He's been everywhere, man.
March 28, 2013 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Gunnar Garfors is on a mission to travel to all 198* countries in the world. As of today, he's at 196.

Some highlights from his project: He's traveled to five continents in one day (video), run around the country of Nauru, and visited Tuvalu, the first country expected to disappear because of climate change. He's also provided listicles on which airlines reach the most countries and which countries are the least visited in the world.

* 193 UN members, 2 UN observers (Vatican City and Palestine), and 3 countries not universally recognized (Kosovo, Taiwan, and Western Sahara).
posted by Cash4Lead (56 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
This could be both a dream project and a horrible slog, and I suppose I can only tip my hat to the perverse Scandinavian sunniness of his adventure.
posted by psoas at 10:38 AM on March 28, 2013


Like.
posted by chavenet at 10:39 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hank Snow can eat his heart out (per title.)

Also, your climatechange tag is misspelled.
posted by OmieWise at 10:42 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since he obviously thought he was too cool to take me with him, I wish him a nice long trip off a cliff.

Before you go accusing me of being jealous, let me ask you this: Yes, I am jealous; why do you ask?
posted by item at 10:42 AM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I vote a horrible slog, especially when one hits Western Sahara, Puntland or Somaliland, but I admire the dedication. I don't have that much drive.
posted by Mezentian at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2013


OmieWise: Fixed.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2013


Wow. He's got a lot of interesting factoids and articles there (top 10 least visited countries and why you might want to go). Very nice!
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:43 AM on March 28, 2013


Gunnar Garfors is CEO of Norwegian Mobile TV Co. (NMTV) and President of International DMB Advancement Group (IDAG)

I guess this pays pretty well.
posted by desjardins at 10:45 AM on March 28, 2013


Better than Cypress Mobile TV Co for sure.
posted by Mezentian at 10:47 AM on March 28, 2013


What is the International Dave Matthews Band Advancement Group and how do I end them?
posted by spicynuts at 10:49 AM on March 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


Chris Guilleabeau of The Art of Non Conformity had a goal of visiting every country in the world. His page says he's working off the list of 193 UN member countries and he's at 192.
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:53 AM on March 28, 2013


I am content in my assumption that I have been to as may planets as this guy has.
posted by Flunkie at 10:56 AM on March 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I suppose the next challenge would be to complete the list of 209 FIFA affiliates, which includes funky little subdivisions such as Anguilla, Montserrat, Macau, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 10:59 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has he been to South Sudan? Lemme see...
posted by GuyZero at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2013


What is the International Dave Matthews Band Advancement Group and how do I end them?

Even in a travel FPP someone's favorite band sucks.
posted by aught at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


He did South Sudan in April 2012! The country was less than a year old!

Damn, he is on top of things.
posted by GuyZero at 11:07 AM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Travelers' Century Club has a list of 321 countries and territories that its members aim to visit. Charles Veley did so at the age of 37, and since then has gone on to claim to be the world's most traveled person. On his own travel ranking website, the to-do list includes 873 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces. He's at 829, but a number of people are close behind.
posted by Kabanos at 11:08 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's wrong/exaggerating about at least one thing, and perhaps many others?

He says on this page that the problem with visiting Sao Tome (#8) is that it takes a while to get there and took him 40 hours on a cargo ship from Libreville.

That's great and all, except TAP Portugal has direct flights from Lisbon to Sao Tome. I know this because we were planning a trip to Sao Tome.
posted by vacapinta at 11:09 AM on March 28, 2013


I vote a horrible slog

sorry, that's wrong. the correct answer is dream project thanks for playing though.


seriously, i have been to dozens of countries and am disappointed its not more. i hate it when work takes me BACK to a far away place instead of to a new place I've never been.
posted by chasles at 11:09 AM on March 28, 2013


In case you're wondering how the 5 continents in 1 day thing works, he's talking about midnight-midnight in whatever local time he happens to be, not 24 hours.

Traveling east to west, time zones are a huge advantage -- you're moving at about half the speed of the terminator, so a "day" by his definition works out to be more like 36 hours.

If he had a plane that moved faster than the terminator (some military planes do), I guess he could claim to visit infinitely many places in a day, since the sun would never set.
posted by miyabo at 11:11 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


damnit! i cannot figure out what the two he has NOT visited are. is that information knowable?
posted by chasles at 11:15 AM on March 28, 2013


It's Kiribati and Cape Verde. It's in the first link.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:18 AM on March 28, 2013


In 1986 my brother and I traveled to every store in the mall at Prestonwood Town Center in Dallas in under 30 minutes. My brother, more than seven years my elder and at 17 was arguably too old to perform such a stunt with a 9 year old (or possibly anyone), kept a checklist in a notebook that he'd prepared beforehand using one of those maps of stores found on a kiosk. He tallied our progress and kept me updated the whole way.

