The world is big, but Chase Olivieri wants to make it much smaller.
With just days to go before his 30th birthday in October, Olivieri flew from Cyprus to Greece, completing his quest to visit 100 countries before turning 30. A dedicated budget traveler, the Petaluma resident launched a startup web-based company to help others pursue their travel dreams.
“I wanted to show people how to get around the world on a shoestring,” Olivieri said. “My goal is to get more people traveling. That’s a gift I want to pass on.”
His website, Altitude (usealtitude.com), is a subscription-based service that scours airline and travel websites and alerts users to the best deals. He did not say how many people have signed up for the $5 per month service, but he said new subscribers have been joining every day since Altitude launched the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Growing up in Puerto Rice, Olivieri’s father worked for American Airlines and the family traveled a lot. He visited dozens of countries in his childhood and even studied in Germany in high school. He graduated from Duke University and settled in Petaluma three years ago when his girlfriend found a job in the area.
Olivieri taught himself computer programming and set up a computer consulting business, but his passion remained traveling. About a year ago, he realized his country count was getting close to triple digits, and he set a goal to tick off the final two dozen before he turned 30.
Always looking for the best travel deals — Barcelona: $200 round trip; Johannesburg: $400 round trip — he took several trips of a week to three weeks, visiting multiple countries at a time. Packing little more than a carry-on backpack, often times traveling alone, he said he likes to just show up in a country and then discover things to do.
“I try and do as little research as possible,” he said. “I just get there and take the pulse of the place. When you just go with the flow, it opens up a lot of interesting doors. You meet a lot of cool people.”
In 2016, he was on the first commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba in more than 55 years and spent a week in the country exploring the country with his brother.
A trip to Vietnam with his girlfriend happened to coincide with a visit by President Barak Obama and CNN travel and food show host Anthony Bourdain. It was funny to be working out in the hotel gym alongside secret service agents. Wandering the muggy streets of Hanoi, the couple ran into Bourdain casually enjoying a bowl of noodles at a small family restaurant.
Olivieri built his travel site himself over six months. Besides programming an army of bots to search out the best travel deals, his site offers tips and tricks for becoming a savvier traveler.
His site offers a subscription model so that he doesn’t have to sell advertising or promote products for a commission, he said.
“It’s been a fun ride,” he said. “People are signing up every day, which is cool. Word of mouth is spreading.”
Some of Olivieri’s favorite countries include Lithuania, Bulgaria and Japan. One of his favorite travel experiences was renting a car in South Africa with his brother, driving through Kruger National Park and watching elephants stomping a few feet from the vehicle.