My conversation with Romaine Welds immediately starts with untamed excitement; “nobody in the Caribbean has ever done anything like this”, we say to each other over again. Touching down in his final country this week, Romaine is still adjusting to his new title: the first Jamaican to visit every country. The reality is for Romaine, this is more than a personal win, its even bigger than a Jamaican’s accomplishment. This is record-breaking news for the entire Caribbean and all who inhabit it’s vast parameters. For this reason, Romaine chose to end his worldwide quest in the Caribbean, meticulously choosing Antigua and Barbuda as country 195.
Being the first Jamaican to visit every country in the world is something the entire diaspora can celebrate in. Romaine gathers stories and photographs to share how he experienced the world, hailing from Montego Bay to big wide world. Even while freshly celebrating, Romaine insists that he made sure to represent the island wherever he went.
Proud moments from the first Jamaican to visit every country in the world
From finding a Jamaican restaurant in Finland to distinctly Jamaican music and billboards in East Timor, he a found home wherever he journeyed. While the Jamaican diaspora is notably vast, there were certain communities that even surprised Romaine while traveling. He even sett himself a mini challenge of hearing a Bob Marley track in every country in the world. Places as far as Bora Bora didn’t disappointment him on this front. Traveling revealed a side of humanity that is playful and beautiful and worth the curiosity. He tells me about each of these moments and the smile in his voice is obvious and encouraging.
In this exclusive Travel Noire interview, Romaine shares how the journey began and all it has opened his eyes to. Find out what stories the very first Jamaican to visit every country in the world has to offer.
Tell us about yourself
I’m Romaine Welds, I was born and raised in Jamaica and migrated to the U.S. in 2007. I started working for an airline company which offered me the privilege of starting to see the world. I work as a ground operation agent at San Francisco Airport.
Did you wake up one day and decide to visit every country or were you slowly inspired to see the whole world?
I started by visiting bucket-list locations, visiting wonders of the world, slowly working my way up to 100 countries. Every place was exciting, and after coming back from one trip I was always excited about where I would go next.
Where was the place that gave you the excitement to see more?
As a kid growing up in Jamaica on a small island, everything was exciting for more. I always wanted to see what was around the corner, and then what was around that corner, and so on. It was always my curiosity that kept me traveling.
How long did it take to visit every country? How did you go about planning?
Firstly, I do a lot of research before I travel. I have to in order to plan out the visas, vaccine requirements, immigration, etc, and ensure that it goes smoothly. I couldn’t do this without some organization and a lot of research ahead of time. Some countries even require you to have confirmation before you arrive at the airport.
In terms of the length of time… I always say it started on the first flight, in 2007! In total it is 15 years of exploring the world. It feels like yesterday to me.
Where did you feel most welcomed as a Jamaican?
That’s a tough one because most people welcome and even love Jamaicans. There is no place like Jamaica, that I can confirm. We’re a very unique place and this might be why everyone likes to copy us – trendsetters as they call us!
There were places I didn’t expect to be welcoming towards me as a Jamaican, but they surprised me. Russia, for example, was welcoming to me as a Jamaican. There were other places, unusual places, that you wouldn’t expect, which were good to Jamaicans. Syria and Iran are other examples. Iran really shocked me, I wasn’t expecting that level of hospitality in the country.
Do you you have a story?
Yes, I was walking around taking pictures while sightseeing and this group of girls offered me some carrot ice cream or juice, I don’t remember. They offered to buy me one and they were so kind, just wanting to show me the best of their country. Little things like that can change your whole perception.
On another occasion I had my drone confiscated because I flew it over a mall and I got into trouble, and nearly needed up in jail. I was so worried because I thought they were going to lock me up but everyone treated me with kindness. We resolved it and there were no further problems, I’m grateful for the way they handled it too.
I think that’s the best thing about traveling, when countries pleasantly surprise you and make you feel excited to return. This leads to my next question, which are the places you’d happily revisit?
Iran, because the trip was cut short and I’d happily go back to spend more time. Botswana because the delta was dried up so I didn’t get to explore the way I wanted. I hear it is usually fascinating. Namibia was cut short because of Omicron. I did get to see some sand dunes but I really wanted to return to the U.S in San Francisco where I live instead of risking getting stuck because they were closing the borders. I would also revisit Algeria. I went for 2 or 3 days but I didn’t have the best experience because customs took my camera. Of all the countries, not even North Korea, but Algeria was the one to take my regular tourist camera. I got it back but it was still not my favorite experience so I want to explore once more. Yemen is another one because it’s a hidden gem in the Middle East, the mud-brick buildings, fortresses, UNESCO heritage sites, the history – it’s a beautiful place.
Having seen the whole world, where are your top three places to live?
Brazil, easily. The culture, the vibes, the people, language, everything.
Cape Verde for the relaxing lifestyle.
The Maldives for the serenity — actually no, Bora Bora is slightly more serene and has more local life so I’ll go with that one. I’ll throw in Samoa as the bonus one too, it’s really nice there.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned while traveling the whole world?
For sure I would say you have to see a place for yourself. What the media presents is not always the reality of life in a country. Be informed, take precautions but go see for yourself. If I listened to the news I would never go to Iraq, for example. It’s beautiful over there and there are tons of districts in Iraq. I told one guy in Mogadishu that I was going to Iraq and he was like “Are you serious?” And I replied, “yes, I’m going to Baghdad”. Sometimes you just have to do your research and go out into the world.
Keep updated with Romaine’s work and travel lifestyle on Instagram.