• Passengers
  • Business
  • Careers

This Guy Visited Every Country on Earth...Then Started His Own

JWJ: Randy Williams in Mauritania

Randy Williams in Mauritania (Photo: Randy Williams)

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “Where do you want to go next?” Usually, my answer is: “wherever the latest flight deal takes me!”

Much like you, I have a travel bucket list—the often far-flung places we want to visit but for whatever reason, just haven’t made it there yet.

But what if your travel bucket list became something different?

Meet Randy “R-Dub!” Williams. He’s the host of the nationally syndicated Sunday Night Slow Jams program heard on radio stations around the world. If that sounds familiar, it might be because you’ve seen him on Shark Tank.

But it’s not just a cool job that makes Randy unique: he has set foot in every single country in the world.


All 193 of them.

So, I caught up with Randy to find out how on Earth he pulled this off.

JWJ: Randy Williams in Indonesia Indonesia (Photo: Randy Williams)

Jay: What part of the world are you in right now?

Randy: At the moment, I'm actually home - which surprises many! I'm lucky enough to live and work in one of the world's most beautiful and temperate cities: San Diego! How lucky am I? As much as I love to travel and explore new places, I'm sincere when I say I enjoy coming home from a trip just as much as leaving for one.

Randy Williams in Vanuatu Vanuatu (Photo: Randy Williams)

When were you first bitten by the travel bug?

It didn't happen all at once but was instead a culmination of a few different things that led to me developing a completely unhealthy and ridiculous obsession with travel.

I took my first solo trip when I was just 26 years old. My best friend and I planned a trip to Brazil, and after he canceled on me two years in a row, I decided just to go myself. I wasn't getting any younger and decided to just go for it. Boy, was I scared! Would this be like going to Disneyland by yourself?

Well, those ten days in Brazil would go down as some of the very best days of my entire life. I found myself in literal tears when I was at the airport in Rio about to board my plane home. How could a country have so much impact on me? How could I have fallen in love with a geographical "place" and have feelings for a country the way I would for a woman? How is that even possible? I'd never felt such emotions about a "location." That first trip was life changing.

Randy in Brazil Randy in Brazil (Photo: Randy Williams)

But the very first bite from the travel bug probably started, in a way, when I was a young boy. I grew up in a pretty sheltered, middle-class suburb of Los Angeles. I remember, in fifth grade, "stowing" away with some of my friends who were "bussed-in" from the inner cities. Leaving my quiet and smallish town to spend the night at my friends' house in East L.A. or Highland Park…well, that was just an entirely different world for me. It might have only been 20 miles away from home, but it was a completely different country for all intents and purposes.

I was out of my comfort zone, and yes, it was even a little scary for an 11-year-old, but I loved it. It excited me. I loved the thrill of being immersed in something so different. I guess from a young age, I've always felt the need to explore and even go to places I maybe "shouldn't" - I was 12 when I figured out the city's public transportation system, and I was on the move!

Today, my most pleasurable trips are to places "regular people" don't go to. I enjoy being the only American, and sometimes, the only tourist, in general, walking around a random neighborhood in a country most of my friends have never heard of.

JWJ: Randy in Malawi Malawi (Photo: Randy Williams)

When did you first set your sights on visiting every country on Earth? What made you set that goal?

It wasn't until about ten years ago that I took on the crazy challenge of seeing every country on the planet. I had less than two weeks in Europe and decided to try hitting as many countries as possible during this one trip. I sailed through seven new countries and loved it!

The thrill of seeing so many different places and experiencing so many varying cultures in a short amount of time was addicting. I remember thinking, "Wait a minute - I just saw seven countries in less than two weeks...if I just keep repeating this process each time I take a vacation, surely I can see every country in the world!"

Of course, it doesn't work that way; those European countries are so easy to see all at once due to their size, proximity to each other, and transportation options. I had no idea how hard it would be to traverse the spread-out and tough-to-travel-to regions like Africa and the Pacific!

But it was too late - I'd already made up my mind.

JWJ: Randy Williams in Algeria A visit to Algeria (Photo: Randy Williams)

How long did it take you to visit all of them?

I am 46 years old, and I finished earlier this year, so you can say it took 46 years to see every country in the world! But if you want to get specific, my first challenge was to see all of Central and South America by the time I turned 40, and I did, right before the buzzer. It was really the last six years that I stepped on the gas and challenged myself to complete all 193.

Across how many trips?

There are too many to count, and I really have no clue! But over the last few years, my average trip would last around two weeks, where I'd see anywhere from three to ten-plus countries each trip.

Randy Williams in Lebanon Lebanon (Photo: Randy Williams)

Now, traveling the world isn’t your full-time job. You’re also in the radio industry. How do you manage to get so much time off to travel?

