On March 12, 2017 at approximately 3PM, I stepped foot in my 100th country — Azerbaijan.
I really can’t believe I’ve come this far already. When I moved to Korea to teach English in August 2013, I told myself that my goal was to visit 50 countries at 25 years old. Now, my goal has evolved into to visiting every country before turning 30. If I keep going at this rate, I should finish in the next 3 years… But the countries I have left to visit (in Africa, Oceania, Middle East) will be much more challenging in terms of getting visas, accessibility and price.
A lot of people ask me if I ever get sick of traveling. And my answers is not even in the slightest.
I love being in airports and getting on 15 hour flights, because it means I’m going somewhere new. I love making new friends, trying new foods and figuring out how to navigate cites. I love discovering about new places and learning about this history. I love witnessing the beautiful nature on our planet.
I guess you could say I’ve adapted to this lifestyle.
I didn’t realize this until recently as I’ve grown and matured, but my mission is to spread positivity by connecting with people from all cultures. I want to show you that people of all races, ethnicities, religions and beliefs are one and the same.
With that said, here are my 10 Biggest life Takeaways I’ve Gained from Visiting 100 Countries.
10 Takeaways From 100 Countries:
1. We Are Lucky (i.e. ME and YOU)
If you’re reading this, that means you have internet which half of the world still doesn’t have. You also own a computer, cellphone, live an apartment/house and have an education (probably of a higher degree.) Do you realize how much opportunity we have?
I have seen with my own eyes some of the world’s worst poverty and living conditions. I have taken a walk through the biggest slum on earth, Dharavi in Mumbai, where there is an average of 1 toilet per 33,000 people.
The bottom line is to appreciate what you have, because we are very lucky.
2. 99.9% of People Are Friendly
I say this one all the time, but it’s the truth. The vast majority of people on planet earth are kind, hospitable, and would love to meet you.
The media does a horrible job of portraying this by focusing on the negativity and bad people in the world (especially in regards to the Middle East)… I urge you to not hold judgments on a country, culture or group of people until you meet with them eye to eye.
I’m a believer that every country has good and bad people, but I can assure you that “the good” make up 99.9%.
3. Say “Yes” As Much As Possible
Pushing yourself to say “yes” more directly correlates to creating new and memorable life experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Climb that tree. Sail that boat. Go to that underground bar. Smoke that cigar. Jump out of that plane. Eat that fish’s eyeball.
Simply “doing” more things that you aren’t comfortable with requires you step out of your comfort zone, which will leave you with more amazing stories to share with your grandkids someday.
4. All Humans Have the Same Wants and Needs
It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, rich or poor, heathy or sick – I’ve realized that every person in our world has the same desires. We all want to love and be loved in return. We all want to be close with our families. We all need to make money to live. We all need to eat when we’re hungry and drink when we’re thirsty. We all need to have a roof over our heads and a place to sleep.
Thinking about the world in this way makes you get rid of any prejudices.
5. Early Morning is the Best Time to Explore
There’s something magical about waking up before anyone else does… It’s the calmest part of the day and you should always take advantage of it.
When traveling, I try never wake up past 7:30. Simply waking up when the sun rises to roam around a new city, go hiking, play golf, or do whatever you like doing is the best way to get your bearings.
6. Get Outdoors as Much as Possible
This relates to waking up early in the morning, but goes one step beyond.
Doing shit outside, anything outside, is better than spending time inside. It can be walking down the street, sitting on a bench in the park, riding a motorbike, going camping or just laying on the beach.
I’ve learned to appreciate nature the more I’ve discoverd it, and you will too the more you are outside!
7. Family Always Comes First, and You Need Close Friends
No matter where life takes you or me – family is the most important thing we have to love and cherish. It’s important to show respect to your parents (even if you aren’t on good terms with them), beacuse they are the ones who created you. Without them, you wouldn’t exist.
Love your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. And especially, call your grandparents more often.
In addition, having close friends are the ones who you can talk to when you have a problem. They’re the ones who you share funny moments with. You can rely on your friends in any situation that life throws at you.
8. Stop Being so Frugal
I get it, you’re traveling on a budget — who isn’t? But realize that it’s sometimes more important to value life experiences over money.
Am I saying to go spend $500 on a nice steak dinner? No. But I am telling you to not count every penny beacuse it’s a waste of precious time and experiences.
In other words, it’s worth it to spend $10 more for a nicer hotel if that means you will get a good night’s sleep and not be tired the next day. It’s worth spending an extra $100 on nice travel backpack to ensure that you’ll be safe. I know that bungee jumping is expensive, but it’s worth spending $200 for an experience that will last a lifetime.
If you can afford to travel in the first place, then you can probably afford to do more than you can think.
Being the optimist that I am, I strongly believe that things will always work themselves out in the end, and that’s the best part about life.
9. Learn by Asking Questions
I ask a lot of questions, and that’s how I learn most things.
Just a few days ago when I was in Moscow, I had a tour from one of my Russian friends and I asked her a million questions. Now, I can tell you more about Russia then I ever thought I’d know!
Which leads me into my final point…
10. The More I Travel, the More I Realize How Little I Know
You think travel makes you smarter, and it absolutely does…
But travel also makes me realize how much I don’t know about other people, places and cultures. It’s never until I am physically there and exposed to each place until I start leaning about their history and how their society works.
Just like how I told you that I asked a million questions in Moscow — I do this everywhere. There is so much more to learn about!
Lastly, I will leave you with the 100 countries I’ve visited in the order that I visited them.
USA, Mexico, Canada, Bahamas, Haiti, Israel, Czech Republic, Italy, Vatican, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, UAE, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Cyprus, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Australia, Myanmar, India, Iceland, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Egypt, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Laos, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Guyana, Malta, Andorra, San Marino, Tunisia, Monaco, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cuba, Russia, Azerbaijan.
Cheers to the next 96!