Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Youngest Hobby Traveller to Visit All Countries

With a lethal weapon in Ivory Coast. 

I entered the 198th and last country, Cape Verde, on May 8, 2013, when I was 37 years and 344 days old. That makes me the youngest person to visit all the countries of the world as a hobby. I have only used holidays and weekends while constantly working or studying. A few people have visited all countries at a younger age, but they have done so professionally or taken time off to do it. And in 2012 I was the first person to visit five continents in just one day, together with my friend Adrian Butterworth from United Kingdom.

There are many ways of counting the countries of the world. FIFA recons that there are 208 while the UN has 193 members. When I set a goal, I want it to be logic, explainable and achievable. My goal to visit 198 countries is explained as follows.

There are 193 UN member countries  in the world. I count all of them. 
There are 2 UN observers. I count both the Vatican and Palestine. 
3 additional countries are recognized by a fair number of the 195 above. I therefore also count Kosovo, Western Sahara and Taiwan. 

That makes the total number 198.

Celebrating the last country with a jump in Cape Verde
which I entered on May 8, 2013. 
I have visited 193 of them the last 10 years, 3 in 1992 and 2 in 2000. I have travelled alone to 96 of the 198 countries and with at least one other traveller to the remaining 102. I have visited most countries with my brother Øystein Garfors (35) and with my friends Andreas Munkelien (21) and Asbjørn Havnen (17). All three of them, and another 9 friends and family members, joined the celebratory trip to the last country.

But what constitutes a visit to a country? I must have done something there and have a story to tell. It isn't necessary to stay overnight, but I have to leave the airport or train/bus station. To merely step across the border doesn't count.

I am allegedly the only Norwegian to have visited all countries. Oh well, enough obnoxious bragging.


60 comments:

  1. Du må være helten min!

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  2. Gratulerer med seieren! Å besøke alle land i verden er mitt store mål for livet, og du viste nettopp at det ikke er umulig!

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  3. Most interesting man in the world.

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  4. Grønland burde vært med på listen, fordi det er svært og ikke veldig dansk.

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  5. So when will you publish your 193 stories?

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    1. Working on the book project of all 198.

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  6. Hi Garfors,

    Congrats for visiting all countries. I wish I could have joined you. I am physically fit, mentally fit, financially semi-fit, educationally fit and psychologically fit.

    I have a question for you. I have found my city, Lahore (Pak) to be one of those ciities in the world where you can find extreme temperature difference in both major weathers. For example in summer, the average temperature is around 44-45 C (sometimes peaks at 47C) and in winter it is 2-5 C (sometimes goes to 0C also). What other locations/cities are like that?

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    1. Hi,

      You should visit Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina. In summer temperature is above 40c and in winter -20c

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  7. Hi Nabeel,

    This is not really my area of expertise, but many towns, cities and villages experience the samem only opposite. In the winter it is not unusual with temperatures between -30C and -40C, while it in the summer usually peaks at around 30C.

    Karasjok in Northern Norway has the most extreme variations in Norway with a low record of -51.4C and a high of 32.4C.

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  8. congrats Garfors,
    I wish I could visit all the countries like you do, that's my dream.
    I wonder to ask you, as a person who travelled all around the world, if you wanted to choose a city (or maybe cities) to live in for the rest of your life, which city it was ? (except your home town of course)

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    1. There are too many great cities, town and villages to choose from. Of the big ones I really enjoy Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Buenos Aires, Toronto and Seattle.

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    2. Thanks for your reply Gunnar,

      I have a lot of questions, but I'll wait unil your book publishes, come on man...

      & Good luck

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  9. This means that I have roughly one and a half years to visit 142 countries to beat your record. Watch out! (haha)

    Congrats, man. This is cool.

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  10. Hate to be an editor but second paragraph first sentence should be "of" instead of "if". Not a criticism however, as I make many myself. I have enjoyed your posts, thanks!

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  11. Amazing!
    That's something i truly admire!
    You rock!

