8. ETIC Marquetalia – Colombia 2020
7. ETIC Principality of Sealand 2019
6. ETIC Baghdad 2018
5. ETIC Liberland 2017
4. ETIC Mogadishu 2017
3. ETIC Anabar 2016
— ETIC Gaza 2015
2. ETIC Grozny 2014
1. ETIC Munich 2008
8. ETIC Marquetalia – Colombia 2020
7. ETIC Principality of Sealand 2019
6. ETIC Baghdad 2018
5. ETIC Liberland 2017
4. ETIC Mogadishu 2017
3. ETIC Anabar 2016
— ETIC Gaza 2015
2. ETIC Grozny 2014
1. ETIC Munich 2008
Colombian Extreme Traveler Jack Goldstein opened the 8. ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress 2020 at his own hotel
Lancaster House in Bogota, www.LancasterHouse.com.co
The evening was attended by the heads of the UN-VMC (United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia), the leadership of FARC (Fuerzas Alternativas Revolucionarias del Comun, now a political party), the ARN (Agency for Re-Incorporation & Normalisation), the Ministry of Tourism, several media, other Colombian dignitaries, a Hollywood documentary production, and 36 of the most extreme travelers, who flew in purposely, from as far as Azerbaijan, Siberian Russia, Finland, Singapore or HongKong, and many other countries.
Two leaders of FARC, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, former fighter name “Timochenko”, and Martin Cruz Vega, former fighting name “Rubin Morro”, with event hosts & organisers Sandy Cohen and Jack Goldstein.
Timochenko brought his dog (Queenie) instead of Lenin’s cat, for a picture with US extreme traveler Gina.
ETIC Dinner with UN Colombia Head Carlos Ruiz Massieu, FARC Head Rodrigo Londoño Timochenko, Host Jack Goldstein, Co-Host Sandy Cohen, ETIC Founder Kolja Spöri, MTP Founder Charles Veley (left to right)
The official event polo shirt
Early next morning we all drove together on the new “Peace Road to Marquetalia”
Initially a 10 hours drive south-west
in a car escort, performed TOGETHER in a promising joint exercise by FARC,
and the Military !!! Additional thanks to several hundred government troops of Bataillon 18 who secured the mountains around Marquetalia.
We reached the end of the asphalt road in the small village of El Oso, where you can sense the revolutionary spirit of the past,
now officially the starting point for history & nature tourism in the area. We were the first foreign group in 55 years, and even the FARC leaders hadn’t been able to make it here, to their mythical founding republic, since 55 years.
The overwhelming credit for the event idea and execution goes to Jack Goldstein (right) – and then to Martin Cruz Vega (left), formerly known as “Rubin Morro”, who is now a politician and book author, and responsible for turning down the FARC arsenal of military weapons to the UN.
Welcome dances by the local Nasa indian community
a welcome presentation by local officials
and welcome drinks.
FARC today: a political player …
… and before: a feared war party (employing terror methods like kidnapping), until the Havana Peace Accord in 2016.
ETIC group foto in El Oso before climbing uphill to Marquetalia.
First in UAZ offroad vehicles
which were plenty of fun
then by horse,
and by foot,
a very steep
and slippery 6.5 kilometers,
sometimes in pouring rain (here: FARC Senator Victoria Sandino, center),
quite a challenge for our extreme travelers from age 17 (Ethan Avinami) to age 75 (Don Parrish),
all under the watchful eyes of the United Nations team leader Enrique Sanchez – and their UN drone.
Excellent cooperation with the UN-VMC United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.
Randy’s mobile phone fell off while on horseback – and was retrieved in a complex search & rescue operation.
All in all, the “Peace Road to Marquetalia” was a miraculous logistics operation, and a great success.
protected for us by the friendly Bataillon 18,
until we finally reached the hidden mountain plateau of Marquetalia (One of only two surviving founders of FARC, “Sergeant” Miguel Angel Pascuas aka “Black Death”, can be seen to the left, sitting in front of his tent, aged 79!)
The infamous remnants of the Battle of Marquetalia, where FARC had shot down two government helicopters in the early 60s, can also still be witnessed here.
FARC had set up our tent camp
complete with kitchen, basic sanitary facilities,
and a campfire where legendary rebel stories where shared in the evening.
FARC founder Manuel Marulanda’s famous hut, on top of Marquetalia, and today in the eye of a thunderstorm
Finally we also met FARCs most famous foreign member, the Dutch “Lara Croft” Tanja Nijmeijer (here pictured with extreme traveler and fellow Dutch B. Kester).
Tanja has a unique charisma (see above music video about FARC-founcer Manuel Marulanda). She resigned from FARC a day after our visit, after almost 20 years of fighting for – what she perceived to be – a good cause.
Back in Bogota, each and every participant received a certificate and now proudly feels like a hero, for having made the “Peace Road to Marquetalia”.
Jack Goldstein, Martin Cruz Vega, Extreme Traveler M. von Hassel.
This was an extreme adventure, even for the most extreme travelers. For a really good and ETICal cause: to strengthen the peace process in Colombia!
