A self-confessed "country girl" from Traralgon has become the first Australian woman to visit every nation on the planet.
Rachel Davey, along with her partner Martina Sebova – herself the first Slovakian woman to achieve the feat – touched down in Samoa last week, setting foot in country number 195 of 195, joining an elite group of about 300 people.
"I said to Marty, 'The trip's over mate'," Davey laughs now, relaxing in Melbourne after that trip to Samoa. "There were mixed feelings, elation, and a feeling of accomplishment. But it was also bittersweet – we've had this one focus since we decided to do this in 2016.
"It hasn't really hit us. We've been to every country, seen every culture, eaten every food. All those firsts are really exciting."
How rare is it to visit every country on the planet? In human history, more people have been to space than visited every nation. And Davey, 42, and Sebova, 41, are two of only 10 women who have ever managed it.
"It means a lot," Davey says. "If you were to define me, travel is a huge part of what I've aspired to do. I'm a country girl, all I wanted to do was be a little bit different and see the world – that was my one thing.
The couple, who met while working as tour guides on European bus tours in the mid-2000s, made the decision to attempt to visit every country back in 2016. They worked for two years to add money to their savings, then sold everything they owned and set off with a budget of $US50 ($A73) a day, with hopes to achieve their goal by April, 2022.
Those plans were thwarted, of course, by the COVID-19 pandemic – a time Davey and Sebova filled with a "big lap" driving around Australia – and the delayed reopening of some Pacific island nations. And there were plenty of other speed bumps along the way, including countries that aren't always welcoming to tourists.
"Saudi Arabia was really difficult to get into, because they didn't have the e-visa back then," Sebova reflects. "And Algeria was tricky because you had to get your visa in your country of residence, so while we were travelling in Africa we had to fly back to Australia to get our visas."
Davey and Sebova began blogging about their adventures on their website and Instagram account, Very Hungry Nomads, and amassed a following of fellow travellers keen to track their progress. Along the way, the pair achieved one of the goals of their quest: to inspire more women to tackle journeys they may not have in the past.
"Some of the nicest messages we get are women saying, 'You've inspired me to go to places I wouldn't have dreamed of'," Sebova says. "We always say, you don't have to get a backpack and do overland travel through the 'Stans, you can just go to Croatia. Travel has so many different shapes and forms, and it's such a great education, it's so empowering.
"But women often get held back, they get told it's unsafe for them, or maybe in their society it's not something they see other women doing."
There's plenty you learn about the world when you travel it all, when you visit every country. Best beer on the planet? It's in the Czech Republic, Davey and Sebova say. Best coffee? Ethiopia – though you still can't beat a Melbourne café. Fastest wifi? Singapore. Most surprisingly great destination? Eritrea. "The whole country was amazing," Davey says. "Wow."
And of course, the entire planet begins to look different when you know it so intimately.
"You learn so much about places," Sebova says. "You're always amazed by how little we know, and by how different the world is. But in some ways, people are all the same. We just want to live in peace with family, eat some good food, watch the sunrise and the sunset… when you strip it down we're all very much the same.
"We feel like the world has fewer borders now, in our heads. It just flows from one culture and language to the next."