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  12. Western Sahara is not actually a sovereign country since it is occupied by Morocco!
    By the way, did you know that the state of Vatican is BIGGER than Monaco? because one has to add to the City of Vatican many exteritorial enclaves (churches, palaces, gardens) in Rome and outside Rome, like the CastelGandolfo estate or the Radio Vatican grounds!

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  13. There are over 200 countries so which ones have you missed??
    Graham Hughes was the first person to visit 201 countries without flying including the latest South Sudan http://www.theodysseyexpedition.com/about/graham-hughes

    Nevertheless it is still an achievement to visit 198 countries

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    1. He counted Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England as separate countries. I have been to all of those, but I count them as one, United Kingdom.

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  14. Fantastic!
    I would love to do the same (almost), but have not enough money to go ahead. I already visited 56 countries (13 states in the USA), all European countries, few in the Middle-East and 3 in South America.
    I think that being a well "traveled" I may be able to give some advice, write about places "off the beaten path" with historical, social and cultural background.
    To travel and understand the customs of other nations is opening your mind!
    Kind regards,
    Laurence

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  15. Oh wow, bravo! I have always dreamt of visiting all the countries (and perhaps even all the cities) in the world but I will very soon have to start slaving my life away at work and I wonder when I can ever complete the task... Kudos to you!

    Let me know if you're ever coming to Singapore again. It'll be awesome to hear about your travel stories!

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  16. Wow. Mega congrats, Super Hero! I stumbled upon your blog after a friend posted your "25 Least Visited..." article on Facebook and I had to read more! My question: Do you think a woman, same age as you, could have done it alone...in other words...traveled alone without a male companion? I might have to aspire to that... Congratulations, again!

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    1. Good question. You will have to be very independent and not take any crap from anyone to do that, but it certainly is possible. Although you will struggle getting a visa to Saudi Arabia without a male companion. Unless you manage to get a business visa there...

      It sounds like you are up for it, best of luck from Norway! And please keep me posted on your wild plan, I like it!

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    2. I think she likes you :P

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  17. Excellent site ! Good topic .This Great article referring to good topic . It is very interesting . I like it because it has give me very useful information. thank you for sharing

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  18. Mr Gunnar , my name is kleber Gonzaga , escreverei em portuguese (Brasil ) , pois , não sei escrever em Inglês , parabéns por ter conhecido todos os países do mundo , sou o brasileiro que mais gosta de mapas e aventuras , e ainda chego um dia aonde você chegou , muitas felicidades , mande um recado desta mensagem !!!

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  19. If you could choose to settle down and live in any country in the world (except lovely Norway) where would it be?

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    1. That's a very good question! I'd live pretty much anywhere for a couple of years, but the UK is my second home country after having studied there for three years, so maybe there if I were to settle down for good.

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  20. wow!! I admire you!! I'm 25 and I've only been to 6 countries (counting my home country Mexico in which I try to travel often), I hope to visit as much countries as possible, maybe not all countries as you did, but I have a very big list of Places I wanna see before I die!! :D Congrats!! People like you encourage me to keep traveling!

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    1. Thanks, Tony! Keep on travelling. It's such an inspiration of the mind.

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  21. Someday I'm going to visit every country in Europe by rail, except for Ireland for which I'll take a ferry and Iceland to which I'll have to fly.

    And the Vatican. I'll walk.

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  22. Amazing. I'm awe-stricken by your experience. Found your blog while reading a Brazilian blogger than mentioned you (http://gabrielquerviajar.com.br/2013/06/os-paises-menos-visitados-do-mundo/) and have spent the last few hours devouring your stories.

    I actually pulled out a list of all countries and had to go through it to count how many I've been to: my number is at 36 countries at 32 years of age. I thought I was the shit, but clearly you've gotten me beat :)

    When is your book coming out? Now that you've accomplished this, are you slowing down?

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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    1. Hi Gabrielle,

      36 countries is impressive, being a lot more than the average person in any country. The book will be coming out in Norwegian next summer/autumn. Interest in Brazil is also very strong, so I hope to be able to publish it in Portugese too. If I can only find a publisher there. Slowing down?? Do I seem like an old man? ;)

      No chance of me engaging in such madness, to stop travelling would be to cheat myself of amazing, intriguing and inspiring experiences as well as a deprivation of future friends.

