Jul 302013

Thanks to everyone who provided thoughts/feedback on how I could break up the 60 countries I have left to visit.  I’ve managed to group things together based on suggestions, and would still love to finish by fall of 2016 if at all possible.  Right now, thinking is:

Next Month:  Visiting a friend in Lagos, so Nigeria will bring me down to 59 to go.

September:  Togo, Ghana, Benin – not real firm, but hoping to squeeze it in.  56 to go.

October:  Still working on plans, but it’ll be 10 days to either do Algeria and Andorra, or Bolivia and Ecuator.  Either way, that will make 54.

November:  All booked for Serbia and Montenegro, bringing things to 52.

December/January:  My annual crazy new years trip is booked, and I’ll hit Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Eritrea bringing me to 49.  I’ll also get a few days in Sudan, although I’ve technically already been there in transit.  Excited to see a little bit more.

February:  Hoping to get in a long weekend dive trip to Belize….and get down to 48.

April 2014:  Whichever trip I don’t manage in October I’ll do in April.  That will make 46.

Also, by spring 2014 I have to other trips planned, just not sure when:

Jamaica for a long weekend will make 45

Work trip to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan will happen in the next six months, making 43.

That should bring me through spring 2014.  By end-2014 I hope to hit:

St Kitts and Nevis (42 to go)

Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger (37 to go)

Tanzania, Uganda, Comoros, Madagascar (33 to go)

Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria (29 to go – this might get broken up into two trips)

Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde (via Senegal – 26 to go)

Cuba (25 to go)

Angola, DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville (22 to go)

Then, next December/January into 2015:

Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Western Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu (16 to go)

Spring 2015:

East Timor, PNG, Solomon Islands, Mongolia (12 to go)

Late 2015:

Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome e Principe (8 to go)

That just leaves:  Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone.  I’ll probably try and hit Malawi on the Tanzania/Uganda trip.

Then, plan is in summer 2016 to hit the Bahamas (leaving 1 to go) and finally end it all in September 2016 in Iceland!

How is everyone else’s planning coming along?

Jul 042013

Flight 2

United Airlines flight 32
From Chicago (ORD) to Houston (IAH)

Depart 11:31 Arrive 14;08, Scheduled Flight Time 2:37

Boeing 787-8, Registration N27901, Manufactured 2012, Seat 4A

Miles: 925
Total Miles Flown this trip: 1,737

Flight Time in Air: 2:05
Flight Level: 40,000 feet
Departure Runway: 14L
Arrival Runway: 26L

Time Elapsed since trip start at 07:00 Thursday July 4: 8 hours 22 minutes

Actual Departure Time: 11:35 – 4 minutes late
Actual Arrival Time: 14:22 – 14 minutes late

Departure Gate: B17
Arrival Gate: C14

DirectTV: no
Channel 9: no
WiFi: no

Pre-Departure Beverage: offered anything, chose Bloody Mary

Meal: “Shrimp salad or chicken sandwich with soup” – went with the chicken sandwich and soup…and some relatively drinkable red wine of course! It was more of a calzone/stuffed pizza thing, but it was pretty tasty!

Other Notes: I slept half the flight…I’m already exhausted from the early morning and this is only the 2nd of 15 flights. I’m gonna be dead! I don’t know if it was the turbulence or the plane, but the 787 seemed really bumpy in flight.








Jul 042013

Flight 1

United Airlines flight 202
From Washington, National (DCA) to Chicago (ORD)

Depart 07:45 Arrive 08:41, Flight Time 1:56

Airbus A320, Registration N435UA, Manufactured 1996, Seat 2A

Miles: 612
Total Miles Flown this trip: 612

Flight Time in Air: 1:30
Flight Level: 34,000 feet

Time Elapsed since trip start at 07:00 Thursday July 4: 2 hours 30 minutes

Actual Departure Time: 7:56
Actual Arrival Time:

Departure Gate: 14
Arrival Gate: C29

DirectTV: no
Channel 9: yes
WiFi: yes

Pre-Departure Beverage: offered anything, chose water no ice

Meal: cinnamon scone

Other Notes: departure was delayed about 10 minutes while they sorted the “extra” person on board who hadn’t scanned their boarding pass.


