My Journey to Every Country in the World – FAQs
I did it! It took me over a decade of full-time travel, but finally, I achieved one of my life’s goals to visit every single country in the world! I started the day after I finished University in 2006, and finished on St Patrick’s day, in March 2017, 11 years later (I’m Irish, so I finished in style, in an Irish bar in Olso, Norway).
So if you’re wondering how I afforded to visit every country in the world, do I have rich parents or did I really go to North Korea, then here are some frequently asked questions I get when people hear about me visiting every country in the world. Hope it helps!
FAQs about visiting every country in the world
That’s actually a tricky question because it depends on what you call a country! The ‘correct’ answer is somewhere between 193 and 215 countries, the most technically correct answer is that there are 197 countries in the world, I blogged about why that number is correct here.
How did you visit every country in the world? Tell me your story in short.
I was born in Ireland, so starting there. Grew up in Northern Ireland, so that was number 2. We didn’t go on holiday until I was 14 (poor family, single-mum etc), but then we went to Frane, and I made an escape to the Netherlands and Belgium to see a girl when I was 16!. So I was on 5 countries before I went to university at 18. During my university days, I did very little other than get up to no good, drink too much and avoid studying. I did spend a couple of summers in the US working with disabled kids though, a worthwhile venture, and I made it to Canada one of those summers. So by aged 22, in 2006, I was on 7 countries.
Then, after another summer working on Summer Camps in the US after my university was finished, I did a month in medical research in Ireland which paid me $3000. Using that money in 2007 and I flew one-way to Bangkok, to teach English in Thailand, and it was there that my life changed from poor Irish kid to self-made millionaire blogger.
South East Asia
I was still broke initially and spent the next couple of years visiting almost every country in East and South-East Asia, whilst teaching English in South Korea, and Thailand. Without the luxury of a normal gap-year budget, I travelled on $15 a day (that’s accommodation, food, activities), which meant sleeping in bus stations, airports, people’s houses that I met along the way. 27, still broke, I decided to use the Working Holiday Visa Australia, where I got a job in B2B sales for a company in Sydney. Lived there for 15 months, I started my blog there, and it changed my life (NOTE: If you want to know how to start a travel blog, or start a blog about any topic, I laid it out here so you can do it in less than 30 minutes!).
I quit my job in Australia in 2010, with my new blog live and on the internet, spent $10 doing a Cape Town to Cairo trip via public transport independently, and blogged while I did it. By the end of 2010, I was 28 years old, and I had visited 49 countries. I was making $1k a month from my blog, and I travelled cheaply. I was finally free.
Move to Thailand
2011 I moved back to Thailand to focus on my blog, and to cut a long story short, within 18 months I was making $30kUSD per month online. In 2012 I overlanded from China back to Ireland, and then I travelled 9-12 months every year from then until 2017, visiting 25 countries a year or so, 2 weeks per country, when at last I visited Norway, my final country, 197/197.
Once you are making money from your laptop, and don’t have a ‘real’ job then suddenly visiting every country in the world is a lot more achievable, even if you can get to $1,000USD per month, then you’re free to travel. It was a game-changer for me.
In which order did you visit every country in the world?
Visited in Chronological order, the * denote something that isn’t a country (like Hong Kong, for example, even though it should be).
- Republic of Ireland
- The Netherlands
- South Korea
- The Philippines
- East Timor
- Sri Lanka
- South Africa
- North Korea
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Vatican City
- San Marino
- Czech Republic
- Papua New Guinea
- New Zealand
- Solomon Islands
- El Salvador
- Costa Rica
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Saint Lucia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
- Dominican Republic
- South Sudan
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Republic of Congo
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Equatorial Guinea
- Central African Republic
- Ivory Coast
- Burkina Faso
- Sierra Leone
- Cape Verde
- Federated States of Micronesia
- Marshall islands
- Saudi Arabia
= 197 countries in the world:
193 UN member states, + Palestine, Kosovo, Taiwan and the Vatican City.
How many countries are there in the world?
Good question! There are a few different answers to this – the United Nations list, the FIFA list, the travellers century club list, but I’ve gone with the most internationally recognized list, ratified by the UN, plus Palestine, Taiwan, Kosovo, and the Vatican City making 197 countries in total. I wrote about how many countries there are in the world in-depth here.
How Many People Have Visited Every Country In The World?
The last I heard, 91 people have done it (EDIT: It’s somewhere between 100 to 200). Most of whom are older Americans who sold companies, got rich and then spent their retirement hunting a new goal. I’m hoping there will be a new breed of younger people doing it, building something as they go. People like Chris Guillabeau, Lee Abbamonte and Graham Hughes have all kinda done it too, and they were a big inspiration for me, but they count airport stopovers, or stepping one foot over a border, not getting visas and getting stamped in, or flying in, staying in an airport hotel and flying out as their travels.
For me, I want to FEEL the country, and overlanding when I can so I can experience the place. Breaking records like ‘fastest person to visit every country’, in my opinion, is awful. It goes against all the beauty that travel should bring.
How long have you been doing this?
I started my travel life in 2006, the day after my final exam at university, so almost 15 years. Wow.
How long do you stay in each country to make it count?
