A teenager realized it’s never too early to make your dreams come true when he decided to embark on a record-breaking journey around Europe.
Rio Matsuoka (USA) became the world’s youngest person to visit every country in Europe at the age of 18 years 101 days.
Rio, from California, began this attempt on his 18th birthday.
“It was a real coincidence that I decided to attempt this world record,” Rio explains. “I was telling my family that I would like to travel to Europe after I graduated high school and, while doing some research, I remembered that someone had beaten the world record for youngest person to visit every country in the world.
“I realized I could do something similar with Europe and found out I had the opportunity to.”
Rio loves having new experiences, meeting new people and experiencing the unique culture of each country.
His journey started in cold and scenic Iceland and ended in sunny, warm Malta. He travelled through the majority of Western Europe by train and most of Eastern Europe by bus, and only flew to a few countries, like Russia and the UK.
He travelled alone during the entire trip, which he planned on his own. He did, however, make lots of friends along the way, who he hopes to see again soon!
His record-breaking trip was not without its challenges: “[The biggest challenges I faced were] Probably all the complications that came from geopolitical issues […] and the global pandemic.”
One of his favourite moments of the trip was hiking around the cliff monasteries in northern Moldova with a dog.
“Northern Moldova is famous for its Mongolian battle fields and monasteries that are carved into cliffs. When I was up there, one of the dogs from the village I was staying at decided to tag along with me on my hike.
“We ended up hiking around and exploring the caves for 4 hours together. It was such an amazing time, I almost wish it never ended.
“I think it was also very therapeutic for me, as I needed some time away from the large cities and I missed my dog at home.”
When we asked Rio if there was a country that stood out in his eyes, the answer was surprising.
“If I had to choose one it would be Sark. You could make the argument that it’s part of the UK, but the UN’s list still includes it [as a country].
“Sark is a tiny island between England and France in a group of islands called the Channel Islands, with a population of about 300 people. There are no cars allowed so people get around the island by tractor or bike.
“The nature is beautiful and the island is famous for its night sky. The people are very friendly and it really feels like one big welcoming community!
“It was such a relaxing and unique experience contrary to the big cities I was traveling through in Europe. It’s an introvert's absolute dream.”
Having just turned 18, Rio feels like this journey has helped him mature and get to know himself better.
“I learned a lot about myself and what I enjoy doing as well as became more aware of the real world. […] I think the biggest take away for me was getting to see the difficult situations as opportunities and being able to adapt to them.”
The young record breaker urges everyone to immerse themselves into different cultures and to try to understand the unique experiences and lives of people in different parts of the world.
After finishing school, Rio decided to have a gap year and he has been volunteering in Ukraine since before his record attempt.
“I wanted to help the people of Ukraine as much as possible which is why I decided to come back once I finished my record. I currently work for multiple non-profits.”
Lastly, he revealed that he is saving money and planning on attempting to break more records in the near future.
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