40 Before 40: How I visited 40 Countries Before Turning 40

Right now I’m on an airplane flying to Indonesia, and when I touch down there, I will be visiting my 40th country.

For some people, this won’t seem like a lot, especially if they travel regularly. But since I had never left Brazil until the age of 31, I’m really proud of reaching this milestone.

It’s not always easy. I have possessions stored around the world; I don’t own a car or a house. In fact, right now, I don’t even have a fixed address. But I’ve never been happier!

Travel bloggers
Extremely happy visiting Phnom Kulen Mountain in Cambodia, my 39th country.

The Beginning

It all started in 2008. I was working as a chemistry teacher in São Paulo but I wasn’t satisfied with my life. So, having done some modeling in Brazil, I decided to go to Europe to try and find modeling work there.

Travel with Style NYC
From the time that I was a model.

I’d always wanted to go to Italy, a friend had invited me to visit him in Paris, and my mother was living in Portugal and my sister in Switzerland at the time, so I knew I would probably get to visit at least four countries.

For someone who had never travelled abroad before, it was very exciting!

I remember arriving in Lisbon for the first time and taking the bus to Albufeira, where my mother lived.

Seeing the pinnacles on the roofs of the houses against the strong sun of the European summer was exhilarating!

And since I could speak the language, and with my mother there to help me, it was a gentle introduction to traveling.

From Portugal, I flew to Switzerland to see my sister and then took a train to Milan, hoping to make my fortune in the fashion capital of the world and also travelling completely on my own for the first time.

It didn’t always go to plan… I will never forget the moment an Italian policeman demanded that I open my luggage for inspection in front of everyone on the train – I was so embarrassed!

But wandering around the city, seeing things that I’ve never seen before, learning Italian on the streets, figuring out the public transportation system, getting lost in the supermarket and meeting people from other countries at the hostel, was like experiencing the world for the first time!

In Milan for the first time, 2008.

I did not become a supermodel but something in me had changed and I would never be the same again…

I had fallen in love with travelling, so much so that I ended up also going to Germany, Spain and Vatican City.

My first trip abroad and I had already visited seven countries!

When the numbers started to matter

From the moment I got back to Brazil, I was determined to travel again.

I wanted to see more countries, get another taste of different cultures, and even compare them with each other. So, in 2010, after working for more than a year to save money, I went to Europe again.

This time, I visited nine countries over a 35-day period. I was in heaven!

Visiting Berlin for the first time in 2011.

I even managed to fit in Argentina and Bolivia when I returned to Brazil.

It was around this time that I seriously started keeping track of the number of countries I’d been to, using the TripAdvisor app on Facebook.

However, moving to the US to study in 2011 meant not having the chance to travel much for the next two years, apart from Brazil and within the United States.

In 2014, I managed to get back on track and visited seven European countries and went to Asia (Thailand and Vietnam) for the first time.

After that trip, I decided that I wanted to travel only to countries I’d not been to before.

Phi Phi 40 travel
Having the time of my life on Phi Phi Islands, during my first trip to Asia.

In 2015, I travelled to Europe again and managed to add nine new countries to my list. I also went to China, the Philippines, the Bahamas, and Paraguay, before moving back to Brazil.

I was truly on my way to becoming a world traveller!

And even though 2015 was a very difficult year for me personally, it was also the year in which I travelled to more countries than ever before.

Misadventures and Rewards

But it’s not always been easy for me on my trips.

Remember that bus from Lisbon to Albufeira on my very first trip to Europe? It was also my first experience of travel troubles. I put a bag with souvenirs in the overhead compartment, forgot about it and never saw it again!

Later on that same trip, I had even bigger problems. This time I left a backpack containing my portfolio in the overhead compartment of a train. With no photographs of myself, my international modelling career was over before it even started.

That was the worst New Year’s Eve of my life.

But I did learn one very important lesson: travel light! The more things you take when you travel, the higher the probability that you will lose or forget something.

Lesson learned: traveling to Southeast Asia for five months with only a carry-on.

Then there was the time, just last week when I had to go around Bangkok, trying to find accommodation at three in the morning because my hotel had lost my reservation and was fully booked for the night.

Or the time in Peru when I lost my wallet and was stuck in the middle of nowhere, not knowing anyone, with no money and no credit cards…

As travelers, it’s inevitable that we will end up having to deal with situations, people or cultures that may not be familiar to us, which could increase the chances of misunderstandings or mistakes or wrong decisions.

Yet, ultimately, those moments can always teach us something, helping us to become not only better travelers, but also better people.