The friendly Colombian Deputy Minister of Tourism Constanza Olaya Cantor (left) also attended the awards
The leaders of the 3 systematic travel clubs, NomadMania: Harry Mitsidis, Most Traveled People: Charles Veley, and Travelers Century Club: JoAnn Schwartz, with ETIC conferencier Per Besson (left) and founder Kolja Spöri (right).
Farewell foto at the rooftop conference room of Hotel Lancaster House.
Our trip received quite a bit of local attention:
United Nations: El Turismo de Aventura llega a Marquetalia
IOM – Organización Internacional para las Migraciones: Expertos internacionales participan en expedición turística guiada por excombatientes en Marquetalia
Reliefweb: El Turismo de Aventura llega a Marquetalia
Alcaldía Municipal de Planadas Tolima: Alcalde Municipal Ing. Jhon Hueje acompaño el recibimiento de 35 extranjeros denominados viajeros extremos por el mundo
Hoy Diario del Magdalena: Extranjeros participaron en expedición guiada por excombatientes en Marquetalia
Caracol Radio: Le apuestan al turismo en el sur del Tolima
Red+ Noticias: Red+ Historias | Viaje al corazón de Marquetalia, por red+
Personal traveler blogs / reports:
Jack Goldstein: Hashavua Bogota: Shabad con Timochenko
Kari-Matti & Patrik: Maailmanmatkaajat: helmikuun kuukausikokous
Kolja Spori: Hosted in the FARC mountains: Marquetalia, Colombia
Kolja Spori in Doug Casey’s International Man: “What the FARC?”
Michael von Hassel on Artnet: Interview
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Haciendo Historia en Colombia. 36 de los top viajeros extremos del mundo nos embarcamos en una de las aventuras mas extremas: Hicimos la Ruta de Marquetalia y llegamos al punto donde se fundo las FARC, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, hace 55 años. Fuimos los primeros turistas en conocer e interactuar con los ex-combatientes. . Nos transportamos en buses con una delegacion de las Naciones Unidas, Bomberos, escoltas y prensa, desde Bogota, 10 horas hasta llegar al Oso. Ahi pasamos la noche. Al dia siguiente madrugamos, recogimos mochilas y carpas y nos dirigimos a Marquetalia, 2 horas en jeep por un camino de tierra y luego casi 3 horas a caballo y los mas valientes caminando, hasta llegar a la cima de la montaña donde todo comenzo y donde aun se mantien restos de un helicoptero caido. . En total incluyendo a los ex-combatientes, representantes de la alcaldia de Planadas, de la ONU, Gobierno, ejercito colombiano, bomberos, comunidad de Gaitania, el resguardo indigena Nasa, Red +Noticias, Netflix, eramos mas de 250 personas. Con el acuerdo de paz se esta creando un proyecto turistico, en conjunto con las Naciones Unidas, el Gobierno de Colombia y los ex-combatientes para que la gente pueda conocer estas areas que hasta hace 3 años eran de los sitios mas peligrosos del mundo #ViajandoConSandy . . . #visitandotodoslospaisesdelmundo🌍 #colombia #marquetalia #tolima #gaitania #viajera #viajes #travellife #travelgoals #instatravel #travelphotography #travel #traveltheworld #traveldiaries #travelgram #viaje #viajaresvivir #traveldestination #conociendoelmundo #panameñosporelmundo #panamatraveler #panamatravelers #panamatravellers #extremetravel #tcc #travelerscenturyclub #panameñosporelmundo🇵🇦 #viajerosdepanama #panameñasviajeras
[Fotos by Sandy Cohen, Martin Cruz Vega, Phillips Connor, Jimmy Gerum, Jack Goldstein, Thorsten Salaske, Randy Segler, own. I’ve lost track of ownership of fotos from our different whatsapp groups. If you feel you have not been credited correctly, or if your foto shouldn’t be here, please let me know. Thanks. More changes, fotos and videos to follow.]
The ETIC Awards 2020 were held at the Hotel Lancaster House Bogota, Colombia, on the occasion of the ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress in Bogota & Marquetalia.
João Paulo Peixoto and Charles Veley, for their daring trip to Aksay Chin
JoAnn Schwartz, as President and on behalf of the Travelers Century Club, for their longtime commitment to the community of systematic travelers
Jack Goldstein, Lancaster House Bogota, for his tremendous work and dedication to organise the programme and VIP list at the ETIC 2020 in Bogota & Marquetalia
by Kolja Spori
Gentleman Adventurer to the World’s 193 UN countries. Founder of ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress. Author of Bestseller “I’ve been everywhere”. BBC “Travel Pioneer”. His politically incorrect Travelblog: www.dangerzone.news.
The meaning of “sophistication” has its ancient roots in Greek: sophia = wisdom. In the days of classical beauty, wisdom was inherently linked to aesthetics, defined by rational order and harmonious proportions. This was in stark contrast to later medieval gothics (brought by Barbarians) or modern shard deconstructivism (by another tribe from the East), which has found its extreme in the dumbing down of so-called Western societies, a crude lumpen egalitarianism, sometimes referred to as cultural marxism.
