Suzanne DuBose is a traveler by day, lawyer by night, and she’s undertaking a momentous feat: traveling to all 197 countries around the world! Her mission? Tell the stories of the countries and people she encounters as they’ve never been known before, and share love, kindness, and enlightenment along the way!
“Traveling… it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” This is my favorite travel saying. My name is Suzanne DuBose, but in the world I’m known as “Travelirvana” – it’s like “travel nirvana,” but without the “n.” The definition of “nirvana” is to find an ideal or idyllic place; a state of perfect happiness. So what’s “travelirvana?” It’s travelling to an ideal or idyllic place to find a state of perfect happiness.
It’s hard to surprise me. I have been to really beautiful places and seen and done really incredible things and met really amazing people. It is hard to surprise me, but when I flew over The Bahamas, I about died – it is gorgeous! When I got off the plane and was taxied to Bahasea, I thought, ‘This truly is the epitome of paradise!’
The Bahamas is country #83 for me. I’ve learned by now that everybody always talks about the universal language being love, right? It’s not. It’s a smile. It doesn’t matter where you are; anywhere in the world, everyone understands a smile. It doesn’t matter if they can speak my language or not. It doesn’t matter if they’re a three-year old indigenous villager way out in the boonies in Rwanda – they understand and I’m able to connect with people because of a smile. And here, everyone smiles.
When I was younger I wanted to travel all over the world, take photographs, and write about it. When I was 18 I got pregnant, so instead of going and seeing the world, I had to make the world fit for my daughter. Almost three years ago she left for college, and I was looking around like, ‘I’m not married. I don’t care about any of these things in my house.’ My friend said, ‘Why don’t you follow your dreams instead of complaining about how you wish you could follow your dreams?’ And on November 14th, 2015, I sold everything I had, took my law practice virtual, and called my daughter. That’s the only person whose opinion I cared about, and she said, ‘You have sacrificed everything for so long for me and everyone else. Go.’
My first country was Sri Lanka. I only check two things when I travel: entry and exit strategy. So as far as planning goes, I fly by the seat of my pants. I think God sends me some kind of message or something about where he wants me to go. So how did I end up in the Caribbean this time?
I met a woman from the Dominican Republic in a tent in the Merzouga Desert in Morocco. We were on camel-back and hit it off in a conversation. She wrote to me and said ‘I’m going to the Dominican Republic to see my family and we’d like to invite you to see our country from a local perspective.’ And I said, ‘Sounds like I’m going to do the Caribbean next!’ So I’d start in The Bahamas and work my way down. Something like that always happens, and that’s how I end up picking where I go… Somebody I have met in the world is inviting me to see their country, or to do something spectacular that they’ve done, and maybe I spend three or four days with them, but for any other country that’s anywhere near it, I go tackle that [on my own]. It’s not a big map and I don’t roll the dice, or close my eyes and spin the globe around. At some point, obviously, it’s going to be more of a decision because there will only be so many countries left.
Aside from the color of the water outside Bahasea, the highlight of The Bahamas so far was the Queen’s Staircase. There was a gentleman – his name was Antonio; he was sitting out there and he had some medical disability. He was so interesting and told me so many things about how that whole place came about. He’s just trying to make a living, and the stories he told about The Bahamas’ history were enthralling. He was funny and you could tell what a good heart he had.
My goal has nothing to do with getting through all of the countries in a certain amount of time. My goal is to meet people like Antonio and to understand the culture and the history; to see what we as people can do to make it a better world. But the number one goal is to teach people that there are misperceptions about the world. They think of a country – for example, Rwanda – and all they think of is the genocide that happened 23 years ago. They don’t know how incredible this country is and what they’ve overcome to get to where they are today. They don’t know of the history of The Bahamas. This place has grown from slavery into a country that is self-governing, that everybody in the world wants to come to. And because The Bahamas is, what, 30 miles from America, they have more knowledge about this place, but I assure you the perception is not accurate about how incredible of a country Rwanda is. It’s the cleanest country in the world and people don’t know that.
I want to tell people the truth about what I’ve learned, and that is that people are really kind and generous and they want you to love their country – they want you to come visit it. I want to tell these stories. And I want people to know that they are missing out if they haven’t had an opportunity to meet the Bahamians. And I don’t mean going to Atlantis; I mean going to Arawak Cay, going to the fish fry, doing some Junkanoo dancing and getting down – I’m talking about that part of The Bahamas. It is absolutely the best part!
I was surprised because of how fast the tours to the Exuma Cay filled up. I’m not done with The Bahamas – don’t get me wrong, it’s got hundreds of islands and cays. I won’t be able to visit them all. But there are some that I would like to see that have something special, like Pig Island in Exuma. And the pink sand beaches in Eleuthera. So I have to find a way to get there.
The way I find things to do when I travel is not by searching the internet; I’d land in a place and ask other people. My whole itinerary for Bolivia was done by one person, who said, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ If it’s on the list, I have to do it. The bad part about that, is that includes climbing Kilimanjaro! And I was cursing the person who put that on my list! I was like, ‘I hate you! This hurts! I’m so tired!’ And when I’m hanging on by an ice pick in Huayna Potosi, 6,088 meters, and it’s pitch black and my feet hurt and I’m crying, I’m like, ‘I hate the person that told me to climb Huayna Potosi!’ So when people told me, ‘Go to Pig Beach’ – now I have to get there! There’s got to be a way. When you’ve done as much as I’ve done… I’ve swum with nurse sharks. I’ve fed iguanas. I’ve snorkeled, scuba dived, climbed, swam, jumped out of, jumped off of, slept in – whatever! So here, for me, it’s swimming with the pigs, because I’ve never done it! I’ve never seen it. And I’m like, ‘If I have to swim to Exuma, I’m going to swim with those pigs!’
One of my most memorable experiences was the climbing of Kilimanjaro itself, succeeding at a feat like that. People don’t realize what kind of battle you have – physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. You meet the very worst in yourself and the very best in yourself when you’re trying to do something like that. I can only imagine what it’s like – and I’ll find out soon enough – going to base camp on Mount Everest. Not this year, though! I’ve climbed enough mountains this year.