Before she made headlines, Taylor Demonbreun was just your average college graduate. She was working as an intern on Wall Street, putting her degree in economics and public policy from Vanderbilt University to good use. It was during that job, however when she felt the itch to get out of corporate America and into the world.
Almost two years later, Taylor has claimed the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to visit all sovereign nations (overall and female) with a time of 1 year 189 days. Documented on her Instagram, @TrekWithTaylor, and on her Rayka travel recommendation page, her journey around the world led her to discover and share experiences from 196 countries. From her travels, Taylor has learned more about mental refresh and wellbeing than she ever would have in a desk job – and has inspired others along the way. We caught up with the world traveler to learn more about her journey and to see what’s next.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to take your record breaking journey?
I was inspired to start this journey when I realized that I wanted to do something that I was passionate about. My goal in college was to become an Investment Banker. I was an Economics and Public Policy major and it just seemed to be what everyone else was doing. After my final summer internship spent working in New York on Wall Street I just took a step back and realized I did not want to spend my life doing something that I didn’t love. I had recently finished a semester studying abroad in London where I was able to travel to twenty countries. I have always loved travel and wanted to visit as many places as I possibly could. And, one day, it all just sort of clicked – I want to work in travel, someday I want to visit every country, and I want to inspire others to travel as well. Attempting the records seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that and also have this really amazing experience. My journey around the world was a huge leap into something that I’ve always loved and been passionate about and it has definitely been the right decision for me.
Another big motivation from the beginning was wanting to inspire others to travel. More specifically, I wanted to challenge the stereotypical notion that young women cannot or should not travel on their own. I wanted to show not only that solo female travel around the globe was possible, but that it is feasible even in countries one might not have previously thought to visit. Young women can, and should, see as much of the world as they can. I believe that travel is vitally important to shaping one’s worldview, so it is important for everyone to get out and learn more about the world that they live in. To have played even a small part in encouraging someone to travel and see something new makes me so incredibly proud to have worked towards and set this record.
Do you believe that traveling can improve mental health & wellness? Can you tell us how it’s helped you?
Absolutely! I love the feeling of freedom I have when I am traveling, especially on a solo trip. Being able to call all of the shots and completely plan my day to see and do whatever I want in a brand-new city is always such a great and rewarding feeling. Getting away from everyday life and just hitting that reset button is something really essential that a great trip can provide. Travel can also sometimes be a really stressful experience, so for me it was important to prioritize my mental health. I would try to incorporate rest days into my trip because I was constantly on the move.
What are a few strategies you used on your journey to promote your own wellbeing while traveling?
I never stayed out too late to make sure that I could get a good night of sleep. This proved to work out well as I never missed a flight due to over sleeping! I also tended to use social media less and less as the trip went along. I was able to dedicate all of my energy into my planning and making the trip actually happen and I stopped worrying about anything else. I posted online when I had time for it and stopped feeling bad for disappearing for a while. It is a hard balance to maintain and I learned a lot of lessons from it. It’s something I’m still trying to find the right balance for even now, but the biggest lesson that I learned was to truly just block out anything negative online and really try to not care about what other people might think.
What was your favorite place that you visited and why?
This is probably both the most common question I am asked but also my least favorite to answer. It is so hard to choose and is like comparing apples to oranges! Every country is so different, filled with incredible people, and special in its own way. I know that is not a satisfying answer, though, so I will say that Iceland and Singapore were my favorites. Iceland wins for its incredible natural beauty that was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It just blew me away around every corner! And Singapore was just so much fun for me personally because I have always wanted to visit and it is a country that just brings a lot of my interests together in a really unique way. I love how invested the country is in both nature and technology and really enjoyed all of the great food and museums throughout my visit.
Another thing that I will say when it comes to the favorite country question is that I had some of the greatest experiences of my entire trip in countries that I would not necessarily say are my favorites. For example, my time in both Iran and Libya were some of the most memorable events of my entire life, but for me that doesn’t necessitate saying that they are my favorite countries. If your readers would like to learn more about some of my favorite experiences and favorite places, they can definitely check out my profile on Rayka!
The Rayka app is different from other social media sites, right? How does it help encourage travelers to get off their phones and out into the world?
Yes! I love it because it allows you to connect with people all over and learn about places from other really cool travelers or even your friends. It is so much more than just a travel app because it sets you up for an adventure and helps you to get out and see the world. It is also super easy to use and just a really cool concept all around!
What’s next for you? Any upcoming plans?
I’m still figuring it out! I know that I want to do something I’m passionate about and I know that I want to help to make a difference in the world. I’m still figuring out what that looks like for me, but I’m hoping to do something that will allow me to spread what I have learned around the world to others. I am also working on writing a book as well!
Thanks for sharing your story with us! Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for having me! I love sharing the story of my travels and how impactful they were. My biggest takeaway from the entire experience is how similar everyone around the globe really is. I truly think it is so important for everyone to know and try to understand. Some of us were born into incredibly lucky circumstances and some of us were not. We had no say in that matter, but we do have a say in how we live our lives. Universally, everyone I met was so incredibly kind and generous. I was always blown away when people who had almost nothing of material value would share what little they had, even if sometimes that was just a conversation. Everyone just wants to live in a country that is safe for themselves and their families. We all might look a little different, speak a different language, or practice a different religion, but that inherent desire for the basic values, freedoms, and safety in life is the same in all of us.