ to visit the same place twice when there’s somewhere else ‘amazing’ that you can go and see.

Although he respects other people like to do that, it wasn’t for him.

‘For me, the amazing thing to achieve before I leave this world would be to say I’ve visited everywhere in Europe.

‘It was one of those moments where you think, I’ve only got one life, so I’ve got to make the most of it. I'm a great believer in trying to do everything once.

‘That was doing something maybe a lot of people couldn't say they've done.’

While globetrotting around Europe, Daniel , who grew up at Waterlooville and now lives at Petersfield, was hit with his second expedition idea.

‘I'm a massive Pompey fan so some cities you end up visiting when you go to away games or whatever it might be.

You go to some of the smaller cities and there's so much more to see and do.’

Daniel has witnessed dire poverty in eastern Europe, embraced a short-lived new life in Norway – sledging with reindeers under the Northern Lights – and visiting Kyiv a few years ago, which turned out to go above and beyond his expectations.

Of all the countries he’s been to though, the stand-out was Norway.

The Virgin Media worker says: ‘We went up to the north of Norway to the Arctic Circle to Tromsø and we saw the Northern Lights while sledging with reindeers – that was really special.

‘It was so different to everywhere else I’ve been in Europe with all the snow.’

The next on his top-countries-to-visit list was not famed for being a tourist destination, but Ukraine is in everbody’s consciousness for all the wrong reasons.

‘I wasn't expecting Kyiv to have too much to offer in terms of tourism and everything else but when we went there it was absolutely fascinating,’ he says.

Whether it was the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum, which is dedicated to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and its devastating consequences, or the vast collection of Champions League trophies on display at the football stadiums – to even consider the situation in this beautiful country now makes Daniel feel helpless.

‘It’s so sad,’ he says.

‘The poor Ukrainian people. [My family and I] were watching the news and the main square in Kyiv was there and behind that was the hotel that we had stayed in.

‘We would never have thought that would happen.’

More often than not, Daniel would seek ways to stop off at multiple countries in one trip.

This year, he got to Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy, and Austria. But before that - thanks to Covid - it had been almost three years since Daniel had been able to get back out again to do what he loves best.

Through travel, he’s learnt the importance of being grateful for the little things in life. ‘With the Sami tribe it was all minimalistic,’ he explains.

‘In the west we’ve got so much in terms of heating and electricity and everything else – those guys live on the bare minimum.’

Daniel is very much looking forward to what the future has in store for his family .

‘To have done it all by the age of 32, plus going through the pandemic, it's exciting to now think where can I go with my family and what experiences can I start setting up for my daughter so she can enjoy this world,’ he says.

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‘ Hopefully my experiences can help enrich the lives of others.

‘I hope it can help my daughter with exploring the world and doing whatever she wants to do.

‘I can hand on heart say that every single place that I've gone to in Europe has had something to offer or something of interest or something exciting to go and see or do.

‘If you compare what we've got to other nations we should be so grateful for what we've got.’