A Balancing Act: Marrying Across Two Cultures (Mauritania & Pakistan), Chasing 193 With 3 Small Kids, And Working Full Time

Elena has managed a fine balancing act.  She has managed to juggle a full-time office job, 3 children, a husband located in Mauritania, while still Chasing 193 (160 countries).

There are three official Islamic Republics in the world and Elena had unique marriages in two of them. While her Pakistani wedding was like a three day Bollywood movie, Elena’s wedding in Mauritania opened to her the world of ancient marriage traditions only found there. While in Pakistan a bride wears red on the main day, Mauritanian brides prefer stunning black dresses with traditional headdress and hand-made jewelry. Elena followed her 2nd marriage with a unique honeymoon: crossing the Sahara desert on top of Iron Ore Train from the mining town of Zouerate to the Atlantic Ocean, spending over 17 hours with her new husband Mohamed under the sky full of stars at night and watching the serene desert during a beautiful sunrise.

Marrying across cultures is exciting but involves many challenges. Elena learned from her first divorce to her Pakistani husband as the Mauritanian proverb says: the value of a woman is in the number of her marriages. Elena hopes to live happily ever after with her husband frequently, visiting Mauritania with the children and learning deeply about its truly unique culture and traditions.

Having a full-time office job since 2012 in Sweden and 3 kids did not stop Elena from successfully chasing 193. Together with her children, she travelled for 6 months around the world on maternity leave, had great adventures in such exciting countries like Sudan, Algeria, Namibia, Socotra, Tonga, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, as well as overlanding from Iraqi Kurdistan to Istanbul.

Elena hopes that her example will inspire others not to choose between travelling or having kids but to learn that it is possible to enjoy travelling to off-the-beaten-path countries with small kids and have great adventures for life there while still working full time.


Elena was born in Russia, studied in Austria, and settled in Sweden.  She converted to Islam in Turkey, getting married in Pakistan to her first husband.  After divorcing, she found the love of her life and married a Mauritanian man in his home country.  She had two children with her first husband and just welcomed a newborn son with her new husband.

Studying in the heart of Europe, Elena was bitten by the travel bug. Her first solo adventure brought her to India and Malaysia where she Couchsurfed with local families. Then Elena spent one year exploring South America, got married in her 100th country and visited over 60 countries since she had her children.

Elena’s most memorable trips were Couchsurfing during Ramadan with her husband Mohamed and her daughters in Algeria, overlanding adventures with him from Senegal to Guinea, and solo trips to Syria, Iran and Eritrea.

Elena’s favourite adventures with her kids were performing Umrah (Mecca) and exploring Saudi Arabia, roadtrips in Sudan and Namibia, celebrating her daughter’s birthday on a remote island in Fiji, and most recently a camping trip in Socotra with her newborn son.

Learn more about Elena and listen to this podcast

Elena Chechina ETF Speaker