Today’s Cambridge Dictionary defines “sophistication” as having a good understanding of the way people behave and a good knowledge of culture and fashion, having an understanding of the world and its ways, so that you are not easily fooled.
Let us apply this definition to travelers and analyse what makes them sophisticated. We take as common wisdom that “travel educates” – in and by itself. I disagree.
The majority of travelers I have met, see foreign lands entirely through the filter glasses of their homefront. Their worldview is shaped by government schools, hollywood actors, television programming, mainstream pressing, and the resulting illusion of “us being the good guys”. When they travel, they carry a life supply of brainwash shampoo with them. A backpack full of sheep’s wool over their eyes. And a dumbed-down uniform of sweatshop t-shirts, shorts and sandals that sores the eye of the beholder.
When in Grozny, their inner view is Amanpour’s “breaking news” on CNN, when in Beirut their inner compass follows Clooney in his movie “Syriana”, when in Tehran their inner voice is guided by Salman Rushdie or Betty Mahmoody, when in Moscow they go by the beliefs of Bill Browder or Anders Aslund – or by any other Western agitprop clown of the day.
While Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” Mozart rightfully countered: “A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not“.
Many contemporary words describe the ordinary traveler: hoi polloi, plebs, great unwashed, riffraff, tourist, NRT. However, the sophisticated traveler is as rare as a word for him. The Gallivanter or Sybarite or Gourmand are in the neighbourhood, but still not à point. Maybe the German word Weltmann comes closest.
Sophisticated travelers recognize each other from the outside, even from afar, just by their composure, their habitus (from French habit = suit), their luggage, and most important: the places they frequent.
The sophisticated traveler cultivates knowledge of places where sophisticated locals meet. An aura of quality is his universal passport. If he is in an unknown location, he will know a friend, or a friend of a friend, who will unlock this place’s secret gates. To be able to connect with interesting people is the greatest sophistication of all. It is almost by definition that such sophisticated gathering points are NOT mentioned in travel guides.
It is in such sophisticated realms where really privileged information about the world is exchanged, that the riffraff will never get the slightest sight of. Not only in terms of digesting higher gastronomy, but to deeply understand the local society, their economy, contemporary policy, and overarching history.
Sophistication is a small club, with unwritten rules. If you ask for the terms, you are Not Ritz Type. If you ask for the dress code, you are probably unwashed. If you need to ask for the price, you are a plebs who can’t afford it. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre! To really understand reality, to make the right decisions, to become your own sovereign, you require access, contacts and exposure. The key to most doors is your habitus.
The sophisticated traveler either carries minimum handluggage (still looking like a gentleman at all times) or, if not, has a chauffeured car full of monogrammed Goyard luggage following him (like Karl Lagerfeld did).
The sophisticated traveler wears at the minimum a collared (!) shirt, long trousers and covered leather shoes, however he tries to look prepared for any occasion, especially where and when the unspoken dress codes become important.
The sophisticated traveler is able to read faces and characters in any country and sift out the time wasters, confidence tricksters or ponzi schemers. He is acutely aware of the saying: “If you come to the poker table, and in 10 minutes don’t know who is the sucker, it’s probably you.”
The sophisticated traveler is able to read new places and social situations with experienced antennas to send & receive non-verbal messages that control his surroundings.
The sophisticated traveler speaks several languages, but most importantly lets his charisma speak through a congruence of inner beauty and outward appearance.
The sophisticated traveler will leave a lasting impression, a fond memory, a personal footprint, in most countries, and be welcomed back by his (new) local connections.
The sophisticated traveler is humble enough to treat others’ karma with respect, because he knows that flying too high will burn his wings, but he will always demand the respect he deserves. His natural leadership is what the cultural marxists try to destroy.
The sophisticated traveler is able to dig in his phonebook and find a number that gets him out of trouble almost anywhere.
The sophisticated traveler keeps in his pocket a fractional reserve that gets him out of trouble anywhere: a bundle of cash.
The sophisticated traveler navigates difficult regions with sophisticated helpers, like at the Mamba Point in Monrovia, the Acropolis in Khartoum, the former Gandamack Lodge in Kabul or the Separatist Café in Donezk.
For me, the following gentlemen are protagonists of sophistication in the scene of systematic travelers:
* Charles Veley (USA) is the spiritual father of all country collectors and has his own cocktail named after him at the Hemingway Bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
* Harald Buben (Austria) sells luxury watches and safes in more than 130 countries, has his own leather luggage and travel shoes handmade by Berluti, and a personal tailor in several sartorial capitals.
* Patrick Maselis (Belgium) reaches the world’s most remote and dangerous areas by jet and at the same time greets the local leaders in a tuxedo, as the former President of the Royal Philatelic Society, and now of the Club de Monte-Carlo.
* Jorge Weidinger (Germany) randomly meets heads of state or billionaires at clubs, hotels & restaurants and gets invited by them, just because of his unique personality.
