Aug 172016

You knew this post would be coming at some point. It’s the question I get the most often when I tell people I’m about to finish visiting every country in the world in just two weeks. Inevitably, they ask “what’s next?” It’s actually a pretty easy question to answer. Two things immediately pop to mind: first, I want to spend a little more time at home. There’s things I want to get done that I haven’t with so much traveling, so at least in the short term that will be nice. Plus, I have a few work trips to Zagreb and Bangkok coming up later this year, so that will close out 2016 more or less.

Second thing I want to do is go back to places I really enjoyed and spend more time diving a little more in depth. Some ideas that are already brewing:

Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia: I’ve already tacked this on after Iceland since it was the same price on Icelandair to fly to Europe with a stop in Iceland as it was to fly just to Iceland. Lithuania and Latvia I only got very short overnights in my first time, so this time I’ll take a full day in each to walk the old towns and take in the cities. It should be nice weather in September as well! After that, I’m off to Ukraine. You could debate if I really visited Ukraine at all, since when I was there it was 1989 and it was the Ukrainian SSR. So, I’m going back now to remove any doubt…plus I’ve been really curious to take the Chernobyl tour. I remember being a kid when the reactor blew and worried the whole world was going to die from radiation.

Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia: I’d like to visit all four of these more in-depth once it becomes feasible. Saudi Arabia because of a very difficult to get tourist visa, same with Sudan. Yemen and Syria will have to wait until things quiet down a bit.

Finland: I want to take a full week in the summer and go north of Helsinki and maybe do a road trip. Some camping, hanging out in lake country. Just a quiet laid back trip.

Namibia: I only got to see a tiny fraction of the country, and I really want to see more. From sand dunes to the Skeleton Coast to Swakopmund, I’d like to spend more time there.

Palau: When I went the first time in 2011 I wasn’t certified for SCUBA yet, and what I saw snorkeling was mind-blowing. I want to go back now, go deeper, and see more of the country! I guess you could add Belize and Bonaire to this last as well – three places I really want to go dive!

Russia: Probably more medium term goal, but I want to take 3+ weeks and do the Trans-Siberian. Take the train from Helsinki to St Petersburg, high speed down to Moscow, and then the Trans-Siberian to Mongolia. I’d like to break it up along the way as well, and maybe stop and see some smaller towns and more of rural Russia. A couple of years will give me a chance to strengthen my Russian more so I can really maximize the trip.

Being a bit of a list maker, there are two more goals I’m toying with:

All 50 States: I’ve visited 42 of the 50 states, and I’ve grouped the 8 remaining into either 4 or 5 trips. Suggestions and locals to show me around would be welcome in all of them:

  • First, I want to fly to Atlanta, rent a car, and do a loop covering Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. New Orleans is the only must-do on this list, so I’d love any other recommendations people have. Definitely a 2017 trip.
  • New Mexico is also on this list. I have friends there, so will probably take a 3-4 day weekend and do some hiking and relaxing at some point in 2017
  • Iowa – yes, I grew up in Minnesota for 15 years and never made it to Iowa, despite being a less than two hour drive from home. I’m thinking it might be fun to fly to Minneapolis, visit family, and then drive down for a college football game either this fall or next. Any Iowa readers want to join me?
  • South Dakota – as above, somewhat embarrassed, although it’s a longer drive from Minneapolis. Definitely going to do Mount Rushmore. I’ll likely fly there for a weekend at some point. Any other must-sees while I’m there?
  • Last but not least will be Oklahoma. Haven’t given much thought to this one, so any suggestions welcome! I’d like to finish all the states in 2017.

