Meet Sal Lavallo: Who Travelled to Every Country in The World by 27
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Maryam and Nivaal Rehman | Toronto, Canada
There are many people who dream of travelling the world. With the rise of social media, and people sharing their journeys, this desire and dream has greatly increased. We interviewed Sal Lavallo, one of the few people who can actually say that they have "travelled the world," because at 27-years-old, Sal finished travelling to all 193 countries. This is an incredible achievement, especially because in his journey, he spent time in all these countries and developed a meaningful understanding of the many cultures in our world. In our interview with him, we discussed more about his journey, the lessons he learned, and his goals for the future. In this blog, we share some big lessons from the interview. You can listen to the whole conversation on our podcast by clicking this link:
Lesson 1: Dream Big
Sal's desire to travel began when from when he was young, and he carried that into his adulthood.
"When I was younger, I would travel often with my family. We did lots of big road trips around America," he told us. His background also played a role in this.
"My mother’s German and my father’s Italian, so the stories that I heard growing up were always about places far away, but they made those far away places feel close, because they were about my family and my history. From a young age, I always felt like the world was really accessible, and that kind of has come into fruition more as an adult, as I was able to do my own travelling as well."
To be able to achieve things that people often think are impossible, one has to dream big. Travelling to every country in the world is one of those things, and Sal believes that it is important to dream big because "we live in a world that is full of opportunities, and though some people are given easier paths to success than others, really, anything is possible. There’s always going to be mountains that need to be climbed, and everybody has that, but if you push through them, then you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve."
Lesson 2: Travel makes the world more connected
Photos By: @SalLavallo (Instagram)
Everyone grows up in a unique environment that impacts the way they see the world, and the way they see people of different cultures. Media, family and education are all some examples of things in people's lives that help them develop opinions, and believe in certain "myths" about other people. These myths often make them feel disconnected from people of other parts of the world, because of all their differences.
Sal shares how travel helps you connect with people you might have never thought of. He thought that he "wouldn't be able to connect with anybody" in North Korea, but he had "a few really nice interactions" which allowed him to "see the humanity there." Through his travels on the road, he shares how people sitting next to you may "seem completely different from you, and then you realize, just how much you share just by being in the exact same place at the same time."
He was also able to see how interconnected the world is.
"You can go in like small villages in South America, and they still are talking about Cristiano Ronaldo, and listening to a lot of the same music. The amount of foreignness in our world has really diminished."
Because of all the similarities that exist between people, and how interconnected we all are, travel also gives people the opportunity to solve global issues related to how we identify ourselves. We define ourselves with things like, race, class, and religion. And "you can comprehend them just by them reading about it, but to really understand it, you have to approach those differences. And so, the benefit of travel is really understanding humanity in all of its shapes and colours."
Finally, the cultural understanding that one gains from travel is important in today's global society.
"One of my favourite quotations I always talk about, is [that] Lester B. Pearson once said, 'How can there be peace if we don’t understand each other, and how can we understand if we don’t know one another.'
Travel opens up opportunities because "at the end of the day, there’s so few jobs, there’s so few opportunities that you can have if you’re limited in your cultural understandings."
Lesson 3: It's important to balance your social media use
Many people share their journeys travelling around the world on social media, but it's important to balance the amount of time we spend using it.
"I think it’s really fun to walk around a city, or wherever, with a camera, and try to find beautiful things, and it’s fun to be trying to make a video and think of what stories can be told. But I also think it’s fun to walk around without a camera at all, and be as present as you can. My friends are always shocked because I’m almost never on my phone. And you would think that, because of social media and stuff, I would have to be, but I prefer not to touch it. But at the same time, I do try and tell the stories, and I do try and document a little bit. I think you just need a good balance."
Social media addiction is something that many people can be impacted by. To prevent becoming "obsessed" with social media, Sal only shares his travel, not his personal life, and whatever he posts is "usually old" so that he's "able to look back through the album and find something better." It also protects him from what he thinks the "biggest danger is, which is that people view themselves through their social media."
"In curating your own life for the consumption by others, if you start to believe that who you truly are is what you’re presenting and not what you’re being 24 hours a day, then that gets really scary. I see that with a lot of people. Also the definition of who they should be, and what they should share, is largely dictated by the others that they’re viewing there."
However, Sal also shares that "it can be very amazing because I love connecting with my followers and I love when they go to places and they say it’s because they saw me posting from there. Or I love when I post something positive and someone says that they really needed to hear that message that day."