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  23. Wow!

    Your sure experienced a lot in your life, inspiring story to read for other passionate travelers.

    Do you have one favorite place of all the countries you traveled?


    What is your next goal in terms of traveling?

    All 50 states of USA? :)

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    1. Ive done that in was easy

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  24. Hei,

    For en opplevelse! Noe jeg også har som mål her i livet.

    Jeg er 21 år nå, jeg har reist mye, bodd i 4 forskjellige land men jeg kunne tenke meg og reise mye mer.

    Hvordan klarte du og finansiere alle dine eventyr?

    Reiser du oftest med noen eller har du også reist en del alene?

    Har du noen gang besøkt Grønland?

    Jeg ser at noen teller England, Scotland, Wales og Nord Irland og der de også teller Provincer som Tibet, Purto Rico eller Burma som separate Land men hva med Grønland. Det er ingen av de som har besøkt alle landene i verden som nevner Grønland enten som province eller land.

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  25. Well done! Very impressive list of countries. Although your definition of "country" might be a bit misleading. More correct would be to say you have been to 198 sovereign states. For example the countries Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. They are part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, and therefore not a sovereign state themselves, but they are definitely referred to as "constituent countries" in Dutch law. Also as the previous commenter points out, Greenland may be seen as a country as well by many, although Greenland is not referred to as a "country" by Danish law.

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  26. Heard of Lee Abbamonte? He's the youngest American to travel to all sovereign nations. He's 35.

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  27. Lee certainly travels a lot and is what I'd call a full-time traveller. Not a hobby traveller.

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  28. Hey, I'm sorry, but you were the youngest for a mere two months: When I travelled to my last country Iceland on July 15, 2013, I was 34 years and 244 days old.

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  29. Great article :)
    Can you tell us how much money did it take you to visit all of this places (roughly) so i can start planning :)

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    1. I wish I knew, or actually I am glad I don't...

      Pretty everything I have earned the last few years. But I am good at finding cheap tickets, I mainly stay in cheap accommodation and I live in an inexpensive flat in Oslo. So it is really mainly about priorities. And it is of course cheaper if you can cover several countries on every trip.

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  30. exceptional...!...well, complete your book and show everyone what is a world in motion...:-)))...

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  31. Well done!! Wow. That's my life goal, too. Only at 90 so far though and I'm just turning 27.
    Would love to get some info of you next time I'm in town.

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  33. Have you visited Tristan Da Cunha? That's one of the weird places I want to go, just to see it!

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  34. i am so very jealous...how do you afford all of this travel?

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  35. Gunnar, you're the best person in the world!

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  36. Hey Gunnar! Great job! Question though, how have you been able to cope with the cost of travelling round all the countries?

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    1. Thanks! I have low living costs as I purchased my flat many years ago when prices were still low. And I don't have cars, pets, wives or kids. Combined with being good at finding cheap tickets and spending all my money on travelling, it has been possible... I don't have many Picasso paintings on my walls, though...

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  37. Hi, Congrats for visiting all countries in your life. I was thinking no one can visit all countries in his/her life due to money. Because who have money they have no time for going any where and how have time and want to go (like me) they have no a lot money to complete this dream. Who you manage your social life with travel ?

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  38. Thanks, Annie! I have a few very good friends and a big family (6 siblings) who I meet as often as I can when at home. Sometimes family and friends also travel with me.

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  39. Do you have a favorite country?

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  40. Did you visit the country of Niue? It is an independent country recognized by the UN, is not a proper member of the UN but sits on several specialized councils.It was the first country to have universal Wi-Fi across the island.

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  41. I just stumbled across your blog and I am very impressed.

    Just out of curiosity, what do you do for a living? I understand that you have a full-time job, correct?

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  42. Gunnar Garfors, please tell me what did you think of the Dominican Republic/Haiti island, in the Caribbean Sea? My name is Maria and I'm from the Dominican republic and live in USA now.
    God bless you, great accomplishment. Eres un ser especial!!

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  43. I'm jealous bro. You have a lot of balls (and money). Deep respect. I salute to you! Cheers

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