June 28, 2024 | Eul Basa

The 79-Year-Old Woman Who Visited All 193 Countries


193 countries in one lifetime

It's rare for someone to travel to all 193 countries in the world, but even rarer for someone to do so as a senior.

Luisa Cover

This is Luisa

Meet Luisa Yu, the 79-year-old woman from Leyte, Philippines who achieved such a feat. Despite her age, she managed to visit all 193 UN countries—and her story is truly inspiring.

Senior woman with suitcase on the street.Tranmautritam, Pexels

A love for travel

Luisa's passion for travel started during her early years. She was inspired to see the world after watching American Western movies that showcased stunning mountain landscapes, lakes, and exciting adventures.

Brown Passport on the table.Porapak Apichodilok, Pexels

A new worldview

"I saw all this beautiful mountain scenery, lakes, and riding horses," she said. "That's how I started dreaming and saying that one day I'm gonna see the world."

People Horseback Riding on Mountain Slope林子书, Pexels

Relocating her life

When she was 23 years old, Luisa relocated to the United States as a student on an exchange program, focusing on medical technologies. Because of visa limitations, she was unable to go abroad from the U.S. at first. 

Woman Packing Clothes in a SuitcaseIvan Samkov, Pexels

Starting small

As a result, she started her global adventure by visiting various states within the country. She took frequent Greyhound bus trips, using her saved vacation days from working at hospitals in Miami, Florida.

Girl traveling in the bus.VH S, Pexels

On the road

"Greyhound was the best because you just hop in," she told ABC News. "Then the next day, you're in another state."

Greyhound leaves the Port Authority Bus Terminal.Adam E. Moreira, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Setting bigger goals

Visiting all the countries in the world was tough for Luisa. It took her 15 years to get her green card, which let her travel abroad.

United States of America social security and green card with US flag on the background.Leena Robinson, Shutterstock

Working hard for the money

Balancing multiple jobs, she funded her travels. Eventually, she became a part-time travel agent, opening up more opportunities for exploration.

travel agent consultant in tour agency with a customer handshakeViktoriia Hnatiuk, Shutterstock

Her secret to success

Becoming a travel agent was key. It gave her increased freedom and opportunities to visit bucket list destinations, including hard-to-reach countries like Libya and Iran.

Woman writing paper take note and packing suitcase to vacationSorapop Udomsri, Shutterstock

The 50-year adventure

Luisa spent more than 50 years traveling to every one of the 193 countries. She even visited tough places like North Korea and Somalia, ignoring warnings about the risks.

Visa Of North KoreaKenming Wang, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

She was unstoppable

Luisa told NPR: "Everyone said, 'Don't go to Somalia, that's dangerous,' If I want to go somewhere, nobody can stop me. I like challenge—it's more exciting. I want to do everything."

Crop stylish woman with baggage standing on streetGustavo Fring, Pexels

No biases, just curiosity

"I said, 'I think I can do this. I want to see these places with my own eyes because there's a lot of history and culture that happened there,'" Yu admitted.

Close up 60s female awaken lying on pillow in bed at home cover face with handsfizkes, Shutterstock

Her last destination

Luisa's last trip to a country was to Serbia on November 9, 2023. During her travels, she made friends who organized a surprise celebration for her at the airport.

Elderly old grandmother grandfather retirees tourists reunion in airport terminalAndrii Iemelianenko, Shutterstock

What a wonderful world

Luisa said in an interview: "I have seen a lot of things from different people, their life and their cultures. I learned a lot, and I find that everybody is like us. They have a dream for a better job and a better opportunity, and most of them are very, very kind and very helpful."

Photo of Old Woman Sitting While Talking With Another WomanBrett Sayles, Pexels

Representing her country

Nomad Mania, a non-profit organization that monitors well-traveled people, has acknowledged her accomplishments. She was honored with distinctions like the Most Positive Traveller and the Global Explorer award from the Philippines.

Woman Showing Thumb UpKampus Production, Pexels

Luisa's top choices

Luisa said her favorite countries to visit were North Korea, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates. They may be unconventional choices, but she had her reasons.

Senior Caucasian female passenger placing her bag at airportSvitlana Hulko, Shutterstock

North Korea

Luisa found the culture of North Korea intriguing. It was also the first time she tried dog meat, which she said was a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable experience for her.

Locals and tourist in front of the Northern Korea leader statue in a cloudy day. Pyongyang - 2016LMspencer, Shutterstock

Somalia

Even though she was cautioned about the risks of visiting Somalia, Luisa adored the untouched shores and found a thrill in exploring a less frequented destination.

View of Mogadishu, people at the Mogadishu beach - 2014MDart10, Shutterstock

United Arab Emirates

The UAE is special for Luisa because it was where she first went skydiving. Skydiving was on the top of bucket list, and she ended doing it in Dubai at the impressive age of 77.

Tandem skydivers hover over Palm Jumeirah ,DubaiPamela Lico, Shutterstock

Never stop exploring

"I always tell them, 'Don't be afraid, go out, travel. Don't wait for anybody because if the opportunity comes, it might never happen again. Just be yourself. And also, if there's a will, there's a way. Nothing is going to be impossible. You just have to go out there."

Senior woman walking with map in handmaruco, Shutterstock

Age is just a number

Luisa is proof that you're never too old to fulfill your dreams. There are always going to obstacles that stand in the way of your dreams, but with hard work and determination, you might just be able to achieve your goals. The world is your oyster—get out there and explore!

Senior woman standing in airport area looking at timetable - 2023DAN_SHMIDT, Shutterstock

Sources:  1,2


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