There are a combined 324 countries and territories in the world, and Henrik Jeppesen, a Dane aged 28, recently became the youngest person to visit them all.
Decade of dedication
Jeppesen mostly achieved his impressive record over 10 years, mainly financing his self-imposed challenge by means of hotel and airline sponsorships. Otherwise, he slept in car parks and hitched rides in the most dangerous places of the world.
His worst experience was losing his passport in Africa, and his best was unexpected hospitality in Iran and Somalia. His favourite country, in spite of crime levels, was South Africa, with New Zealand a close second, which Jeppesen described as “fun”.
I read about Jeppesen and his travel tips at Delhi Airport whilst waiting for a flight to Sri Lanka. My original plan was to do a motorbike ride along the Ganges, but when temperatures soared to 45 degrees, I changed my mind and decided to experience a new country instead.
I fantasised that if I continued like this, I could possibly win the record for the oldest person to visit all the countries of the world. Since the end of January this year alone, I have been to the US, France, India twice and England three times.
Deliver us from Denmark!
I don’t count Sweden. It’s too close to home. And home, of course, is Denmark, supposedly the happiest country in the world. If it’s so happy, why do millions of Danes travel so much every year? Even Denmark’s timid fairy-tale poet, HC Andersen, spent 11 years of his life abroad.
I put it down to a lack of excitement and adventure. Denmark may offer us a high quality of life and security, but let’s face it, with its smallness, reliance on computers for fun and dreadful weather, it is pretty dull.
Nevertheless the Danes are not descended from the Vikings for nothing. Putting on helmets (albeit without horns) and careering down roads on bikes with the wind behind them might be enlivening, but it is not enough to satisfy their lust for adventure. Danes need their travel ‘fix’ as often as their (well-lined) pockets will provide.
The man who held the world-travelling record before Jeppesen was from Norway, and now, with my ancestry from my grandmother’s Shetland Island origins, the oldest person record could be won by me – another Viking.
However, although I have lived in Australia, the US and Canada, crossed South America, and even dived in the Galapagos Islands, I have strong competition in my quest to be the oldest world visitor from David Attenborough who is, I might add, also much older than me.
Desperate in departures
Pondering on this, I sauntered to the Delhi departure gate, proud in the knowledge that like Jeppesen I am also a seasoned traveller. One of his tips is to travel light, and I always travel with hand luggage only. A change of clothes, earplugs, credit card, smartphone, pass … but … where’s my passport? Oh no! It must have dropped out of my bag … and they’re on the verge of closing the
At this rate I reckon I won’t make Sri Lanka, let alone the other 300 countries on my list.