Looking back, I can confidently say this was an incredibly memorable year with some adventurous travels and the organization and production of the Extraordinary Travel Festival. (There are affiliates in this post.)
I started off the New Year at my home in Bangkok and contracting Covid on my first night back while celebrating NYE with some friends. (I guess I deserved that.) Shortly, after I was quarantined for 10 days in my condo. Not how I envisioned the start of 2022. Several days after my quarantine ended, I left for a 2-month trip to West/Central Africa. Part of this trip was a continuation of a West Africa trip that was canceled in March of 2020 when Covid began its mad spread across the world. After my 8-country trip, I retreated to Thailand for a respite and an amazing roadtrip with my wife and dog to Phuket. As spring rolled in, I departed for a month trip to Armenia to organize the Extraordinary Travel Festival, followed by a visit to Cyprus, another new country. I then returned to Thailand for another month with a quick trip to Phuket for a friend’s birthday. I then spent over two months of my summer in the US, splitting my time in Boston and Chicago with a couple of weekend trips to Newport and Cape Cod. I returned to Armenia for nearly two months for the final preparation of the ETF and welcomed 130 guests for the event. I departed Armenia, spent one night in Tbilisi, and then flew to Thailand for one final month with a third trip to Phuket. And finally, I returned to the US for the holidays, spending time in Boston and Chicago.
This was another year of mixed results in terms of Chasing 193 since much of my time was needed to plan the ETF. Here are the countries I visited during 2022 in chronological order. Bolded names are new countries.
- Sierra Leone
- United States
- United States
So I made some progress on my quest to Chase 193 but Covid has put in a serious monkey wrench in my plans. In 2019, I had an aggressive plan to finish in 2022. I am obviously far from that goal. At the end of 2020 (or really at March of 2020) I was at 142 countries. In 2021, I picked up 3 new countries. And in 2022, I visited 7 new countries bringing me to 152. My last new country was in May with Cyprus. This is slow progress.
Mid-January, I found myself back in West Africa with Phil Marcus, another friend who is also on the quest. We met in Gambia to continue our past West African roadtrip which was canceled mid-travels back in 2020. While on the roadtrip we had made it to Gambia, we only spent one night there and did not see anything. We also reunited with my friend/guide/driver Marlon and his “beast” (truck) to drive through these 6 West African countries for a month. We sprinted south through Southern Senegal where we picked up our Guinea-Bissau visa and lunch and then continued onto the border. We spent time in capital as well as the Bissagos Islands. We then embarked on a brutal drive to Labe, Guinea. Spent some time there and then headed to the capital. The group then headed to Sierra Leone and stayed in Freetown, a quick overnight on Banana Island, and then further west a night on Tiwai Island. Our final stop was Liberia and its capital Monrovia and the famous golf course of Firestone Tires. We all parted ways and I headed to Nigeria. I spent two weeks with a guide driving from Abuja to Lagos. I departed to Cameroon and reunited with Phil in Cameroon for a final two weeks in Africa. West Africa is considered to be one of the more challenging regions in the world to travel. So there was a sense of accomplishment with my visit to Nigeria as I had completed every country in the region. So here are the new countries that I visited in 2022.
- Sierra Leone
And of course, the repeats! I spent nearly three months on two different trips to Armenia planning the Extraordinary Travel Festival. I have been to this country every year since 2003 (except in 2020). I always love my time there, spending time in one my favorite cities, Yerevan, and catching up with friends. But by the end of my trip, I was ready to depart. This was the first time I did business in the country and sadly it was a frustrating experience, burning me out on the country. I had four different trips to Thailand, including three trips to Phuket. The first trip was the best with a 3-week driving roadtrip to and from Bangkok. This was another reminder of how much Thailand has to offer. So much to see and do. I returned in October to attend the TBEX conference, a gathering of travel content creators. I caught up with old friends and met some new ones as well. Here are the repeats.
- United States
- United States
Here is a brief recap of travel 2022 highlights and of course some low points.
Thailand. I guess the lowlight was my 10 days being sick with Covid in my condo. The highlight was some of the natural beauty of Thailand as well as relaxing on the beach on a quiet area of Phuket. Enjoying a roadtrip from Bangkok to Phuket and back.