He made up some arbitrary rules that included requiring us to completely circle a display in each shop, to do so on both levels of each department store, and to touch the counter of every walk-up counter in the food court. We also had to circle every display in the mall, including the giant clock, the big climbable animals, and as much of the skating rink as we could without paying. We ran a lot but I can't remember if we got yelled at for doing so.

At only two levels it wasn't a huge mall but I think we were both surprised at how long it ended up actually taking us. Then again, I was 9 and people getting hit over the head with a folding metal chair in the pro wrestling matches (WCCW all the way) we attended still surprised me. Unfortunately, these acts also seemed to surprise my otherwise smart-as-fuck brother. He now holds two masters degrees but has always held a rather... unique worldview. I'm more or less certain he's got Asperger's, and even though having a formal diagnosis might formally help him in his lonely, awkward life, it's not my formal place to formally figure out what exactly is up with his head, formally.

Oh yeah: all the stores including the rinky-dink attractions at the now-demolished Prestonwood mall in 1980's North Dallas/Addison in a cool half hour by a 17 year old friendless introvert and his nerdy but willing little brother. Beat that, Gunnar Garfors - if that is your real name.
posted by item at 11:18 AM on March 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Sounds like a rather wasteful, unethical thing to do.

Maybe he should make it a point to plant about ten trees every day for the rest of his life, to make up for his indiscretions.
posted by markkraft at 11:23 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe he should make it a point to plant about ten trees every day for the rest of his life, to make up for his indiscretions.

I was biting my tongue so hard, thank you for saying something...this actually did sound cool until I read the account of the man in Tuvalu accusing him "my country's sinking because of you and all the pollution from Europe," and it hit me that...hey, yeah.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The 25 least visited countries was on kottke today and is definitely worth checking out. The graveyard of ships in Mauritania looks eerily compelling.
posted by mcmile at 11:29 AM on March 28, 2013


Interesting...
offsetting the emissions of a flight from London to New York would probably require an extra fee of $200 to $300

Hm. Ten trees a day might not cut it after all.

If Tuvalu sinks into the sea, now we'll know who to blame.
posted by markkraft at 11:33 AM on March 28, 2013


What I will do when I have finished? Probably go on holiday.

Ha ha.
posted by marxchivist at 11:35 AM on March 28, 2013


It's Kiribati and Cape Verde. It's in the first link.

thanks cash4lead. i am an idiot.
posted by chasles at 11:36 AM on March 28, 2013


Rich person travels far. *slow clap*
posted by Napierzaza at 11:44 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting...
offsetting the emissions of a flight from London to New York would probably require an extra fee of $200 to $300

Hm. Ten trees a day might not cut it after all.

If Tuvalu sinks into the sea, now we'll know who to blame.
There are hundreds of seats in planes that go from London to New York. He's not responsible for the whole thing.
posted by Flunkie at 11:45 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a rather wasteful, unethical thing to do.

It's unsustainable, no doubt. I'm vexed: I posted this because I thought this sort of adventurism is really cool, but at the same time it's not very admirable or something to be encouraged. Having said that, let's be clear that what makes air travel so destructive to the climate isn't guys at the extreme like Garfors, but the millions of people who take short, routine flights every day, so pinning the sins of our industrial system on him seems misplaced.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:49 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I posted this because I thought this sort of adventurism is really cool, but at the same time it's not very admirable or something to be encouraged.

Nah, I hear ya. I mean, I had the thought about the guy in the Tuvalu bar, but on the other hand I'm taking my own trans-Atlantic flight in a couple months.

Agreed that it's really the overkill of "I'm doing a short routine flight as a commute twice a week" kind of thing is the issue. Although, there is a part of me that wonders if this guy couldn't have made his travels via a more sustainable route; I note he flies to and from every location, just about, and all on separate voyages; why not hit all the various Pacific Island nations on one single cruise on a boat?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on March 28, 2013


This is excellent. Not sure why it matters if he's rich or not, this is a well written blog with interesting topics.
posted by sweetkid at 12:10 PM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


what's better: me flying 600 miles (300 each way) or me driving the same distance, assuming roughly 25mpg and a vehicle with ULEV-II designation? genuinely curious.
posted by davejay at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2013


The graveyard of ships in Mauritania looks eerily compelling.

