A Year In Review 2018. It was a busy travel year in 2018 with some incredible experiences. After spending New Year’s Eve in NYC, I began my country collecting in Fiji (after my flight was delayed for three days due to a Boston snow storm). Fiji was my 116th country. And in November, I visited my 130th country in Africa, Mali. I was able to visit 15 new countries which is quite productive for me (and 16 if you include defacto Abkhazia). The UN states there are 193 sovereign nations, meaning I still have 63 still to visit before I complete my quest. Here are the new countries I visited in 2018 in chronological order.
• South Africa
• Ivory Coast
I made some good progress in 2018. Africa at 54 countries is many people’s personal albatross. Prior to 2018, I had only visited 11 countries on this vast continent. This year I racked up 10 new countries in west and south Africa. I finally dipped my toe in Central Asia, with three new countries, and I added two more in the Pacific.
And of course, there were many repeats … 12 in fact and a 13th if you count defacto Artsakh. For someone who is attempting to travel to every country in the world, it is a bit of a catch-22 when I revisit a country. But there are so many countries that I love, it is inevitable there are some repeats. I returned to Armenia for my 15th year in a row with many other great returns.
• Myanmar (Burma)
• Burkina Faso
Of course, this list does not count any countries where I transited through. That doesn’t count for me. I had so many incredible experiences throughout the year.
And here is a brief recap of travel 2018 highlights and of course some low points.
Fiji. My five-night trip was reduced to two nights after my flight was delayed by three days when I attempted to depart Boston in a giant blizzard. Fiji was uneventful at a relatively disappointing in Hilton I purchased with my points. There was a fun day snorkeling.
Vanuatu. This did not go to well. On the flight to Vanuatu I began to experience some chest pains. I visited the local hospital soon after arrival and was a bit underwhelmed (and scared) and decided to cut my trip short and head to Bangkok for medical help. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post on whether I visited Vanuatu or not, since I only saw the hospital on the island. Social media netizens of Vanuatu got wind of my post, and it was if the entire nation turned on me in a hostile manner (including some creative death threats).
Myanmar. I spent four incredible nights in the Burmese islands. The islands are virtually untouched and embody the crystal blue waters and white sand beach we all endeavor to visit.
Kazakhstan. Wow. My first visit to the stans and it was such a bucket list adventure. I went to the closed city of Baikonur and visited the Russian Cosmodrome. I was able to witness a space launch of a Soyuz rocket on its journey to the ISS. This was beyond cool.
Maldives. Never thought I would get to go here. And never thought I would be going for a second time. I had saved up Hilton points for about 10 years and splurged on a over the water villa at the 5-star Conrad Maldives. This was $1200 a night, but I stayed here for free for 5 nights utilizing my points.
Oman. I returned to Oman, but this time was able to leave Muscat, rent a car, and have an awesome road trip for the week.
Abkhazia. After a somewhat difficult entrance into this defacto country, I had a fantastic time exploring this mini-state on the Black Sea and being able to celebrate Victory Day in the capital.
Georgia. My third time in Georgia (the country, not the state). Tbilisi is an incredible city and has changed so much since my first visit in 2004. It transitioned from a somewhat dark and gloomy city to a cosmopolitan metropolis.
Armenia. I have visited this country every year since 2003. And am already looking forward to next year’s visit. I spent some time in Yerevan, the capital, participating in an art exhibition showcasing some of my photos. I then rented a car to road trip in the southern part of the country.
Artsakh. My southern Armenia roadtrip also included a visit to Artsakh, a defacto country that I had not visited since 2010. It is a beautiful country set in the mountains with ancient monasteries.
Angola. Once considered one of the most difficult countries to visit in the world due to the difficulty of attaining a visa. Angola has now transitioned to an evisa, making the process much simpler. I spent a couple of days in the Luanda, the capital, exploring the city.
