So, I can’t quite believe I have finished, and have visited 197/197 countries (193 UN members, 2 UN observers, and two countries who I think should be UN members – Taiwan and Kosovo).
Earlier this week, I had a fascinating 24 hours in Riyadh on a work trip visiting my colleagues in Saudi stores, and that was country 196 (and yes I need to go back at some point to see Mada’in Saleh when it reopens).
And then, given I was in the region, I spent today in Yemen with Azam. It is almost impossible to get into mainland Yemen as a tourist, so the cunning day trip was the best option. I am hoping to go and visit Socotra island soon (a safer part of Yemen), when can work out the logistics.
A few thoughts….,,
Every country in the world is worth visiting. I learnt something amazing, or saw something incredible everywhere I went. I wish I had had more time in most places, and will go back to lots of them. If you have the time, tenacity and the resources, I would definitely encourage you to give visiting every country in the world a try.
Most places are safer than you think – I always joke that I am much more likely to die being knocked off my bicycle in London, than when wandering around war zones in Africa. Even in war zones, people are living their lives – mothers and children, brothers and sisters, normal people going about their business. Wherever I see kids, I feel safe….. people don’t normally take their kids to unsafe places. I got held up at gun point once, and had a few sketchy cab drivers. Thats not bad for 25 years of travelling.
There are great people everywhere you go (and a few dickheads also). This is not dictated by religion, ethnicity, wealth, age or gender. Some of the friendliest people I have met, I have found in unexpected circumstances. The generosity of people I met in the poorest countries often floored me, those with the least to give would often offer the most.
I placed full confidence in the goodness of humankind everywhere I went, and having faith in others didn’t let me down anywhere. Assume most people are good, treat them accordingly, and you will get the same treatment back.
And a few thank yous
- Of course, a huge thank you to my incredible husband who has been supportive (if occasionally perplexed) by my desire to achieve this goal. I also empathise with him for the ridiculous number of conversations he has had with other people who ask him how he can ‘let’ me travel to dangerous places. As if I need permission or he would ever think it is his to give! He is a remarkable human being, and it has been fun to have him along on many of my adventures (even when he told me off for driving the van in the dark in Afghanistan!).
- My eternal gratitude to the legion of African and Arab men who have safely driven, guided and sorted me out in some of the worlds slightly sketchy locales. There is nothing more important than having a good driver and fixer – from Peter in Juba, Youssef in Libya, Kausar in Afghanistan, Mamadou in Bandiagara, Tekeste in Asmara, Fish and Zeray in Ethiopia, and so many more. These men all treated me with the respect due to an aunty or a sister or a daughter and kept me safe. I will always be grateful
- To my fellow nutters on Every Passport Stamp and Nomadmania – thank you for the tips and suggestions for the remote corners of the earth….. where else can you go to get a recommendation for a hotel in Bangui? Keep travelling!
So, because everyone always asks, I have updated my list of favourite countries in the world now that I am done. See it here Feel free to come up with your own list……
And what’s next?
Well, next week I am visiting a bunch of breakaway Russian republics (Dagestan, Ingushetia, Abkhazia, and Chechnya). And there are still lots of territories or non sovereign state countries I have planned to visit (like Greenland, Faroes, Svalbard, Tibet etc) so I am unlikely to stop travelling. I have a lot of hiking trips planned (Israel and Jordan National trails, the Haute Route in the Pyrenees and eventually the Continental Divide Trail). I also have a few places I want to spend more time in, including Yemen (Socotra and Sana), Albania and Kosovo (the Peaks of the Balkans trail), and Mali (I never made it to Timbuktu). I don’t think I will be hanging up my backpack anytime soon. (Oh, and I have a full time job and that takes up quite a bit of time also).
Happy travels all!
Salaleh, May 1, 2019