25 years old, 50 countries travelled to, just a girl with a goal.
Travelling has been my JAM since I was a wee child. At 11 I went to a camp in France to improve my French. When I first got there I didn’t understand a word that anyone else was saying. I was the only English speaker in a sea of French people. While most people would have been discouraged, I loved the challenge and felt the need to prevail. After a few weeks, I came out basically fluent in French and with a whole new sense of confidence. I got travel bug early, and I got it HARD. And from that day on I was always planning out my next adventure.
My original goal was to reach 30 countries by 30, a relatively common goal for most travel afficionados. By the time I was 22 I found myself in Norway and realized I had hit my 30th country 8 years early… So like any hyper driven and overambitious 22 year old, I thought now what?
That’s where 50 countries by 25 came into play. I had about 2 years and 4 months left before I turned 25. I was in graduate school, and in full-time internships over the summer. So my main time to travel was over the winter break, spring breaks, before internships, or any other random short breaks I could squeeze in. At first it seemed daunting – 20 countries in 2 years. There’s no way. But from there on, all my free time and money went towards exploring new countries. Colombia, South Africa, Kosovo, and Laos are just a few of the many wild places I adventured to.
Everyone always asks me how I did it, and at first I really didn’t understand why people were asking me that. I didn’t think that what I did was all that special. I just really wanted to get to 50 countries, so I did… I know, not very introspective. I was young and silly and finding my way through life (I still am young and silly and finding my way through life). But looking back now, I’ve taken some time to think about it, and it really did all boil down to these 5 thing.
- Make a plan
You have to make a plan. How are you going reach your travel goals? Just like with anything in life, if you don’t have a PLAN chances that you actually reach those goals are slim. Life gets in the way and those goals become a distant dream that slips away from your grasps. Budget, figure out where you’re going to go. If the goal is to reach a certain number of countries, then make a plan to do so. Here’s a couple of tips on how you can get started in making your plan
- Decide what part of the world you want to visit. I recommend picking countries that are close together to make travel easier and cheaper
- Research the cheapest time of the year you want to go. Going during the off-season is a fabulous way to travel cheaper, go when it’s less crowded, and get to know the locals
- Make a list of the countries AND cities/villages you want to visit
- Make a budget and save $XX a month leading up to your trip
- Make a list of any specific activities you want to do (e.g.: rock climbing at Railay Beach in Thailand, or the Ha Giang Motorcycle Loop in Vietnam, scuba
- Put it all in a spreadsheet! I like to put all my hostels, flights, trains, buses, excursions, etc. in a spreadsheet to help keep me organized and make it easier to track expenses. This will also help make sure you actually stick to your budget 😉 Don’t forget to include a daily amount for food/drinks, gifts, and daily transportation.
- Make a goal
Goals keep you fueled and focused. When you make a goal, and you truly believe that it is your mission and your destiny to fulfill that goal, all of your actions will inherently change to help you achieve and fulfill that goal. If you do not believe that you can achieve it, you will continually make decisions that do not help you achieve that goal. Even though it seemed a little farfetched, I just knew in my bones that I had to get to 30 50 countries, and there was nothing that was going to stop me. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, just an internal personal goal that made me psyched for life. Here’s a couple of tips for making your goals
- Make it specific. That means no “I want to travel more” or “I want to see the world.” Yes we all want to travel more and we all want to see the world, but by not making it specific it becomes just a lofty dream.
- Make it measurable. Is it 25 countries in 5 years? is it 5 South American countries by the time you turn 30? Is it to travel to all the continents by 40? Note that these all have a specific period of time. It helps create urgency, and gives you something to measure your success by.
- Dream BIG, but make it attainable. If you want to make it to 100 countries in 10 days by the end of the year, and you have no vacation time from your full time job left for the year, you MAY want to re-evaluate your goal. That being said dream BIG, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it
- Make travelling to new places a priority
There are so many times where I could have completely derailed my plans. I could have not travelled somewhere new, or blown all my money going out, or gone to somewhere within the country which wouldn’t have helped me get to 30 countries or saved up for a house. I made travelling to new countries my priority and generally my actions, my extra money, and my lifestyle geared itself towards completing that goal.
- Go to cheap and less popular destinations
Many destinations didn’t quite make the cut on my itinerary because they were too darn expensive for me to reach my end goal (sorry Switzerland). It’s going to be a whole lot harder to get to all your desired travel destinations if you blow all your money in one place. Go to the cheaper places like Southeast Asia, or the Balkans! I spent 3 weeks travelling solo in in the Balkans, to places that aren’t even remotely on people’s radars and they were FABULOUS! Full of culture and life, and a different way of living. So don’t be scared to go off the beaten path. Go to those obscure countries and venture into a new world.
Personally, I love hostels. You can stay at places ranging from $5 a night to $30 and gain a whole lot of new friends along the way. You usually have the option of staying in dorm style rooms with anywhere from 3 to 30 people in a room (4-8 people being the most common room sizes), or you can book private rooms. Hostels also usually have lots of fun (sometimes free) activities you can do where you will meet fun, like minded travelers, and can potentially make a lifelong friend.
Go where the locals go! Get to know the people in the town and ask them where they should eat. I like to ask people in grocery stores, or locals that work at the hostels, or people who work in some of the local stores, where they would recommend grabbing a meal. Lots of them have fabulous local places you can go to that are EONS cheaper than any of the tourist restaurants, and the food is usually better.
- Be open and honest with yourself
Ask yourself, do you actually want to hit 30 countries? 50? 100? Why? Is it because you think it’s something you should aspire to? Orrrrrr is it because you want to see multiple parts of the world? Or focus on one part of the world and get to know it really well? Don’t compare yourself to other people and just have fun with it. I wanted to get 50 because there were still so many parts of the world I just hadn’t experienced, and wanted to know and understand it a little better so I could figure out where I want to spend extended periods of time. The funny thing is I thought that once I reached 50, I was going to feel the need to reach 100, but as I had hoped, I am a lot more interested in spending time delving into another culture for months at a time.. After reaching 50 countries, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what different parts of the world are like, so now I want to focus on things I love. It’s less about reaching a number, and more about experiencing that things that give me life and a wonderful appreciation for this world that we live in. But I wouldn’t have gotten to this point if it weren’t for my original goals of hitting 30 and 50.
Travel packs to take on your next adventure!
I’m so excited to hear about your travel goals. There are so many unbelievable and wonderful places to go in this world. I know it’s a cliché but the world really is your oyster and you’re capable of doing anything you set your mind to.
Blog post and photos composed by Olivia Tati.
Follow along her adventures at @theoliviatati