Namibia. This country has long been on my bucket list to visit known for its beautiful pristine deserts with towering dunes and incredible wildlife. I was a guest of G Adventures and my visit did not disappoint. Check out the awesome itinerary here.
Zimbabwe and Zambia. These two countries sit at the nexus of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. The highlight was a helicopter ride over the falls. I was a guest of G Adventures in Zimbabwe. Check out the awesome itinerary here.
South Africa. Another country long on my list that is difficult to believe took me so long to visit met my high expectations. Unfortunately, it was short visit of several days where I based myself in the magnificent city of Cape Town.
China. A vast and diverse country. After a long flight from Chicago with a diverted flight that found me in the middle of China for an extra night, I eventually arrived to my destination in the far west of China. I spent several days exploring the region of Xinjiang, the restive Muslim area.
Kyrgyzstan. I had read online about the World Nomad Games for the last several years. This nomadic athletic competition looked compelling and exotic. This year, I was fortunate enough to be part of the press corps covering this multi-day event. I met some great guys in the press pool, shout out to Rob, Amos and Harry.
Tajikistan. After attending the World Nomad Games, I headed south to drive the Pamir Highway. The Pamir Highway is one of the most fantastic drives set in the mountains as you follow the Afghan border. Pure beauty.
India. One of the most fascinating and challenging countries. My third visit to this great country this time exploring the remote north-east state of Assam.
Bhutan. My hattrick visit to Bhutan as I crossed into the Land of the Thunder Dragon via land from India. This time I was able to explore the remote eastern part of the country and the monastery rich central part of Bhutan. I was a guest of Raven Tours and Treks, my second visit with them.
Benin. Benin was the first country of my six country African roadtrip. A highlight in Benin was the stilt village of Ganvie.
Togo. I crossed into Togo and spent a couple of days in the capital taking in a bit of the voodoo culture.
Ghana. One of the best experiences was visiting the Ashanti Kingdom, witnessing a colorful and vivid ceremony with bonus guest, Prince Charles.
Ivory Coast. After spending a day on the beach, I ventured further into the country to visit the world’s largest church.
Burkina Faso. My second return to this landlocked country, but this time I visited the western part of the country, meeting a local king and visiting an abandoned village on the side of a mountain.
Mali. A climatic way to finish off my 2018 travels was my visit to Mali. I visited the old city of Djenne and witnessed the Great Mosque, constructed of mud and considered the largest mud structure in the world despite a somewhat challenging security situation.
And using this cool app called App in the Air in conjunction with Tripit and a trusty Excel sheet, I was able to create this flight map of my travels in 2018. My recap in the air –
- 48 flights (the two flights in the Maldives domestically were not recorded by App in the Air)
- 90,375 miles flown
- 214 hours in the air
- 22 different airlines
- Flew on 5 continents (but only visited Africa, Asia, and the US)
Every flight was in economy except for my last flight of 2018,one short flight from Chicago to Boston when I got upgraded. Not enough!
Flying over the Maldives in a seaplane.
I had quite a diverse mix of lodgings in 2018.
- 152 nights in hotels and Airbnbs – 41.6%
- 104 nights in my apartment in Bangkok – 28.4%
- 64 nights in Boston with my father – 17.5%
- 29 nights in my home in Chicago – 7.9%
- 12 nights sleeping on a plane – 3.2%
- 6 nights at my friends’ houses – 1.6%
And for the hotels, I stayed in 72 different hotels, ranging from $17 in Benin to $1,200 in the Maldives. For the record, I enjoyed the one in the Maldives much more. I’ll let you guess which one is which.
I had 13 different border crossings throughout the year. Two were via ferry going and returning from Thailand to Myanmar. I walked two borders from Abkhazia (this was a bit interesting when I was held for a while by a Russian soldier) and Georgia and from Zimbabwe to Zambia. The rest were in either cars or taxis.