Full disclosure: I'm not married and have no kids, so that opens a ton more time and options out of the gate.

As far as the job, I've worked at my company for more than ten years, opening up the sought-after "four weeks" of vacation benefit. Add to that, I've negotiated extra vacation. If you add the 12 company holidays and two personal days, you're looking at about two full months of paid time off.

And you better believe I use every single day each year! If it's a day off, chances are I am out of the country.

Randy Williams in Mongolia Mongolia (Photo: Randy Williams)

How do you plan one of your trips?

While I was on a mission to finish all 193 countries, I planned each trip extremely methodically. I get across the ocean using [credit card] points, so my planning usually starts by finding an international flight that works for me: a flight using the least amount of points possible.

That first destination is my jump-off point; then I simply look at the map and start hunting for the best and cheapest direct flights into other countries nearby, and finally, my flight home. Trying to see so many countries during a single two-week trip can be a real challenge.

Most people go to one place: that means one, round-trip plane ticket.

Not me: I pack in as many new nations as possible in a short amount of time. This is fairly easy to do in most of Europe, Latin America and many parts of Asia, but once you hit challenging regions like Africa and the Pacific, all bets are off! The lack of direct flights and lack of flights in and out of some of those places, in general, make traveling to multiple countries quickly next to impossible.

I've spent months on end trying to figure out how to navigate through regions using Google Flights and an Excel sheet. It can be very nerve-wracking yet extremely rewarding when you make it work; then you just have to hope the flights actually happen! I counted one trip that had me on 21 planes in two weeks.

Whoa! With so many flights in a short period of time, have you ever had a moment where one leg of the trip just didn’t go as planned?

I got stuck in the Central African Republic once because the flight to Nairobi just simply never showed up. My friends wondered why I just didn't "hop a flight to another city" and re-route to my next destination. They didn't realize not all airports are like LAX, O'Hare, and CVG. In Bangui (Central African Republic) there were simply no other flights that day...to anywhere!

Randy Williams in Kazakhstan Making a new friend in Kazakhstan (Photo: Randy Williams)

So, I realize it’s probably difficult to just pick one, but can you share one of your favorite experiences while traveling?

I mentioned Brazil earlier - probably my favorite. So, let's touch on Bangladesh. This was a little early on in my challenge to see every country in the world. As I met more and more people who were on this same mission (yes, there are others!), I would ask these seasoned travelers what their favorite and least favorite countries were. I remember a handful of these experts telling me Bangladesh was the absolute worst: crowded, dirty, chaotic. Bangladesh kept popping up as these expert globe-trotters' least favorite. For this reason, I was not looking forward to visiting Dhaka whatsoever, booking just one night there.

"Get me in and outta here, quick," I reasoned. However, to my surprise and shock, after just about 90 minutes on the ground, Bangladesh earned a "Top 10" spot on my "favorite countries list." I was enamored with the nation for so many reasons. I felt such a great vibe and had such a wonderful experience there - in a country I was expecting to really dislike.

It just goes to show you that your preconceived ideas about a place can be totally wrong. I've always said the best part about travel is the sweet surprises along the way. You can plan all you want, but a vibe is a vibe, and you can never predict it - good or bad. You will only know once you go.

Randy Williams in Bhutan Bhutan (Photo: Randy Williams)

How do you save money on flights, hotels, and experiences when you travel?

I play the "credit card miles game" like a sport. In fact, the recent restrictions from banks on just how many credit cards they'll give you and how many times you can earn a bonus were probably directly caused by me!


I'm a definite card "churner." "Churning" is the process of going through many credit cards quickly, to grab each big sign-on bonus before moving to the next. It's saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars in airfare over the last ten years. The key is to make sure you're never carrying a balance and paying interest. Otherwise, you're not winning!

I don't save a ton on hotels because I am loyal to one brand - for the points and perks. This limits my choices and doesn't allow me to always pick the best deal. But for me, the benefits, like extra miles/points and perks like late checkouts and upgrades, are really worth it.

Randy in Kenya Randy in Kenya (Photo: Randy Williams)

Randy in Argentina Randy in Argentina (Photo: Randy Williams)

What did traveling the world teach you about people?

I have grown a lot by traveling. I'm not above admitting that some of the very people and cultures I'd feared in my twenties…I am attached to and adore now. I truly feel that traveling has made me a better person, and I'm happy to say I now have a friend in every country, and that's such a gift.

My travels have also allowed me to connect in a special way with people I meet abroad or at home. Telling my Uzbek taxi driver or the Eritrean concierge that I’ve been to their country and telling them the things I loved about their home – it makes their day! Sometimes, they'll gush: "Wow! No one's ever even HEARD of my country, and you traveled there?" It makes them smile.

