I travelled to 19 countries in 24 hours with my mates Tay-young Pak and Øystein Djupvik.
I have been to all 198 countries in less than 10 years, while maintaining a full-time job throughout – and managing to write a book about the mad and often outrageous experiences. In Norway that means 5 weeks of holiday annually plus around 2 weeks worth of national holidays. So, how in the world is it possible to visit every country in such a relatively short amount of time?
Local modes of transport come highly recommended.
Here are some tips on how to travel extensively while maintaining studies or a full-time job.
1. You can travel quite far on a weekend. And there are 52 weekends a year. I have, at the busiest of times travelled over 30 weekends in a year. Even I enjoy the odd weekend at home.
2. Take time off work instead of accepting overtime pay. Then take out those hours before or after a weekend or a holiday trip to extend your available travelling time.
3. Heading back Sunday night is great, especially if you can sleep on the plane (if not, consider taking a sleeping pill). You will then land back home early in the morning, and you can pop by your house for a shower (unless there are such facilities in the office) and go straight to work. I have had trips where I have visited Seoul, New York and Sydney for less than 24 hours before returning to Norway. Of course the journey to and from Australia took much longer than the stay itself, but it was exhilarating to do such a crazy trip just for a weekend. I have naturally been there before and after to explore the country properly.
4. Travel with hand-luggage only. It is lighter and saves you valuable time in both ends, which is a bonus when you don’t have much time to start with. It is more environmentally friendly to travel light and you can use a lack of multiple outfits to do some shopping in another country with a different selection of clothes on offer. You will furthermore be more relaxed, and you will look more like a local than a tourist with a big suitcase. There is also less to worry about, more flexible and cheaper (on airlines that charge extra to check-in luggage).
5. Use a seat as a bed. Whether it is a plane, a bus, a boat or a train, you might as well go from A to B while you are sleeping. You will save on accommodation costs and wake up in a new place.
6. If you travel for work, ask to book the tickets to your destination the weekend before, then return on the Sunday the weekend after. You can then buy extra tickets on your own and explore one new country before the work event and another country the weekend after.
7. Set aside weekends or long weekends long time in advance and trawl the Internet for cheap tickets.
An old Danish ferry in Gabon.
8. Take “an extra holiday” during your holiday. Chances are that you will have to transfer anyway. Instead of waiting for hours in the airport, book an extra day or two there, and get to see one extra country. You might even like this second choice destination better than your original destination.
9. Do this both ways, and you add yet another country (of course just staying in an airport doesn’t really do justice to any country – and I wouldn’t count that as a visit).
10. Fly via a country instead of buying a direct flight. Then stay for some extra time, or explore for a few hours. Non-direct tickets are usually cheaper anyway.
11. This might come as a surprise to you, but the world is round. Travel around it instead of going back and forth. If you have to go to another continent for work or holiday, you might as well continue around the world to see some new places. You might need to take some extra days off work, but you will get to see countries and places very far away without using too much extra holiday time. Most of the travel time will anyhow be work. There are a lot of low cost airlines in many countries, so you can travel around the world by booking a lot of relatively cheap one-way flights. The three big alliances also offer round the world tickets – flexible ones even.
12. Visit 19 countries in 24 hours. We did and set a world record. Admittedly not much time in each country, though…
13. Visit five continents in one day. The same problems as above, really, although we travelled the same route back and spent much more time in each country. It was later admitted as a Guinness World Record.
14. Take your holiday immediately before or after a work trip. Your employer will likely let you book the flight there or back a week or two earlier or later as long as it doesn’t cost anything extra.
15. Travel by bus, train or boat instead of a plane – if you can. That will often take you through more countries. Just be sure to stop in each of them and explore. Driving through a country doesn’t really count…
Nauru’s Our Airline is not a member of any alliances.
16. Check out the map in advance. There may be a country (or several) nearby that you can visit on a day-trip.
17. Most people should take several holidays per year, rather than just one as they will then have earned more money that they can use to travel to new countries. Unless, of course you have saved up money. You will then benefit from rather taking one long holiday as you can get away with only one return flight ticket and rather travel with trains, buses and other modes of transport, locally – and get to see a number of countries on one trip.
18. To get a European rail pass (Interrail) is another way to visit a lot of countries in a short period of time, without spending a lot of money.
19. Don’t be a sheep. Dare be different. Travel to unusual places and avoid queues, crowded flights, expensive tickets, fully booked hotels and having to meet your obnoxious neighbour in the restaurant.
20. Sign up for frequent flier programs, and get flight tickets and hotel stays for free. Using credit cards and staying in hotels sometimes also make you earn points. You may not bother to sign up to too many such programs, but do it at least for an airline within the alliance that you travel the most with. Star Alliance, One World and Skyteam are the three big ones.
21. Keep two passports. Many countries allow for this, as long as you can prove that you have a need for it due to extensive travel. This enables you to travel on one passport, while applying for visas to new countries with the other one. Or to apply for visas to two countries at the same time, before travelling there.
I have received more encouraging messages.
22. Apply for visas in neighbouring countries to where you want to go. This is almost always faster and cheaper. Whereas applying at an embassy in Europe or Northern America can take weeks or even months, it rarely takes longer than 1-24 hours if you visit the embassy in a neighbouring country. And, as a bonus, costs tend to be lower.
23. Always carry a lot of passport photos of yourself for visas. This will save you time and money when visa shopping. Instead of having photos taken in photo boxes in train stations, take a selfie with a white background using your phone. Then use Photoshop or a similar image programme and copy the photograph of yourself as many times that you can fit onto an i.e. A4 sized area (depends on the size required). Then save it as a file and print it out on photo paper on your own printer, or have it done in a photo shop. Finally use scissors or a knife to cut them out and voilà, you have around 30 photographs on a piece of paper, costing much less than 4 normal passport photos from a photo box.