I do this because I love travel, even over a decade later, I still love it – crossing borders, new currencies, stressing about logistics, I’m addicted to it all. And although I may only stay a couple of days in the more dangerous countries – like the time I went to Mogadishu, Somalia, historically I’ve spent a couple of weeks in each place. Now the countries are more obscure and become a little scarier, the time has reduced, but I do it for the travel, not for the box-ticking.
I know a lot of people who have completed this goal look at it slightly differently than me. As I mentioned earlier Graham Hughes – the first guy to visit every country without flying, Lee Abbamonte or Chris Guillebeau, one of my inspirations. Those guys went about it with a view to get in, get out, move on. Lee, for example, didn’t get out of the plane and transitted through many, and spent less than an hour in lots of them. Graham counted physically stepping one foot over the border, taking a photo, and moving on. Chris didn’t make it to Eritrea, just the airport, and as a travel hacker he was more about fly in for a few hours, maybe a night, nice hotel and fly out again. Cassie De Pecol spent less than 24 hours in over 100 countries, for example, eeek.
Doing it my way
Personally, I want adventure, I want crazy stories to tell my grandkids, and some crazier ones to tell in the bar. But all these guys, they helped me believe it was possible, and I’ll always, always be grateful for that. For me though, war zones aside, I like to try to ‘feel’ the country before leaving. It’s not a box-ticking exercise for me.
Where possible I overland – Japan, to East Timor, Mexico to Argentina. China to Ireland, Cape Town to Cairo. It’s fun, I get to see the countries and it’s cheaper, but sometimes it’s not possible due to visa problems etc. All that being said, I don’t really have rules as to what counts, but at the very least you’d have to get stamped in the country by their immigration, although it will be much cooler if I can actually travel throughout the country, or overland through it.
How much does it cost to travel to every country in the world?
I spent about $250,000USD to visit every country in the world. You could probably do it for about $100k if you’re fast and happy to rough it. My 250k though, that’s not as dramatic as it sounds. This was my whole life, I’ve been doing this as a lifestyle for more than a decade, so this journey is not ‘a trip’ as much as it’s my life, so equally I guess I could ask how much did your life cost over the last decade?
Probably something similar to my travels, in fact probably more. Let’s say you can do it for somewhere between $100k to $500k, I love to do everything that’s on offer, so I’m probably around the middle of that mark. Also, now I get a lot of my activities and hotels sponsored by brands and agencies due to my blog, which has helped a lot. Another HUGE benefit of blogging!
Also, the internet may have taken some of the romance of out traveling, but being able to book stuff online (even random overland journeys sometimes, look in the widget below) has made it a lot easier and cheaper than the people before me.
How do you fund this? Do you have a sponsor? You come from a rich family? etc etc etc.
I mentioned above. But of the 11 years it took me, from 2007 to 2012 I was broke, living off $15 a day or so. Then from 2012 to 2017 when I finished all 197 countries, I was making good money online blogging.
I then started my blog, OneStep4Ward.com, and started to sell advertising on it. Once I realised how online marketing, and SEO work, I started a media company, Step4WardMedia.com, so I work as I travel and it’s worked out ok in the end. Combine that with the fact that I have a team of awesome people who work with me for my companies means I can keep traveling until I reach my goal. If you wanna read more about how I make money blogging, and how you can too, read this
What was the most dangerous thing that happened to you?
I’ve had a few close calls. I’ve been to the hospital multiple times around the world, from Thailand to Korea, to Australia, even India and Burkina Faso. The most dangerous though? Either a guy getting shot in front of me in Angola, or trying to smuggle myself from Ivory Coast to Liberia during the Ebola crisis. Not good times.
What was your favourite country?
I get asked this a lot, and it’s so hard to answer! Firstly, I should say I am now based in Thailand, where I bought a condo in Bangkok. I’m in the process of building a house in Chiang Mai too. So that’s something – Thailand clearly ticked a lot of boxes for me. But it’s a great place to either live, or holiday in. Not to ‘travel’. Not to have an adventure. If I was pushed on the best place in the world to travel, I’d say it’s Socotra Island, Yemen. And lucky for you, I’m now running tours to Socotra every year, so come and join me!
What was the hardest country in the world to visit?
Visiting every country in the world is slowly getting easier as the world becomes smaller. COVID 19 aside, airfares are cheaper, visas are opening up, less war etc. But when I was doing it, the hardest countries were Saudi Arabia. It took me over a year to get the visa. Yemen. I had to hitchhike on a cargo ship for 4 days to get there due to the war. Equatorial Guinea, Algeria and Libya were tough too. Traveling to Libya was a bit crazy actually, you can read about that here.
After visiting every country in the world, what’s next?
I am trying to become the first person in history to visit every country in the world (done, the South Pole, the North Pole (done, I ran the North Pole Marathon there – crazy) and climb the Seven Summits (the highest mountain on every continent), 4/7 done.
Also, I want to start a family. I’m engaged, and building my home in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Will I slow down on these crazy adventures? I doubt it. I would love to cycle New York to San Francisco, I’d love to row across the Atlantic Ocean (EDIT 2021, I did row the Atlantic!), I want to see how quickly I can summit the highest peak in every country in Europe, and maybe even create an ultra marathon in Socotra, Yemen. Let’s see!
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