A few years ago, I was travelling through Portugal and spent a few nights in Lagos and during my stay, I met a guy. An ex-firefighter from Australia. His mission? To visit every country in the world and every state in the USA.
More than three years later, James, the ex-firefighter from Australia is still travelling the world continuing his nomadic-style journey. What sets James aside from other travellers who embark on a similar journey, is that he has no time frame to complete his mission. That’s right, there is no deadline to reach his goal. No schedules. No complicated planning of flights or difficult journeys. No racing. Just an ongoing mission to keep exploring.
Every once in a while, I find an image from Antarctica or similar exotic locations pop into my Facebook newsfeed accompanied by an update from James as to where he is at with his journey. Personally, if I was running around the world trying to visit every country in the world – you’d know about it. I can almost guarantee that my family and friends would block me due to an influx of photos clogging their newsfeed with my travel photos. I’d be sharing photos every single day, however, this is not the case for James.
I reached out to James for an update on his travels over the past few years, and this is his story.
Meet the Guy Trying to Visit Every Country in the World
For those who are not familiar with your story, tell us about yourself. How did you find yourself on this incredible adventure?
For over a decade I worked as a professional firefighter in Sydney. I would save my annual leave and take a few months off in the middle of the year to travel. I always found myself envious when I would meet adventurers, travellers and explorers who had no set return date.
I made the decision that I wanted to travel more freely. I left my career, sold my apartment and gave away my inanimate possessions. I felt my journey needed a purpose, so I figured why not visit all 50 states in the USA and every country in the world.
Was there a single moment that made you decide to just go for it? Let’s talk about numbers. What’s the country tally at?
It was an accumulation of many different factors over a long period of time. As I get older, I constantly think about my own mortality. I’m in my 30’s now and want to see the entire world whilst I’m young enough to comfortably deal with the stresses of travel.
I’ve now visited 102 countries and 36 states in the USA.
How on earth do you plan for an adventure like this? Is there any strategy or complicated planning? Or is everything booked on a whim?
My planning is greatly influenced by the seasons. The Middle East is the perfect place to be in the Northern Hemisphere winter, as is Patagonia in the Southern Hemisphere summer. Also, I generally fly to countries that are offering cheap airfares at the time. I try to avoid staying in the same region for too long, as I enjoy diversity and a change of landscape.
The most interesting part of your journey is that you’re not racing against the clock to see every country and instead, just taking your journey at your own pace. Do you feel this is an important part of your story and journey?
Yes, this is extremely important to me. So far on my journey, I have spent three months in Russia, and just exploring Siberia on its own took over a month. However, I have only spent a couple of days in smaller countries such as Andorra and Luxembourg. It’s all relative though. The larger the country the longer I seem to spend in it.
How have you funded your travels? Have you worked any part-time jobs along the way?
I was lucky to have savings behind me before I left and I also sold my apartment. I haven’t had to work too much in the past three years. However, I have taught English in about five different countries whilst being abroad.
What has the biggest challenge you have had to overcome while completing your journey?
I’m a light sleeper, so the biggest challenge has been adapting to continuously changing sleeping environments. In more than three years on the road, I’ve rarely slept in the same bed for more than a few consecutive nights.
Have you encountered any major detours in your travels when things didn’t go to plan? How did you overcome these challenges?
Due to blizzard conditions, I was grounded in Antarctica. The delay had a knock on effect, as I had booked onward flights to French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana. This left me quite out of pocket, as I had to rebook flights and accommodation.
When travelling, it is important to have a plan B and even a plan C, but sometimes it is beneficial to not book too far in advance.
Have you been working on any projects to document your travels and your story while on the road?
I’ve been writing a non-fiction novel, Suns & Hoses. The novel documents all the bizarre, quirky and even frightening events that take place on the road.
Where is your favourite travel memory?
Honestly, there are so many! Sailing to Antarctica, hiking the Alaskan backcountry, visiting Easter Island, camping in the Sahara Desert, touring North Korea and swimming in the Dead Sea would be some of the best experiences among many. It would be an injustice to narrow it down to one memory.
What country have you spent the most amount of time?
Scariest moment travelling?
Being attacked and robbed by a favela gang in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Best meal you’ve ever eaten while travelling?
The entire menu at Island Traders, a vegetarian restaurant in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
Most thrill-seeking experience?
The Nevis Bungy in Queenstown, New Zealand. Also, rafting down grade-five rapids on the notorious Pacuare River in Costa Rica.
What are your best travel tips?
- Before you start your travels, make sure you purchase a two-metre iPhone or smartphone charging cable
- Use shampoo as body wash and soap as shaving cream
- Ask for the emergency exit row on flights
- Wear the same clothes two days in a row where possible
Best piece of advice that anyone has ever shared with you?
Live in the moment. Respect your elders. Smile. (Sorry, that was three).
Where is the most remote destination you have ever visited?
Have you ever been tempted to place your journey on hold?
Yes. To teach English permanently in Russia. Also, to be a tour guide in New Zealand.
What destination placed you furthest outside your comfort zone?
Palestine which is home to the most beautiful and hospitable people in the world.
Is there anything you won’t travel without? A must-have item for your travels?
- My camera
Favourite country in the world?
Best piece of advice to share from your travels?
If people say ‘It’s not about the money’, it’s generally about the money.
Last but not least, where to next?
I’m going to fly to the United States, buy a motorhome and tick off the 14 states I have left to see.
Follow James at @chroniclesofdorza on Instagram to keep up with his adventures!