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100 Countries & Counting

One Man’s Epic Adventure of Culture and Connection

100 Countries & Counting

Stefano, an Italian adventurer, recently reached a milestone: his 100th visited country, Taiwan! Driven by a childhood love of travel, Stefano has embarked on incredible journeys across the globe. This article explores his unique experiences and the philosophy behind his nomadic lifestyle.

Early Travels and NGO Work

My passion for travel began with a trip with my father Renzo to the United States at 19. Inspired by my parents, who ventured to off-the-beaten-path destinations like Uzbekistan and Yemen, travel became a core part of my life. In 2008, I left for a three-month adventure through Central and South America, and was captivated by Colombia’s vibrant culture.
After graduating in International Relations from my university in Trento, I joined an Italian NGO in Colombia. The organization focused on social care, micro-businesses for underserved communities, and educational workshops to prevent sexual abuse. Working in remote, high-altitude regions of Peru with Quechua and Aymara communities influenced my desire to live and work outside the traditional system.
After a year in Peru (around 2011), I returned to Italy. During this time, I also travelled to Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil.

A Life-Changing Decision

I came back to Europe for a marketing and sales role in the Netherlands. It provided a good salary, but it also helped me clarify my passions and interests. Limited vacation time pushed me to make a career shift. I embraced budget travel, utilising platforms like Couchsurfing to connect with locals and used platforms like Workaway and HelpX to volunteer my skills in exchange for accommodation and cultural experiences. A particularly memorable experience was being welcomed into a Bangladeshi home, sharing perspectives on daily life. These interactions were enriching and broadened my horizons. These platforms also helped me avoid tourist traps and explore the ‘road less travelled’.

100 countries-travel-stefano-Oct 2016 Ulaanbaatar Mongolia-2
travel-stefano-Oct 2016 Ulaanbaatar Mongolia-2

Authentic ideas, meeting real people, real things.

Even during COVID, I explored 17 countries, venturing into the depths of the Amazon jungle. My most significant journey was a two-and-a-half-year exploration of the Silk Road. Travelling through Central Asia on the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railways, I loved the beauty of Mongolia’s nomadic culture and the historical significance of cities like Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara. While Central Asia and the Middle East are my favourite regions, Japan’s unique culture and food also hold a special place in my heart.

The Silk Road continues to hold a special place in my heart. Iran, Uzbekistan, and the ancient cities of Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara still retain a sense of authenticity. One summer, I hitchhiked to Kyrgyzstan’s Son Kul Lake, located over 4,000 metres. The nomads move their gers (traditional dwellings) across the landscape, surrounded by wild horses. Witnessing this simple way of life, where families share what little they have, is truly enriching.

Life starts when the comfort zone ends

Travel is more than just ticking destinations off a list; it’s about the journey itself, the authentic experiences, the human connections, and constant learning. Geography has always been my passion. I could recite populations, rivers, mountains, languages, biggest cities, highest mountains, and longest rivers for all countries. I can still recall my itinerary from 15 years ago. I have a collection of audio and video materials, though I haven’t written down many stories. I dream of writing a book someday.
I am fascinated by how people live, behave, and think. Experiencing different cultures allows us to see the world through new lenses. What’s considered “normal” is very subjective. With 8 billion people on Earth, there are 8 billion unique “normalities.” I’m naturally curious about different territories, art (a big part for me!), architecture, street art, and bazaars. Food is another crucial element – it’s a pillar to understanding a country’s culture.

 

Tips for travellers

  • Language is more of a motivation than a barrier.

Language barriers can be a challenge, but there are always ways to communicate! For example, in a remote area of western China, ordering food was a challenge. Menus lacked pictures so I simply pointed at dishes in busy restaurants and turned a potential language barrier into a fun adventure.

  • Live for free. Make a bit of money. Until you get to your next couch.

Platforms like Workaway and Couchsurfing offer a great way to immerse yourself in new cultures while contributing to local communities through volunteer work. I once volunteered on an Amazon project where I worked alongside migrants. We managed to communicate through smiles and body language, highlighting the power of human connection. 

  • Embrace the Unknown

Navigating travel in the past meant arriving at a destination and taking your chances. Technology has changed this. During 2021 and part of 2022, I embraced a nomadic lifestyle and must have slept in 100 beds.

  • The future is now. Embrace the Journey

The idea of getting lost doesn’t faze me. True exploration thrives on a spirit of adventure. I have a general idea of where I want to go, I understand plans can change. I’m never lost because I don’t know where I am going. It’s a state of mind.

  • Keep going

My goal isn’t to visit every country in the world. It’s the journey itself that matters. While some prioritise career or family, travel is my passion.

With a return to Italy on the horizon, Stefano is currently exploring East Asia. His story is an inspiration to chase passions, embrace the world’s wonders, and forge meaningful connections across cultures.
Worldwide Explorer 🇮🇹 100+ Countries visited (93 UN Member States)

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