San Diegan visits every country in the world

Randy "R Dub!" Williams gets into the garb in Kazakhstan en route to visiting every U.N.-recognized country in the world.
(Randy “R Dub!” Williams — @rdub)

After going to 192 countries, traveler finds the world far less scary than news reports led him to believe


Randy Williams has slept in a yurt in the Mongolian desert, spent the night in a safe house in Afghanistan and bedded down in a floating village in Brunei. He has gone sightseeing in a bullet-proof armored car in Somalia and declined an invitation to sit on a crocodile in Burkina Faso, Africa.

Those are just a few of the adventures experienced by someone on a mission to visit all the countries in the world. He also witnessed everyday life in places like Libya — squares populated by popcorn stands, kids with balloons, families having fun and lots of smiles.

Next month, he’ll check off his to-do list the last of the U.N.-recognized 193 nations when he steps off a plane in Turkmenistan, completing his multi-year journey.

The trip was on hold because Turkmenistan, one of the most isolated and mysterious countries in Central Asia, only recently re-opened to visitors after being closed for more than four years.

This follows last month’s stay in Syria, his 192nd country, where Williams was informed on arrival he was only the second tourist granted entry since the pandemic broke out.

The DJ and program manager of local radio stations Z90.3 and Magic 92.5 is known in the industry as “R Dub!.” Now 46, it wasn’t until a decade ago that he made traversing the globe his mission and passion.

His first goal was visiting all Central and South American countries (with the exception of all Caribbean nations) by the time he was 40. He did.

Williams is turned off by the usual tourist itineraries. He avoids large crowds of visitors flocking to the top sights in tourist destination travel guides. He prefers to explore the back streets and push himself out of his comfort zone.

Out-of-the-way places with strange-sounding names appeal to Williams. He has been to countries most Americans have never heard of: Burkina Faso, Comoros, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Lesotho, Nauru, Transnistria and Tuvalu, to mention a few.

Randy Williams hired security guards when he visited Afghanistan and stayed over night in a safe house in Kabul.
(Randy “R Dub!” Williams)

To pursue his passion, he cobbles together vacations, personal days and holidays to schedule his complicated trips, which he maps out on Excel spreadsheets. In one 21-day period, Williams visited 14 countries in Africa.

He admits to having a love affair with countries. He spent his longest time in Brazil (moving there for two years) and his shortest time in French Guiana where he had to fly in and out the same day.

In his spare time, he even created his own country, the Republic of Slowjamastan, on 11 acres of Imperial County desert he purchased along Highway 78 between Octillo Wells and Westmorland.

Williams is the self-appointed sultan of Slowjamastan, which has its own currency, crest, flag, visas, official police car, off-beat tourist attractions and occasional events. “I’m having fun with it,” he says.

"Sulton" Randy Williams welcomes visitors to his self-created Republic of Slowjamastan in Imperial County.
(Randy “R Dub!” Williams)

It may not attract a lot of tourists, but it’s good publicity for his syndicated radio show, “Sunday Night Slow Jams” broadcast on more than 200 stations in the United States and 17 other countries.

Williams is one of an elite group of adventurers who have traveled the world and belong to exclusive clubs, such as The Travelers’ Century Club for those who have visited 100 or more nations and Nomad Mania. World wanderer Henrik Jeppesen even created a website catering to hardcore travelers:

When popular vlogger Drew Binsky completed his 193 country visits in late 2021, he was reported to have joined a micro group of about 250 people who had done so.

American Taylor Demonbreun set a 2018 Guinness World Record for traveling to every sovereign country in the world in the fastest time — one year and 189 days.

Jim Kitchen not only spent time in all 193 countries, he flew into suborbital space on a Blue Origin flight.

Country counts differ. While the U.N. recognizes 193, plus two observer states (the Holy See, including Vatican City, and Palestine), the National Olympics Committee count is 206 and FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) nations number 211. There are several disputed territories.

When Williams gets to Turkmenistan, he actually will have visited 198 destinations, including the two observer states and disputed territories of Kosovo, Western Sahara and Taiwan.

“That’s what’s fun about travel,” he says. “What makes a country a country? It’s not necessarily black and white.”

Some of Williams’ world travel tips:

  • After a passport, money and phone, the most important item to pack is sleeping medication, closely followed by a power adapter and phone charger.
  • Kidnapping, robbery and hijacking, common subjects in U.S. news, are actually less of a threat than cavernous sidewalk potholes and crazy drivers in foreign countries.
  • Useful app: provides downloadable maps from anywhere in the world for use when off-line.
  • If you don’t speak the language, don’t worry, someone nearby will, and you can always draw a picture of a hotel or point to a photo of food on your smart phone.
  • Williams, who is single, encourages solo travel because it takes you out of your bubble, prompting you to interact more with others.
  • He packs light and uses travel pants and tops with fabrics created to eliminate body odor, resist stains and regulate temperature (TEREN is one such brand) .
  • To bypass some countries’ tourism restrictions, sign up for trade conventions or schedule business meetings. Williams visited West Africa masquerading as a sales rep on a business visa.
  • Use your imagination. To visit Syria, Williams hired a guide in Cuba to buy pastries and deliver them to the ambassador at Syria’s embassy in Havana who issues American visas to Syria.
  • Contact extreme travel Facebook groups for tips, advice and contacts. Williams obtained a WhatsApp number for a trustworthy guide in Syria through one.
  • Do your research, especially on how to be safe in areas torn by political unrest and civil strife.
  • The world is not as dangerous as the U.S. news portrays it to be. He hired an armed security detail in only two places — Somalia and Afghanistan.

“One reason I love traveling are the surprises and the smashing of misconceptions.”
As a kid, his impression of Algeria was one of terrorist camps, hijackers and scary happenings, but he traveled there to find beautiful old cities and a young, hip culture with people relaxing at outdoor cafés and birds chirping.

“The world is not what you see in the news every day,” he says.

Williams’ rule for visiting countries was to go into communities and do something authentic and real. He jogged through neighborhoods, browsed markets, ate in local cafes and stopped to smell the roses or, in some cases, dead fish — the local catch of the day.

What’s next for the travelholic? Returning to some of the countries he loved but wasn’t able to spend enough time in and visiting the elephant on the world map — Antarctica — which is a continent, not a country.

“Of all the rewards of traveling, this opened my head and my heart,” he says of his journey. He can die with no regrets because his soul is full of memories. He calls it living a second life where he can walk in unfamiliar places in anonymity. “That’s been a bonus to me.”