After decades of traveling separately and together, Rachel Davey and Martina Sebova have each visited more than 100 of the 195 United Nations-recognized countries and territories on Earth.
The pair, who met during a land tour of Europe in 2008, first spoke about the possibility of visiting the 88 or so countries on the list when they were having coffee together in Melbourne, Australia.
They soon decided to spend the next two years together.
The idea of traveling to so many new destinations in a relatively short period of time was somewhat daunting, but Sebova says that with more than half the world’s countries already on the road, things have become much easier. .
“If I had to visit every country, if I’ve been to like 10, I would be terrified,” the travel blogger told CNN Travel. No need to travel well. [before doing something like this].”
The excited couple then started planning big trips, saving as much money as possible to cover travel expenses, with the goal of spending about 5-7 days in each country.
Davey and Sebova, who had been together for about a decade at this point before departing in 2018, decided not to reveal they were a couple and simply travel as friends.
“It was very natural,” Sebova said, explaining that they didn’t want to risk being denied entry as they were applying for visas in some conservative countries.
“We were visiting many countries where the concept of same-sex couples didn’t even exist,” she adds. “And at no stage did we want to jeopardize our personal safety.”
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), there are about 70 countries in the world where same-sex relationships are criminalized.
Davey and Sebova said acting like they were just best friends “wasn’t that big of a change” and people often assumed they were sisters.
“It was never a big deal,” adds Davey. “We didn’t try to cover it, we just didn’t cover it. [tell anyone].”
The two, who document their trips on the website “Very Hungry Nomads”, tried to visit the rest of the countries in geographical order as much as possible, choosing to travel by land as much as possible.
Their first country visit was North Korea, and they later visited Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan and Pakistan.
In 2019, they spent six months traveling through Central Africa, but after a while they said the grueling bus journey took its toll on them.
“We tried to get from point A to point B by bus for 38 hours, sometimes changing vehicles,” explains Sebova.
The two say some of their best experiences have been in destinations they were more cautious about before visiting.
“The people of Sudan and Iran were the friendliest people we have met,” adds Sebova. “And most people would think those countries are really dangerous based on their image. [we see].”
Eritrea, a small country based in East Africa, and the Caribbean island of Dominica were among the other prominent countries they visited.
Sebova said the fact that they were married, childless women in their late 30s caused some controversy in some of the countries they visited.
“There’s a cultural difference between being a woman and traveling without a man,” she explains. “I was denied some visas because of that.”
While many of their friends had chosen to invest their savings in mortgages and businesses over the years, Davey and Sebova describe themselves as nomads and “willingly spend their money to travel and worry about later.”
Davey has an Australian passport, but Sebova has a Slovak passport, which sometimes caused problems applying for a visa.
“Sometimes we say, ‘You can get it here. [but I can’t] I threw a spanner in there,” explains Davey.
After years of traveling together, the pair are well aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and each take on different tasks while traveling.
They say Sebova is more naturally organized and focused on making sure the day goes as smoothly as possible, while Davey is “frivolous” and less adept when it comes to navigation. explains.
“Rach gets lost in the hotel,” jokes Sebova, who also works as a tour guide. “I always say it’s a miracle she made it through all the countries. We make a great team,” she said.
They’ve been around for about two years, and when the pandemic hit, they were just 10 countries away from reaching their goal.
The pair, who were in London at the time, opted for a flight to Australia, but border restrictions at the time inevitably forced them to put the rest of their trip on hold.
However, they continued to travel, buying a campervan and opting to drive around the country “with the looming Australian border”.
“We ended up circling Australia in 18 months and spent a lot of time in Queensland and Western Australia, which was great because we couldn’t leave the country,” Davey said. says. “We lived in a camper van and had a lot of fun.”
When travel restrictions were lifted for Australians in 2022, they were forced to wait until borders reopened for the rest of the list, including parts of the Pacific Islands.
This proved particularly frustrating, especially now that the world has reopened, as many of our comrades have traveled extensively while waiting patiently for some countries to lift their restrictions.
“We started this journey with the idea of finishing this massive quest in our 30s,” explains Sebova.
“Then I was in my 40s during the pandemic and I sat in my van and waited, owning nothing.”
They were able to travel to the North African country of Libya, where border restrictions were also lifted, but had to wait much longer before their final destinations of Kiribati and Samoa, located in the Pacific Islands, reopened. .
Kiribati will finally lift restrictions on international travelers in August 2022, and the pair flew out a few weeks later.
They arrived in Samoa, the last country on the list, on November 19, 2022, and said it took them some time to realize they had finally achieved their goal.
“this [Samoa] “There was a moment when I stood in front of a world map and thought, oh my god, I’ve been to every country on this map,” Sebova says.
The pair celebrated the big milestone with a friend who flew in to visit the tiny island nation halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.
When they returned to Australia after visiting all the countries of the world in late 2022, they started gaining media attention and people started asking questions about their relationship.
“They looked at our feed and found couples naturally, something no one else sees,” added Sebova, who was happy to confirm they were in a relationship once they reached their goal. bottom.
“There were followers on social media who were like, ‘Oh my god, I always thought you were a couple and you never said anything.'”
Davey and Sebova emphasized that, aside from safety issues, they wanted to keep the discussion on travel focused on the fact that two women were undertaking such a massive challenge, first When we examined hundreds of travelers who had been to every country in the world, the list was relatively male dominated.
“There are very few women in this part of the more adventurous trip,” adds Sebova. “So just as we were trying to change that, we were trying to inspire other women by showing it. [the world] It’s not a scary place
Now that they’ve finally reached their goal, Davey and Sebova say they have no plans to settle down and plan to continue the nomadic life for as long as possible.
They are currently planning a trip to Thailand and hope to visit Indonesia later this year.
“We’ve always lived in the moment,” says Davey. “or [being on the move] It makes us both happy. that’s what we do. I don’t plan too far ahead. we never have ”
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