Romaine is the only known Jamaican and Caribbean person to visit all countries in the world – a fresh success on which we congratulate him! Full-time work and only 2 weeks of vacation time a year didn’t stop him from reaching his goal.
Although we interviewed him in June this year, he kindly shared an additional photo and replied to one more question for us. All so we could reflect on his success from only two days ago when Romaine landed in Antigua and Barbuda – his last in the count of 195 countries.
In Antigua celebrating my final and 195th country
Romaine, let us open with some things about you. Where do you come from, when and how did you start travelling?
Hi, my name is Romaine, I was born and raised in Jamaica and migrated to the USA in 2007. This was my first time flying and travelling to a foreign country.
Travelling started out slowly with my first birthday trip to Argentina, then another trip to Argentina to continue the trip to Machu Picchu with a budget travel friend. It was on that trip I cracked the code for travelling when I realised there were budget accommodations called hostels. From there on I figured out how to travel more without breaking the bank.
At Wadi D’oan, Yemen
Where do you live now and how did this impact your travelling? You also work full time, right? How do you manage to combine travel with work?
I currently live in San Francisco, California, the same location since I first migrated from Jamaica. San Francisco is a great location for travelling to Asia and The Pacific countries, but not so much for other parts of the world, but with more and more trans-Atlantic flights, along with Turkish airlines things have been ok these days.
I currently work full-time as a ground operations agent for a major American airline company, which helps a lot with my travelling as I get discounted tickets. The hardest part is getting the time off to travel, as I have to trade a lot of shifts in order to get time off to travel – but I have been able to make it happen for a long time now since I only get 2 weeks vacation time off per year.
Walking through the Arch of Septimius Severus, Tripoli, Libya
Overlooking Detwah lagoon on the island of Socotra, Yemen
Seems like you are only 4 countries away from your goal of reaching all 193 countries. Which ones are you missing now?
At the moment I only have 3 countries away from reaching my goal of 195, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea and Antigua. The first two countries mentioned have some form of Covid restrictions i.e. closed like Eritrea, but hoping to finish this year.
In a traditional house converted to restaurant in Ghadames, Libya
Do you have a specific deadline to visit the remaining countries and do you expect any problems getting to the remaining ones?
Well, I wanted to finish this year 2022 before my birthday which is in August and before my 37th birthday which originally I was hoping to finish by age 33, but with work and now the pandemic I have way passed my finish age.
At Babylon gate (Ishtar gate), Babylon, Iraq
How did your heritage influence your travels? Did it make it easier in some ways and more difficult in others?
My heritage did not influence my travels as I am the first traveller in my family. I was inspired to explore the world by watching National Geographic, and that gave me the desire to see more of the world. After visiting Peru, it was clear to me that travelling was my passion and from that moment on I started travelling more intensely.
Having coffee from the Teaman in Aleppo, Syria
Here is an obvious one: is it easier to travel on a Jamaican or a US passport? Can you compare the experiences?
Generally speaking, it is easier to travel on a US passport as it gives you more access. However, the two balance each other well as I use my Jamaican passport wherever I can’t use my US passport.
At local animal market in Niamey, Niger
What are your biggest travel interests? What do you like to explore the most?
My biggest travel interests are exploring local culture, cultural festivals such as Gerewol, landscapes and visiting tribes. Out of these, I like to explore tribes the most as I find it really interesting to explore their way of living.
At the Gerewol festival in Niger
Please share some travel stories with us. What are some of the most surprising moments that you remember from your travels?
Story 1 – Dinner in Aleppo: While visiting Syria in February 2020, we were invited for dinner in the city of Aleppo at the Baron Hotel, the oldest hotel in Syria. The city has been destroyed the most during the Syrian war. While we were eating, we could hear bombs going off from nearby. It was a very surreal experience in many ways, and very scary.
Story 2 – Sleepover at a Mundari village: after visiting the Mundari village, I was planning to go back to my tent which was just across the river. However, the river was very strong which made it impossible to cross, so I had to find another place for the night. I was offered a place to sleep in the Mundari camp with the boys and sheep and ended up sleeping on a makeshift bed, covered with goat skin and an AK47 under me, surrounded by Mundari children who were sleeping directly on the ground with the goats, sheep and the dog.
Story 3 – Sleeping on the rooftop in Mali: while arriving at Djenne in Mali during night hours, we checked into our hotel and once we saw the room, we quickly decided that it was not possible to sleep in as it was too filthy. So we took our mattresses and went to the hotel rooftop to sleep under the open sky, full of stars, hoping that no one would notice us, as Mali is a quite dangerous place for foreigners.
At the Grand Mosque in Djenne, Mali
None of the travellers like to be asked, but if you would have to pick, what would be your top 3 countries on each continent (where applicable, of course)?
In South America:
In North America:
In The Pacific:
- Papua New Guinea
Holding a crocodile in Bazoule complex, Burkina Faso
How did your general view of the world change with travelling?
Coming from the US where racism is widely spread, I was assuming that I would experience racism during my travels. I was, however, surprised to discover that there is not as much racism as I thought there would be.
Generally, I have been positively surprised by people as most people around the world are very welcoming and helpful. Especially in poor countries and more dangerous places, I found that people are extremely hospitable.
On top of the Samara spiral minaret, Iraq
After finishing your goal to travel to all countries, what is next? (This question was asked/answered in June 2022, about 3 months before Romaine visited the last of the 4 remaining countries.)
After visiting all 195 countries, my goal is to explore many of the countries in more depth. I want to experience more local festivals and see more tribes around the world.
Under a blood dragon tree in Socotra, Yemen
How does it feel now that you have achieved your goal? Did anything change and do you wish to continue travelling as before? (This question was asked and kindly answered in September 2022, only 3 days after Romaine visited the last of 195 countries.)
I am feeling beyond excited and very grateful to have accomplished this goal which less than 300 known people in the world have accomplished, and to be the first Jamaican, and first known Caribbean person is even more impressive.
Nothing will change except I might get more sleep now moving forward. I will still continue travelling the world visiting festivals, tribes, and other bucket list places that I’ve always wanted to see.
At a museum in Herat, Afghanistan
What can travel teach us about the world? Do you imagine our world would be different if more people saw more of it?
Travelling teaches us a lot about life. It teaches us to be more open-minded towards other people and their culture in the sense of being more understanding. It makes us better human beings.
I imagine the world would be different if more people got to explore more of it as people would be more understanding towards each other’s differences.
In front of The Royal Museum of Bamoun, Cameroon.jpg
What would you recommend to fresh travellers who might want to replicate your story?
Set your priorities straight and start small. There is no reason to rush your way to see all the countries. It takes time and a lot of money. Work hard and save up.
At the Door to hell (Darvaza gas crater), Turkmenistan
We have a signature question that we ask all of our guests: if you could invite 4 people from any era to dinner, who would your guests be and why?
My guests would be:
Mandela – because I think we share the same common values such as equality, freedom and democracy. We could have some good talks about these subjects.
Oprah W. – because Oprah is a very inspiring person. I’ve been following her career and love the way she interviews people and the topics she covers. I have a lot of questions for this woman.
Obama – because Obama is a cool person, down to earth. I believe we could have some good conversations about world politics, his time at the White House and the food on Airforce One.
Halle Berry – because who wouldn’t want to have dinner with Halle Berry?
At my Yurt in Mongolia