Some years ago, I set myself a seemingly momentous goal — to visit every country in the world. Incredibly, success is in sight, and what a marvelous adventure it’s been. I long for the feeling of what it will be like to actually cross that invisible finish line.
I have about 20 countries left and I am striving to complete this mission by 2025. I have been chipping away at this promise to myself for quite some time now. The thrill of landing in a new destination never gets old for me. From sunrise to sunset, the opportunity to connect, be enchanted, and explore keeps me going. My desire to be part of a larger global community is the fuel that continues to stoke this passionate flame that glows so brightly in my heart.
The lessons I’ve learned along the way are perhaps the most meaningful mementos I’ve gathered over the years. I find that when people are closed-minded about the unfamiliar, it’s often the result of a lack of exposure to other cultures. The global narrative can often be misconstrued. There’s only so much about a people or a place that can be accurately portrayed in the media. There are so many corners of the world that remain unseen, unspoken about, and untouched. I think the key to happiness is growth, self-awareness, and the willingness to keep moving forward. Maintaining an open mind is an essential part of that process and travel unlocks the door to endless possibilities.
I have enjoyed traveling throughout my life, and as a photography enthusiast, my excursions have afforded me incredible opportunities to capture the human experience in far-off places. I have had the opportunity to photograph a sunset in Malawi, a bustling marketplace in Cape Verde, azure waves lapping at the beaches in Yemen, and some of the world’s most breathtaking volcanoes, deserts, and waterfalls.
There was one particularly memorable moment I’ll never forget that happened while traveling through Iran, which I feel is a largely misunderstood domain in so many ways. The people there are truly beautiful inside and out, and while I was exploring some ancient bridges, I came across a flock of black-garbed schoolgirls standing in a pyramid formation. They giggled as I took their photos — and then I noticed a group of dashing soldiers standing in a similar fashion nearby who seemed very interested in my interaction with the young ladies. They were clearly waiting for me to photograph them — and I obliged with glee. I ended up taking some of my favorite photographs that day. It was a beautiful, spontaneous encounter I was able to capture on my camera and one I will hold forever in my heart.
I think the greatest parts of travel are the flashes of humanity that happen in between all of the premade plans. While I recognize the importance of setting a schedule, especially while traveling abroad, it’s also essential to be in the moment and see where the day takes you. I have wandered down charming streets in Algeria and through the fashionable bustle of Rome, simply going with the flow. I think living in the present is so vital. There are so many conversations I’ve had and things I have seen that I would never have experienced had I stuck to a rigid itinerary. Soak in the scenery. Take the time to dine locally and listen to local music and peruse the artistry of the natives of the land you are in.
As I get ready to visit the last 20 countries on my list, which includes places such as Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela, I am delighted that so much wonder still awaits. It’s something that I look forward to and clearly an achievement I will not take for granted. We all need to take the opportunity to explore, listen, and learn as often as possible. Sometimes traveling thousands of miles from home makes you discover truths about yourself that were unimaginable had you not journeyed so far away. Dive into adventure this year.
Time is the one resource that we can never get more of. We can’t buy it. We can’t turn it back and it mustn’t be wasted. As I inch toward completing my aspiration to see every country this world has to offer, my dream shifts to wanting everyone to be able to go out and do the same. It’s an incredible feeling to stare out into the great unknown, put your bags down on a foreign floor, and breathe in the air in a completely different place. I have always kept a list of locales I have dreamed of visiting. Make a list and keep it close to your heart. Dream bigger and bolder, and live with an untamed spirit. We all have a thirst for adventure in us that whispered to our ancestors. Get out there. See it. Live it. The sky is truly the limit. The only regrets we have in life are the chances we didn’t take and the plans we didn’t make.