Probably. And that’s ok.
Almost two years ago now, I set my sights on a big goal. Visit every country in the world. But that wasn’t all. Be the first woman on record to visit every country in the world. Now that’s a huge goal. Some [many] have said a crazy one. But off I went and here I am in Israel, 19 months of travel and about 45 countries later.
A few details are important about this goal. When I say “the first woman on record” it is because there is no woman yet on record (i.e., in the record books) who has accomplished this goal. Though there are tales of such badass women who have done it. Also, officially, the record that I was attempting with Guinness World Records is Fastest to Visit Every Sovereign Nation (female). This is because Guinness doesn’t record firsts (they are inherently unbreakable), but I was able to get them to create a separate category for women, given that there are obstacles for us that our male travel brothers don’t face (e.g. visas in countries where women need to be traveling with a male member of their family). And because I think that it’s important to call out the separate categories because without directly saying it, having a category for females reinforces that women travel to every country in the world too (note: a category for team has been created as well).
I struggled with the idea of going for “fastest,” though, because I wouldn’t want to encourage people to go faster and faster. It can be done with bigger and bigger wallets, but the faster you go, the less value going even has. But, this was the record I could go for, so it’s the one I’ve been after.
Now, to the failure part.
For some time now, I’ve known of two other women whose goal is also to visit every country in the world. One is a friend of mine and our shared goal brought us together, first becoming friends on Facebook, then meeting in real life when our paths crossed in the Philippines. Melissa Roy is ahead of me by quite a bit at 107 countries and is super fun to watch on her journey. But she isn’t going for “fastest,” so we could still be friends.
The second, Cassie de Pecol, IS going for the “fastest.” And she is kicking my ass. I knew about her project, but mistakenly didn’t take much time to see if it impacted my goal because she left after me.
You may have seen stories come out about her this week from several news outlets because she is getting really close – she’s on country 180!!! Only 18 to go. As I’ve seen these articles shared about her, I’ve watched the internet try to react. Some applauding her goal, stamina and courage. Yet others challenging her methods and pace (for perspective, she left a few months after me and is at ~4 times the countries).
But as the only person on the planet I know of who is after the same thing as her, and as the only person on the planet I know of who is going to “lose” to her, I want to congratulate her. We share a goal, but have different approaches. And that’s ok. She set a big goal and has gone after it with determination and tenacity and deserves people at the finish line cheering her on, instead of questioning how she got there.
But, come on Jessica, aren’t you sad or mad, or hungry? Yes, all of the above. If I’m honest, yes, I’m seriously bumming. A voice inside is screaming and crying, “but what about me?!?!!?!” in all of this.
The competitive side of me struggles with second place. I’ve been known to have my own “McKayla’s not impressed” moments.
Then, thankfully, my adult brain hops in.
Good for her. Good for women. Good for humans.
Guess what? I’m two of those three things! Her achievement does not make mine smaller. Her success does not impede mine. Her perseverance is good for everyone, including and especially me.
I am happy to be proud of a complete stranger, even if her success does feel like a punch to the kidney.
When we celebrate each other’s successes and when we truly root for each other to win, we make the shift from, “she got it and I didn’t” to “she got it and I can too.” Moving from scarcity to abundance, from jealousy to aspiration, from me to we, not only makes a huge difference in personal well-being and sanity, but is how we win as a community.
Before, the idea of this failure lived in the land of ifs and buts and coconuts, but now it’s quite imminent. So what to do when failure is on its way?
Over the last two years, friends, family and strangers have asked, “what if you don’t get the record?” And my response has always been that the record is really just icing on the cake. Will I be worse off for visiting every country in the world, and coming in second? Fifth? Tenth? Or if I don’t finish? Will I be worse off for “only” getting to 150 countries? 100? 30?
No. Of course the answer to all of that is no. That was easier to say when failure wasn’t so close, but it remains true.
My goal remains to visit every country in the world. Taking away the record attempt has its ups and downs. Having a record on the table helps keep focus and pace. Momentum is really important in a big goal and when you’re going for a world record of being the fastest at something, you don’t have time to dawdle. It keeps you moving.
Then on the flip side, taking the record off the table, I expect, will be a bit freeing. While my goal of every country doesn’t change, I have a bit more freedom of time and schedule. How luxurious an extra day here and there will feel, especially in countries that I may never have the opportunity to visit again.
So in the end, what does “failure” mean to me” It just means I need a new tagline. While I figure that out, please join me in cheering Cassie to the finish.