Sitting on a six-hour train through Eastern Europe several years ago, I counted up the dozens of countries I had been to and realized I was in reach of one hundred. Doing a quick time-and-money estimate in my journal, I calculated that the cost to get to 100 would be about $30,000.
My first thought: only $30,000? My friends were buying S.U.V.s with that kind of money. I thought, I can have a large vehicle or I can have the world. Easy choice. I had been living in West Africa, volunteering as an aid worker while moonlighting on the internet at night, before moving to Seattle in 2006 for graduate school. During every school break, I traveled -- to Uganda, Kosovo, Jordan, Brunei, and beyond.
While on one of those trips, I was daydreaming on a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau when the thought hit me: instead of just 100, why not try to visit every country in the world? I decided to go for it. Every good goal has a deadline, so I set mine for my 35th birthday, currently four years from now. By then I plan to have visited every country in the world, all from my new home base in SE Portland.
My mode of operation is "keep it simple." I don't check bags, regularly hop between continents, and sometimes wake up not remembering which country I'm in. I earn my living as an independent writer, so I can do my work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
I travel for two weeks at a time, and come home for a few more weeks before hitting the road again. My itinerary is half-planned and half-improvised; I usually know where I'm staying at the first and last stops of each trip. In between, I wander. I enjoy both the journey and the destination.
This year I should hit up at least 20 countries, from Andorra to Yemen. (I've already been to Zimbabwe.) Last month I was in Southern Africa, the month before in Southeast Asia, and in the summer I should complete my visits to most of South America.
Along the way, I make videos on location, meet up with readers, and write about the way I encounter the world. I don't claim to know it all -- I'm a generalist, not an expert on each place I go -- but I keep an open mind and a full journal along the way.
I've got four more years to accomplish my goal, and I'd love for you to join me for the journey. You can share your comments, suggestions, or questions -- all feedback is welcome. See you next from somewhere in the world... you never know where I'll turn up.