2021: My Travel Year in Review

It now being the year 2022, it is time to look back at last year and share some cool statistics and highlights in this 2021 travel year review.

2021 Travels

Last year I made a little overview of my travel year of 2020 in statistics and as it was fun to do, I thought I’d write a similar review for 2021.

As you may have realised watching the telly, something called COVID still made travel a bit tricky, especially in the first few months of 2021.

Although the roll-out of vaccinations and the subsequent introduction of the EU Digital COVID Certificate certainly made travel a lot easier over the summer, the last few months saw again some travel restrictions being introduced across different countries in Europe.

Navigating all these restrictions can still be a rather complicated affair for even the most seasoned travellers, as I found out myself during a trip across Europe by train in spring.

However, I still managed to have some interesting travel experiences in 2021 as I managed to review some cool airlines, trains and hotels and visited some gorgeous new destinations.

Flight logbook

Let’s start off with this travel review of 2021 by taking a look at all the flights I took, which I mapped on the image below.

As I wrote before in last year’s review, I keep a record of all my flights on myFlightradar24, a website which was previously known as Flightdiary.

For those unfamiliar with the website, the orange lines on the flight map below are the routes I have flown only once last year, the red lines I have flown twice (two one-ways or a return flight) while the purple lines are routes I have flown multiple times in 2021.

2021 flight review year travel
The flights I took in 2021. ©Flightradar24/Paliparan

Statistics for nerds

Just like last year, there are again some interesting statistics when looking a bit closer at all of my flights in 2021. So let’s take a look at the actual numbers involved here:

– It becomes quickly clear that apart from a trip to Egypt I didn’t manage to leave Europe, mostly due to stringent COVID entry restrictions which are still in place in many countries around the globe.

– In 2021 I took a total number of 44 flights, which surprisingly is three less compared to the peak COVID year of 2020 when I took 47 flights. It’s still a far cry from the epic travel years of 2019 (72 flights) and 2018 (64 flights).

– My 44 flights in 2021 totalled 28,072 miles, showing an even bigger increase in mileage (-41.16%) than in the number of flights flown (-3) compared to 2020. Given that in 2020 I did manage to leave Europe and visited Laos & Japan, that’s however unsurprising.

– Of my 44 flights in 2021, 34 were in economy class and 10 were in business class (77.27 percent versus 22.73 percent). Compared to 2020, that’s slightly less flights in premium travel classes as back then I managed to get a business class seat on 27.7 percent of my flights.

– Of my 44 flights in 2021, I managed to grab a window seat 38 times (86.36%), opting for an aisle seat for only 6 flights. Just like in 2020, I didn’t have to endure a middle seat.

– Just like in 2020, my top airline in 2021 was again Air France with 8 flights, followed by Wizz Air with 6 flights and TAROM with 5 flights.

– In total, I flew with 12 different airlines, of which Air Europa and Trade Air were new to me. All the other airlines I have flown (multiple times) before.

– My longest flight in 2021 was a TAROM flight from Madrid to Bucharest (1,532 miles). Just like in 2020, the shortest flight was with Olympic Air from Milos to Athens (91 miles).

– With nine flights, the Airbus A320 was the aircraft I used most often in 2021, followed by the Airbus A321 (7 flights) and the Boeing 737 (6 flights) in all its different variants (737-800, 737 MAX etc).

– Last year I flew for the first time ever on a Boeing 737 MAX (with LOT Polish Airlines), Airbus A220 (with Air France) and the Let L-410 Turbolet (with Trade Air). All other aircraft types which I travelled on in 2021 I had flown before.

2021 flight review year travel
My 2021 flight statistics. ©Flightradar24/Paliparan
2021 flight review year travel
My 2021 flight statistics. ©Flightradar24/Paliparan

Airports and countries

Of course, there are more fun statistics when it comes to airports and countries involved!

– In total, I visited 32 different airports in 2021 (two more than in 2020). Of those 32 airports, I’ve visited 9 for the first time ever. These new airports are Cairo (CAI), Alexandria (HBE), Pula (PUY), Kefalonia (EFL), Murmansk (MMK), Turin (TRN), Palermo (PMO), Satu Mare (SUJ) and Sarajevo (SJJ).

– In 2021, I managed to visit two new countries (Egypt and San Marino), the same number of new nations as I managed the year before. That brings the total amount of countries visited to 79 (officially) or 82 (when also including some territories/countries which are not universally recognised).

san marino
Having been to San Marino in 2021, that leaves Andorra as the only European nation I didn’t manage to visit yet. ©Paliparan
murmansk airport
Murmansk Airport was one of the 9 new airports I managed to visit in 2021. ©Paliparan

Trains

As much as I love to fly, I often prefer the train as I think the all-round travel experience is just better on the railway tracks than high above in the skies.

When time and budget permits, there is just nothing better than watching the scenery go by from the train window while you eat and drink something in the dining car or go to sleep in your own compartment.

Simply put, you are not just going from A to B but are really travelling somewhere while savouring the journey and taking in the changing landscapes and geography.

In 2021, I managed to take a night train on 15 different occasions. Most of these sleeper train journeys were in Romania, although they also include some gorgeous railway journeys in countries like Egypt and Russia.

I didn’t count the amount of daytime trains I took in 2021 as that would not only be a rather time-consuming job but also a bit arbitrary as a short 15-minute ride on a suburban train does not equal a long journey across a country on an Intercity train when it comes to travel experiences.

ernst watania sleeping train nile
Riding along the Nile on board the Ernst Watania Sleeping Train in Egypt. ©Paliparan
dining car hungary hungaria train
A meal in the dining car of a Hungarian train. ©Paliparan

Travel highlights

When it comes to the travel highlights of 2021, then without any doubt it’s the trips I made to Egypt and Russia.

Visiting Egypt has always been a dream and the ancient Egyptian sights were even more fascinating than I thought they would be. When you have high expectations, such trips can often disappoint but fortunately that was not the case with Egypt.

My semi-spontaneous Russian trip, which was only possible because I could enter the country visa-free with a match ticket for the European Football Championships in Saint Petersburg, was another travel highlight.

Saint Petersburg never disappoints and I immensely enjoyed visiting the Russian far north, with the amazing Solovetsky Islands being the true highlight of that trip.

solovetsky islands
Visiting the Solovetsky Islands was one of my most amazing travel memories of 2021. ©Paliparan
pyramids giza egypt koen camel
My trip to Egypt was another 2021 travel highlight. ©Paliparan

2022

So what does 2022 have in store? As I already wrote yesterday in a post about my New Year’s trip, I haven’t made any firm plans yet.

Needless to say, I’ve got plenty of travel ideas and vague plans, although I really don’t know if and how they materialise.

With the world still being in a state of flux due to the COVID pandemic and all the travel restrictions, I really do not want to plan anything in advance.

Even before COVID came I never was a big fan of planning months ahead, typically planning my personal travels between 3 and 6 weeks ahead of time, and that number has probably halved by now being even more spontaneous.

One thing I do know is that if 2022 has the same number of great travel experiences in store as 2021, I’m a blessed man and can count myself lucky!

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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