As I write this blog post, I’m waiting at the airport about to accomplish something that I never thought I would – traveling to my 50th country.
Although I’m traveling what feels like all the time now – and almost always internationally – I didn’t get my first passport until the end of 2007. I come from a very modest background, and so it wasn’t until after my first year of law school, after completing a lucrative summer associate position, that I was able to afford one.
Even though I wasn’t able to travel much before then, I was always obsessed with travel. As a kid, I would memorize the Sunday travel section in the Philadelphia Inquirer (my local paper) and recite the prices of flights to my annoyed parents. I would spend time on most weekends checking out the latest brochures at the travel agency down the street and would order every free vacation video that I could (you used to be able to call Disney World and request VHS promotional videos).
My parents picked up on this, and they got me a subscription to Condé Nast Traveler for my 10th birthday. My aesthetic was always warm, tropical places. There was no place that I wanted to go more than the Turks and Caicos (something I accomplished in 2016!), though there was no place that I didn’t want to visit.
When I first got my passport, I went to some pretty typical destinations for Americans – Jamaica, Amsterdam, Paris, and Brussels were my first trips. I was based in Philadelphia at the time, so I went to Europe and the Caribbean the most, although I also went to Morocco (which was way outside of my bubble at the time).
After law school, I moved to Guam, and that opened up a whole new set of destinations for me. All of a sudden, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and more were all in easy reach. I definitely took advantage of this, which helped add to my country count.
When I moved to San Francisco, I still had the travel bug but didn’t have as much free time as I was working at law firms (I was still able to visit a few new countries, including Bosnia, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Chile, and Norway, but it was over the course of a few years). In fact, there was even a year where I didn’t take a single international flight.
Things changed dramatically when, in February 2016, I decided to pursue my own law firm full-time. Before that, I was running my law firm as a side-hustle, with a full-time (albeit, remote) job in-house at a startup.
One of the founding principals of my firm was that I wanted it to be entirely remote. Because of this, even though some of my work included litigation, I gave up that part of my practice since it would require me to show up in-person to court.
Around that same time, I got a pretty bad infection in my leg and had a pretty serious health scare. I was told that if the infection spread that I would need to go to the hospital, and that in an extreme worst-case scenario, the infection could sometimes lead to amputation (luckily, it never got that far – the antibiotics I was given cleared it up after about a week of bed rest).
This health scare made me realize that I needed to take advantage of my freedom and good health, because either could be taken away from me at any time. So, I decided to have a goal of visiting one amazing location every month and, with exceptions, I’ve kept that promise to myself until now.
So with that as a background, I wanted to post a list of the countries I’ve visited so far. Note that my definition of country may be a little loose — there are some destinations on here that some readers my disagree with (such as Turks and Caicos, which is a British overseas territory). But for my purposes, I considered places with different passport stamps and cultures to be separate countries.
For my list, I’ve also included these symbols: an asterisk (*) means that I’ve visited a country twice and two asterisks (**) means that visited a country more than twice.
- The Bahamas
- St. Lucia
- St. Kitts
- Costa Rica
- The Netherlands**
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- The Philippines**
- Hong Kong**
- Turks and Caicos
- South Africa
- French Polynesia
- New Zealand
- Czech Republic
- Cayman Islands
Close calls: Peru (slept in the airport for 1 night), Liechtenstein (train ride through).
I’m thrilled with what I’ve seen so far, and can’t wait to see more. In fact, I already have 3 new countries that I’ll be visiting by April 2020 – Qatar, the Maldives, and United Arab Emirates.
Also, I do realize it’s a little faux pas to count countries — many in the travel community think that counting countries discounts the actual value of travel; that by trying to “collect” countries, you are missing the actual experiences. I do understand this mindset and subscribe in part, but part of my goal is to see as much as possible and that involves going to different countries with entirely different cultures (and it’s fun for me to keep tabs!).
Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the Cayman Islands and the big 5-0!