Mauritania: Go for the ship graveyard, stay for the chattel slavery!
posted by Falconetti at 12:17 PM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Traveling east to west, time zones are a huge advantage -- you're moving at about half the speed of the terminator, so a "day" by his definition works out to be more like 36 hours.

If he had a plane that moved faster than the terminator (some military planes do), I guess he could claim to visit infinitely many places in a day, since the sun would never set.


His definition of a day was June 18, by the local calendar, not the sun never setting. And, yes, since he start in Istanbul and ended in Caracas he stretched 24 hours but into 30.5 hours, not 36. He also only flew by commercial flights, not private or military aircraft.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:35 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every time you go for a walk in the untainted beauty of nature, you erode the soil.
posted by scrowdid at 12:39 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rich person travels far. *slow clap*

Nah, back in 2009 he only made about 54k USD after taxes, and he had no property/investments at all. (2009 is the last year this kind of information could be published directly online, later information requires a log-in to a government site.)

It is not terribly surprising that he can travel the world on that kind of income - he is Norwegian, so he doesn't have to hold on to a job just to get healthcare. If you rent, work freelance or have an agreement with your employer, and is thrifty both at home and abroad it is no big problem to spend half your time or more travelling, you just have to be willing to make the choice.

I have a couple of friends who've done something similar. One told me recently that he finally reached 100 countries. When we met up in Tokyo in 2006 he had been staying for a month in a cheap capsule hotel, but then he was saving money for going back to Norway entirely overland without going through Russia. (He made it as far as Kabul without resorting to air travel)
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 12:40 PM on March 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


what's better: me flying 600 miles (300 each way) or me driving the same distance

The car emits significantly more CO2 than a seat on a jet plane. Probably they are about equal if two people ride in the car, or if half the seats on the jet are empty.

But to further confuse things, the plane is dumping a lot of stuff other than CO2 into the upper atmosphere. According to the article linked above, a plane's greenhouse gas impact is 2.7 times worse than its CO2 output would indicate. But the effect probably equalizes over time, since CO2 is the only long lived greenhouse gas. If we come up with an alternative to jet plane travel tomorrow, we're stuck with the CO2 for a century or two, but the other stuff will probably dissipate much faster. So, like everything else complicated, it depends on how you measure it.
posted by miyabo at 12:43 PM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apparently he's not counting Cook Islands or Niue, two states in free association with New Zealand. The Niue Wikipedia article even notes, "The United Nations itself recognises Niue as one of two states in the world (the other one being the Cook Islands) that, as of 2013, are neither member States nor observer States of the UN."

He mentions Niue in his post on the 25 least populous countries, in the "Missing any countries?" section at the end, but his statement that Niue "belongs to" New Zealand is flat-out wrong, as far as I can tell.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:28 PM on March 28, 2013


Mauritania: Go for the ship graveyard, stay for the chattel slavery!

Or the fucking amazing music.
posted by mykescipark at 1:28 PM on March 28, 2013


Sure, he's been to Paradise, but has he ever been to him?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:09 PM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"There are hundreds of seats in planes that go from London to New York. He's not responsible for the whole thing."

No, but the $200-$300 cost was for his seat alone, not for the whole plane.

"what makes air travel so destructive to the climate isn't guys at the extreme like Garfors, but the millions of people who take short, routine flights every day"

What makes it so destructive, per person, is how much someone flies in total miles, period. His example is likely considerably worse than the occasional short hop flyer.

"what's better: me flying 600 miles (300 each way) or me driving the same distance, assuming roughly 25mpg and a vehicle with ULEV-II designation?"

You will roughly double your emissions if you decide to fly instead of driving, according to NatGeo's Green Guide. If you take the train, you'll actually cut your emissions in half, as compared to driving.

That's why long transcontinental flights are, in fact, much worse than short hop flights. S.F. to L.A. might be the equivalent of 600 miles of driving, when it comes to emissions... but S.F. to London would be 10,750 miles of driving... the equivalent of about 9 months of driving for the average American.
posted by markkraft at 2:17 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sweet, the first tourist account I've read of Nauru! Having lived there as a kid, I can also proudly say that I've walked around an entire country. (I totally need to remember that for whenever i next play "Never have I ever").
posted by jacalata at 3:46 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen a lot of excitement online over people close to reaching all the countries lately and don't get it. Traveling like this is not new at all, perhaps these people are better at self promotion than the tons of people who did this when the world was much less connected than today.

