Posted on February 16, 2020 at 5:13 am

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Interview With South Asian Melissa Roy The Global Traveler

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Interview With South Asian Melissa Roy The Global Traveler

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Country #169: Syria 🇸🇾 After much deliberation (five months to be exact!) I have decided to count my trip to the disputed Golan Heights region back in May as my preliminary visit to Syria. I know it’s not ideal, but I am currently waiting for my security clearance and visa to visit Damascus next month from Beirut, at which time I’ll be able to do a more comprehensive trip. I’m hoping to visit Palmyra, Homs, and Aleppo, depending on what I get clearance for. I have been working closely with a couple local Syrian tour operators to help facilitate this. However, I’ve been told to keep my expectations low as it’s very difficult for Americans to get approval—barely 10% of applicants get it, apparently. For other nationalities it’s much easier, but considering we have no diplomatic ties with Syria it makes sense. Anyway, my time in the Golan Heights was definitely an experience I won’t forget. I camped under the stars in just a sleeping bag (no tent) next to a field of active land mines with nothing to deter us but a low barbed wire fence and a couple of weathered signs casually saying ‘Danger Mines’. This part of Syria became occupied by Israel after a six-day war in 1967. The UN and the entire international community still recognizes this territory as part of Syria, as does Guinness World Records (I say this because a few of my friends have taken this route). The only country to recognize Golan Heights as Israel is of course Israel itself, and as of March this year, the United States. According to news sources, “The United States recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel through a presidential proclamation signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on March 25, 2019. The directive made the United States the first country, other than Israel, to recognize Israeli rather than Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights region.” Taking into account that the whole world considers this Syrian soil, I have tentatively decided to count my visit to this region, while waiting for my security clearance to do a more thorough second visit next month. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that my approval comes through ASAP! 🤞🏼

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Interview With South Asian Melissa Roy The Global Traveler. Melissa Roy First South Asian To Spin Around The Globe At 34. Kabul, Afghanistan 11/28/19 — Melissa Sumitra Roy, 34, is about to become the first woman of South Asian origin to visit every sovereign nation in the world when she visits her 193rd and final country, Bangladesh, on December 26, 2019. Currently, at 188, she chose Bangladesh as her final country to honor the birthplace of her late father, Subhash Chandra Roy, as well as all four of her grandparents. Seeing it as a symbolic homecoming, she would like to come full circle and end her journey where her family started… her ancestral homeland.

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Country #162: Mauritius 🇲🇺 Mark Twain once wrote, “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius.” He wasn’t too far off. If you venture about 700 miles east of Madagascar into the sapphire blue waters of the Indian Ocean you just might be lucky enough to wash up onto the powdery white shores of Mauritius. This small island nation is known for its sublime coastline dotted with luxury resorts, superb dining, and world class diving. Encircled entirely by coral reefs, some of the Indian Ocean’s best dive sites are found off the north and west coast of Mauritius. So you better believe as a divemaster and marine life enthusiast I took full advantage of this opportunity! I teamed up with two different local dive shops @divingmauritius and @basedivingcentre in the north of the island and saw to it that I explored the island both above and below the surface (literally and figuratively)! I started in the south of the island in Blue Bay, before heading north to Pereybere and Grand Baie for some diving. My Airbnb host @ahmadabbasmamode was a great cook as well as photographer, and we had fun shooting some beach pics together. He invited me to his family’s house for Iftar, as I was there during the Muslim Ramadan holiday. It felt a bit incongruous doing a bikini shoot and then putting on a hijab for a conservative family dinner right afterwards, but hey, that’s the beauty of being a chameleon when you travel... the ability to adapt to whatever environment you’re in is key to ensuring smooth sailing! Overall, I really felt at home on this island with no problem blending right in—the majority of the population were of an Indian ethnic background like myself 💁🏻‍♀️ I have to give a shout out to my host @selvina_soo from my last night on the island. She and her family were some of the nicest people around and I miss them dearly. I definitely see myself spending more time in Mauritius and hope to come back sooner rather than later!!