Jul 032013

Several years back when I decided I was going to go to every country, I had a rough idea which ones would be tough.  That list has since, however, been totally turned upside down.  Generally, I find that the “tough” countries are so for one of four reasons:  safety, location/access, visas, legality.


Legality:  There’s one big one here for US citizens:  Cuba.  I still haven’t done it, but I know that exemptions exist.  I’ll likely buy into one of the cultural tours that are offered so I don’t have to do it another way, unless of course laws change which is always possible.  Lots of folks seem to think it’s illegal to visit places the US doesn’t get along with, but that’s not true.  Other than Cuba, I don’t know of any other countries the US government has a problem with me visiting.

Visas:  Some countries just don’t like issuing visas to tourists.  Belarus comes to mind, but that was pretty easy for me.  I paid an agency to find someone to write a letter of invitation, paid them to get a visa, and piece of cake.  I know it’s become a bit harder since then.  Nauru can also fall into this category,because there just aren’t too many places to get the visa.  I know Sudan also takes a long time to issue visas, and I plan to try later this year.  Technically I’ve already crossed Sudan off when my Lufthansa flight made a stop there, but I want to see it as well.  Guinea-Bissau has a pretty tough visa to get since there aren’t many embassies, but I had no trouble getting one same-day in Senegal last year.  Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t make the trip.  Libya is also really hard because they don’t issue tourist visas.  I had no trouble, however, getting a business visa issued last year.

Location/Access:  Then there are the places that are hard to get to.  Tuvalu and Niue come to mind.  Small pacific islands with just a couple of flights each week.  There just aren’t too many options.  Bhutan is also a bit difficult, but there are flights from Nepal, India, Bangkok, and as long as you buy into the government’s tourist requirements it’s not so hard.  North Korea also isn’t easy, but again, go on a sponsored trip and you’re fine.  This used to be much harder, but in the time since I went it’s become much easier.  South Sudan also isn’t that easy, but once you’re there it’s an easy visa on arrival.

…and, the biggest group

Safety:  I admit, when I started, this is the group I thought would be hardest.  Iraq, Afghanistan, and especially Somalia came to mind.  However, I’ve done all three of these now and never felt unsafe in any of them.  I guess my definition of safety has changed a bit since realizing that even “unsafe” countries usually have a safer region you can visit.  The one I still think I am going to have a really hard time with is Syria.  No idea how I’m going to make that happen.  I’ve also heard Guinea is pretty bad, so I doubt I’ll stay too long.  Likewise on both of the Congos, but you never know.  I’ve become a bit of a sucker for adventure.

That said, of the 60 remaining, I think the tough ones will be:

Algeria: notorious for long waits on visas, hopefully this shouldn’t be too bad.
Angola: hard to get a visa, and insanely expensive once you’re there
Cuba: with the US embargo, getting there legally will take some work
Eritrea: not real keen on issuing tourist visas, but supposedly it’s easy if you book with a local agent
Kiribati: few flights and remote, but doable
Nauru: see Kiribati
Nigeria: some security concerns, but with a friend working there I should be in good local hands. Visa shouldn’t be TOO hard.
Papua New Guinea: not exactly safe, but supposedly not too bad. Also, not super easy to get to.
Saudi Arabia:  they don’t like tourists, but I’ve heard a transit visa is pretty easy now.  Will try later this year.
Syria: this is going to be tricky. Active war zone, and difficult visas.
Turkmenistan: not real easy to get a visa as a tourist, but with a package tour it’s doable. Also, might have an opportunity with work.
Tuvalu: two flights a week – just hard to get to, and once there you’re there a few days!
Yemen: tourist visas seem to come and go, and it’s not always predictable. Mix in a bit of a security situation, and it won’t be easy.

Any thoughts?