So, after visiting all 50 states, the only other immediate list is my list of 215 Independent Places. This is 19 places beyond the list of 196 countries that I think are independent enough I really should visit them as well. So far, I’ve visited 11 of the 19 already (Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Transnistria, Turkish Cyprus, Aruba, Curacao, Cayman Islands) leaving 8 to go:

  • Nagorno-Karabach – internationally-recognized as part of Azerbaijan, although the government of Azerbaijan hasn’t exercised any control in the region for over 20 years. Almost entirely filled with ethnic Armenians it’s in western Azerbaijan and accessibly only from Armenia and uses the Armenian Dram as currency. They do issue their own visas/visitors permits though.
  • Abkhazia – an autonomous republic of Georgia according to the international community it lies between Georgia and Russia, and as recognized as independent by Russia and a handful of over smaller states. Russia is also cooperating with the Abkhazia military forces, so obviously the only way in is really from Russia.
  • South Ossetia – almost identical to the situation in Abkhazia, also sitting between Georgia and Russia. Should be able to make one trip from these two.
  • Western Sahara, also known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Annexed by Morocco from Mauritania in 1976, it has been largely administered by Morocco ever since. They want independence, and have been recognized by nearly 30 countries. Should be easy to do flying in from Morocco.
  • Niue – self-governing, but in “free association” with New Zealand. Sort of similar to Puerto Rico and the United States, except there’s no independence movement. Population has dropped in the past couple of decades from about 6,000 to 1,000 with most people fleeing for Australia or New Zealand. The major problem? Only one flight a week, and it often gets canceled.
  • Tokelau – three atolls that are a territory of New Zealand, with only about 1,200 people total. Unfortunately, there’s no airport, so boats are the only way to get there. There are occasional seaplane flights from Samoa too, which is good because you need to get a Tokelau entry permit from Samoa before going!
  • Cook Islands – like Niue, a self-governing democracy in free association with New Zealand. Plenty of flights from New Zealand, and resorts as well. Rarotonga has lots of resorts and a nice lagoon. Will need to combine with Niue and Tokelau to make a very interesting trip.
  • Somalia – so I’ve technically been before, but to the northern part known as Somaliland, which has its own currency and government and is quite safe. Mogadishu is separately administered, so it’s on my list to get to eventually. Definitely doable, but will be tricky…

That should keep me plenty of busy for a while! What does everyone else have planned?

  21 Responses to “After 196 Countries What’s Next?”

  1. Jason, when exactly will you be in Lithuania?

  2. Hi Jason,

    I do enjoy reading your blog here, inspirational stuff. As a previous comment myself I am a Lithuanian too.Lithuanian flooding your comments 🙂

    A few tips in Vilnius:
    No Starbucks!!! However if you see Coffee Inn – local chain with orange logo – I’d say they do their coffee on par with Starbucks.
    VNO lounge is very basic so if your flight is in the morning – I would maximise on the sleep till the last minute.
    Use Uber! Taxi mafia at the airport is very much soviet style.
    Skip Lithuanian traditional food restaurants – most of them are such calorie bombs that might put you back to bed after lunch.

    • Excellent and thanks for the tips! I use Uber whenever I can now, so that’s good to know. Good to know Coffee Inn is the place for caffeine! Any recommended places to eat in Vilnius?

  3. Few things that pop in my head:
    Dublis on Traku street – fancy modern european/scandinavic food, popular place for all those creative marketing people to gather there but the food is still very good
    Jurgis ir Drakonas, Traku Street – just in case you want a really good napolitan pizza with some beer.
    Sturmu Svyturys – a bit further from city center in Uzupis (a great place to spend an hour or two, quirky place). The restaurant is all about locally caught fish. Super fresh.
    Boom Burgers – if upscale burger is needed. Location is amazing if the weather is nice – they have a terrace in front of main cathedral.
    Gaspars on Pylimo/Traku street – modern Indian.
    39 Paralele on Saviciaus street – seafood, meat.

    As you can see the places have nothing to do with Lithuanian traditional food. If you really need to try some local food hit any place showing potato dishes on the menu like zepellins (everyone will try saying that you have to try this one).

    Lithuanians are heavy drinkers. Hence drink places have to be recommended as well. For drinks, just hang around Traku, Vilnius, Islandijos streets, most of the places here are legit. There are some more quirky ones like King and Mouse (hundreds of whiskies, i mean hundreds..also its located inside a very old manor house, thing is beautiful). Sarkozy on Vilnius street – french cider, very hip. Alaus Biblioteka – the place to try craft Lithuanian beers. The Bubbles on Vilnius str. – all about champagne and oysters! Even though sounds fancy but its quite a relaxed place since they serve beer also 🙂 Also there is Rhum Room next door with hundreds of Rhum and really nice Caribbean inspired snacks.

