Tips for travelling to every country in the world from those who've done it

2020-02-12 04:45 - Gabi Zietsman
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According to Conde Nast Traveller, there are probably only 400 people throughout history to have visited every country in the world.

But with the rise of social media influencers, this number is growing rapidly - expert travellers documenting their every move on this insane bucket-list quest. 

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To you it might seem like a far-off dream that only the rich can achieve, but many have proved that it's possible if you've got the right attitude - not easy, but possible.

And everyone's chasing world record status - from the youngest to the fastest to being the first an ethnic/racial/national group.

Others just want to complete it as a personal journey - no one can tell you you're doing it wrong.

But if you don't know where to start, here are the top tips from those who've done it with style.

ALSO SEE: Lucky enough to have dual citizenship? Tips for travelling with two passports 

Decide from the start what constitutes a country

You might think the number of countries in the world would be easy to know - but it all depends on who you're asking. The UN has 193 official members, but this number does not include Taiwan, Palestine and the Vatican City - all generally considered countries in their own right. 

Guinness World Records recognises 196 countries, while there are even more considerations when you think of countries like Tibet, Hong Kong and island dependencies. 

Decide on one list before you even start ticking off so that you will have an end-goal to work towards - although the UN list might be your easiest bet. 

Get support from the travel community

There are many online forums and social media groups filled with travellers focusing on completing the same quest as you - try to join a few where you can ask for advice and pick up tips.

Also follow anyone busy with their own quest - it will help with some much-needed motivation when the goal seems too big for you.

Then there are clubs you can join once you've ticked off a big number on your list. The Travellers' Century Club is the oldest - it has been around since 1954 - and you can join once you've hit 100 countries or more.

Others include Most Travelled People, whose list consists of 891 places like provinces and cities, while Nomad Mania's list covers 1 281 regions and they're intent on verifying travellers' claims, according to Conde Nast Traveller.

READ: These are some of the things savvy SA travellers are doing to ensure better value when booking a holiday 

Budget even when you're not travelling

If you're serious about reaching your goal, you have to be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices. 

Lexie Alford - who completed her quest at the age of 21 - told Forbes: "I do a lot of research in advance to find the best deals, utilise points and miles for my flights, stay in cheap accommodation like hostels or create content for hotels in exchange for accommodation."

"I've also made sure to keep my monthly overhead as low as possible by living at home with my parents, I don't have a car payment or student debt and I don't spend my money on unnecessary material possessions."

It's also easier if you opt to put the breaks on your career while you pursue this travel lifestyle. Melissa Roy told Forbes she worked odd jobs in Hollywood in order to have a flexible schedule until she reached her goal. She adds it can be shocking how much money you save by just focusing on your needs instead of your wants. 

Get cracking on social media

Another way that a few people have completed their records is through sponsorships - and the best way to entice this added revenue is through a strong social media presence.

You can slowly start building a travel-focused account on platforms like Instagram, and while it will take a while quick campaigns and advertising deals can add up to help you take one trip at a time.

However, be prepared to foot everything yourself.

ALSO SEE: #BlackGirlMagic: Oneika the Traveller on the influencer complex 

Think about your motivations

If you want to prove something, remember to keep a record of every trip. Cassandra De Pecol broke the Guinness record for visiting all sovereign countries in the fastest time and had to submit thousands of pieces of evidence to make her record official.

If the trip is more personal and you don't care about proving something, then it'll make your logistics a lot easier.

Be realistic about your time-frame

Michael Palin - who started travelling when he was 14 in 2004, took 13 years to visit every country in the world - you don't have to rush towards your goal, just travel the best way for you.

Also think about how much time you can spend in a country - three days in Paris still counts as much as two weeks in Thailand. 

Some countries have easier borders than others - you can hop over to neighbouring countries just for the day if possible.

But remember to know your visas back-to-front!

