A: What a great question! I think I'd first say that visiting every country changed me personally. I'm a lifelong introvert, which isn't a weakness at all, but before I started traveling I was also frequently afraid and insecure. The more I experienced as I went around the world--and especially when things went wrong, but then I recovered--the more confidence and inner strength I gained.
As for how I viewed the world, I don't know if there are any truly unique observations. I gained a lot of respect and admiration for different cultures in a way I didn't have before. This isn't to say I disrespected a culture or religion before I traveled; it's just that there's a lot I didn't know.
For example, I visited the old mosque in Damascus, Syria, one of the historical sites of Islam. I went to Bhutan, one of the few countries in Asia that hasn't been transformed by modernity. I lived on a hospital ship docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone for a year, and was continually amazed at the resourcefulness of people who had endured a long civil war.
I went away from most trips feeling impressed and awed. And also tired, but that's another story.
A: Two major points:
- I chose to invest in travel as a meaningful life experience, and I prioritized it over other expenses. For ten years I didn't own a car. I avoided debt and didn't buy anything I couldn't pay off. Going to the first 100 countries cost about $30,000--which isn't a small amount of money, of course, but over time it was manageable. I thought of it like buying a car or a graduate degree, but with a lot more long-term benefit (at least for me).
- I learned to travel hack! In short I spent a lot of time understanding how to earn a lot of Frequent Flyer Miles and put them to good use for flights all over the world. This was no small thing; I probably went to at least 50 countries for very little money at all. Obviously there are expenses on the ground, visas, etc. but to have airfare + lodging covered through miles & points takes a ton of pressure off.
A: I have a lot of favorite countries! Honestly, I enjoy travel for the sake of travel--I like the process of planning, the act of being in motion, going from one place to another. I thrive off that. So for me, very often it is exactly like that old cliche: the journey matters more than the destination.
That said, of course there were places that stood out more than others, or that were especially meaningful for me. In no particular order:
- Sri Lanka: my 100th country
- Liberia: amazing people and a very unique culture within West Africa
- Macedonia: just a special place that felt peaceful to me after several days of traveling by bus in the region
- Laos: my favorite country in Southeast Asia. I actually haven't been back since my first visit, so it's on the list to return
- Australia: because it's awesome!