I was sent a link a few days ago to this article on the BBC website about a man who has visited every country in the world, all 196 of them, and has written a book about his experiences.
Albert Podell has travelled to every country in the world over the course of fifty years and, as you would expect, has seen some pretty incredible things. During the short video that accompanies this article he talks generally about travelling, his motivations, his philosophy on the road. He talks about growing up poor and not travelling as a child but collecting postage stamps and being overwhelmed by the desire to see all of the place these stamps came from. I don’t think he every says the word overwhelmed, I added that for effect because my Podell is, to be frank, a bit deadpan.
Poor is relative but, yeah, I suppose I grew up poor too. I didn’t go on holiday as a child apart from a camping trip to the south of France. My mam drove her old Ford Astra, weeks after passing her test, with an 12 year old me, 13 year old big bro and 6 year old little bro, all 1020 miles to Montpellier and back. God love her. I didn’t collect stamps but I did have an Atlas I loved more than I loved my Cabbage Patch doll and I loved that ugly doll hard. The idea that I could ever go to any of the places I saw in my atlas, never mind all of them, seemed impossible.
One of the perks of being an adult and the master of your own destiny is that you’re in charge of making the impossible possible. I’m straying into self-help territory here so I’ll stop and get back to the point. Could I visit every country in the world? Would I want to?
Perhaps. Apart from places that are at war or experiencing serious political instability, I can’t think of anywhere I wouldn’t go. But the list of countries I definitely want to visit is very long and considering the way I travel (very slowly) I’m not sure I have enough time left to see all 196. And then there’s that inconvenient money thing to think about.
The most interesting thing I found on Mr Podell’s website was his year by year breakdown of which countries he had visited when. Some years he only visited one country. Does that mean he lived there for a year or he just visited from home? How does he fund his extensive travels? Has he always travelled alone? I’ll suppose I’ll have to read the book to find out.
|1937||United States of America||1|
|1965||Andorra, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia||18|
|1966||Japan, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico||8|
|1972||Great Britain / Dominican Republic||2|
|1978||Monaco, Italy, Vatican City||3|
|1979||Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Austria, Cyprus, Greece||11|
|1981||Israel / Australia, New Zealand||3|
|1987||Ireland / Peru||2|
|1989||Kenya, Tanzania / Barbados / Ecuador||4|
|1994||Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Finland||5|
|1998||Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines||5|
|1999||Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia||5|
|2000||Belize / South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Cape Verde Islands||5|
|2001||Poland, Slovenia, Croatia||3|
|2002||Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad /
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti
|2003||Togo, Benin, Ghana / Turkey / Iceland, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania / Central African Republic, Cameroon, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea /
Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan
|2004||Czeck, Slovakia, Hungary, San Marino||4|
|2005||Malta, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar||9|
|2006||Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea / Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan||9|
|2007||Maldives, Sri Lanka / Fiji, New Guinea, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Palau, Vanuatu, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Tonga, Western Samoa||12|
|2008||Sudan, Niger, Burkina-Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria||9|
|2009||Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, Grenada, St. Vincent, /
St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis / Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Lesotho
|2010||Kiribati, North Korea, Mongolia, Brunei, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam||8|
|2011||East Timor, Nauru / Saudi Arabia, Yemen /
|2012||Chad, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi / Angola||7|
Mr Podell’s chart inspired me to write out my own and with just 21 countries visited, I’ve got a long way to go.
There are so many of these countries I want to go back to. In 2010 I travelled using an interrail travel pass so flew through Central/Eastern Europe at break-neck speed, spending just a few days in each of these countries’ capital cities. I don’t see these countries as ‘done’. I’m hoping to go back to Malaysia and Cambodia this year and even Vietnam, where I’ve just spent three months, doesn’t feel ticked off my travel list, I’d love to go back.
I like to travel slowly and thoughtfully so realistically I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll see every country in the world but I’ll definitely see a few of them, as clearly as I can.
|2010||Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Netherlands||7|
|2013||Switzerland, Canada, US||3|
|2014||Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia||5|
|2015||Vietnam, Cambodia, so far…||2|
Write out your own list of countries and your total and share it in the comments section below. I bet you’ve been to way more places than you think you have.