Recently, a Moldovan cashier here in San Diego told me I was the first person she's ever met in America who'd actually been to her country. My travels have allowed me to make such special connections with people I might have normally just made a transaction with and gone about my day.

Randy Williams in Singapore Singapore (Photo: Randy Williams)

This is a difficult question, but if you had to pick your three favorite countries, which would you choose and why?

This is actually an easy one for me. Brazil gets the award for number one: it's the only country I've actually left everything in the USA for and moved to. I lived there in my early 30s and still have a condo in the northeastern beach town of Recife.

The Philippines gets number two because they have the absolute friendliest people. And how lucky was I that my very last country would be one of my favorites?

Turkmenistan is one of the least-visited countries in the world, but it is an absolute treasure for so many reasons. I don’t think there is enough room to go on about Turkmenistan, but let’s just say it’s one of the most mysterious, intriguing, unknown, and beautiful countries in the world. I was so happy my final country was so memorable, and it's at the top of my list to return to. I actually have some of the same feelings for Turkmenistan that I had for Brazil - a nagging itch that is telling me that I belong there for more than just a vacation Who knows? Maybe Turkmenistan will be my next home!

Randy Williams in Brazil Brazil (Photo: Randy Williams)

What item(s) do you pack on every single trip?

I am a staunch believer in never checking bags! [Editor’s note: CVG CEO Candace McGraw fully agrees!]

There is something so liberating about jumping off a plane and immediately exiting the airport, leaving behind the mobs waiting for their bags. There’s no worries about lost or damaged bags either.

I've got it down to a science: one backpack and a few changes of clothes. Of course, I take my phone and some travel-sized toiletries. But the final thing I can't travel without is sleep medication. Any prescription drug comes with responsibility, and I am aware of the risks, but there is nothing worse than getting your sleep completely turned around overseas and not being able to get back to normal.

I once spent an entire week in Italy, sleeping from 8AM until 5PM and unable to sleep at all during "sleeping" hours. It was awful! Never again!

What’s the thing that everyone thinks they need when they travel but probably don’t?

A checked bag! You know what they say: "Take half the clothes and twice the money!" And whenever I see someone traveling with a pillow from home, I just want to tell them, "You know the hotel has complimentary pillows for you?!"

Randy Williams in Brunei Brunei (Photo: Randy Williams)

Ha! So, what’s next? Are there countries you want to go back and spend more time checking out?

That's the sweet part - the reward after all the "work." I can take a big breath now and slow down and return to the places I love, to unpack, stay longer, travel deeper. It's what I've been waiting for all this time.

The list of places I've really fallen in love with is long, and I'm pretty sure my dance card will be full forever. I'll This past December I headed back to the Philippines for a couple weeks, which was amazing.

In March, I will travel to Czechia (‘The Artist Formerly Known as The Czech Republic’) where I will visit long lost relatives for the first time and see the house where my great-grandfather was born. The list goes on and on.

Randy Williams in Azerbaijan Randy in Azerbaijan (Photo: Randy Williams)

And I also understand you created your own country?!

Well, what do you do when you've seen all 193 countries? You create the 194th!

The Republic of Slowjamastan is an 11-acre "micronation" located about 90 minutes south of Palm Springs, California. We have our own border fence and checkpoint, monument, flagpole and flag, passports, currency, police, fire and border vehicles, and the most glorious national anthem you've ever heard.

Really, you should treat yourself and go down the rabbit hole that is Slowjamastan. It will not disappoint! Oh, and I'm "The Sultan" of Slowjamastan, let it be known!

I know what you're thinking, and yes, my family does think I'm really weird for this one!

Postcard from Slowjamastan A postcard from Slowjamistan (Photo: Randy Williams)

Can we visit?

Absolutely! And if you can't make it out in person, sign up to be a citizen online - it's free, and you'll be in good company. To date, Slowjamastan boasts over 16,000 registered citizens. You can apply at www.slowjamastan.org.

Randy Williams as The Sultan of Slowjamistan Randy as “The Sultan” of Slowjamistan (Photo: Randy Williams)

What would you say to people who want to travel internationally but haven’t done it yet?

Don't wait 'til tomorrow. Many years ago, I stopped collecting "things" and started amassing "experiences." You only live once, but by traveling the world, I truly feel like I have been blessed with a complete second life!

I wish this for everyone.

Randy in Bonaire with donkeys Randy making more friends in Bonaire (Photo: Randy Williams)

You can follow Randy on his travel blog, www.ramblinrandy.com, and on Instagram.

Know someone with a cool travel story? I want to hear all about it at @JayKruzOfficial on Facebook, Instagram, and X (Twitter). Find your own travel adventure for less on my Jay’s Deals page.

I’ll see you soon on an international flight to somewhere fun!