Franci Neely Curates World Travels on New Website

META DESCRIPTION: Houston-based philanthropist Franci Neely offers a glimpse of the people and places she has encountered on her worldwide travels. 

Philanthropist Franci Neely calls Houston home. However, she feels most at home when traveling the world. The determined globe-trotter has visited the most remote parts of the planet and is close to accomplishing her mission of visiting every country.

In 2023 she launched a website to showcase her photography from around the world. It features colorful portraits of people and places that have left a lasting impression on Franci Neely, a retired lawyer. Every trip is an incredible learning experience, making it rich and rewarding for her. 

Her website showcases portraits of the people Neely has interacted with throughout her travels, including a smiling woman in Karima, a northern Sudanese market town, and animals, like penguins scampering over rocks in Antarctica. 

She has received more than 180 passport stamps with no signs of stopping. The personal connections she makes while immersing herself in a different country’s culture keep her seeking new adventures. 

Franci Neely’s Ambitious Itinerary 

Neely is fond of venturing off the beaten path and skipping traditional tourist destinations. For instance, while in West Africa, she visited the country of Cape Verde. There she hiked the Pico do Fogo, an active stratovolcano that rises 9,281 feet above sea level. The main cone last erupted in 1680, while the deadliest eruption happened in 1847. Most recently, a subsidiary vent blew in 1995. 

Her trips to Iran and Israel had a profound impact on her worldview. “The people I encountered said a number of times, ‘Please tell Americans we love them.’”

While exploring Morocco, a family befriended the intrepid traveler and dressed her in traditional Saharawi attire and offered her hot mint tea. That was an incredibly touching act to Neely. The drink’s meaning goes much deeper than simply quenching her thirst. In Morocco, mint tea is important in life and social relations. It’s a beverage of hospitality and friendship and is traditionally prepared in front of guests. 

While dining on Peking duck in Hong Kong approximately 30 years ago, Neely caught the attention of a little girl who didn’t speak English. Her father spoke some English, and after apologizing for his daughter’s curious behavior, he and Neely exchanged addresses. “We’ve stayed in touch all these years, and that little girl is part of my life,” Neely says. “I’ve visited her in Hong Kong, and she’s visited me in the United States. I consider her my goddaughter, too. She speaks fluent English and is engaged to be married.”

Experiences like that have Neely excitedly planning her next excursions. 

Learning Through Travel 

Franci Neely studied French and Italian and could see herself living in Italy for a while after completing her goal of visiting every country. The purpose of that would be to improve her Italian language skills. She feels the best method for learning a new dialect is to immerse herself in the area where it’s the native tongue. 

However, Neely has found that people don’t need to speak the same language to form a lasting bond. “When you make a connection, you can see it in the eyes,” she says. “None of us are strangers if we look at each other in an open, accepting, sharing way.”

During a visit to the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines, Neely formed an instantaneous bond with a woman named Virginia. The two were strangers until the moment they made eye contact. Neely says she felt like Virginia was her sister and gave her a silver necklace she was wearing at the time. Neely says, “I have occasionally, if someone in particular touched my heart, just given them something I was wearing.” 

In return, Virginia gave her an ethnic hat that her grandfather had worn, despite the fact that Neely didn’t give her the necklace with the expectation of getting something tangible in return. The pair are still pen pals. “Her daughter writes to me on Virginia’s behalf,” she explains. 

She’s gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of humankind through her travels because she’s been open to the differences that exist in other cultures. “People opened my mind,” says Neely. “Those momentary connections live inside me. They do.”

She strives to leave a great lasting impression on the people she meets while crisscrossing the world. Neely hopes that the people she’s met in remote regions feel that she’s open, caring, generous, spirited, and nonjudgmental. “That makes my eyes see more and opens my heart,” she says. “So I’m trying to communicate with people as equals in some way.” 

Another important lesson she’s learned throughout her travels is to “take less luggage,” says Neely. “Take less than you think you need. You can get things where you are, and you’ll want to because there are some interesting clothing and accessories that you can find that will remind you of your trip.”

However, a camera is the one thing that’s always in her luggage. She enjoys showing off her snapshots on the new website. “I have relied more and more on my iPhone camera. I never thought I’d say that, but it keeps getting better,” says Neely. She left her new mirrorless Nikon at home during a six-week trip to Africa. “Because I would be gone so long, I decided to just rely on my iPhone.”

She also always slips multiple scarves into her luggage. Neely says, “In countries where it’s really important for women to be modest, you can drape them over yourself.” And she’s a fan of packing a few pieces of inexpensive jewelry. “Those are fun, funky, whimsical things that can dress up your outfits, and you wouldn’t be heartbroken if you lost any. I also like to take a few colorful outfits. I think it’s fun.”

Having the ability to travel thousands of miles from her Houston home multiple times a year isn’t something Neely will ever take for granted. “Realize time is actually pretty short. It goes by very quickly sometimes,” says Franci Neely. She encourages anyone interested in traveling to get out of their comfort zone, skip the tourist traps, and “go to places that you don’t know about.” 

Anyone filled with wanderlust could use her travel website,, for inspiration when planning their next excursion.

Syed Qasim

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