Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Youngest Hobby Traveller to Visit All Countries

With a lethal weapon in Ivory Coast. 

He entered the 198th and last country, Cape Verde, on May 8, 2013, when he was 37 years and 344 days old. That makes him the youngest person to visit all the countries of the world while working full-time. Or as a hobby traveller.

Gunnar Garfors is a globetrotter. Really. The Norwegian has visited all 198 countries in the world and is the youngest to have done so as a hobby – while maintaining a full-time job. Gunnar has encountered people, places and situations most can only dream of and is particularly fond of places less travelled.

His travel adventures resulted in "How I Ran Out of Countries", a book available in three languages, and he has been featured in news media in almost 100 countries around the world. The book contains a chapter for every one of the 198 countries, and his experiences are carefully woven together into a story that takes the reader on an emotional ride and establishes a connection with Gunnar and his quest.

He only used holidays and weekends while constantly maintaining a full-time job. A few people have visited all countries at a younger age, but they have done so professionally, while studying or they have taken time off to do it.
Follow Gunnar on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook for updates on my travels. 
In 2012 Gunnar became the first person to visit five continents in just one day, together with his university friend Adrian Butterworth from United Kingdom. This was later accepted as a Guinness World Record. Not exactly travelling like he prefers it, but a fun stunt just to prove that it was possible. The Norwegian had visitied all five countries before, but was still inspired to attempt another world record, to visit as many countries as possible in 24 hours. Two mates and him managed 19. And of course, why not try to manage all 19 counties of Norway too, in 24 hours? His brother Øystein joined in, and they succeeded with time to spare.

Gunnar Garfors is originally a journalist, and now works as an advisor on radio distribution for Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) in Oslo. That, or more often his backpack, is his home address. The 41 year-old is also President of IDAG, an international radio and TV organization. garfors.com, his travel blog, gets a million hits a year.

How many countries?
There are many ways of counting the countries of the world. FIFA recons that there are 208 while the UN has 193 members. When Gunnar sets a goal, he wants it to be logic, explainable and achievable. His goal to visit 198 countries is explained as follows.

There are 193 UN member countries  in the world. He counts all of them. 
There are 2 UN observers. Gunnar counts both the Vatican and Palestine. 
3 additional countries are recognized by a fair number (over 10%) of the 195 above. Kosovo, Western Sahara and Taiwan are therefore also counted.
That makes the total number 198.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are acknowledged by four UN members (Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru) while Northern Cyprus is acknowledged by one (Turkey). Neither Nagorno-Karabakh nor Transnistria is acknowledged by any UN members (but by each other and by Abkhazia and South Ossetia). Source: Wikipedia.  

Celebrating the last country with a jump in Cape Verde
which Gunnar Garfors entered on May 8, 2013. 
He visited 193 of them the last 10 years, 3 in 1992 and 2 in 2000. Gunnar travelled alone to 96 of the 198 countries and with at least one other traveller to the remaining 102. Most countries were with his brother Øystein Garfors (35) and with 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.

What's a visit?
But what constitutes a visit to a country? Gunnar says that he must have done something there and have a story to tell. It isn't necessary to stay overnight, but leaving the airport or train/bus station is mandatory. To merely step across the border doesn't count.

Finally, He is allegedly the only Norwegian to have visited all countries. Oh well, enough obnoxious bragging.