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What an incredible journey! Tell us how did the idea entered your mind?
The idea of traveling was always ingrained in me, but I didn’t know how that would manifest itself exactly. My insatiable curiosity to explore the unknown is what drives me to travel, and this trait is in my DNA! As a child, however, I didn’t have the opportunity nor the means to travel.

Did you take breaks? Or you traveled to every country on one tour?
I definitely took breaks. This journey was over 15 years in the making, and each year I would set off on long trips of anywhere from a few months up to eight months at a time!

There are probably a lot of great experiences. Share a few heartwarming moments with us during this trip?
One of the most heartwarming moments during my trip, 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.

What difficulties you had to face during this adventure?
The most obvious challenge for me has been getting visas for some of the politically unstable countries and jumping over their hurdles of corruption, bureaucracy and red tape. Some other subtle challenges are those of loneliness and the difficulty in maintaining friendships and relationships back home, which suffer tremendously when you’re on the road for extended periods of time.

If you have got a choice to pick a place to make it your home…. Which one that will be?
The trifecta for me is Los Angeles, London, and New York. I have lived in all three of those cities and loved my time there. I believe cosmopolitan cities like these are cultural melting pots and have something to offer everyone. You never run out of things to do, and for a city-slicker like me who likes to live a fast life on the go, you never get bored. I need access to museums, theatre, opera, ballet, art galleries, a world-class food scene, you name it, but also nature a close drive away…

How did you manage to finance this tour? Walk us through the journey.
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 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. Being a member of the union (SAG-AFTRA) early on, I made decent earnings from my commercials. With the advent of Netflix and other streaming platforms that are becoming increasingly popular, commercials as we know it have started fading away. They are being replaced by product placement, brand ambassadors, social media influencers, etc, or becoming non-union buyouts with less opportunity to make the kind of residuals we were once used to. All that goes to say that I was lucky to be in Hollywood at a time where I was able to make decent wages and even more lucky that I made some wise investment decisions in the stock/bond market, allowing me to use my returns to fund my travels.

Which are few of the destination that you would absolutely fell in love with?
This is always a difficult question to answer because I’ve fallen in love with many destinations throughout my sixteen years of travel. One that really caught me by surprise was Afghanistan. From the moment I went to their embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan to the moment I touched down on the tarmac in Kabul, I was treated with nothing but complete kindness and compassion, generosity and hospitality. At the embassy in Islamabad, I stared with awe and disbelief when they served me on a silver platter a four-course meal of chicken, biryani, salad, and daal, as well as a pot of tea, while I was waiting in the lobby for my visa. They kept asking what else they could get for me. I have never had an experience like this at an embassy. When I asked them if they do this for everyone, their answer was you are a guest in our home. We do everything to make a guest feel welcome and don’t let them go without eating. In less than two hours, I left with a full-page visa in my passport and a full tasty meal in my belly.
Because of that amazing experience, I chose to celebrate my 34th birthday in Afghanistan, though I didn’t know a single soul beforehand. I happened to meet an interesting person on my flight to Kabul who said I should come to visit his coffee shop. Fast forward 24 hours, he closed down his coffee shop for me, invited about 15-20 of his friends, and threw a full-blown birthday party, complete with speeches in different languages, a cake, candles, sparklers, balloons, and even a handmade painting for a birthday present. Not to mention, a birthday serenade by one of the most famous singers from Afghanistan (their version of American Idol)! I’ve never even had family members throw a birthday party like this for me, let alone strangers I’d met less than 24 hours ago! Another one of our friends took us horseback riding along the lake and no one would let us open our wallets at all during our five nights in Kabul.

How are people around you reacting to this adventure? Did you felt homesick at times?
Most people around me have been super supportive of my adventures, whether or not they can understand why I am doing it! I’ve actually never felt homesick before. I can’t relate to that feeling because it is foreign to me! I do feel sick of home though—does that count?! But in all seriousness, I feel that home is where the heart is, and that to me should always be with a person and not a place. If you are with the right people, in the right company, you can turn any place into your ‘home’.

What is the adventure you are planning?
Now that I have finished visiting every country on this planet, I have my sights set on more ‘extraterrestrial’ goals, you can say. I hope to go outside my normal sphere of travel and see the Earth from a whole new perspective, from that of outer space. Are you listening, Elon Musk and Richard Branson?