I recently read an article about the battle to become the world's most traveled person. It sounds like Bill Altaffer is that person. Altaffer and I have something in common, apparently—we both enjoy documenting our lives. Since starting his adventures in 1949, he has surfed every continent, visited both poles, crossed the equator 50 times, held 12 passports, and has been declared the world's most traveled man. This dude has been to every country in the world, plus 300 island groups, disputed areas, territories, and colonies...what?!
I wonder what it's like to be the person in the room who's been to more places than anyone else...all the time. The stories he could tell...the smells he's smelled, the food he's tasted, the places he's slept, the sunsets he's seen and the people he's befriended...I can't imagine!
I might not be the most traveled person in the world, but maybe I can shoot for the Travelers' Century Club (TCC), an association for travelers who have visited 100 countries. (In 1960, the TCC had 43 qualifying members; today, there are more than 1,800.)
The coveted title of “world's most traveled man” is always in dispute and difficult to measure. What about Charles Velay, the youngest person to hit every country on the TCC list? Or Emilio Scotto, who's traveled the world on his motorcycle—twice; or Jeff Shea, who has not only been to every country, but climbed the seven summits? The problem in this weird world of competitive globe-trotting is that lists of territories don't always match up, plus it's difficult to prove who's been where. And if you're jumping off a plane to bop around a country for five minutes to say you've “been” there, and then hopping back on the plane to the next place...who cares, right?
The article (I wish I still had it for reference…it was from GQ years ago) also included the top 4 hardest places on earth to get to. They are:
1. The Paracel Islands—an archipelago seized by China from Vietnam in 1974, it remains off-limits to foreigners (particularly U.S. spy planes—one was intercepted in 2001).
2. British Indian Ocean Territory—55 islands and site of a join U.S./U.K. Military and Global Positioning System base.
3. Bouvet Island—an ice-bound volcanic rock located 1,000 miles from Antarctica, called the most remote land on Earth.
4. Nicobar Islands—Foreigners have not been allowed since India was founded due to Indian military installations and untouched primitive tribes. Even after the 2004 tsunami, foreign aid workers weren't allowed in.
There you have it, folks. Brush the dust off those passports and get traveling...good luck!