ALSO SEE: Beat the jetlag with these time-shifting tips 

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JORDAN APPRECIATION POST? ? I first visited Jordan (139 of 195), last September. I immediately fell in love!! The amazing people at @visitjordan connected me with @experiencejordanadventures and our love story was solidified. We had the time of our lives exploring Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba, and found family in our guide Maha and our driver Ahmad. ? ? Fast forward to a couple of days ago and I returned to Jordan for a few hours to catch a flight home. I crossed into the country from Israel and was stopped because of my drone. They told me that it is illegal and I couldn’t take it, but they would keep it for 90 days for me to come back and get it. ?? I explained I was in transit to the airport and I begged and begged but to no avail. ? ? Ayman from @experiencejordanadventures and several other people worked with the very kind border officer Ziad Daaja, to assure them the drone was leaving with me! During this 2.5 hour process, I dealt with no less than 15 people, my passport changed lots of hands and no one really spoke English. But we managed to tell lots of jokes, I showed them a article about me in Arabic that had just been written in Algeria, then one officer laughed and said I was CIA. We bonded over my love of Jordanian food and when I called out one of my favorite restaurants in Amman they really got happy. Dropping the few Arabic words that I know and using google translate to convince them to let me take my drone, a good time was had all around. ? ? I say this story to say I truly love Jordanian people, and I said this when I left the first time. Here I was bringing something illegal into their country and no one ever yelled at me or became aggressive. They were stern and explained the process, but treated me with dignity and respect. ? ? If you go to Jordan I highly recommend @experiencejordanadventures. Special shoutout to the wonderful @WAmmanhotel for hosting me super duper last minute. There’s no place I’d rather stay in Amman! ? ? I am heading to Jordan in 2020, hosting a trip with @globaljetblack, head to our website and sign up so you can be the first to know! #catchmeinjordan

A post shared by Jessica Nabongo ???????? (@thecatchmeifyoucan) on

Ask for advice on visiting countries in conflict

The most difficult countries to visit will be ones at war or various other safety issues. Try to find people who have visited for advice and try to connect with someone living there that can show you how to navigate. You can also opt to book with tour operators - these countries will likely be your most expensive destinations.

For some countries with difficult borders like North Korea, you can look for easy access points like a Demilitarized Zone for day visits. 

Alford noted that she opted for very short stays (two or three days) in countries where she didn't feel completely safe by herself and where she couldn't secure proper security.  

Focus on people rather than attractions

Many of the travellers noted that it's more important to build connections with local people than focusing on a touristy itinerary. 

Roy told Forbes she opted for couchsurfing rather than Airbnb as it opened up more authentic experiences to her and closer connections with her hosts. 

These connections can also open up more options to visit other destinations - you'll learn to trust the kindness of strangers. 

Pick your last country carefully

Finally completing your goal can be an emotional moment - and you'd want to experience that in a country that might mean more to you than just another tick on a list.

For Roy, her final destination was her ancestral home in Bangladesh, which she visited with her mother - this of course made the completion of her journey that much more special. 

ALSO SEE: DNA Tourism: When your genes lead you to your next travel destination

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Happy new year (and decade), everyone! As of December 27, 2019, I HAVE OFFICIALLY VISITED EVERY COUNTRY ON THE PLANET! What an adventure it has been. I couldn’t think of a more poetic way to end the decade than by celebrating the end of a decade (and a half) long journey which took me to the ends of the earth! I chose Bangladesh as my final country because I wanted to come full circle and finish where it all began (for my forefathers), a homecoming to my ancestral homeland. Bangladesh symbolizes who I am... my roots, my origins, the birthplace of my father as well as both my maternal and paternal grandparents. But above all else, saving Bangladesh for last was a tribute to my late father whom I’d seen for the last time on my sixth birthday. Finding the small village and the exact house where he grew up was nothing short of powerful and moved me to tears. I had the privilege of staying with and meeting several of my father’s childhood friends who were kind enough to share old photos and memories of him. I know he would have been proud of me. With all seven continents, all 50 US states, and now all 193 countries under my belt, I can only look back with gratitude as I close out this year, this decade, this era. This chapter of my life. I am eternally indebted to the kind, loving humans who graced my path and helped me along my journey. I wouldn’t be here today without them. I am also thankful to have my mom by my side as I celebrate this important milestone. A milestone very few have been able to celebrate... more people have traveled to outer space than to every country in the world! And even more have set foot on top of Mount Everest than set foot on the soil of every nation. The dawn of a new decade, a new era, a new chapter, ushers in an infinite amount of possibilities. In the words of Buzz Lightyear, ‘To infinity and beyond!’ Shall I get my spacesuit ready?! ????

A post shared by Melissa Roy (@mappedbymelissa) on


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