Would you like to see 50 new countries? That’s our current world travel challenge. We’ve been lucky to travel to some great places and now after raising kids, we’ve decided to hit the road again and expand our world view.
We set a goal of 50 countries to visit in our 50s. It’s not 50 countries before 50, it’s 50 new countries in our 50s.
Here’s the real question – do you have a travel goal of your own? Do you dream of seeing the 7 Wonders of the World or traveling to all 50 States?
If you’re looking for interesting countries to travel all over the world, or just some grand adventures, then read on.
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How it Started – The 50 States Travel Challenge
When a friend made a comment about visiting all 50 States, it really struck me. I had never thought about it, which is funny because it’s on a lot of bucket lists.
I went home to see how many states Guy and I had visited – around 40. Of course, my little motivated self now needed to go to all 50.
We set up 3 trips to see the last 10 states. The first trip was a midwest loop – drop the kid off at college in Wisconsin then Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.
We had some great experiences like Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in a gas station with a line out the door because it’s really that good.
Seeing a Royals game the year they ended up going to the World Series – apparently we are good luck charms. And finding out that downtown Omaha is so charming.
The final trip being 10 days in Alaska. It definitely pushed us to take the trip we had been putting off (Alaska) and find interesting sights in places we had never considered trip worthy.
All of these experiences cemented the idea that if you push outside of the usual travel destinations, you can find some amazing experiences that you would have never found had you not done the challenge.
Our World Travel Challenge – 50 Countries in Our 50s
When we started the challenge, there were so many people living as world travel digital nomads, doing things like 100 countries before they’re 30 or going to all 195 countries.
We want our challenge to be a framework but truly want to experience the places we visit. And we only want to go to places that are safe!
50 new countries over a span of 10 years is doable and exciting. It’s small enough to get to know the destinations and it’s big enough to be a challenge.
What Counts as a Country?
This may sounds like a silly question but there are many sources that vary on what is actually a country. The United Nations has 193 member countries and 2 observer countries, Holy See (the Vatican) and Palestine.
So what is not a country? A territory of another country like Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands or Aruba. Also countries like Scotland and Wales that are governed within the United Kingdom.
We counted Scotland and Wales as countries for our world challenge, since they are in fact countries, but not in our overall total.
Guy and I have now been to 69 countries each. The 38 countries listed below are the ones we visited since the challenge started.
- Bosnia Herzokovina
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
We will travel to 12 more countries over the next 5 years, which will bring the world total to 81. Traveling as flashpackers helped us catch up after we lost time in 2020-2021.
This countries visited map is where I’ve been so far. Guy has been to the same number of countries but more in Asia.
Some Travel Challenge Ideas
- All 195 Countries or a certain amount of countries
- 7 Continents
- 7 Wonders of the World – Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Machu Piccu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Mexico, The Colosseum in Rome, Taj Mahal in India, Petra in Jordan
- The Seven Summits – a climbing challenge around the world
- 50 states, 50 states by a certain age, 50 Marathons in 50 states
- Interesting hotel types – Finland Glass Igloos, the best Marrakech Riads, glamping at Morocco Desert Luxury Camps or Wadi Rum Bubble Hotels, cave hotels in Cappadocia or Matera, Italy or a historic Trulli Hotel or Masserie in Puglia.
Executing a Travel Challenge
Planning – A travel challenge that has you going all over the world is most rewarding if it is well planned. Some things to consider:
- Time – Depending on when and for how long you can take a vacation, time is a huge consideration. For some, taking a longer trip and visiting multiple countries in a region will work better. For others, it might be multiple trips around school vacations.
- Money – Some people can spend whatever they want and others are on a strict budget. Do you want to go places in the shoulder season for lower costs and less crowds? Are you open to capsule hotels or lower price accommodations?
- Festivals and Events – In addition to making a list of countries I want to visit, I also made a list of the time of year I might like to be there. For instance, the Lantern Festival in Chang Mai is in November. The lavender in Provence is at it’s peak in July. I’ve already been to Thailand and France but I will probably visit countries near there during those times.