* Jack Goldstein (Colombia) operates his own Hotel “Lancaster House” in Bogota, provides a gathering point for top travelers, and arranges meetings with interesting locals.
* Mads Brügger (Denmark) moves at ease in the most difficult places and uses Indiana Jones boots, colonial jackets and diplomatic passports to deeply enter West Africa’s corrupted world of “government business diplomacy” in his brilliant movie “The Ambassador”.
* The truly international Doug Casey (USA) not only writes about investment opportunities in the more than 140 countries he visited, for example in his pioneering book “The International Man”, he still analyses the state(s) of the world better than anyone else in his newsletter by the same name, and he is famous for fitting quotes such as
The annual ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress was created with the founder’s vision to connect “sophisticated travelers, without one-upmanship, sharing their way of life and a deep understanding of the world.”
I want to end my essay, or start my final appeal to the hoi polloi, with a poetic passage from Ethiopian Prince Asfa Wossen-Asserate’s book “Manners” (Manieren, 2004), pondering about NRTs:
“If you arrive at the Ritz Madrid in the afternoons, you may be lucky enough to find elegant people drinking tea in the hall, small old-style tea companies with large, silver teapots and English biscuits. This is a moment when the hotel lives in harmony with its guests. Otherwise it is here as everywhere: Between the style of the house and that of its guests not only a crack, but a quite wide crevasse has opened. … Hotel owner Georges Marquet was still in contact with a clientele who thanked him for maintaining strict etiquette and willingness to submit to it. Men without a tie and women without pants were not allowed to enter the dining room until the 1970s. But such a rejection in the realm of Marquets was already considered a failure of his system. Under his direction, personages you did not want to see in the hotel were called ‘NRT’, ‘Not Ritz Type’. … Let’s take a close look at the cruel reality: In the dining room of the Ritz … not only men with bare necks are sitting today, but also in shorts. Yes, short pants. I’ve been trying to understand what drives people to put themselves in the rut and pay a high bill if the image they want to see is so little worth it that they destroy it without hesitation through their own performance.“
The ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress was held for the 7th time in 2019, at the Principality of Sealand.
An exclusive group of 25 of the world’s most extreme travelers flew in, all the way from Japan, Thailand, Russia, the USA and Europe, … … to meet at The Pier Hotel in Harwich / Essex – and to travel from there to one of the most exotic countries on earth: Sealand.
The Principality of Sealand was founded in 1967 on a WW2 Artillery Platform off the coast of Harwich, initially as a pirate radio station, and in 1975 as a sovereign nation by Roy Bates, Prince of Sealand, and his wife, Princess Joan. Their country is just as legitimate as its larger neighbour, The Democratic Kingdom of Great Britain.
Sealand government procedures were professional and efficient. A prior visa is required (Fotos: Wikipedia).
After a stormy Saturday with force 8 winds, the founder’s grandsons Prince James (left) and Prince Liam (center) met ETIC co-organiser Per Besson on a sunny Sunday morning.
Group safety instructions with Russia’s most famous traveler Artemy Lebedev (center, hair and shirt in perfect ETIC colors) …
… for a 30 minute boat ride
… to Sealand’s territorial waters
… approaching further
until the country name on the platform could be seen from the waterline.
Every participant had to be winched up.
Quite the adventure.
German extreme traveler MvH onboard Sealand.
The second group is having fun en route …
… and on the Sealand helipad (Fotos courtesy of Michael Runkel)
from the Principality
A unique country visit ! We were the only “tourist group” ever to set foot on Sealand, and will probably remain so, because of Sealand’s highly restrictive visa regulations.
The Presidents of the 3 major Systematic Travel Clubs, JoAnn Schwartz (TCC, center), Charles Veley (MTP, center left), and Harry Mitsidis (NMM, center right), together with ETIC organisers Kolja Spori (left) and Per Besson (right) at the ETIC Dinner.
The traditional ETIC Dinner at The Pier Hotel was a good opportunity to get to know each other better, and to exchange travel stories, tips & tricks. (Foto: Ric Gazarian)
Ric Gazarian (left) received the ETIC “Extreme Traveler of the Year” AWARD 2019 in the category COMMUNITY for his unique and widely distributed podcast programme Counting Countries. Harry Mitsidis (center) and Joao Paulo Peixoto (right) listen attentively.
Harry and JPP were awarded by ETIC in two categories, CURIOSITY and COURAGE, for their daring and pioneering trip to Kismaayo and Garowe in Somalia. (Foto: Ric Gazarian)
Our thanks for making this visit possible go to the President of Liberland, Vit Jedlicka, and the President of the Royal Philatelic Society, Patrick Maselis !!
Personal trip reports published after the group event:
by Harry Mitsidis: nomadmania.com/newsletter/ 2019-06-21
by Ric Gazarian: globalgaz.com/visiting-principality-sealand/
Podcast “live from the ETIC Sealand” as part of the “Counting Countries” series:
by Ric Gazarian: globalgaz.com/live-from-sealand
The ETIC Awards 2019 were held at The Pier Hotel in Harwich, Essex, UK, on the occasion of the ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress at the Principality of Sealand.
