It is 2018. I have travelled to 100 countries. My journeys and love for travel began when I was just a naïve but enthusiastic teenager. With my parents, I first visited much of Bangladesh and India. My first solo country was Thailand in 2007. In 2009, I sold all my personal jewelry. My parents did not want to support me, so I didn't have that much money. It was never easy without my parents money. You may not be aware, but most embassies require a traveler to show a healthy bank statement before they will grant a visa.
I’m glad that my parents finally understood my struggles after a couple years of my random solo traveling. They eventually gave me emergency access to money and use of their bank statements.
Even at this point, after 100 countries it has not always been easy. I actually got thrown into Vietnam’s immigrant jail back in 2010. At that time, I had seen only 8 countries. I had not yet been to USA, Australia, or the United Kingdom. I had a problem in Vietnam of not having an onward destination ticket. The immigration officials wouldn’t allow me to enter Vietnam. They put me in immigration jail at the airport for 23 hours. It was the hardest time in my life! I’ll never forget that scary night in my life. A similar problem arose in Cyprus just because of my Bangladeshi passport.
Many people say I have become a bold, confident and courageous young woman! I do usually believe in myself. Part of the reason I set out in 2007 was because of my friend’s mother pointing her finger and gossiping. Saying I was a “weak, simple and useless loser.” Back in 2009, my goal was to marry after visiting 50 countries. Despite tradition,it was not the right time for that important life event. Well, I did change that marriage goal to possibly come after 100 countries but I am definitely not the “weak, simple, and useless loser!”
Unless you’ve personally seen the rich cultures, eaten and tried to cook their foods, witnessed traditions, and enjoyed the art and music you won’t know the life changing joy of travelling. I have experienced both hardships and successes of world travel. You might not fully understand that those wealthy economies did not happen by accident..
Yes, I have had good fortune and help from family and friends but my much loved New Zealand has often been my “hub” from where over half of my world has been explored. I have worked to save and pay for a lot of this by working with the Red Cross, in real estate, as a tour guide and as a waitress. I also do social work and I network worldwide with Rotary International.
I still sometimes briefly feel like I am a loser. It has not always been easy. In 2014, I might have ended up as a Colombian street beggar. In Bogota Colombia, I got my pocket picked and my bank courier service could not arrange a quick solution. I survived for 17 days on very little money until my card arrived. I discovered warm-hearted generous people everywhere I went! People gave me rides between cities or welcomed me into their homes. For example, after my pocket was picked, I only had $180. A worried Colombian guy gave me his food. The nicest hotel owner helped me find a hostel to stay at half price.
As with most countries, part of the experience is negotiating and surviving the language barriers. I can now speak bits and pieces of Spanish tongues and English fairly fluently. This was not true, there in Bogota where only Spanish is spoken.
Because of the theft, I received a form in Spanish, which at that time, I could not understand, but it gave me a half-price fare to help me reach Brazil, where the Fifa World Cup was being held. Fortunately, my Bangladeshi banker, Sazal Roy sent my Amex card with my Bangladeshi Photo journalist friend Nazmul Bappi who was covering the “Fifa world cup 2014 in Brazil.
I have learned so much from the cultures of each and every country. I now keep contact and often meet my fellow adventure seekers and travelers many times. These friendships and strengthening experiences are more valuable than money or that ex-boyfriend and her petty mother. I really live in this big wonderful world that most people have only read about in a textbook, seen on a TV documentary or looked at on a map.
Unless you’ve personally seen the rich cultures, eaten and tried to cook their foods, traditions, art you will have a hard time knowing anything other than your own local spot on a map. I have witnessed both the hardships and the success. You might not fully understand that those wealthy economies did not happen by accident. They have sound economic systems. Money and wealth just doesn’t fly out of the sky. Everywhere in this world people who succeed are willing to work and use their brains to get ahead. Yes, I have had good fortune and help from my family and friends but my much loved New Zealand has often been my “hub” from where over half of my world has been explored. I have worked to save and pay for a lot of this working with the Red Cross, in Real Estate, as a tour guide and as a waitress. I also network world wide with Rotary International.
“Weak and simple loser?” What do you think?
I love how Spanish speaking Mexico has managed to maintain its rich and unique heritage and culture while also embracing a modern and changing world. Like almost all countries politics cause unrest and lots of complaints. Some are better off than others.
Of the 100 countries, among those local citizens, I risked discussing the delicate subject of politics and government. I found only a couple of countries where these people were content with their present government: Germany, Bolivia, Chile, Samoa, Niue, Thailand and Albania. Someday I would like to be able to say that about my Bangladesh!
These kinds of dramas do not deter me. I returned from the Fifa World Cup in Moscow Russia, after a short stop in China for the Great Wall, museums, circus with good friends. Iris lives in Beijing. She and I traveled through Latin America together.
Cody and I met up in Beijing where he, I and Iris enjoyed the famous Beijing Circus and opera. He and I first met in 2012 in Fiji.
I lived for sometime in Chicago. The famous Niagra Falls and “The Big Apple” New York has found me experiencing the city that never sleeps and the Lady Liberty. I even made it as far south as sunny Florida in preparation for my trip to Cuba. Many Americans have not seen as much of that country as I have. Toronto, Canada is where I attended a convention of my Rotary International with my uncle. I then rode a camel in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, trekked the mountains of Georgia and in Azerbaijan.
Where will I go next? When will I reach my 101 country goal? Will I find a husband? Will I be content staying home? Somebody said, “It is the journey and not the destination that really matters.” I have to say I agree.
The writer is an enthusiastic traveller.