“How could you go back to living a mundane life?”

Cassie de Pecol is on a quest to become the fastest woman to visit every country in the world. We sometimes exchange notes about visa issues, long flights, and drinking a bottle of wine while stuck in no-man’s-land transit zone for eight hours or more.

There aren’t many people who’ve gone to every country. Cassie is pursuing a Guinness World Record (I like those too!) but for me, I wasn’t trying to be the youngest, fastest, or any other adjective. In my case, I did it for myself.

She said something to me recently that I really liked, and I’m sharing it here with her permission. For context, we were talking about the dreaded “What do you do after completing a big quest?” question.

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To Cross the Railroad Tracks, Go Against Everything You’ve Been Told


One time, long ago, I had a hard year while living in Memphis, Tennessee.

Ever since then, especially when I’ve been at events throughout the south, I’ve met a lot of people who also lived in Memphis for a time. When the subject comes up, once in a while I mention something about my hard year there, and I always add a disclaimer: “Probably it was just me.”

There are good people everywhere, and you never want to insult someone’s city. More than once, though, they’ve said “I had a hard year in Memphis too!”

As the song says, maybe it was Memphis, but maybe it was just me. Whatever it was, it wasn’t only a hard year: it was actually a terrible year where I felt very alone and afraid.

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How Does It Feel to Visit Every Country?

left Norway and began a slow journey home via the Pacific. I'm writing these notes from a Cathay Pacific flight to Tokyo, where I'll transfer on to Los Angeles after staying one night.

After the end of the world in Oslo, a lot of people have been asking:

How does it feel to visit every country in the world?

How does it feel? It feels good. I'm the same person as I was last week, and I haven't been equipped with magical powers or instant sagacity—but it's fun to know that it all worked out.

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This Magic Journey

Everything begins with a crazy idea, and this particular crazy idea comes to you in stages.

You don't decide to visit every country in the world when you haven't been out of your own neighborhood. First you go to a dozen countries in Africa, then a dozen more in Europe, and before you know it you've reached 50-country status.

That's when you start thinking about goals, and that's when you first decide to visit 100 countries before you die.

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Letter from Sydney

On a day like last Saturday, you might find yourself wrapping up a whirlwind series of events in a fun East Asian country. You might be feeling the effects of little sleep and the need to be extroverted as you present yourself in various new and unfamiliar events. Hosting a talk show on Buddhist TV, for example, or perhaps being pelted by questions in the form of paper airplanes at a less formal event for readers. It will all have been wonderful, no doubt, but you'll also be in need of a change ...

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Getting to Guinea Bissau

The biggest challenge was the uncertainty. Stepping onto the transfer bus for Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1, I considered the journey thus far and the upcoming adventure that the next few days would hold. I was coming off two weeks in India with events and media every day. Then I flew to London after two other quick stops in Singapore and Hong Kong. After making it to London I camped out in Heathrow airport for a few hours—due to flight schedules there wasn't room for a day off where I could go to the city—and then I flew down to Lisbon and eventually Dakar, Senegal.

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Q&AA: How to Plan for Your First Big Trip

Over the next few weeks, I'll be touring India and then traveling elsewhere in the world. While I'm away, we'll be publishing a new series of Questions and Attempted Answers (Q&AA) from readers. I'll share my answer, and you're invited to share an answer of your own as well.

Today's question comes from Carrie, who writes in from London.

Next summer I'll have the chance to travel for several weeks, but I don't know where to go. Aside from school trips to France and Belgium, I've never been out of the U.K. before. Where should I go?

Great question. Here's my attempted answer →

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