From corporate America to World Traveler – Over the past few years I’ve gone swimming in shark infested waters, ziplining in a cloud forest, been just steps away from orangutans in the wild, hiked up a volcano, gone snorkeling with massive whale sharks, hiked to the top of Machu Picchu, had a monkey literally jump on my back, climbed The Great Wall of China, gone volcano boarding, visited the real Tomb Raider locations in Cambodia, eaten brains in a hotpot Chengdu, explored the pyramids in Teotihuacan, and photographed animals in the wild that I had never even heard of (tarsiers, macaques, hornbills, proboscis monkeys). I wasn’t always this adventurous.
I’ve now been to 54* countries, but I didn’t even have my own passport for the first two decades of my life. My first job after college came with a sweet perk – a trip Sydney, Australia, to work at the Paralympic Games. It opened my eyes to so much. My first experience abroad was in the opposite hemisphere. I was working with people from around the world and it opened my eyes to a new passion. After spending a month and a half in Australia after college (working for most of it), I came back with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for new travel experiences, new cultures, and new sights around the world. It’s addictive!
I’ve always been really curious, but now that carried over into travel. At the time Australia sounded like the most exotic place I could possibly visit, but on hindsight it’s not that different of a culture from the one I grew up in New York. I took baby steps – my next trip was a cruise around the Caribbean, and decided that while I could see how cruises are great for some people, they’re not right for me. A vacation at an all-inclusive resort with a relaxing beach was nice (and importantly, as a recent college graduate with loans, within my price range), but I didn’t get to truly experience that country. I had a thirst to really explore, but felt a little inner conflict since that meant getting out of my comfort zone.
That all changed a few years later – my comfort zone would be vastly expanded with my trip to Costa Rica. It was a little scary at the time. After years of academic spanish, I was still hopeless at communicating with native speakers of that language (this is still on my to-do list). My Lonely Planet Costa Rica didn’t tell me if the roads were well-paved (they weren’t), or if it would it be safe (it was!). I went and loved it. It was incredible, and my Costa Rica experience was the next giant leap in my transition from vacationer to traveler.
I started dreaming of different things I wanted to do, and places I wanted to visit. I made bucket lists with specific travel goals, and one of them felt particularly ambitious…
I want to visit all 50 states, and 50 countries, by age 50. Each and every state and every country in the world probably has something fascinating about them that make them worth visiting. Most people that hear this think I’m crazy. “50 States and 50 countries by age 50? Is that even possible?” It’s become a game among my friends that travel and they keep track. When fellow travelers first hear of my goal, they immediately start counting. [I’ll give you a moment to count how many you’ve visited…]
Most trips were short, week-long trips, but I eventually did my longest trip ever – I traveled for a half year, covering 15* countries! My family and friends at home and around the world were very curious – many hadn’t met anyone that had traveled that long on the other side of the globe. They had LOTS of questions. How can you afford a trip like this? Were you scared to travel alone? Did you really go swimming with sharks?? What was it like to see baby elephants in the wild? Do you miss home? What was it like the first time you were surrounded by monkeys? I love your photos – what camera do you use? What’s a proboscis monkey? Did you learn their language? What crazy things did you eat? How much did it all cost? How’d you find such cheap flights and hotels? Where in the world are you now??
Hence the birth of this travel and photo blog, at Visit50.com, for people to follow my travels, to showcase my travel photography, and most importantly, to inspire people to explore the world. I’m chronicling my trips around the world, starting with my half-year trip around the world (primarily southeast Asia), with the hope of inspiring you to start your own adventure. Along the way I’ll post little anecdotes, observations, stories, photos, and eventually answer questions that provide travel tips for your own adventures.
Do remember the never-ending stream of “why” questions that kids ask? I never lost that curiosity, so when I visit a new destination, I want to learn everything I can. So in addition to stories of my journeys and photography from my adventures, I’ll post about the best things I learn. If you felt a brief moment of ignorance when you learned about something in my adventures, fear not – I probably felt the same thing, and want to make it easy for you to learn what I just learned. I didn’t know what a tarsier or thresher shark or whale shark was either, so this site will provide a quick primer on each species I found interesting, each aspect of culture I found surprising, and each piece of architecture that caught my eye.
If you don’t see the answer, drop me a note in the comments (bottom of each post) or contact me.
I travel. I write. I photograph.
Note: The 50 and 50 by 50 game is just a fun way to keep track, but some of my friends have become fiercely competitive. What counts as a visit? What counts as a country? Curious how many countries and states I’ve been to?
* Total amount of countries visited depends on if you count Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China as the same country or as separate unique countries. There’s much debate and support for both sides. Explained here: What counts as a country?
Using this site: at the top, mouse over “Destinations” and you’ll see a cascading drop-down menu of the countries that I’ve written about and posted my photos from so far. More to come! Hover your mouse over top section “Posts with…” if you want to skip right to the posts with the best photography, just the posts with wildlife, sharks and SCUBA diving, stunning architecture, impressive sunsets, or mouth-watering food. The left column will be more visual, tempting you to explore different adventures or topics.