Celebrating 50 Countries!


“Remember to celebrate the milestones
as you prepare for the road ahead.”
–Nelson Mandela

There’s something magical about embarking on a Round-the World Trip. Whether you plan every destination, or just decide to wing it, you’ve probably been dreaming of it a while.

On our first RTW, we planned every stop. But on the second, we chose to wing it. We had 44 countries under our belts when we started the adventure – quickly adding Iceland, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Cyprus to reach a big milestone. Country #50 was a total, unplanned surprise – Sri Lanka!

Woohoo! According to the United Nations there are 193 member states, and The Travelers’ Century Club List identifies 327 countries and territories! Looks like we still have lots more places left to explore! Yay!

So we’ve been reminiscing about our favorite – or most enduring memories from each country, and thought you might enjoy them. Here are the first 25:

1. Austria. “I’m embarrassed to admit that my main reason for going to Vienna was to fulfill a childhood dream of seeing the Lipizzaner stallions perform … only to discover that they were on tour … in America! I finally got to see them a few years later … in Florida, of all places!” ~Terri

2. Belgium. We’d been on the road for weeks, Eurailing around Europe when we discovered Bruges – the quintessential medieval village. We stayed in a garage apartment for a week, rented bikes, and learned every road in town. It was just the relaxing break we needed. We returned recently, and in addition to re-visiting a still-fabulous Bruges, we discovered a new favorite – Antwerp.

3. Belize. “As an ex-British colony, Belize is a pleasant destination for English-speaking tourists, but I wasn’t there for fun in the sun. I was working with a seismic crew doing oil exploration in the jungles in the far north. Belize was my first encounter with a serious international illness: dengue hemorrhagic fever. I have many fond memories of the country, but truthfully, to this day, Belize to me means dengue.” ~James

4. Bosnia and Herzegovina. We went there on a whim from Croatia! James was looking at the map and said, “Hey, we’re only 75 miles from the border!” It was interesting in an eye-opening, sobering way. It falls in the category of “we don’t need to go back, but we’re glad we went”. Their war, like all wars, was senseless, incredibly destructive, and the impacts will linger for years.

5. Canada. If there’s a bumper sticker “Canada is for Campers!” then we need it. We’ve camped from one end of Canada to the other, pitching our tent from Victoria, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

6. China. Experiencing the Great Wall was a rush in so many ways! We nearly got pushed over the edge by the crowd when the path narrowed. And the Terracotta Army in Xi’an … we were in awe!

7. Colombia. “I visited Colombia on business a few times, and although it’s a gorgeous country, scouting the Magdalena Valley for a seismic operation was risky business. American executives were tasty kidnap targets for the ‘criminales,’ and the embassy recommended traveling with a bodyguard. It was a necessary evil, but one of the weirdest experiences of my travel life.” ~James

8. Costa Rica. Absolutely spectacular – a natural wonderland. Gliding through the rainforest on a tree-top gondola, we were awestruck by the beauty and diversity of the flora and fauna.

9. Croatia. “I was totally gobsmacked by Dubrovnik. I’d never seen stone streets so worn by foot traffic that they appeared polished!” ~Terri

10. Cyprus. “Nearly walking across the Green Line … without realizing it!” ~James

Prague J bundled up

11. Czech Republic. For most travelers the Czech Republic means Prague, just as it did for us. We’d heard great things about the city and it didn’t disappoint. But, we managed to arrive for one of the coldest winters in decades, and we learned a couple of valuable lessons. First, unless you’re an Arctic explorer, record cold will test the mettle of even the hardiest of tourists, and second, there’s a reason those airfares are so low. Caveat emptor.  

12. Denmark. I was a geophysicist working on a North Sea seismic boat for a month, and after docking in Esbjerg, I headed straight to Copenhagen for a few days of R&R. It was my first trip to Denmark and the fancy hotel was lovely, but the highlight of the visit was a bed that didn’t move.” ~James

13. Egypt. “As a kid I always wanted to be an archaeologist. After our life in Sudan and exposure to some of the earliest pyramids in Meroe, I couldn’t wait to see their cousins in Cairo, then explore the wonders of Luxor. It didn’t disappoint.” ~Terri

14. Finland. Normally, we’re not big on re-visits, but on a few of our recent trips to Europe, we’ve returned to cities that, for whatever reason, we gave short shrift previously. Helsinki fits in this category. 

On a January trip to Stockholm, Sweden (What were we thinking?) we took a last-minute cruise on “The Cinderella” to Helsinki – our first and only cruise I might add. Of course, it’s January and it’s Helsinki, so it’s frigid. With our tolerance for cold about at an end, we were drawn by the faint sound of music and the hope of heat. Our ears led us to Temppeliaukio – a church  and concert venue carved out of bedrock with an astounding copper dome roof. The music was sublime … and the heat didn’t hurt either! It was a magical moment.