Gambia. I spent a night on the Gambia River which bisects this tiny country. My most memorable experience was my return trip to my hotel on the beach. What is normally supposed to take two hours turned into an eight-hour slog of absurd comedy of errors. Everything from the car breaking down multiple times, switching to a different car, getting stuck in an insane celebration on the streets of the local football team’s victory and a witch trying to mess everything up.
Senegal. In 2020, I spent over a week driving around in Northern Senegal, but Southern Senegal was a sprint across the country except for a visit to the Guinea-Bissau Consulate. For about $25 and five minutes, I attained my visa. Talk about ease and record time.
Guinea-Bissau. This former Portuguese colony is one the poorer and corrupt countries in Africa. I spent a couple of nights on the extensive archipelago of Bissagos Islands checking out these untouristed islands and white sandy beaches. Another highlight was a visit to a village where I met the village head who was also the local healer.
Guinea. What I will recall the most is the grueling 14-hour drive from Gabu, Guinea-Bissau to Labe, Guinea in the mountainous highlands of this former French colony. Equally as awesome was a private musical performance by an engaging group of Griots, traditional praise singers found in West Africa.
Sierra Leone. I spent a night on a tiny island off of Freetown with only a couple of hundred residents. The simple “hotel” on the ocean was owned by a Greek man, and I shockingly I had great hummus and maybe the best foul for breakfast I have ever had.
Liberia. I had two really memorable and unique experiences in this country somewhat founded by freed American slaves. The first was being pickpocketed of my iPhone while attending the opening night game of the Liberia Basketball Association and the unlikely story of its retrieval from the thieves. The other experience again was quite random and unlikely, we met the General Counsel of Firestone Tire, the largest employer in Liberia, and spent the day touring the grounds, playing golf at their fabled course, and having some drinks.
Nigeria. I will remember Nigeria for one of the worst tour guides I have traveled with. And the bonus was, it was for two weeks. Nigeria is a giant populous country with virtually no tourism. Nigeria still has kingdoms, and I was afforded the opportunity of having a private audience with one of them, where I prostrated in front of him and his royal court. I then presented him with a “gift”. The king considered the monetary gift too small and then spent 10 minutes belittling me in front of his court as they chuckled along. Won’t forget that one.
Cameroon. I will remember Cameroon for one of the worst tour guides I have traveled with. Didn’t I just say that? Well, lightning can strike twice, and I spent another two weeks with another moron. A really fascinating visit to Rhumsiki to visit the man who can tell fortunes with his crab. Yup, his crab.
Armenia. I spent most of the time in Yerevan catching up with friends and checking out some of my favorite restaurants while planning the festival. I did visit some wineries and some of my favorite dark tourism Soviet sites.
Cyprus. I thought baby Greece punched above its weight. I rented a car and explored the island. The island has an abundance of historical value with a relaxed vibe and great food. The added bonus was the capital Nicosia. Cyprus is divided in two with Cyprus on the south and Turkish de facto controlled Northern Cyprus. Nicosia was fascinating with walls blocking off streets between Cyprus and Northern Cyprus.
United States. I always enjoy summer in the US with visits to Newport and Cape Cod. It was also great to be back in Chicago and spend some time on the lake. I was back to my traditional two visits a year to the US, a summer visit and a holiday visit.
I use 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 2022. My recap in the air –
- 30 flight segments
- 63,448 miles flown
- 144 hours in the air
- 11 different airlines
- Flew in 4 different continents
This was a slight increase from 2021, but still not close to pre-Covid numbers.
As you can see by my post, I enjoy tracking and creating statistics about my journey. One other list I keep track of with the help of Nomad Mania is my list of airports, I am nearing 300 different airports. I always love checking out a new airport and even better if it is random. Two of the more random ones I transited through were Maroua – MVR and Garoua – GOU both located in northern Cameroon
While I always enjoy compiling my annual statistics there is one stat not to be excited about: my carbon footprint. I chose to work with Gold Standard who was recommended by Tripit and highlighted in an article in NYT. I plopped down $1000 to support a renewable energy project in India.
I am back to my pre-Covid sleeping breakdown – 90 Bangkok – 60 Boston – 30 Chicago & 6 months of travel.
