Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Extreme Travelers: The 23 Year Vacation

See full and original article here

After visiting more than 190 countries over the course of more than two decades, Mike Spencer Bown, the world traveler, is ready to come home. And he has some stories to tell!

The 44-year-old might just be the most extensively traveled person in history. The Calgary resident left his town 23 years ago with a backpack and a goal: to visit every country and region on Earth.

And we're not talking flyby. Bown made sure to get to know each and every place he visited. "Some of the least-traveled people I've ever met have been to 100 countries, or even as high as 170 countries — what they do is fly between major cities and especially capital cities, stop off in the airport or take a hotel for the night, and then say that they've 'done' such and such country," Bown told the Sun.

"To my view, such people are passengers, not travelers."

I do count my "flyby" landings as places I've been to...I mean I don't plan to go to places like Iowa and Ohio any time soon so why  not count it when I have a layover? 

Bown has had hair-raising experiences that include "taking local transport across Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and hitchhiking through Iraq during the U.S. invasion, including a visit to Saddam Hussein's hometown," according to the Sun.

He also made it to far-flung outposts like Antarctica, Greenland and Easter Island.

The intrepid adventurer made headlines when he became the first tourist to visit Mogadishu, Somalia, in more than 20 years. Puzzled officials at first tried to put him back on the plane, mistaking him for a spy. But eventually they let him stay for a few days.

"We have never seen people like this man," Omar Mohamed, an immigration official, told the blog Middle East Online at the time. "He said he was a tourist, we couldn't believe him. But later on we found he was serious."

When it comes to exploring new places, Bown is definitely serious. This kind of itinerary is not for the faint of heart. As a guest blogger for the website Backpackology, the traveler told the site he's been arrested "more times than he can count." He then shared the top 80 highlights of his extensive trip. They included:

- Standing in the graveyard of the blue whales, South Georgia Island, Antarctica (No. 79)
- Learning to drive a reindeer sleigh while drunk with the Yakuti tribe, Yakutsk, Russia (No. 74)
- Getting lost on the three interlocking subway systems in Tokyo (No. 71)
- Hitchhiking past bandits, Central African Republic (No. 43)
- Avoiding capture in the land of pirates, Puntland State of Somalia (No. 30)

According to NPR, Bown's idea for such a quest began all those years ago on a mountainside, when he "wondered if it was possible to visit the whole world ... (and) see everything of interest."

Bown told NPR that he was able to keep up his travels by living frugally and staying at cheap hotels, like one in Nicaragua that cost him the equivalent of just 3 cents a night.

As an importer-exporter out of Asia, Bown had plenty of free time to travel, but even then it still took him more than two decades to go everywhere. "I would never have thought it would take so long to see it all. It's enormous."

Do you want to follow in his footsteps? I kind of think that people that travel to Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq for fun are kind of nuts...but that's just me.

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