Ric Gazarian received the ETIC “Extreme Traveler of the Year” AWARD 2019 in the category COMMUNITY for his unique and widely distributed podcast programme Counting Countries.
Harry Mitsidis (left) and Joao Paulo Peixoto (right) were awarded in both categories CURIOSITY and COURAGE for their daring and pioneering trip to Kismaayo and Garowe in Somalia.
The three ETIC Award Winners in 2019
The Presidents of the 3 major Systematic Travel Clubs, JoAnn Schwartz (TCC, center), Charles Veley (MTP, center left), and Harry Mitsidis (NMM, center right), together with ETIC organisers Kolja Spori (left) and Per Besson (right) at the ETIC Award Dinner.
Some of the world’s most extreme travelers. Group foto under the Arch of Ctesiphon.
The Lions in Babylon
ETIC Dinner onboard Jadiriya Floating Boat on the Tigris river
With ca. 40 participants
Extraordinary hospitality by Mr Saad of Al Rabea International Group and his team. Many thanks!
Celebrating 60. birthday of Portuguese extreme traveler Luis Filipe Gaspar in Baghdad
The Maselis family receive the “Extreme Traveler of the Year 2018” award at the Coral Café Baghdad during the ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress.
The “Extreme Traveler of the Year” trophy is awarded in 4 categories:
(Fotos: M. Runkel, T. Salaske, B. Braunstein, own)
For the first time, during the “Extreme Traveler International Congress” in Baghdad, the ETIC Award was presented to the most extreme travelers of the year 2018.
ETIC AWARD TROPHY
The “Extreme Traveler of the Year” trophy is now awarded annually in 4 Categories:
COURAGE – CURIOSITY – COMMUNITY – CHAMPION OF THE WORLD
ETIC AWARD 2018 ROSTER
The ETIC Award Ceremony 2018 was held at the Coral Café in Baghdad, Iraq, during the ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress. Recipients included Harald Buben, Patrick Maselis & Family, Charles Veley, Harry Mitsidis, and Don Parrish.
ETIC – CHAMPION OF THE WORLD AWARD: Don Parrish
US-American icon Don Parrish with the Trophy of the ETIC Award 2018, presented to him in Baghdad, Iraq, as the “Champion of the World” among Extreme Travelers, for his lifetime achievements within the Extreme Traveler community. Don Parrish’s lifetime travel summary is to complete visits to all 193 UN countries (about 200 people have done this), all 327 countries on the Travelers Century Club list (24 people have done this), and all 266 countries on the UN+ list on Nomad Mania (only 4 people have done this). For almost 5 years, he has been listed as Nr. 1 on the Most Traveled People ranking. Don Parrish has helped all of the major travel clubs in areas like improving aspects of websites, recruiting new members in his media interviews, promoting key pioneering concepts like travel verification and fostering understanding of extreme/systematic travel. He leads by example.
ETIC – CURIOSITY AWARD: Patrick Maselis & Family
The legendary Maselis family from Belgium receive the “Extreme Traveler of the Year 2018” award in the category “Curiosity”. Patrick Maselis and his family were the first ever private travelers to land at the brandnew and challenging Saint Helena Airport in the South Atlantic.
ETIC – COMMUNITY AWARD: Harry Mitsidis & Charles Veley
(Foto taken by Don Parrish during the first ever meeting of Harry & Charles in Liberland 2017)
The ETIC Award 2018 in the category “Community” was divided between the two founders of the two most important systematic travel clubs: Charles Veley from the USA and Harry Mitsidis from the UK & Greece, with their clubs “Most Traveled People” (MTP) and “Nomad Mania” (NMM) respectively. By providing a community platform, by setting the standards, by communicating the message, and by connecting the players, both have delivered more value to the systematic traveler community than anyone else worldwide.
At the Coral Café in Baghdad, Charles Veley is pictured on the left. Harry Mitsidis’ trophy was received in his absence by Nomad Mania Boardmember Thomas Büchler from Switzerland, pictured on the right.
ETIC – COURAGE AWARD: Dr. Harald Buben
The Award for the Most Extreme Traveler 2018 in the category “Courage” was presented to Harald Buben from Austria for his ad hoc solo drive on a business trip from Baghdad to Damascus, witnessing the Battle of Ghouta on the way. (Picture of Harald Buben taken in front of the Coral Café Baghdad.)
ETIC 2019 Participants in Baghdad
Extreme Travelers Charles Veley, Don Parrish, Harry Mitsidis (@ ETIC 2017 in Liberland)
Who is the world’s most traveled person?
And how did “country collecting” evolve to “systematic travel”
by Kolja Spori, Founder of ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress
Outer Space vs. UN Countries
Outer space has been defined as any flight above 100 km (the Karman Line), according to the FAI. The definition of a country is more difficult: the UN lists those states whose sovereignty is undisputed (190 states) and those states whose sovereignty is disputed (6 UN member states, 1 UN observer state and 9 other states), resulting in a total list of 206 UN countries. For most “country collectors”, the list of the 193 UN member countries is the standard list today.