Here is the breakdown for 2022:
- 88 nights at my condo in Bangkok
- 59 nights at my father’s apartment outside of Boston
- 32 nights at my condo in Chicago
- 93 nights at hotels (45 different hotels)
- 85 nights at apartments and AIRBNBs
- 13 nights at different friends’ houses
- 1 night in a tent
- 7 nights sleeping on an airplane
I wish I could tell you this was a great debate. I only stayed in a couple of nice properties this year. And the winner is … Baan Khaolak Beach Resort. I stayed here in March and things in Thailand were still quiet. The hotel has 70 rooms but yet there were only a couple of guests here. I was able to get a beach side villa for only around $100. This was good living!
There was a lot more competition in this category. The winner for worst hotel was Foyer du Marin in Douala, Cameroon. As a traveler you will sometimes come across the “expat” hotel during your visits. Foyer du Marin has the mix of hotel guests and local expats who dine at the restaurant and hang out in the pool. This is usually a positive sign, but not in this case. I was sound asleep when I awoke to head pounding music. The hotel was hosting a giant party with DJ in their open pool courtyard which my room faced. For five minutes, I laid in the bed waiting for the music to magically disappear. When this strategy was unsuccessful, I donned some shorts and hunted down the closest thing to a manager to share my thoughts. He was not happy with my candid feedback. After some swearing and threatening, the music was eventually turned lower. So, if you are looking for a club atmosphere this is the place for you, if you are planning on sleeping, not so much.
Click this image to book anywhere around the globe with Agoda. This photo is the best roof deck bar in Bangkok.
My 100th episode of Counting Countries was produced in January 2022. I interviewed Drew Binsky, a former guest, who had recently completed 193 at the end of 2021. Drew is arguably one of the most prolific and successful content creators who has about 10,000,000 subscribers to his various social media channels.
I had some fascinating interviews in 2022. I created a series of podcasts for the Extraordinary Travel Festival. I had special episodes in regard to the Cassie de Pecol lawsuit, the Sultan of Slow Jamistan, and the kidnapping of Dr. Song. I also interviewed Paul Barbato with over 3 million subscribers on YouTube and a love of salients. I had other great conversations with Lucy Hsu and Jorge Serpa,
I spend a considerable amount of time producing this show. I have recently joined Patreon, where you can help partner and support future productions and get extra content.
I made a couple of videos here and there. You can check out my visit to the Aragats Cosmic Ray Research Station in Armenia. Smash that like button!
Years past, 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 cross iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, etc. 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 fee.
Our second film, Hit The Road: Cambodia, was released in 2016 across iTunes, Amazon, and Vimeo. The HTRC was filmed in 2014 but took some time to be birthed.
OK, this is not 2022 news, but I have published three books over the years. You can check them out on Amazon.
And, also thanks to Covid, I finally sat down to work on my 4th book which I thought would be published sometime in 2021. Unfortunately, my co-author is a bit of a procrastinator. Maybe in 2023? I have attended the Wai Kru Sak Yant Festival 8 times in Thailand, documenting this amazing event. This book will share nearly 200 photos from over the years.
And besides travelling to ever country in the world, I am creating a list of at least one book for every country. This is an ongoing project with more books being added in 2022.
I have continued my rewarding relationship with Travel Massive, the largest professional travel network with over 60,000 members. I am one of the Chapter Leaders in Bangkok and also the Asia Coordinator. I hosted and organized events in Bangkok, Phuket, and Chicago. Check it out!
Extraordinary Travel Festival
In the spring of 2021, an idea came to me … the largest gathering of the world’s most traveled. With hours and hours of planning and spending 4 months of on-the-ground planning in Yerevan, the inaugural event was successfully hosted in Yerevan in October of 2022. Over 130 of the world’s most accomplished and avid travelers met to socialize and parties and dinners, listen to 25 inspiring speakers, and spend time exploring Yerevan, Armenia, and the region.
Africa. There are 54 countries on this continent. Many travelers consider this to be the most challenging continent. Many people Chasing 193 leave many of these countries to the end of their journey. I still have 16 left here, more than any other continent.
My goal is to visit 15 of my missing countries. Libya is not issuing visas for Americans at time. My plan is to visit Sudan and Djibouti in January and then in mid-February to visit 5 countries in Central Africa. And finally, an 8 country sweep in Southern Africa. That will cover the first 6 months of the year. The rest of the year, well, I will play it by ear. But if I can visit these 15 countries, it will be quite an accomplishment. We will be back here next year and see how I faired.
So to everyone, Happy New Year and keep on counting countries.