Wednesday, March 13, 2013

7 Up

Seychelles is rarely wrong as long as you stay away from all-inclusive resorts. I was there in January, 2013.  

I feel sort of sad, sort of excited, sort of happy. I am about to finish my slightly manic travel project, to visit all 198 countries of the world. I have been to 191 of them, only seven remain. They are all small island nations, six of them are in Oceania, one is in Africa.

Yes, this is also me. On a journey to Afghanistan in 2009.
My two friends wanted to bring home burqas for their
girlfriends (don't ask why), and I was 'the right size.'
Few photographs of Afghani women sporting burqas
actually exist, so this 'close-up of an Afghani woman'
was used as an illustration in a French newspaper.
Photo: Marius Arnesen
If everything goes according to plan, I will visit the six countries in the Pacific Ocean during an extended Easter holiday. The trip there will break my record for plane marathons. It will take me eight flights and 37 hours to get from Berlin to Majuro. It's a good thing I like plane food, don't do jetlag and easily fall asleep in the air. I have some training too, having travelled by plane over a thousand times. Which is why I was asked to test online flight ticket booking engines for NRKbeta (in Norwegian).

The current travel project is set to finish in Cape Verde the second weekend of May with a small celebration. I will then be the youngest person in the world to have visited all 198 countries as a hobby. I have never taken any time off work or studies to travel, nor made any money from it.

On my way from Senegal to Mauritania in October, 2012. 
An expensive hobby? Definitely. But without wives, kids, dogs or cars and with an apartment I purchased relatively cheap 13 years ago, it has still been possible. Just about. The memories, experiences and friends I have gained after all the trips have made it all worthwhile.

What I will do when I have finished? Probably go on holiday. After all, I have then finally concluded my research of where I would like to go next. Of course, I don't have many vacation days left, but I travel fast and usually see a lot over a weekend.

See which countries remain below. To find out what will happen on the last two trips, follow @garfors on Twitter.

On a tiny beach on Long Island, Marshall Islands. 
Marshall Islands - 68,000 people on 181 km². Capital: Majuro. (Check. Visited March 20.)

The former US territory was unfortunate enough to have to pay for being under North American wings by being Washington's favourite nuclear testing grounds in the 40s, 50s and 60s. The country used to be called the 'world's fishiest place' but also offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The 33 atolls are supposed to be fantastic for snorkling and diving. 24 of them are populated.

A glimpse of Marshall Islands, after having visited.

Decent view from Seabreeze Resort, Samoa. 
Samoa - 194,320 people on 2,831 km². Capital: Apia. (Check. Visited March 22.)

The islands were made up by countless volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. Vegetation now covers the islands and make them almost all green. Visitors are encouraged to see lava fields, beaches, villages and  national parks, some with 100 meter high waterfalls. Not to forget the 'blow holes', small vertical tubes though the lava which sea water is being forced through to create geysir effects.

My blog post on Samoa.

Blowholes on the South Coast of Tonga.
Tonga - 103,036 people on 748 km². Capital: Nuku'alofa. (Check. Visited March 25.)

This country actually sees a fair amount of tourists, thanks to direct flights from Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. People come to enjoy watersports of all kinds and to endulge in great food allegedly offered from a surprisingly wide range of of good restaurants. Do not leave without tasting the lobster.

My thoughts on Tonga after having visited.

All boats can't be big. Suva, Fiji.

Fiji - 849,000 people on 18,274 km². Capital: Suva. (Check. Visited March 25.)

This is the country on the list that most people have actually heard about. I am generally not a big fan of touristy places, but Fiji is by far the largest remaining country and has a lot of areas unspoilt by tourism. You won't find me in any of the resorts. I will actually have to visit Fiji three times though, as most flights in the area go via Suva or Nadi.

Kids playing water rugby on the runway of the airport.

Tuvalu - 10,544 people on 26 km². Capital: Funafuti. (Check. Visited March 26.)

The smallest country on this list is also one of the least visited in the world. No more than 1,200 tourists visit every year, only two countries have fewer visitors. Tuvalu is also one of the first countries that will disappear should sea levels increase, so you may not have to much time to see this unique nation.

Read more on the 'sinking' country.

Kiribati - 103,500 people on 811 km². Capital: South Tarawa. (Check. Visited April 1.)

This is the fourth least visited country in the world, although having 4 times as many visitors as Tuvalu. Despite boasting a very famous island; Christmas Island. The country is very poor and especially the capital is densely populated. The islands also experienced some of the heaviest fighting of World War II, wreck diving comes recommended.

On the country without the letter 's.'

Cape Verde - 523,568 people on 4,033 km². Capital: Praia. 

The last new country I may ever visit is the one geographically nearest to Norway of the final seven. That is to enable friends to easier join in for the party in May. Cape Verde is famous for good food, blue marlin fishing and whatever you would ever want to do from a beach.

In Turkey in 2012.
Photo by Adrian Butterworth, Adelia Television
The passion for travelling have resulted in other strange trips. Last year I visited five continents in one day, a world record which is being made into a television documentary.

I am often asked about which country I like the best. An impossible question to answer truthfully. The world is amazing and every new place and country impress me in some way or another. Being able to eat, drink, smile and chat with people from so many countries have to a certain degree satisfied my curiosity and contributed making me into an often smiling person. A bloody restless one, though.

I was recently interviewed by FBI, the Norwegian television program airing every Wednesday on NRK1, about travelling and airplane tickets. Watch the package which was filmed on an ice covered beach outside Oslo in NRKs web tv. It starts after 19 minutes and 12 seconds. 

Why there are 198 countries? There are 193 UN countries, 2 UN observers (the Vatican and Palestine) and 3 other countries (Kosovo, Taiwan and Western Sahara) that are recognized by a number of UN countries.