Amateur Radio Ham List & DX Century Club
The first country collectors were philatelists who sought postage stamps from every issuing nation. Later the term country collecting was used by Amateur Radio (= Ham) operators who successfully connected on the air with callers from other nations or subdivisions, acccording to the ITU‘s recognized list of international call signs, which became known as the Ham List. As of 1926, the IARU honoured ham operators who “worked all continents”, and as of 1937 those with at least 100 countries called, to become members of the DX Century Club.
Bert Hemphill’s Traveler’s Century Club
Based on the idea and the name of the Amateur Radio DX Century Club, in 1954 the Traveler’s Century Club (TCC) was founded in Los Angeles by travel agent Bert Hemphill (1896-1976) and a group of travelers (incl. R.G. Davidson, according to the NY Times). This club now has more than 1.400 members around the world. The TCC list includes not only sovereign states but also territories, exclaves and island groups, amounting to a total of 325 entities. The first traveler to visit all items (315 at the time) was John Clouse in 1995, when he was also mentioned in the Guiness Book of Records as the most traveled person. Up to today, only 23 travelers have successfully completed the TCC list. The rules of TCC require no more qualification for a legal visit than touching the ground.
Alan Hogenauer’s Systematic Traveling
TCC was the first step from “country collecting” towards “systematic travel”, an academic term coined by Alan Hogenauer (1942-2013), Professor of Tourism & Travel at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, in the early 2000s. The benefit of systematic travel, according to Hogenauer, is one of completion (that you haven’t left anything out) and an understanding of the various categories into which things fit. Hogenauer collected in several different travel categories and was the first to have visited all of the US National Park Service sites. He also emphasized that travel itself is an educational experience.
Quantity vs. Quality
However, Prof. Hogenauer may have been overly optimistic about education through travel. One persistent debate in systematic travel circles is the question of “quality” of a visit, or even “quality” of a traveler (“the best”). In my opinion, systematic travel should focus on quantifiable, objective criteria, and not on subjective qualities. That implies the use of TCC rules (“simply touching the ground”) as the only objective criteria for the legality of a visit. The qualities of travelers are just too diverse to take into account. Contrary to my expectations, several of the top-listed people still travel like tourists, with pre-set itineraries, bookings through travel agents, using tourist guides, visiting “the usual suspects”, state museums, monuments, religious sites, or other official prescriptions from the tourist guide books, taking snapshots, carrying checked luggage in big suitcases, nevertheless wearing constantly the same colorful sandals, shorts and daypacks. Maybe that is in in order to clearly differentiate from the resident native. There is not really a problem with that. To each their own. Live and let live!
However, it is often from these, may I say “less sophisticated” circles that emanates more demand for “quality” of a visit, be it staying at least one night in a country, or walking a kilometer, or having a pee or a poo on a local pot, whereas others aspire to have sex for the country point, or to climb the highest mountain, or to read a patriotic poem in the national library. The intellectual and physical capabilities of (non-space) travelers are diverse, to say the least. In my experience, the educated traveler with good antennas will see more during an airport transit, than the average tourist will ever see during a two week stay. A good example of a traveler with a quick-witted, sophisticated understanding of how a place works is Charles Veley.
Charles Veley’s Most Traveled People
Charley Veley was the youngest person to finish the TCC list in 2003 at age 37, and saw the necessity to bring systematic travel to a new level. Since the year 2000, the Guinness Book of World Records declared itself unable to continue to judge the Most Traveled category. Guinness requested that a legitimate 3rd party organization pick up this task, so Charles Veley founded MostTraveledPeople.com (MTP) in 2005. MTP’s original list of 573 countries and territories began by combining the TCC, DXCC, and John Todd lists. Since 2007, MTP members have voted added items to the list, now amounting to 875 entities. Charles Veley and MTP received substantial international media coverage. The easy access of the upcoming internet, the convenient box-ticking for countries and territories off an online list, and the cost-free virtual club membership, all promoted systematic travel as a new genre to wider audiences. The standard of a visit according to MTP developed over time to a slightly stricter version than the TTC standard, demanding a passport stamp, affidavit or fotographic proof.
Harry Mitsidis’ The Best Travelled
Harry Mitsidis launched TheBestTravelled.com (TBT), later labelled NomadMania.com, in 2012 as an answer to his perceived downsides of MTP, such as over-representation of small European countries (Switzerland counting with 26 cantons) to the detriment of big developing countries like Kazakhstan or the Congo (counting just one point). TBT divides the world into 1.281 regions, in addition it provides a somewhat subjective UN+ List of 267 “countries”, and it introduced the TBT Series, which ticks off cities, sights, museums, islands, airports, etc. Because of its hyperactive founder Harry Mitsidis, its high quality web presence, and the simultaneous counting of TCC and other lists, TBT is now the most frequented systematic travel community. TBT is the only systematic travel club that actually verifies the visits claimed by top travellers. TBT also lists those travelers that have been to every UN country as UN Masters. The standard of a visit according to TBT goes beyond MTP and asks for a minimum time or activity undertaken in each entity.