And nothing can replace the joy you feel when you discover something new. Or get an insight into another culture or tradition.

I will never forget the moment I entered the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Even though I had seen so many pictures of it before, nothing could’ve prepared me for the awe I felt in seeing it in real life.

It was a truly spiritual moment!

Visiting Hagia Sophia
Visiting Hagia Sophia, the catholic church that became a mosque then a museum. Istanbul, 2014.

This is why I travel, and it may seem like I’ve already travelled the world, but there are too many places I haven’t seen yet, and the more I travel, the more I find new ones that I want to visit.

Travelling as a Way of Life

In 2015, I returned to Brazil. As I said, it was a difficult time for me – I missed the US and the ability to travel conveniently.

But I was determined to continue improving my English and also keep my memories of travelling alive, so I started to write about my experiences.

It was only for myself at first, but after some friends read a few pieces, they encouraged me to share it with others.

So, a little more than a year ago, I started my blog. It’s not easy, especially as I’m blogging in three languages (English, Spanish and Portuguese), and shooting and editing videos is very time-consuming. And I’m not yet supporting myself from it.

But I’m really happy working as a travel blogger, and only wish I started sooner. Now I’m just travelling and writing, and writing and traveling, as much as I can.

40 Before 40: How I visited 40 Countries Before Turning 40 1
This is how my world map looks right now. I’ve been to only 17% of the world. It’s still a lot to see!

How do I afford it?

My pictures on Facebook and Instagram elicit many different reactions but there are always a few questions that are similar: “How did you get the money to travel?”, “What do you do for a living?”, “Who pays for your trips?”, and so on…

It can seem that for the people who ask those questions, money is the most important thing in life, and that makes me sad. Especially if it means that they think they won’t be able to travel unless they have a lot of money.

So, how do I afford it? It’s a combination of things. Mostly, the money I have saved from the other jobs I had in the past. I also earn a bit of money from the links in my blog (so get clicking, please) and sometimes, I can get accommodation or services in exchange for a mention or review in my blog. I’m also able to help people plan their own itineraries or take them on tours for a fee.

The bottom line is that my priorities are such that, even if I don’t earn enough from this to support myself, I will find another job, save some money and then guess what?

The first opportunity I have, I will travel again.

Very happy walking on the streets of Tallinn, Estonia, 2015.

If I can, you can

I get frustrated when I hear people say: “When I retire I will travel”, or “When I make more money I will travel”, etc.

The future is so uncertain but travel is a choice.

You may lose your health or you may never think you have enough money. But you don’t need to be rich to travel! You just have to be inventive.

I once found a round-trip flight ticket for € 0,02 with Ryanair.

If you use air miles or other reward schemes, you can get really good deals. And in many countries, you can eat and drink for very little money.

I’ve just been to Cambodia, and the prices there were ridiculous: a beer for US$ 0.50; a meal in a simple restaurant for US$ 2.50/3.00; or in a fancy restaurant US$ 7.00/8.00.

Things to do in Bangkok 40
Street food has never been so good and so cheap as in Southeast Asia.

It makes me really happy when people come to me and say that they are taking their first international trip. I like it because I know that they will come back with a much broader vision of the world.

So, the next time you’re thinking of taking the same trip to the same place, why not be brave? Go somewhere that is challenging, somewhere that you’ve never thought of visiting. Go to more than one country in one trip.

I bet you it will change you as a person, add to your knowledge of yourself and help you understand others in a different way.

Go and conquer the world!! What are you waiting for?

Best hikes, Preikestolen 40
Preikestolen, Norway

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6 thoughts on “40 Before 40: How I visited 40 Countries Before Turning 40”

  1. Wonderful read. Like you I never left my home country (England) till I was 31. Now just this week turning 37, have visited 18 counties and am trying to reach 40 by 40. Everything you wrote rings true. I also noticed on your map the Netherlands is not marked. If you can, visit Amsterdam… amazing city!

    • Thank you so much for your comment Lee!!
      I’m really glad to hear that 🙂
      OMG. First time you travel abroad was when you were 31 like me?? What a coincidence !!
      You’re gotta run now cuz you have 32 more countries to visit in three years.But once you’re in Europe it’s easier though… You can make it 😉 Good luck!!
      Thx for you tip and happy bday Lee.

      • Hey, Andy.
        Yeah. In this post people get a better understanding about my passion for travelling.
        53 now 🙂 I’m trying to do 54 this is year, but not sure if I’ll be able to do that.
        Cheers and thanks for your comment.


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