- Thailand to Myanmar, via ferry
- Myanmar to Thailand, via ferry
- Georgia to Abkhazia, walking
- Abkhazia to Georgia, walking
- Armenia to Artsakh via car
- Artsakh to Armenia via car
- Zimbabwe to Zambia, walking
- Bhutan to India via car
- Benin to Togo via car
- Togo to Ghana via car
- Ghana to Ivory Coast via car
- Ivory Coast to Burkina Faso via car
- Burkina Faso to Mali via car
Walking over the bridge to Abkhazia
I also have continued my podcast, Counting Countries, where I interview some of the most incredible and prolific travelers in the world. The guests have traveled to every country in the world or are in the progress of completing the goal. It is near difficult to highlight any specific guest since they are all so engaging and inspiring. I have published 69 episodes so far with many more great guests on the way for 2019.
I spend a considerable amount of time producing this show. I have recently joined Patreon, where you can help partner and support future productions.
I have had the great fortune of producing and being featured in two adventure travel documentaries.
Hit The Road: India was filmed in 2012 and released in 2013 across iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo. The film met some success as it was licensed by KLM and Virgin Airways, screened at eight film festivals, and was ranked #3 on iTunes UK in the documentary category.
And the hits keep on coming. Epic Channel in India licensed the film to play in India over a several week time period. That is pretty cool. Except the fee we earned was kept by our sales agent in India for his work.
Our second film, Hit The Road: Cambodia, was released this year across iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo. The HTRC was filmed in 2016 but took some time to be birthed. HTRC was recognized by Mekong Moments as the Industry Choice for Cambodia.
OK, this is not 2018 news, but I have published three books over the years. You can check them out on Amazon.
7000 KM To Go. My road trip from Budapest to Yerevan, driving 7000 km across this amazing part of the world in a competitive rally.
Hit The Road: India. This book traces my adventure as I drove a rickshaw from Mumbai to Chennai. 2000 km across this amazing continent.
Photos From Chernobyl. Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster in the world. I document my two day stay within the Exclusion Zone.
I was fortunate to work with two companies in 2018, one an ongoing relationship; the other, a new relationship. After meeting founder Deepak Tamang of Raven Tours and Treks in Djakarta at a conference in 2016, he eventually invited me to Bhutan in 2017. In 2018, he invited me back for a return visit this year as well to explore the east and central regions of the country. I provide ongoing marketing and consulting for Raven, and will be organizing a trip in November of 2019. Raven is ranked #1 on Tripadvisor. Contact me if you are interested to explore this amazing country.
Another rewarding relationship is with G Adventures. G Adventures was founded in 1990 and today offers over 700 different trips across the globe bringing over 200,000 travelers a year. G Adventures has a commitment to sustainability and giving back to the community. I travelled with G to Namibia and Zimbabwe, two incredible African countries.
I am expecting and hoping for great travel experiences in 2019. My goal is to travel to 15 new countries as I did in 2018. I consider it a reach goal and will be grudgingly satisfied with 10 new countries. New countries in the works include Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. That is 8 news ones….7 more to figure out.
I will continue my relationship with Raven Tours and Treks and will be bringing a group to Bhutan in November. And I received more good news, as I will be working with G Adventures again. I will travel with them to Uganda and Rwanda in January. Check out this itinerary. This is a total bucket list trip as I will be doing a gorilla trek.
courtesy of G Adventures
I have been to Japan twice before, but never left the confines of Tokyo. In August, I will be joining a G Adventures trip to Japan. I was quite psyched after overviewing the itinerary. Check out this itinerary. On this trip, I get to explore some lesser known corners of Japan and the trip ends in the historic city of Kyoto. If you have any interest in joining me in Bhutan, Rwanda, or Japan, send me an email or a comment. ric at globalgaz dot com
courtesy of G Adventures
So to everyone, Happy New Year and keep on counting countries.
And see where I have been so far. 130/193
DISCLOSURE: If you book with G, I earn a fee. Thanks for supporting GlobalGaz!