Jeff Shea’s SISO
As much as TBT tried to establish more objective criteria than MTP, this can truly only be said for Jeff Shea’s International Standard Organisation List (SISO) that divides the world into 3.978 legal provinces, based on the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO). Shea uses the ISO 3166-2 list (each country submits its sub-national territory list to the ISO in Geneva), plus his additional Official Unlisted Places list, which comprises the small remainder of territories (47) that are not covered by ISO. Shea is more than a tourist or traveler, he is an expeditioner who has even systematically collected the highest mountains on every continent (the “Seven Summits”), and that means physically climbing to the top, without any definition controversy. While Shea’s Register of the World is a complete, organized gazetteer of the world’s divisions and locations, it seems almost too detailed or “pixeled” for most travelers to follow, in particular when small countries like Slovenia happen to be legally sub-divided into 212 entities.
Other Lists & Claimants
There used to be a French-centric systematic travel club, founded by Rached Trimèche in 1982, under the name of Club International des Grands Voyageurs (CIGV), with an impressive member list of famous names, and a subjective country list with 246 items, but unfortunately it seems not operational anymore.
The most subjective list in the bonfire of vanities that sometimes surrounds systematic travelers has been devised by Frank Grosse-Oetringhaus who combined a rather random selection of existing lists in a secret algorithm to declare “The Best Traveled Man on Earth: Best in Quality Based on Highlights”. The winner is, surprise, surprise, … Frank Grosse-Oetringhaus himself.
Other systematic travel lists are Sascha Grabow’s Greatest Globetrotters (GG), or Els Slots’ World Heritage Site List (WHS), or Stefan Krasowski’s Every Passport Stamp (EPS), or Jorge Sanchez’ Travelers Exploits Club (TEC).
The quasi-iconic Jorge Sanchez and Heinz Stücke (who circled the length of the equator 16 times by bicycle) and a handful of others represent a type of traveler that tends to cause controversy. They travel slowly and continuously for long periods of time (30 to 50 years), they tick off more TBT boxes than anyone else, they rarely return home, they live on a shoe-string and often depend on donations or invitations by locals, they don’t have a smart or even a mobile phone, and they have basically cut ties with civilian existence. They possibly suffer from extreme dromomania where the dosage has become a venom.
Paradoxically, these compulsory wanderers try to make a virtue out of their handicap by praising themselves as the “better” travelers than those who have kept control over their homes and who don’t leave before they made enough money for the next trip. According to the vast majority, travel is an ethical undertaking because the good traveler sustains the local economy with his money instead of leeching on it. The same vast majority will not accept sleeping in abandoned houses or on park benches as travel, but rather call it misery or drifting. The vast majority will not abandon their civilian existence at home. The more these “over-the-border” personalities self-glorify their quest for the world, the more they become “weltfremd” (unworldly).
Update 07.02.2019: this interview is a ‘good’ example https://globalgaz.com/sascha-grabow-counting-countries/
While I have high respect for the individual achievement, I still suggest that anti-societal drop-out “philosophies” are not overly promoted in lists or clubs who try to identify the “best or most traveled person”.
Bad Press vs. Good Press
There are other extreme travelers who voluntarily do not want to be visible in systematic travel lists. One of their rightful motivations may be anonymity from the press, staff or business competitors which is perfectly understandable. The other motivation, however, may be a wrongful, deliberate abuse of the system. Anyone wishing to promote themselves, their books, or their products with the term “most traveled” needs to stand scrutiny and verification before the community of systematic travelers. Recent examples of “abusing the system” were Michael Spencer Bown with his book “The World’s Most Travelled Man” and Cassie de Pecol who claimed in media worldwide to be the “first woman to travel to every country”. The reason why both travelers never tried to make it into any systematic travel club or list, is that they would never have been able to sustain their claims. These were obviously just fake claims which are convenient for making themselves more marketable. Or fake news which are easy to copy and paste for the lazy media.
There is one international journalist who has completely understood and correctly covered the phenomenon of systematic travel, and that is Dave Seminara who works for The New York Times and the BBC. Even Guiness fell for Cassie de Pecol (or the promotional and financial advantages of a young, marketable US claimant) and overlooked the achievements of at least ten other female travelers who had also been to every UN country before Cassie. The typical sign of a fraudulent “most traveled” claimant is that they do not at all make reference to other travelers or systematic travel clubs in their interviews or writings. As if they didn’t know better …
Dave Seminara, Top US Travel Journalist
Update 30.05.2018: The Women who Have Traveled to Every Country in the World (Media Fact-Checking Guide) by Stefan Krasowski
Now, who is indeed the world’s most traveled person?
There are only a few people who have legitimacy to answer the question who is the “world’s most traveled person”, because they are the leaders of today’s systematic travel clubs: Harry Mitsidis of TheBestTravelled.com, Charles Veley of MostTraveledPeople.com, or the President of TravelersCenturyClub.org, which is currently Pamela Barrus and soon JoAnn Schwartz.
