Why I Stopped Counting Countries and Started Collecting Experiences

Jennifer DeSimone
January 16, 2024

Living a travel lifestyle inevitably leads to this question: 

"How many countries have you traveled to?"

I get it - it's a sort of badge of honor.

But when you travel to enough places you start to lose count. 

Not because you can't keep track...

But because somewhere along the way you realize the number of countries visited doesn't compare to the wealth of experiences you've accumulated. And in a moment, you stop.

Taking a moment to stop and take in the moment at the Cenotes

What if we changed the question?

Let's stop asking each other how many places we've been and start asking a different one:

What kind of experiences have you had?

This would be my answer: 

When I was 14, in Belgium I ate chocolates in the shape of mushrooms and that started my love affair with food.

When I was 19, I saw an elephant in the wild walk toward me at Mole National Park in Ghana.

When I was 26, i walked among the graves of those who perished in the Rwandan genocide.

When I was 28, I listened to my heart and took my first trip with Under30Experiences to Nicaragua, which completely changed my life.

When I was 31, I wept as a Buddhist monk blessed me in Cambodia and again as I saw the sun rise over the horizon in Bali.

What would you answer? What experiences would you want to share? What is of value to you?

After a blessing in Cambodia

Experiences matter more than passport stamps

These experiences have shaped me in ways I can't even begin to describe.

Each experience, each interaction, has created opportunity to shed one more bias or fear and to learn more about myself.

Which then allows me to become more open to those around me. This has been more valuable to me than a new passport stamp.

‍Connecting with U30X travelers over tacos in Mexico

We travel to connect deeper

Mark Twain once wrote:

 "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

Travel has pushed me to connect more with people (this is HUGE for an introvert like me!) and because of that I have learned about kindness, empathy, and compassion.

This wisdom was gained as I sat on the floor in a Muslim home in Ethiopia, eating popcorn and drinking bunna (local coffee). In that moment I realized our language barrier, skin color, religion, or citizenship did not matter.

Our connectedness in sharing this moment mattered. Our shared experience - despite our differences - is what bonded us to each other. This is why I started collecting experiences with people.

Connecting with new friends in Ethiopia
"Shared experience of beauty, the points where we connect with one another, is what makes our lives so exquisite, no matter how ordinary. " - Peaceful Dumpling

This lifestyle is a privilege

At the end of the experience, I am always left with two options: allow the experience to end, or to use the experience as a way continue serving others.

I try to choose the latter, sharing my experiences, spreading empathy, or supporting others in any way I can.

This week I am heading out to 6 cities to connect deeper with our U30X community!

I want to hear from you what are the experiences that have shaped and transformed you.

I hope to see you out in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Raleigh-Durham, and Austin

I cannot wait to experience these cities alongside you.

Come join the fun!



Chicago Boating & Brunch May 20

NYC Sunday Brunch May 21

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival May 23

Boston Art and Dinner May 25

Raleigh-Durham Yoga, Brews, and Travel Talk May 31

Austin SUP and Lunch June 3

Can't join us on said date? Drop me a line to connect via email.

Couldn't not include a photo of an elephant, this one from Kenya

Jennifer DeSimone
Currently based in Austin, Jennifer is the Chief of Community for U30X. She has a passion for creating connections, community, and opportunities for more empathy. In her spare time you can find her on her yoga mat, whipping up something yummy in the kitchen, or reading a good book.


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