After a long day’s work, I was curled up in bed at my host parents’ house in a Ukrainian village. At the time, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I was struggling with many things I don’t talk about outside of therapy.
I came across a YouTube video of a couple traveling to 100 countries. You probably know them.
This idea that I could make money while traveling was revolutionary to me. I’d never heard of it, but suddenly, my post-Peace Corps plan was obvious.
But it wasn’t until after my Peace Corps service ended abruptly, I flew back home, started this blog, and read more travel blogs that I found my people: the adventurers that go to every country in the world.
I had an epiphany in the Bangkok flower market. If there are moments like these to be had in countries all over the world, then how will I ever stop?
And the answer is, I’m not. Not until I see them all.
How many countries are there in the world?
As of the time this was written, there are 197 countries in the world. They are defined by the U.N. as sovereign states.
This is an important distinction—there are many popular travel destinations that don’t count toward this list, because they’re actually overseas territories. An example is French Polynesia.
While I do plan to visit some overseas territories, they won’t count as part of the Journey to 197.
You can see a full list of countries and disputed regions here.
Why am I going to every country in the world?
Out of all the people we know of that have traveled to every country in the world, most of them are retired, wealthy men who needed a new adventure after running companies for decades.
While there are more people undertaking this in their youth, we’re a minority. It goes without saying that the number of women doing this is minimal.
After a lifetime of being a minority, I am comfortable here. And it looks like I’m in excellent company.
But for me personally, the reasons for traveling to every country in the world are bigger than an adventure, an accolade, a life worth remembering.
Each nation I’ve visited so far has made me better. I genuinely try to practice and encourage respectful traveling, namely prioritizing locals and their communities over ourselves. I’m from a city overrun with tourists myself, so I get it.
Overall, I don’t feel like myself when I’m not traveling. Being on the road, my belongings in Nicole, my hardshell carry-on, trying new foods, meeting new people—to me, this is living.
Introducing: The Journey to 197
My first country was Costa Rica. I went there for a month, lived with a host mom, and traveled solo for the first time.
It was my first time inside an airport and on a plane.
One day, I was walking in San José, bound for the Coca-Cola bus station. It was a Friday, and I was headed to Tamarindo, a lazy surfer town on the Pacific coast. I was with a few girls I’d just met.
That’s when I saw them. Massive packs obscuring their frames, shuffling through bustling pedestrian traffic. Backpackers.
I think back on that moment often, on the time I saw my future and had no idea I would become one of them. (Okay, technically I’m a cross between a backpacker and a flashpacker. But I rest my case.)
This dream didn’t start out as the Journey to 197, though. It took years to go from a college student interested in traveling to who I am now. The flexibility to travel whenever possible has influenced my career, social life, love life, and so much more.
I’ve made sacrifices, but ultimately benefitted from them, even when this was difficult to see.
In a nutshell, the Journey to 197 is a shorthand way of describing the purpose of this blog. I’m on a lifelong journey to every country in the world, and I’m telling you about it as it happens.
What I’m sharing along the way
I’ve struggled quite a bit since I started this blog in 2019. At the beginning, I was hungry. I’d stay up until 2am, furiously typing, passionate, ready to succeed.
But the blogging “gurus” whose advice I followed were not the voices I should have learned from. I’m a journalist and writer, not an influencer with a website. And this is where I had major difficulties in blogging well.
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You get the gist.
I learned a ton in 2019, but by 2020, I was burned out. Majorly.
And then, the entire world shut down.
I didn’t know what to do. What was the point in blogging, anyway? Only Instagram influencers were successful anymore, and I am not the kind of person to spend 25 hours a day on social.
Within the past couple of years, I’ve done my best to keep this site up and running. And in 2022, I finally feel like I’ve got my mojo back.
After some deep reflections about the purpose of this space, this is what I’ve come up with. It is subject to change, but for the first time in a long time, I am excited to spend time here. I hope you will be, too.
Along the Journey to 197, I’m sharing here on the website:
- Destination guides for each country
- Local guides linked within country guides
- Vegan travel guides, with local restaurants linked
- Some of my vegan recipes, because part of this journey is my at-home life
- My Nashville favorites (mainly food, but maybe more)
- Books I’m reading
- Diary-style check in posts
Aside from blogs, I’m also updating:
- Instagram stories (almost daily)
- From the Aisle Seat, my weekly newsletter. It has destinations, cuisine, and book recs. I’ll also share reflections on life and the Journey to 197.
How to follow along
You can follow along by:
- Following me on Instagram and watching stories.
- Subscribing to From the Aisle Seat.
- Reading this blog. You can bookmark my site and check it for updates. I also share new posts in From the Aisle Seat.
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading. I’ll see you in country #24.