In my opinion, any claimant to the travel crown needs to have completed the 193 UN members list and the 325 items of the Traveler’s Century Club. He or she must be the top of the list traveler of either Most Traveled People or The Best Travelled. And that person must have been verified by The Best Travelled, or run a public blog that documents all trips. He or she must be known as a positive ethical example, in good standing within the core of the systematic traveler community, and able to market itself credibly with a wide reach to the international media, thereby benefitting the larger systematic traveler community.
By that definition, I would say that the crown of the “world’s most traveled person” was handed by the first emperor, Charles Veley, to the current king, Don Parrish.
Literature about “systematic travel”:
Llewellyn Morgan Toulmin, The Most Traveled Man on Earth
John Todd, Race for the World
Jorge Sanchez, Meetings with Remarkable Travelers
Kolja Spöri, Ich war überall
Gunnar Garfors, 193 – How I ran out of countries
Radio show about “systematic travel”:
Ric Gazarian’s Counting Countries
Lists of “systematic travel”:
206 UN countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states
875 MTP points: https://mosttraveledpeople.com/STAGE_Print-List.php
1.281 TBT points: https://nomadmania.com/
Free Republic of Liberland is a sovereign state located between Croatia and Serbia on the west bank of the Danube river. The nearest cities are Osijek (Croatia) and Sombor (Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, Serbia). On some maps, this area is referred to as “Gornja Siga”.
Liberland came into existence due to a border dispute between Croatia and Serbia. This area along the west bank of the Danube river is not claimed by Croatia, Serbia or any other country. It was therefore terra nullius, a no man’s land, until Vít Jedlička seized the opportunity and on 13 April 2015 formed a new state in this territory – Liberland. The boundary was defined so as not to interfere with the territory of Croatia or Serbia. Its total area of approximately 7 km² is now the third smallest sovereign state, after the Vatican and Monaco. For more information regarding the border dispute between Croatia and Serbia see an article on Wikipedia.
The motto of Liberland is “To live and let live” because Liberland prides itself on personal and economic freedom of its people, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, which significantly limits the power of politicians so they could not interfere too much in the freedoms of the Liberland nation.
Location of Liberland
I had met Liberland’s charismatic President Vit Jedlicka (left) the year before at the famous Libertarian Conference of Professor Hoppe in Bodrum.
Now in 2017, we flew in from all over the world (Austria, Belgium, Brasil, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hongkong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Monaco, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Swiss, Turkey, UK, USA) to Liberland, with ca. 30 of the world’s most extreme travelers, who are members of either
gathering at Apatin Marina,
with its conveniently located Apatin Marina Apartments and,
a bit further down the Danube,
the recommendable Hotel Zlatna Kruna (Golden Crown)
with its romantic restaurant above the Danube (F: J.P.Peixoto)
Top travelers Don Parrish (72, USA) and André Brugiroux (80, France).
Our boat for the day was Liberland’s state flagship
the MS Liberty
and a hi-speed jetski, the Liberland Ranger.
Our beautiful voyage upstream on the Danube, near the tripoint of Serbia, Croatia and Hungary.
The world’s most extreme travelers gathered as the first ever tourist group on the shores of Liberland
getting their passports stamped in front of TV-stations from Belgium, Dubai, Portugal, and Turkey
and proudly displaying
the world’s most exotic passport stamp.
Croatian police and gendarmerie lined up 3 boats and several officials to greet us
as we gathered on the upper deck
of the much larger MS Liberty (F: P.Maselis)
floating along the shores of the Free Republic of Liberland
which are clearly signposted.
President Jedlicka welcomed the Croation officials back and, in his typical sovereign way, he exchanged some diplomatic notes.
Liberland is the world’s youngest and most modern nation, with its own Libertarian constitution, crypto-currencies, citizenship – and diplomatic representatives in more countries than Croatia.
Systematic travel (a term by the late Prof. Hogenauer of the USC) is all about collecting countries, territories and smaller geographic entities, according to clearly specified criteria and lists, to be proven within the extreme traveler community, by passport stamps, affidavits and fotos. As part of the ETIC series, we held our first “Systematic Travel Congress” at Apatin Marina Conference Center,
with Pamela Barrus and JoAnn Schwartz from TCC, Charles Veley from MTP, Harry Mitsidis from TBT, Jeff Shea from SISO,
and the world’s most traveled person (according to MTP) Don Parrish giving a speech.
In the evening there was another nice dinner at Apatin Marina Restaurant. Our youngest member Lumi (7, Finland) in the front.
The first family, ministers and ambassadors of Liberland were excellent hosts to our large visitor group.
The friendly and efficient Silvia from Liberland Travel (Contact: liberland.travel @ gmail.com) here pictured with travel legend Don Parrish.
Thank you to everybody at Team Liberland for a memorable visit !
(The higher quality fotos are courtesy of Michael Runkel.)