Inspirato member Jim Kitchen can lay claim to a pretty impressive accomplishment—he’s seen the entire contiguous United States, facing backward, from the bumper seat of his parents’ wood-paneled station wagon.
“That whole experience, being gone every summer—always on the move, taking a different direction—was just part of my DNA,” Kitchen said.
Now a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina, Kitchen credits the jumping-off point for his incredible round-the-world adventure to a travel company he began when he was fresh out of college. His work in the industry allowed him to take company “familiarization trips” around the world, which helped jumpstart his path to hitting all 193 U.N. countries.
“Once I hit 80 or 90 countries, I said, ‘I wonder if anyone’s ever been to every one of them!’ I found out it had been done … but at the time it wasn’t like I was locked in to the idea.’”
Kitchen notes that the endeavor, which spanned about 30 years, certainly wasn’t “power traveling.”
I just casually traveled, took a few trips every year, and saw six or seven countries each trip. And then once I got to 130, I thought, ‘I should just go to all of them.’Jim KitchenInspirato member
“Over the last six or seven years, I’ve really been mindful about how and where I’m traveling,” Kitchen said. “I saved Africa for last because it’s so logistically difficult, and it took probably six or seven trips to hit all 50-some countries.”
“The Syrians have really been through a lot, and you can kind of sense that when you’re there,” he said. “Syria’s not for the faint of heart; it was a fitting end to this incredible journey.”
“Inspirato members want to go to a destination and experience something about it,” he said. “That’s what’s been great about meeting other Inspirato folks along the way—they’re way more connectors than they are collectors.”
“Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica—I think Costa Rica in general is one of the most diverse travel destinations in the world,” Kitchen said. “Extraordinary beaches, the jungle, the volcanoes, all of the different tours you can do—rafting on the rivers, exploring waterfalls—it’s just an amazingly diverse country.”
And beyond Inspirato, the top three favorite destinations he’s visited throughout the years are Queenstown, New Zealand (“the adventure capital of the planet”); Gabon, Africa (“elephants walking on white-sand beaches); and Bhutan (“the zen capital of the world—you can really connect with yourself there”).
“After setting foot in every country in the world, my goal in the next 12 months is to see that world from space,” Kitchen said. “And I’ll keep you posted on that.”