I went to the yearly meeting of the Chicago chapter of The Traveler's Century Club just this past weekend. While I'm only at 55 "countries" on their list they are very welcoming, even though I only show up every 3 years. It's great to talk to people that have been to more/more exotic places than you have when you've traveled so much.

They're interesting people, and at 35 I was by far the youngest. Most members were 70+ and always have a trip or three in the works. My dream vacation at the moment is Iran, and most of them had visited before I was born.
posted by Bunglegirl at 3:50 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Without regard to whether or not this guy actually is rich, I found myself wrestling with what I think is an unproductive attitude toward things that take money to do, or that only the rich can feasibly do without distorting their lives altogether. This is the sour-grapesish attitude wherein I treat things that you currently have to be rich to do as being inherently gauche or wasteful or just bad.

In a certain sense, this attitude is very much like the "you have too much time on your hands" dismissal that nitwits inevitably come out with when people who have both free time and courage to use it show off their interesting projects. The better reaction, I think, isn't to insult the person with time on their hands and willingness to use it interestingly, it's to maybe mourn the fact that for the most part most of us are not allowed to do cool things; we have to sell the time of our lives in exchange for food/clothes/shelter/a few luxuries, and often (even if we're left with time at the end of the day) we have to use up all of our physical and intellectual capacity on work projects designed by others, and even if we have time and energy to be interesting, we have to face massive, continuing social pressure to remain as uninteresting as possible (said pressure consisting of the thousand different, typically subtle ways that people have found to say "you have too much time on your hands").

Okay, the parallel isn't exact; no matter how much The Powers That Be would like to treat time and money as interchangeable, they're very much not.

But let's bracket all of that off for a second. I guess I'd say that the way this travel project is problematic is if this guy's travel makes it less possible for other people to travel — either through the raw exploitation of other humans required to get the money to do it, or through the ecological destruction air travel generates. Those are in fact real problems. The thing I have to stop myself from doing is treating the act of traveling itself as therefore a negative, and likewise treating the various other miraculously wonderful things that rich people can do as things to be stamped out rather than things that everyone should get to do if they want to.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:30 PM on March 28, 2013


markkraft, that link you pasted says:
So would it be better to take that cross-country trip by car? Not according to the researchers at National Geographic's Green Guide. They say you will roughly double your emissions if you decide to drive.
That is, driving is worse than flying, not better. That doesn't take into account the 25mpg or ULEV-II factors.
posted by aneel at 4:40 PM on March 28, 2013


This fly or drive calculator looks interesting, though. It's mostly focused on monetary costs, but includes a CO2 impact calculation. It lets you choose your year/make/model of car. With a Prius, it looks like the impact of a SFO-JFK run is less (~1500 lb driving vs ~2000 lb flying), but some other cars are considerably worse than flying.
posted by aneel at 4:43 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was prepared for this to be like those horrible conversations you can get into here in the US about so and so who is planning to visit all 50 states. So, maybe those conversations too can be tolerable with a pithy, well written description.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:12 PM on March 28, 2013


I wanted to do this when I was young. I only got up to about 50 countries before I ran out of steam and time, mostly because I kept finding places I loved and spending months to years there.

There are still a lot of places I'd love to see, but chances are, unless a giant moneybomb drops on me somehow, I won't. Ah well.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:13 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


John Todd, in "Race For The World", claimed to be the first person to visit every country in the world. His list included 329 countries! He checked off much of his country list by running his own travel agency and leading tours for people who "collect countries." The book is a fun read, especially when describes accounts of getting to "off limits" places.
posted by metacurious at 5:31 PM on March 28, 2013


North Sentinel Island or bust!
posted by wobh at 6:34 AM on March 29, 2013


Traveling like this is not new at all

No, but the blog itself is pretty cool. YMMV.
posted by sweetkid at 7:20 AM on March 29, 2013


This fly or drive calculator looks interesting, though.

Alas, it's only in the US. It still doesn't say whether driving a Prius down the Silk Road and on to Singapore, and then hitching a cabin on a container ship, would be greener than flying from London to Melbourne.
posted by acb at 8:53 AM on March 29, 2013


So when is going to visit all the true countries in Africa? Or do we just go along with what the Germans and English and French called them?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:15 PM on March 31, 2013


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