How a 77 year old became the first Filipino to travel the world?
At the age of 77, Odette Aquitania Ricasa became the first Filipino to be able to travel to all 195 countries in the world, 193 of which are recognized by the United Nations, while the other 2 are non-members: the Holy sea and the State of Palestine.
Before the pandemic started in 2020, she was only five countries short of achieving her goal. These countries are Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Iraq.
Finally, on the 25th of August 2022, after being held for two years because of the pandemic, Ms. Ricasa accomplished the goal of many travelers – to travel to every country in the world! She arrived in Kurdistan, Iraq, on Thursday, making it the last country on her list.
Overall, she has been to 301 countries and territories, including islands! Even those islands that are not known by many, including Robinson Crusoe islands, Lakshadweep islands, Andaman Nicobar islands, and more!
How It All Started
Ms. Ricasa is based in Los Angeles, California and she started the journey of traveling the world in the year 1980. She shared that some countries, including Russia, had very strict rules regarding tourism during those times. However, that did not stop her from exploring more and more countries.
Memorable Travel Experiences
Ms. Ricasa has two passports – the Philippines and the US. She mainly uses her US Passport, but she mentioned that in some cases, using her Philippines passport is ideal.
One of these cases is going to Africa. Both US and Philippines passport holders need a visa in order to travel to this continent, but using her US passport requires more documents than using her Philippine passport.
When asked what were some of her unforgettable experiences in her more than 40 years of traveling, she said there were a lot, but her visit to Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, both African countries, are unforgettable. The said countries are not popular destinations for travelers, and during her visit, she was alone. But as the saying goes, ‘You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.’ And she did; she conquered Africa and the rest of the world!
She also mentioned that when they arrived in Libya just this year, they felt like they were VIPs as there was a lot of security escorting them. But this kind of unique experience is what motivates her to travel more.
In her four decades of traveling, 80% of those is her traveling alone, while the rest 20% is a group tour (which she joined when she was just a beginner in the travel world)—talking about bravery, passion, and enthusiasm!
Ms. Ricasa is indeed travel expert as she is also a member of the Travelers’ Century Club, A club that only allows those people who have been to 100 or more countries!
Moreover, she’s also an active member of the Philippine Global Explorers travel community, and she heads the US West Coast chapter, doing this while traveling.
Aside from being a traveler and the first Filipino to travel the world, she is also an author of 6 books, an artist, a motivational speaker, and a pianist.
She mentioned that having her book was actually not her idea. It was early 2000, and she was in Spain writing her travel experiences in her journal – “With all the countries and cities I’ve been to, it is impossible for me to remember them, that’s why I write them in my journal.”, non-verbatim statement of Ms. Ricasa.
Her friend, who was with her at that time, told her, “Why don’t you write a book instead?” That statement gave her the idea to write a travel book and share her experiences on the road. Her books are all available on Amazon.
Ms. Odette Aquitania Ricasa’s travel experience is one of the inspiration of many travelers, not only Filipinos, but foreigners as well.