Remember that first holiday you took to somewhere other than Spain, France or Greece? You thought you were Mr/Mrs Adventure as you jetted off to somewhere slightly weirder than the generic European summer holiday. If you’re American, I think your ‘Spain, France or Greece’ are probably the East coast, the West coast and Mexico. If you’re European, maybe you went to Morocco. If you’re American, maybe you went to Colombia. Either way, you’re trip was nothing in comparison to what this guy has done.
Meet Gunnar Garfors, the man who managed to visit all 198 countries in the world by the age of 37. Having visited an impressive 85 countries by 2008, Gunnar went to overdrive and visited the remaining 113 in just five years.
His adventure has come to light in his soon to be published book, 198: How I Ran Out Of Countries. It is a collection of anecdotes, advice and pictures from his epic journey.
One of the most impressive things about his trip is that he managed to keep his job with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Of the achievement, Gunnar said ‘I guess having visited every country as a hobby traveller shows that you don’t have to quit your job and set up a travel blog to see and experience the world.’
So how did he do it, you ask? Meticulous planning coupled with acting on impulse, a combination Garfors acknowledges as a contradiction. The feat took him hundreds of trips and, he estimates, 3000-4000 flights. He also used trains, buses, ferries, car shares and even hitch-hikes.
To save money on accommodation, the explorer used Couch Surfing and Hospitality . These schemes had advantages beyond price. Gunnar claims he had some of his best experiences and made some lifelong friends while staying on people’s sofas. He advises that simply being smiley and approaching people can lead to invitations to ‘mountain hikes, parties and even dinners’.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Norwegian. He was almost attacked by a man with a long knife in Somalia. ‘A local friend I had just met stood up for me and calmed him down. The furious man and I ended driving out of the country together. I was in the passenger seat, he was just behind me – still with his big knife in his belt. I kept leaning forward the entire journey, fearing to be literally stabbed any moment.’
Along the way he broke some world records. He and two travelling friends managed to travel by car and plane through 19 European countries in one calendar day, breaking the previous record of 18. They started in Turkey and then visited Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland, finally ending in Liechtenstein.
A more outrageous record was their successful attempt to visit five continents in one calendar day. Although the trip took them 28 hours, time zones meant that it was still the same day as when they had started. Taking only commercial flights and spending just £1,100 each, Garfors and friend Adrian Butterworth started in Asia before stopping off at Europe, Africa, North America and South America on their way to breaking the record.
Preferring to travel light, Gunnar spent five weeks with hand just hand luggage at one point. He assures us that his small bag included washing powder but, based on his clothes in these pictures, we’re not sure if he wouldn’t have been better served by throwing his wardrobe out after each trip!
This guy is doing life right… as I sit here in the office I can’t help but feel a tad jealous. But hey, I’m off on my holidays in a couple weeks and nothing makes me happier then travelling.
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