So, this is it. In just about a week I will board an IcelandAir flight and takeoff for Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland will be my 196th, and final country in the world to visit!
Of course, that would be far too easy after the logistics of planning the first 195 countries! As a brief history, what led up to this point:
First off, the journey has covered approximately 2.4 million miles to this point and a total of 157 airlines. When mapped, it looks something like this:
As of 1988, I had visited five countries: The US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and the Soviet Union.
By 2000, that list had only increased to 11, taking in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and South Africa.
From there, things started going faster:
2002: 16 countries, including first trip to Asia
2003: 23 countries, including first trip to Central America (Costa Rica)
2004: 31 countries, including Australia
2005: 34 countries, including being part of the first group of Americans to visiting North Korea in decades
2006: 41 countries, including lots of South America
2007: 55 countries, including a big trip around the Middle East
2008: 65 countries
2009: 72 countries, including most of Europe and Southeast Asia complete
2010: 81 countries, includiong Afghanistan
2011: 102 countries, including my first RTW trip
2012: 130 countries, with about half of the new ones in Africa
2013: 149 countries, including several trips to Africa and Central Asia
2014: 171 countries, notably Syria, Nauru, and Angola
2015: 185 countries, finally visiting Yemen, CAR, Chad, and Eritrea
2016: 195 plus one to go….Iceland!
The question I get all the time is, “when did you really start doing this?” I guess I was in casual traveler mode, going to new places when convenient from around 2002-2010. By 2005 I’d decided that one day I would go everywhere, which is why I jumped on North Korea when the chance was there, since it was unclear how long they might allow Americans in. 2010 was when things really started picking up, and I added 20+ new countries per year.
Of course, I don’t do anything the easy way. First off, I opened my trip up to family, friends, and coworkers, and will be going to Iceland with around 40 people to share the final country experience.
Then, because IcelandAir essentially costs the same to fly to Iceland or to Europe with a stop in Iceland, I had to add something on. But, I had no idea what…so because tickets were selling quickly I booked into London after Iceland and back a week later from Helsinki. But, what to do in between?
First thought was “let’s do an epic train adventure!” But…I’d rather save that for London to Singapore by train some day when I have time…so what else. Then it hit me. My previous trips to Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine were incredibly brief, so let’s spend a few days there. Perfect!
So, the trip was set, and the route:
Trip report will be split into roughly these parts:
1. Washington to Reykjavik with Iceland Air, arrival in country #196
2. Reykjavik City Tour and Final Country Celebration
3. Blue Lagoon and the Reykjanes Peninsula
4. The Golden Circle Tour
5. Other Iceland Musings and Reykjavik to London with Iceland Air
6. Overnight in London, London to Riga with Air Baltic
7. Day in Riga and Riga to Vilnius with Air Baltic
8. Day in Vilnius and Vilnius to Kiev with Ukraine Intl Airlines
9. Exploring Kiev
10. Chernobyl Tour
11. Kiev to Helsinki with Ukraine Intl Airlines
12. Day in Helsinki, and Helsinki to Washington with Iceland Air
I can’t believe the end is finally in sight, but here it comes! Thanks to all who have virtually joined the travels along the way, as well as those who have actually joined me for some of the trips…it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun and rewarding without you!