Melissa Roy


Melissa Roy is on the list of women making history by visiting every country in the world. On December 27, 2019, the 34-year-old visited Bangladesh—the birthplace of her late father and grandparents—and became the first woman of South Asian origin to travel to every country in the world. Though she doesn’t plan to apply for a Guinness World Record (“I’m doing this for myself,” she says).

Roy’s accomplishment is an unlikely one, considering that she rarely traveled as a child. She was born in the small Midwestern town of Monroe, Michigan, and grew up in Greenwood, Indiana. . “I never had a chance to travel growing up because, quite frankly, we didn’t have the money to do so.”

Despite the circumstances, Roy had a deep curiosity about the world beyond her small town. “I never understood how some people want to sit in their one little corner of the globe and not want to see something bigger than them,” she says. “I have an insatiable curiosity for the unknown.”

Here’s the story of how she did it.

What Inspired her:

Having visited 66 countries by age 29, I decided to challenge myself and set a goal of visiting 100 countries and all seven continents before my 30th birthday. I ended up celebrating the big 3-0 in Antarctica with one of my favorite animals, the gentoo penguins. It was also my seventh continent. After that, I decided to keep going, with the goal of visiting all the sovereign UN countries

How She Paid For It:

I am unusual in that I have no sponsorships or endorsements—I pay for all my travels out of my pocket. For the first decade or so, I would return to my home base in Hollywood, do various TV commercials, music videos, even background work, anything that would give me the flexibility to decide my own schedule. Meanwhile, I’d be planning my next trip on a shoestring budget. I was lucky to be in Hollywood at a time where I was able to make decent wages and even luckier that I made some wise investment decisions in the stock/bond market, allowing me to use my returns to fund my travels.

On Country Counting:

I became the first woman of South Asian origin to travel to every sovereign nation in the world when I visited my 193rd country, Bangladesh. As for the number of countries there are in the world, this is a big point of contention among travelers. I wanted to keep things as uncomplicated as possible and go with the list of actual UN members, of which there are 193.

On Why She in not Going for the Guinness World Record: I’m not going for a Guinness World Record because no record really corresponds to what I did—I wasn’t trying to be the fastest and I can’t be the youngest because that record is currently held by my friend Lexie Alford, who’s only 21 years old. I’m doing this for myself—and okay, maybe for bragging rights for my future grandchildren who can tell their friends how crazy their granny was!

Why Bangladesh: I chose Bangladesh as my final country to honor the birthplace of my late father, Subhash Chandra Roy (whom I’d seen for the last time on my sixth birthday) as well as all four of my grandparents. I wanted to try to find the village where my father was born but I thought it would be a shot in the dark because I didn’t know a single person in Bangladesh. Most of my family had moved to India after my father moved to the US, so I didn’t have any connections left in Bangladesh. Once we made contact, we went straight to the small village of Netrakona, and it was truly an emotional experience. Seeing the exact house where my father grew up was nothing short of powerful and moved me to tears. I had the privilege of staying with and meeting several of his childhood friends who were kind enough to share old photos and memories of him. I know he would have been proud of me.

Mixed Emotions: When I arrived in my final country, I experienced a combination of feelings: the euphoria that accompanies the accomplishment of a lifelong goal; the sense of relief that all the hard parts (ie. the bureaucracy and all the necessary sacrifices) were finally over; and the bittersweet feeling that I would no longer be able to have that adrenaline rush of landing in a new country.

Best Experience: One of the highlights, of course, was reaching my final country with my mother by my side, whom I flew out to join me. Neither one of us had been to Bangladesh before, and both of our fathers were born there. This was also the first foreign country we had explored together as a mother-daughter duo. Seeing it as a symbolic homecoming to my roots and origins, I wanted to come full circle and end my journey where my family started—my ancestral homeland.

Her Advice for Other Women Who Want to Do This: My advice for women who want to do this is the same advice that I would have for anyone wanting to do this. It is possible—so get the word “can’t” and all the self doubts out of your mind and vocabulary. Honestly, though: If I can do it, I feel that anyone can. If cost is a hindrance, it is shocking how much you can save each month by cutting out things you don’t need (daily Starbucks, monthly manicures, personal trainers). I’ve often laughed at how much I save by traveling. Per month, it costs me more to live in one place in the States than it does to travel in most parts of the world.

On What’s Next for her:

I’m still not 100% sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I have been considering working with some NGOs with missions close to my heart and eventually starting my own. I am very passionate about women’s rights and empowerment of those that are vulnerable, which, let’s face it, are women, in most of the world.

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