- Carbon Footprint – For me it’s important to take into account the impact of my activities on the world. I don’t want to fly somewhere, come home and go back to that same vicinity later. We do our best plan out travel to minimize the amount of flying.
Helpful Tools for World Travel Ideas
Books & Maps
- Where to go When tells you the best places in the world to travel by month.
- Destinations of a Lifetime is a beautiful book of world travel inspiration.
- 50 States 5,000 Ideas is perfect if you are doing a U.S. state challenge.
- Here’s a great list of books about travel and self discovery that will definitely give you some inspiration.
- World Travel Maps – to chart your progress Scratch Off Travel Map or Where I’ve Been App.
I love this addictive website with lots of lists is listchallenges.com. Use it to figure out where you have been around the world and where you want to travel to next.
I have a love/hate thing with Instagram. I recently clicked on a before and after makeup reel and even though I rarely wear makeup, I now have a whole feed of makeup tutorials.
So I had to control myself and only click on beautiful destinations (and a few puppies because I can’t help it). Now l get tons of ideas that leads me to pages with tons of ideas.
I set up folders in my Instagram saved file and I categorize them by area. When we are going somewhere like Spain, I open the Spain folder and voilà!
If I’m being super honest, I took a big old Instagram break and I looked at my Spain folder AFTER we went to Spain and I missed something I would have loved to see. Costa Brava – we’ll be back!
Pinterest is a great place to find images to pin into your own travel folders. Search by location and click through the images to find helpful travel websites that reach every corner of the world.
I’m on Pinterest regularly and it’s a great place to reach for itineraries, travel tips and travel inspiration.
FAQs About Our 50 Countries World Travel Challenge
Why are you doing it?
First, we love travel and have a serious case of wanderlust. Second, we never know how long we’ll be on the planet or how long we’ll be healthy enough to travel. Read our story to know why.
How do you afford to travel so much?
In 2012, I mastered travel hacking, earning miles to travel from credit cards. It allowed us to start doing a lot of international travel since we were getting flights and hotels for almost free.
Now as full-time digital nomads, we consider our hotel expense like most people think of their rent or mortgage. We still have an income because we work but we don’t have a housing expense.
We rotate between vacation rentals, boutique hotels and modest hotels when we can find a great one. That allows us to feel better about splurging for a great hotel here and there.
Have you had any problems traveling?
I would be lying if I said travel is all roses. Let’s face it, we’re talking about airplanes, airports, crowds, weather and all kinds of things that give everyone trouble.
I’ve gotten food poisoning in Cuba, missed a few flights, and was actually bitten by a panda in China. But…there’s almost nothing I’d rather do than travel so I take it in stride.
Do you take all your trips together?
We travel on most trips together now but I used to stay longer when Guy had to go back to an office for work. Now that we’re both full-time digital nomads, it’s so much better.
Do you miss home?
We definitely miss home, however, we talk to our kids and our parents at least every other day. You know when you see something and think, I wish so and so was here right now, well, we call them on FaceTime and share it.
It helps having a Portugal phone number that we can use throughout the EU. If we travel outside our coverage area, we get an E-SIM online and our phones work instantly wherever we travel.
We catch up with the rest of our family and friends as much as possible but being on different time zones makes it much harder. It’s one of the major downsides to full time travel.
How far are you in the journey? Will you make your goal?
We thought we would finish the 50 countries faster than 10 years but the lack of travel from 2020-2022 impacted the goal.
Thankfully moving to Portugal, put us much closer to many countries on our list. We only have 12 left and 4.5 years to complete it.
We never put this goal above seeing the places we really want to visit. We have road tripped all over Spain, France, Italy and Portugal seeing almost every major destination and lots of little hidden gems.
But the icing on the cake of return visits was the Lyon Fête des Lumières. Put this early December event on your Europe Bucket List right now!
If this post inspires you to go somewhere great, we’re thrilled. If you have any questions about how to set up a travel challenge, let us know in the comments below. We also love hearing great ideas. Happy travels!