Meet the 79-Year-Old Woman Who Has Traveled to 193 Countries Around the World

Luisa Yu always dreamed of traveling around the globe.

Feb 26, 2024


Meet the 79-Year-Old Woman Who Has Traveled to 193 Countries Around the World | Luisa Yu always dreamed of traveling around the globe.

Some people travel because they want to go to a warm tropical spot for a winter vacation or because they want to visit art museums in Europe. But other people travel simply because they have wanderlust.

Luisa Yu, a 79-year-old woman caught the bug as a young girl in the province of Leyte in the Philippines when she could only dream about traveling, according to Good Morning America. Now she completed visiting every UN nation in the world,  all 193, in November 2023.

Her inspiration came from  the movies she watched which were mostly westerns. “When I [went to] the movies, I [saw] this beautiful backdrop about the scenery, the nature, the rivers, the mountains, and that fascinated me,”  Yu told GMA. “That's why I always thought someday I will go to these places and travel.”

Taking the first steps
At 23, as an exchange student studying medical technologies in the US, Yu decided that she wanted to visit all of the countries in the world, reported NPR, but visa restrictions didn’t allow her to travel outside of the country.

She decided to explore the US via Greyhound buses. She saved her vacation time from working at Miami, Florida hospitals and was able to take long trips across the US. There are only two states that Yu has yet to visit; Kentucky and Oklahoma.

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It took Yu 15 years to get her green card that would allow her to travel internationally and there were times that she worked three jobs to save money to travel. The Miami resident eventually took a part-time job as a travel agent, which gave her many more opportunities to travel to new places around the globe.

For the past 50 years, Yu has been visiting countries across the world, even some that are very difficult to get into. She has tried dog meat when she visited North Korea, explored the beaches of Somalia, and even skydived in Dubai when she was 73.

“Everyone said, ‘Don't go to Somalia, that's dangerous,’” Yu told NPR. “If I want to go somewhere, nobody can stop me. I like challenge — it's more exciting. I want to do everything.”

Reaching her goal
The last stop on Yu’s bucket list was Serbia. Fellow traveling friends asked her to leave it for last. But Yu did not expect the welcome she received. Her friends planned a celebration and were at the airport to welcome her.

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Yu achieved her goal to visit all of the 193 countries that are recognized by the UN according to NomadMania, the organization that recognizes well-traveled people who have visited large numbers of UN countries. In 2023, 50 more entries were added to the list of UN Masters, reported CNN. To date there have only been around 400 people who have set out to achieve this amazing feat.

“I think it’s always been there as an intrinsic motivation to roam, but historically, travel was limited to people with the financial resources, career flexibility, and great health,” Michael O’Regan, a tourism and events lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University in the UK, told CNN.

 “Before, you might have needed ‘connections’ in particular countries, [or] have difficulty in getting visas or invitations,” O’Regan said. “You needed a ‘strong’ passport, and access to resources, such as tour guides and insider knowledge about transport and hotels.”

Now due to low-cost airlines and the ability to work remotely, traveling to multiple places is much easier.

Yu’s advice to people who have caught the travel bug is to just do it. She told NPR: "Don't wait for anybody. If I keep on waiting, it will never happen, because the opportunity sometimes comes only once.”

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.