Well That Changed My Travel Map!

In February I wrote 225 Countries Visited, 100 to Go. This is based on the Travelers Century Club list of 194 UN Members plus 131 unique territories (that are fodder for much argument). Israel was 225, then Palestine (see where the arguments get heated) and then Colombia’s Caribbean outpost San Andres & Providencia was 227.

Because of unexpected free time, I took on West Africa for a month. It has been fun, it has had challenges, the trip took some unexpected turns, overall it was much better than my expectations from the reputation the preceded it.

In all I visited 18 UN countries plus 2 TCC territories. Each visit was brief. Most I would not want longer. With the logistics and costs to do more ambitious things such as remote parks you are looking at commitments upwards of a week each and much cash, especially difficult to bear as a solo traveler. Or you can do it the French way: find a nice spot in the shade and not move for a month.

Setting aside the geographic outliers Maldives and Morocco, my favorites were Niger, Mauritania and Mali (if only Timbuktu was accessible…) which are more properly Sahel countries than West Africa. In all the others the best experiences were the people, which is not only to say that the people are fantastic, but also that the natural and historic attractions are middling.

I visited:

  • Maldives
  • Morocco
  • Western Sahara (TCC)
  • Spain in Africa (Ceuta) (TCC)
  • Mauritania
  • Mali
  • Burkina Faso
  • Niger
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • The Gambia
  • Senegal
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Ghana
  • Sierra Leone
  • Liberia
  • Togo
  • Benin
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic

That bring me down to 27 UN Countries, or total 78 to go. It is such a cool world, each one has been some sort of thrill.

A few I have overnighted or spent time only in parts and still don’t count, such as Tanzania I have visited Zanzibar, but not the mainland (Tanganyika – Tan and Zan, get it?) so haven’t added it to my UN count.

The amended list:

Pacific Ocean: only Pitcairn and Tokelau require a boat, while Midway and Wake depend on military commemorations that have a habit of canceling

  • Chatham Islands
  • Cook Islands
  • Fiji
  • French Polynesia
  • Juan Fernandez Islands (Robinson Crusoe Islands) – waiting for a great fare to Chile that lines up with the few flights over to the islands
  • Kiribati (Gilberts,Tarawa, Ocean Island)
  • Line/Phoenix Islands (Palmyra, Fanning, Christmas, Canton, Enderbury, Howland)
  • Lord Howe Island – need better Qantas award availability
  • Marquesas Islands
  • Marshall Islands
  • Midway – birds take over the runway during the day
  • Nauru
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Niue
  • Norfolk Island – hey Air New Zealand, award seats? any? ever? hello?
  • Pitcairn Island
  • Tokelau Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu
  • Wake Island – 74th anniversary charter in Dec 2015 canceled last minute, 2016 pending
  • Wallis & Futuna Islands

North America:

  • Alaska
  • St. Pierre & Miquelon – tentatively booked this June for their bicentenary

Central America: complete!

South America:

  • Margaritas Island (Venezuela) – on hold due to the political and economic chaos, this is a recent addition that was not on the list when I toured Venezuela in 2007

Caribbean: complete!

Atlantic Ocean:

  • Ascension – pending commercial flights from Johannesburg scheduled to start in May
  • Azores – will at some point take the SATA flight from Boston, then start a United award on TAP from there to somewhere in Africa
  • Falkland Islands – I don’t want to spend a week via the flight so someday will stop on a cruise
  • St Helena – pending commercial flights from Johannesburg scheduled to start in May
  • Tristan de Cunha – the upcoming Ascension and St Helena may make this even more isolated, no plan to visit

Europe: all will visit when convenient, Italy is my retirement plan

  • Corsica
  • Crete
  • Dodecanese Islands (Rhodes)
  • Greece
  • Ionian Islands (Corfu, etc.)
  • Isle of Man
  • Italy
  • Lampedusa
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Sardinia
  • Scotland
  • Sicily
  • Turkey in Europe (Istanbul)
  • Vatican City
  • Wales

Antarctica: no plan as yet, when I go it will be how I want to go, not to try to check them off

