Blog Books

Book: Chasing 193

American Lee Abbamonte has a travel blog which I used to follow a few years ago, when he was still a young guy discovering the world. He came back on my radar recently when he teamed up with journalist Ryan Trapp to write ‘Chasing 193: The Quest to Visit Every Country in the World’. The book is not about him: it features circa 30 people from all walks of life and corners of the world who are trying to visit the current 193 UN countries.

Pros and cons of the book

Not all interviewees have visited 193 nations yet, or are close to that goal (for some it’s not even a goal). The 30 include mostly white North American/European males, people that are ranked high on the MTP list or active TCC members. The interviews are all done in the same Q&A format, which a more imaginative journalist could have done better as it gets tedious after a while. I also suspect that most of them were obtained via exchanging e-mails.

Despite these shortcomings, I finished the 434 pages quickly. Some of the included travel life stories appeal more to me than others, but there will be something in it for every kind of serious traveller. The most enlightening I found Tan Weecheng, who describes what it means being perceived as Chinese, especially in Africa. And how travelling is frowned upon by the elder Singaporeans. He’s also the most philosophical and humble among these world travellers of which many claim to have no fear:“Every new trip lifted my treshold for discomfort, uncertainty, and even danger.”

Michael Novins, who has attributed several photos of obscure WHS to this website, spells out one of the advantages of being a WH traveller: you keep on revisiting countries, as new sites are yearly added. And Don Parrish plugs this website; thanks Don!

How do they do it?

Most had a clear interest in the globe, maps, stamps and venturing out of the backyard from a young age. From a certain point on, it became clear to them that with persistence it would be possible to visit all countries in the world. Almost noone was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, often even quite the contrary. Jobs in Finance, Law & IT help – they provide the money to do a lot of short but expensive trips, and (after climbing up the corporate ladder) the position to negotiate about unpaid leave, extended business trips and so on. This is helpful because “at a given moment you run out of cheap destinations”. Living frugally (or at least below your means) in the other half of your life is also a big contributor. It can even be done on a librarian’s salary. Other circumstances or qualities that help reach this kind of extreme travel goals:

  • being an only child (for independence & indulgence)
  • being single or divorced
  • being able to design “neat” travel itineraries to optimize destinations
  • having the discipline to follow through
  • being a generalist who enjoys a wide range of things

Chasing 1031 instead of 193

Visiting the world’s official countries is easier than visiting all WHS, and many of the interviewed travellers name completing the WH List as their next goal (but noone really believes in reaching it). But looking on it from the bright side: as World Heritage Travellers at least we don’t have to go to Equatorial Guinea (yet)!

Els - 8 July 2015

Leave a comment