I love to travel, but I am a glorified pin on the map guy. That's right, I collect countries. No letters or phone calls please. I can just here dozens of you voicing your horror right now. Yes, I do like to meet new people and experience cultures. I have been well off the beaten path when there wasn't even a path to be beaten. I have many times been the obvious tourist feeling a bit awkward. But I want to see the whole world and you have to stay busy! It does not help that 3 countries I have been in no longer exist!
So what is the master plan? I have been trying to average 6 NEW countries a year. As of April 2012 I have 10 new ones! Last year (2011) was a very good year for new countries with 8 (1 being Antarctica!). I did visit 18 Countries so not too bad a year! Country 100 was Cambodia in February 2009. I am trying to build some tips and photos, but I only bought a digital camera a few years ago. Scanning old dusty photos is hard work. I have an all-new appreciation for you that have really spent the time to do all that you do.
So here are some of my Travel "Records":Most countries visited in 1 year: 23 (previously 20)
Most countries in 1 day: 5 (Austria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia)
Most Border Points in 1 day: 9 (26 May 2011)
Countries I have driven in: 27 (9 left, 18 right)
Countries I have worked in: 4
Countries I was flown to unintended after the plane changed the destination: 4 (1 in flight)
Number of National Air Carriers I have flown: 31
Number of countries visited: Over 130 (3 don't exist anymore) - watch this space!
Number of countries I have lived in: 3 but I have had 75 addresses. Might explain the travel thing.
Number of countries I have walked into for the 1st time (think about it): 19 (2 illegally!)
I have also seen the New Millennium comming in (Year 2000) - twice - in 2 countries!
Number of countries I have arrested/detained/seized by the Police/Secret Police/Militias/Border Guards/Customs: 11. Egypt (in front of my Mum!), Djibouti (twice, 2nd one was for my safety), Burundi (Militia), DRC twice (Bribe paid once), Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan (Antiquities smuggling), Qatar (complained about Qatar Airlines - escorted onto the plane), Botswana (drunk Police demanded a bribe when I went to report a car accident), Mozambique incident 1 (bribe of a bag of ice), Algeria (my fault) and Mozambique incident 2 - surrendered my International Driving Permit (paid $6) with permission to drive to the next town and get money from a bank to pay the bribe ($65). That was in 2005. I bet I am still 'wanted' there!
Questions I get asked and the answers:
Q. What was your favourite country/holiday/city?A. The next one I visit
Q. Where are you from?
A. Fellow travellers get the whole story; Beach Boys get told the Ozarks or somewhere in Wales.
Q. Why did you travel there?
A. Because I could, I got a cheap flight and it makes for a good story.
Q. Why are you ranked so low on VT?
A. Not all my adventures are to countries that are popular here on VT and not many people read my tips. Please have a read and rate generously! Thanks
What I like about you....
1. Your country. Really. Even when I have been somewhere where they don't speak English, French or Spanish and we just used hand gestures (Belarus for sure), we both ended up smiling. There is border guard in Amman who thinks I am the funniest man in the world.
2. Not understanding the language at the start of the holiday. See number 1 above. Parisian waiters go under Dislikes. My accent is bad, but it was French.
3. Tour Guides. Hard to believe isn't it?
4. Really bad vehicle rides. Tunisia and the Gambia/Senegal adventures left bruises, but what a great time!
5. The wild animal you just handed me. Birds, snakes, bats, monkeys, hawks. I have some really cool pictures and I keep small, virtually worthless coins for these occasions. Did you ask me beforehand if I wanted this thing on me or that it would cost money?
6. Beach sellers. I treat these folks with respect and often buy them water. They are excellent sources of information and you just thought they only sold things. They don?t climb all over you like some do in the street. And if you talk to them each day, they will ask what you would like and bring it the next day.
7. Meeting fellow travellers. The non-paranoid ones. There is a backpacker with my Swiss army knife, my Mag Light and my new guidebook travelling across Tanzania and Rwanda right now. (update - now in South Africa) He needed the equipment more than I did. I go to work and he keeps me updated on his travels. Cool. UPDATE! I met up with and travelled to RSA, Mozambique and Swaziland on a trip with the Non-Paranoid Traveler.
8. Bus drivers. I don't know why, but I always seem to get a good one and they often help me out. There was a nice Bus Driver in Minsk who made sure that I got my ticket, got on the right bus and made it to the airport. I would have missed my flight without him. I wish I spoke Russian.
9. Food where the locals go. Never gone wrong yet. Bigger portions, tastier food and cheaper as well.
10. Guidebooks. It just helps you have a bit more confidence until you figure it all out.
11. The next to last day. I have figured out the map, the language, the prices for souvenirs and where to get the best exchange rates.
1. People recommending NOT taking malaria tablets. This is fatal. Waiting to see if you get sick is not my idea of sound planning.
2. Recommending taking Euros. If you don't live in the Euro zone and neither is your destination, please don't recommend to new travellers to take Euros. Why exchange twice? Do not take Scottish notes either. A lot of places just won't take them.
3. Saying its bad to really haggle with the locals when you come from a 'rich' country. The money I save is used on another holiday where I benefit their economy too. I have been ripped off 1 time too many to allow it anymore. I have been in places where the prices went up 5 times because a cruise ship arrived.
4. Using rude language in response to other VT'ers. This is a Community here to help each other. Unfortunately some more established members see themslves as self-appoined censors and attack anyone with a sense of humour. Being hateful can be a fulltime occupation. I am sure there are websites for the issues you are afflicted with. Let's play nice (and stop reporting things you don't agree with to VT staff).
5. VT meetings are never where I go when I go. I have now hosted one of my own (YORK) and made it to several others, but would like to have been to more. Don't worry about going to a VT meeting! In the words of Pa Kettle (member Mapakettle) a Vt meeting is like meeting people you already know. And it was just that good!6. Paranoid fellow tourists. I said I would walk you there because I know where it is, I am just being nice and I am on holiday and have all day. Do I look like a Time Share person to you? This country doesn't even have Time Share!
7. Taxi Drivers. Why do you do it? It makes me not be happy and not want to return. What did I ever do to you? Don't act shocked when I get mad. Guidebooks tell you how much to pay and I just sit on my suitcase until you agree.
9. The last day.
10. Not travelling.
Are you still here? I bet you watched the credits in 'Ferris Buehler's Day Off'. I am Ferris. Trust me. Thanks for reading. I hope your next adventure is safe, fun, economical and hygienic.
All the best,