  • Argentine (Palmer Peninsula)
  • Australian Antarctic Territory South Pole (Mawson, Davis, Macquarie, Heard)
  • Chilean (Palmer Peninsula)
  • Falkland Islands Dependencies (British Antarctica, Graham Land, So. Shetland, So. Sandwich, So. Georgia, So. Orkney)
  • French Southern & Antarctic Territory (Kerguelen, Crozet, Amsterdam, St. Paul)
  • Norwegian (Queen Maud Land, Bouvet)
  • New Zealand (Ross Dependency)

Africa: I can chip away at the big ones such as a Great Migration trip for Kenya + Tanzania, while sometime will try to string together Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome & Principe, perhaps a TAP Portugal award ticket from Azores to Sao Tome?

Chad is on a relative island for flights and may be a one-off. I tried to get that visa in Burkina Faso and Niger and struck out both times.

Nigeria I missed on this trip because they now refuse to process visas in Accra unless you have a Ghanaian residency permit. They already have my money thanks to their new global visa system. The reputation is well-deserved.

  • Chad
  • Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Equatorial Guinea (Bioko Fernando Poo)
  • Equatorial Guinea (Rio Muni)
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • Sao Tome & Principe
  • Tanzania (Tanganyika)

Middle East:

  • Syria – on hold
  • Yemen – on hold

Indian Ocean:

  • British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago, Diego Garcia) – unless someone in the military can legally get me to Diego Garcia, will have to wait for the rumored slight open to tourism in other islands
  • Christmas Island – will time some year with fall crab migration
  • Cocos Island – will pick it up with Christmas Island
  • Seychelles Islands – holding for Zil Elwannyen Sesel (Outer Seychelles)
  • Socotra – part of Yemen, the ‘Galapogos of the Middle East,’ pending resumption of flights
  • Zil Elwannyen Sesel (Aldabra, Farquhar, Amirante Islands) – Desroches Island will reopen late 2016 as a Four Seasons, until then only commercial option is ultra-expensive Alphonse Island

Asia:

  • Irian Jaya (Dutch New Guinea) – may go in April, Indonesia my least favorite country though will make one more try
  • Moluka (Moluccas, Indonesia) – same as Irian Jaya
  • Nakhichevan – on hold till Azerbaijan relaxes visa policy
  • Sumatra (Indonesia) – same as Irian Jaya
  • Turkey in Asia (Anatolia, Ankara, Izmir) – when I can spend a week or more in Turkey

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Pingbacks

  • “Only” 325? 😀 Have you heard of mosttraveledpeople.com? They divide the world up into 875 different places. Personally I’ve only been to 75 and most of those are US states but I’m sure you’ve been to many more

  • Shannon

    at this speed, you probably can reach the goal by the end of the year.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Dan – I stopped updating my MTP profile a while back, to my taste the list is too arbitrary (some countries every state/province, others not) and too many marginal places, small strips if disputed land and such, that even if I had the time and money, that it not how I want to travel. Each ‘country’ I want to see what makes the places unique and hopefully appeals to me in some way. When I go Nigeria it won’t be too visit every state! There are bigger lists, too, people take it as sport and competition at a certain point that loses much of what one gains from travel.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Shannon – expecting a slowdown after this burst.

  • Rebekah

    Take up scuba diving and Indonesia will become your favorite country. Well, along with the Philippines and Malaysia. I’m there at least once a year and it is amazing.

  • john

    Based on your assessment I think you did west africa the right way. I spent more time and was miserable. Seems like just dipping your toes in is sufficient unless you really want to visit a certain place. Would really like to hear flight details and costs.

  • TrAAveller

    Ditto, would really like to see your flight details and logistics/costs if you’re willing to share. It would be really helpful as I’m currently looking into W Africa for upcoming travels. Thanks for the inspiration. Just planned a trip to Congo (Goma) and was going to have a 18-hour connection in Lagos for the United flight home, but thought better of it after reading the awful reviews of the airport and visa issues. Seems your frustrations validate this.

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  • John

    Will details and/or trip report be following? I hope you are always an interesting read….

  • degania

    I thought you had Israel & Palestine on your list for this year.

  • Mike

    Been waiting for this for a long time…..

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @degania – I did go in February, way behind on blog posting.

    @John – I will try to get up full coverage.