On our return trip, we found much more pleasant weather and a beautiful city filled with wonders. ~James

15. France. “I’m a lover of all things French. In addition to the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries at Musée de Cluny, I really wanted to see the legendary Gothic Church Sainte-Chapelle on Ile de la Cite in Paris. Nothing prepared me for the luminous, soaring, stained glass chapel that appears almost weightless. I was so articulate I couldn’t stop saying, “Oh wow … Oh wow!” ~Terri

16. Germany. We lived in Berlin, and remember the first time we took the tram through former East Berlin – the remnants of the Wall and bullet-riddled buildings brought to life events we had only seen on the news. And of course there’s WWII and the Nazis … sad beyond words. This was our first encounter with “real history”.

17. Greece. “Visiting Santorini was a long-term dream come true after falling in love with it … in Dallas! ~Terri

18. Hungary. We went to Budapest just as communism was thawing and capitalism was a young experiment. Our favorite memory is of the “lace ladies” who stood along all public sidewalks, displaying their wares in their hands, only to sit down abruptly when they sensed “the law” was nearby.

19. Iceland.  “Since Reykjavik was the first stop on our second RTW, we were ready to take on the world! We strolled around town, hand in hand, and performed The Key Ceremony – the perfect ending of one adventure and beginning of a new journey.” ~Terri

20. India. “The scariest thing we’ve ever done was go on a Tiger Safari in Ranthambore National Park (in an open-top jeep). We had a good safari and were lucky to spot a few of the elusive cats, but as the sun was setting, the driver got lost! He couldn’t find his way out of the Tiger Preserve. As night descended, he drove in circles, and our situation became more dire. Incredibly, James had paid attention to the stars the previous night and managed to navigate our way out by the stars. My Hero!” ~Terri

21. Indonesia. Bali knocked our socks off – particularly Ubud. “The elegant simplicity of everyday life is stunning. From the grand scale of the terraced rice patties to the tiny food offerings placed on sidewalks each day. These little ‘canang sari’ usually consist of rice and flowers in hand-woven palm baskets. They’re a Hindu ritual of giving back what has been given to you by the gods … so we learned – don’t step on them!” ~Terri

22. Ireland. We were living and working in London, and needed to take a break to clear our heads, so we went to Dublin to see the stunning Book of Kells. That’s where we made the life-changing decision to leave our jobs in London and return to the US.

23. Italy. “The Cinque Terre is an awesome hiking path along the rocky Mediterranean coast that passes through five stunning villages. On our trek, some parts of the path were supposedly closed off with tall fences, but you know that never stops us. We scaled the fences and relished the hike. It was absolutely worth it.” ~Terri

24. Jordan. Petra and its charming Bedouins – every minute of it! ‘Nuf said.

25. Kenya. We were on our way back to our home in Khartoum, Sudan after a Christmas visit to our families in the States. On a whim, we decided to take a side trip to Kenya. We inquired at our Nairobi hotel about arranging a safari, and the next day we were in a jeep on our way to a camp. This tent was our home for the next week of one of the most incredible adventures of our lives.

Kenya Safari.jpg

Now get ready for  Part II … the next 25 countries!

Terri and James

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

18 thoughts

    1. Hi Nicole, We had many years early on when our travel was very limited – life just got in the way. I think that once we decided to make it a priority (both financial and scheduling) we started to discover new and fun (and cheap) ways to travel. I think that 6 countries is a glorious start (or finish, for that matter!). Just do what you love, the number doesn’t matter! All the best, Terri

    1. Thanks Julie, I’m with you about the counting. James and I laugh because we never got the question until after we started the blog, so one night we sat down and tried to write down all the places we’ve been. It was hilarious and I think we laughed and reminisced all night. THAT’s what it’s all about. I saw that you’re working on your memoir – I bet that’s a wonderful read. How’s it coming? All the best, Terri

  1. This is wonderful. I have just about crossed 20 countries and long way to go….I love the way you expressed your specific memories of each place !!

    1. Thanks you so much! It was fun to sit down with James and see what stories came to mind when we talked about certain countries. And we’re the first to admit, it really doesn’t matter how many countries you visit as long as you’re having fun and learning. All the best, Terri

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words. Our life together has been this incredibly fun journey … that just keeps getting better! I’m so glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

  2. A wonderful post. I really appreciated the tidbit of information that summed each up. Enough to drool over and keep on planning. I loved Ubud as well and was enchanted, intrigued and overwhelmed by India, not enough though to not dream of going back. Hopefully am making my way to Egypt and Jordan shortly as everyone, like yourselves, speaks so highly of Petra and Luxor. Happy continued travels, Cheryl

    1. Thanks Cheryl. We love antiquities and Petra and Luxor are two of our absolute favorites. Cairo is a fascinating city with wonderful architecture and museums, but for ruins and tombs, Luxor and the Valley of Kings has no equal. And if you’ve read our series of Petra posts you know how much we enjoyed visiting there. And for us, an equal on this list is Machu Picchu. If you haven’t been, it should also be on your radar. ~James

      1. Thanks James. I have seen MP twice and loved it both times. Can’t wait to see the others though… something new is always exciting.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Travel gets into one’s blood, and luckily for us, we’re simpatico when it comes to a traveling lifestyle. All the best. ~James

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