  4. Hey, early congratulations. Don’t blow it. I’m a few years away from finishing 196. Looking into visiting Socotra to tick off Yemen and looking at feasibility of flying to Damascus.

    I will also go back and “shore up” some of my more questionable visits, only visited Norway as a day trip and Paraguay for 15 minutes. Spent the night in Zambia on a canoe/camping trip but don’t think there was passport control.

    I just started making notes on “place where I’d like to spend a month.” Places I’ve visited and would like to go back to and stay for a while. So far I’ve got Budapest, Dublin, Reykjavik, Hong Kong, Bangkok.

  5. Amazing plans! When you set off for Western Sahara, we’ll get some local guidance for you : )

  6. when are you going to be in Latvia? I’ll be in Riga sep10-11 or so.

  7. Hey Jason-
    I’m a big fan of your blog (found via FT) and have followed your travels for the last couple of years. I’m a bit behind you (just ticked off countries 38-43 last week) but enjoying the process!

    Funny enough, my trip last week included a swing through the Baltics (started in Helsinki, took the ferry to Tallinn, then drove to Riga and Vilnius). Some thoughts for you:
    -Highly recommend Bergs Hotel
    -Local beer is excellent (best in the Baltics)
    -If you have a car, it’s worth a drive out to the coast–lots of abandoned Soviet relics that are fascinating

    -Do a hot air balloon ride over the old town. They launch at sunset and it’s an incredible experience. Can’t recommend it enough
    -Dinner at Kinza (“middle Asian” cuisine–mix of Middle Eastern and Central Asian)
    -Lunch or Dinner at Kitchen

    Enjoy the trip!

  8. Love the blog – I definitely shouldn’t click on it during the work day though!

    Just curious – have you visited Greenland? You’ve probably mentioned it and I’ve just lazily missed it. If so, sorry from a DC reader!

  9. My travel plans for the next few months are Chicago and Dallas for work trips. Then I may head down to Detroit sometime later this year to catch a Red Wings game since this is the final season that Joe Louis Arena will be open. A lot of hockey history is in that building from the past 35+ years!

    As for your remaining States, why not visit a Native American reserve when you get to Oklahoma? After all these years learning about other cultures around the world, wouldn’t it be a good way to learn more about your homeland this way? Just some food for thought.

    • Sounds fascinating – any idea how to visit a Native American reserve without it being a touristy experience? Admit this is something I don’t know anything about.

      • That’s a great question! When my friend and I went to Belize in 2009, we booked an overnight stay at a Mayan village just outside of Punta Gorda. We booked through the Toledo Ecotourism Association – a local outfit whose earnings do go back to the villages that they take you to overnight.

        While it was still somewhat “touristy,” we were the only ones there as it was off season for tourism at the time. We explained to the T.E.A. that it was more about the experience and cultural understanding for us rather than an item to “tick off our list.” As such, we played soccer with the kids, got a tour around the village, ate a home cooked meal with one of the families, and watched a traditional Mayan dance performance.

        Perhaps there are similar organizations in Oklahoma who can arrange such trips for you knowing that you want to give back to the community through your visit, but you don’t want to make the experience a “spectacle,” either. You know what I mean?

  10. What about Karelia? So beautiful!

  11. Abkhazia- “obviously the only way in is really from Russia.”

    It’s totally feasible to enter Abkhazia via Georgia, just a bit convoluted. I did it in 2012 and as far as I know the process hasn’t changed since then. Fill in an online form, wait a few days for a permission letter to be emailed to you, print it off, bring it to the Georgia/Abkhazia ‘border’, take it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sukhumi (within 3 business days), pay the fee (usually at a bank, but I paid at the ministry), get the visa. All quite easy and saves the need to get a double-entry Russia visa. Plus it’s interesting to see the contrasts between Georgia and Abkhazia in the same trip; which isn’t possible if you enter or exit via the Russian/Abkhazian border at Psou.

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