Social media can be really beneficial in planning one's travel experiences as well.
However, Sal believes that "there’s kind of this gap in the travel industry in that Instagram is the de facto travel app, and yet there's no way to really share your recommendations. It’s not like a searchable database." He also believes that apps like TripAdvisor have become famous, but "the average rating on TripAdvisor is like a 4.7/5, so nobody knows what that means, and it’s also completely anonymous, so you don’t know who’s telling you."
To solve this problem, he created a social app meant for travel recommendations, called Rayka.
"With Rayka, we wanted to do recommendations rather than reviews. So only the places that you would want to go, and from the people that you would want to get the recommendations from. So from top travellers, from your friends, from locations that are in movies or whatever. You have this recommendation database. Most of my recommendations are on there, so whenever someone asks me like 'Oh, I’m going to Tanzania. What should I do?' I always say check my page on Rayka."
Lesson 4: Do what you love
Photos by: @SalLavallo (Instagram)
No matter what you do, there are always going to be some people who do not support what you are doing, and so it is important to do what you want to do, rather than what you think you should do, to fit into the norms of society. In his most recent trips, Sal shares that he is getting better at doing "exactly what [he] wants" and "it makes the trip so much nicer." He erases the experiences he is doing because he feels like he has to, and only doing what he "really enjoys."
The people who he's the most excited to meet are also people who are "confident, and who have a high sense of self-worth."
In a lot of ways, we get stuck in a pattern and we think that success is defined by very specific things, whether it’s money, fame, power or whatever. And so, to me, some of the coolest people are ones that kind of go against that grain.
Sal shares how he has "friends who do Peace Studies, and they have none of the best fashion, and are living paycheck to paycheck, but they’re doing exactly what they want," which he thinks is "amazing because they’re doing it only for themselves."
While it's important to do what you love, it's also important to recognize that you might be in the process of doing something you love, but things don't always work out. To ensure that he is doing what he loves, Sal says "that you need to be planning 10 amazing things, and if only one happens, then you’re still doing something amazing. You need to love your plan A, B and C all equally, so if one thing doesn’t work out, you have something else that’s still going on. "
Lesson 5: You can Change the World
Even before he started to travel, Sal took the lessons on economic development and identity he learned in university, and created change through his organization called "Trail of Seeds."
He wanted to get a "real world experience," of how "development doesn’t mean an increase in economic indicators," but "an increase in quality of life," which "isn’t a universal thing," but "a societally specific thing." To get a "first-hand experience" that "answered the problems that needed to be addressed," he started "an organization that really empowers communities and works as a civil society accelerator."
His organization "guides communities through introspection processes that can then kind of answer the questions of what they desire themselves." They completed three projects in 2011 and 2013, and while they have not done any "specific projects" in the past five years, they have still "pitched a handful of things," and are "always talking about how to make it work." Sal hopes "it can come back somehow," and is "still looking for ways to do that."
One of the hardest things about travelling to every country in the world, is seeing world issues like poverty, and inequality first hand. Sal shared how "it can get overwhelming. Having seen so much and built an understanding of it, and also to have a personal connection to it, it’s just a lot." The world is much more complex than we may think, and by travelling, we come to understand the world and its complexities a lot more.
"Sometimes, you know, I might be completely awake and then feel completely drained just because of thinking about how complex and diverse the world is in both good and bad ways."
We always say that while individuals do not have the power to solve all the issues that exist in the world, they can still do something to be able to create some sort of change. From running Trail of Seeds, to using social media and sharing positive messages about different cultures, people and places, Sal is definitely doing his part to have an impact in our world. His efforts are truly inspirational.
To end off our interview, we did a rapid-fire round of questions.
1. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
"I love going by bus."
2. What is your favourite cuisine?
3. Mountains or Beaches?
4. Do you prefer warm destinations or cold destinations?
5. Would you rather visit a place that is famous for its architecture or nature?
6. Is there anything else that you would like to say about your work or your journey that we missed?
"I would just say that I love engaging with people so I try and respond to every comment, and every message. I always love for people to reach out and ask any question that they want information on. I’ve answered a lot of them on my YouTube channel and on my Instagram, so always check that stuff out."
Thank you for reading this article!
Follow Sal on his social media: @SalLavallo
Visit his website: https://www.sallavallo.com