A 77-year-old woman became the first Filipino person to travel to all 195 countries in the world.
Odette Aquitania Ricasa, who is based in Los Angeles landed in Kurdistan, Iraq, on Thursday, completing her journey to visit all of the countries in the world.
She was only five countries short of achieving her ultimate goal before the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020. Her final countries included Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, Libya and Iraq.
Ricasa started flying across the globe in 1980. In her 42 years of traveling, 80 percent of her visits were reportedly done alone, while the other 20 percent was done with a group tour, which she first joined during the beginning of her journey. The world-traveler is a member of the Travelers’ Century Club, which only accepts individuals who have been to 100 or more countries. She is also a member of the Philippine Global Explorers travel community, where she heads the U.S. West Coast chapter.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Ricasa, who is from Quiapo, Manila, said achieving her goal has not been easy as she faced financial difficulties while growing up.
“When I was in high school and college, my [favorite subject] was geography. The teacher will show pics of apple trees, deer, moose, mountains, snow and white Christmas. I said to myself I will go to [the] USA one day,” Ricasa told the Inquirer. “We were middle class. I studied at the exclusive girls school Assumption San Lorenzo [College]. But my father lost it all in gambling.”
Ricasa was able to immigrate to the U.S. in 1971, where she worked as a systems analyst and a real estate broker.
“All I had was $50 in my pocket, stayed with my bro in New York, worked in Manhattan,” she recalled.
At the age of 40, she was able to fulfill her dream of traveling to different countries. She said that travel is learning.
“I love that challenge; the unknown of what might happen, or who I might meet, the possibilities are endless. I relied on people’ kindness,” Ricasa told the Inquirer.
Aside from traveling, Ricasa is also the author of six books, a motivational speaker, an artist and a pianist. She has written travel books, all of which are available on Amazon, where she shares her experiences on her journey.
Ricasa also has over 120 paintings at the Ricasa Art Gallery in San Clemente, Southern California. As a motivational speaker, she has encouraged people to pursue their passions at worldwide events.