Boris Kester (What traveling to 193 countries teaches you about humanity)

In this episode Boris Kester and I talk about:

  • What inspired Boris to travel to all 193 countries in the world?
  • What is Boris’ recommendation about a great (and easily accessible) countries in Africa and Asia to travel to?
  • How likely is it to get into a dangerous situation when traveling to so many ‘unknown’ countries?
  • How Boris goes about planning his amazing trips.
  • Why Madagascar is such a fascinating country.
  • Will technology make travel virtual? How is technology changing travel?
  • Why do we travel? Does travel make you a better person?
  • Where does wisdom come from?

You can also watch this episode on Youtube – The Judgment Call Podcast Episode #47 – Boris Kester (What traveling to all 193 countries teaches you about humanity).

Boris Kester has traveled to all UN-recognized 193 different countries. Boris maintains an amazing collection of trip reports and photos on his website from his journeys. In his other life Boris works as a Senior Purser at KLM Dutch Airlines.


Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcast, a podcast where I bring together some of the most curious minds on the planet. Risk takers, adventurers, travelers, investors, entrepreneurs and simply mindbogglers. To find all episodes of this show, simply go to Spotify, iTunes or YouTube or go to our website If you like this show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or subscribe to us on YouTube. This episode of the Judgment Call Podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is my business. We do at Mighty Travels Premium is to find the airfare deals that you really want. Thousands of subscribers have saved up to 95% in the airfare. Those include $150 round trip tickets to Hawaii for many cities in the US or $600 life let tickets in business class from the US to Asia or $100 business class life let tickets from Africa round trip all the way to Asia. In case you didn’t know, about half the world is open for business again and accepts travelers. Most of those countries are in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. To try out Mighty Travels Premium, go to slash MTP or if that’s too many letters for you, simply go to MTP, the number four and the letter U dot com to sign up for your 30 day free trial. I find this fascinating and I think you are part of a very short list of people that went to all the 193 different countries. I know it’s quite a dispute out there who is the most traveled person in the world and who does it the best way and who does it the most sophisticated way and who has the most impact. I am not a fan of any of those debates because I feel like we all should do the best we can and this is a thing that maybe it is hard to measure because there are so many different ways to travel. But how did that start? When did you formulate that goal? I think for a lot of us we are eight years old and we say we want to go to all of these countries. When did it become more specific for you and how did you plan to get there? Well, I first want to address your first observation because I strongly believe that travel is not a sport. For me there is no best traveler or there is no most traveled person or there is none of those things. I look a little bit surprised when people try to be the fastest who takes off 193 countries and then you find out they do it in the year and a half or something and do your math and it means that you spend like a day in each country and then obviously you can discuss whether that makes any sense at all or if that is really a new Olympic sport. Yes, I saw somebody in his early 20s who did sports now and I think that is how you decide. There are many now and I just saw a new guy who apparently was unfortunate enough to try to do it in a pandemic which obviously he did not beforehand but and I think he just went to Libya. But anyway, I am totally not into that. I honestly cannot think that anyone can claim to be the best travel person because I know people who went to the same country for 30 years and they know the country inside out, they speak the language, they are almost a local, they did not take off 193 countries but they saw so much of just one country that in a way they are also very traveled but just focused on one place or maybe a couple but anyway, your real question was how did it start? When I was five months old, my parents took me on a train trip through Europe to Greece so that is like two and a half days by train and I still believe that that kind of started me being a traveler. They were avid travelers themselves and we traveled every year and I still have some diaries. I wrote in high school in first grade school and I can see when I was nine years old I was already counting countries. I was already writing down this is my 21st country which actually happened to be Syria for some reason. I was not at all considering visiting all countries back then but I was just counting like how many countries did I visit because I always had this urge to see new places and then which I just continued doing when I was an adult. When I traveled I always went to places I hadn’t been before which is I think a very healthy curiosity that pretty much drove me to travel and then the deciding point was in 2008 when I had a very very ugly breakup with my girlfriend and basically I was in deep shit so to say so I realized I needed something positive to get out of there and that’s when I decided you know what I’m going to visit all countries in the world and back then I had like 72 left I think and I gave myself 10 years to visit the remaining 72 countries. Yeah it seems like the that travel and I think this is a really talked about aspect is bit like they say you know buying a motorcycle riding a motorcycle is just like taking antidepressants and I think travel at least for men typically that’s that for women it might be slightly different but there is this this this aspect of travel that it gives you a new horizon right it gives you not just the positivism of other people if you can find it that’s sometimes harder than it looks we’re going to get into this and how you how you have on your website you have profiles of how you interact with people in a specific country and I think this is really interesting this is something that most people don’t really pay enough attention to but I think there is this this wonderful aspect of travel as a way of not just not just seeing the world in a better view which we talked about in the podcast with other guests here before because I always say you know you don’t go to a country and then you come back and you decide to nuke that country like it’s never that’s never gonna happen right so you will at least have an impression of that country and there will be some positive moments even if it was a terrible trip and everything fell apart but it’s also something that makes us much much more positive I think to to look towards the world and to look towards other countries and we had Simon and Holt here who runs the good country index and in surprising finding he he sees in the data is especially when things get but maybe that’s the result of going to different countries but he sees there’s a long term trend that people have a more positive outlook towards other places towards other countries as life goes on so every decade this goes up and you need to like put the average further further down so you have this you normalize the data kind of like the IQ works right so people get smarter over time even do it it doesn’t happen for everyone individually did it work for you would be my question absolutely oh absolutely absolutely um um actually you I think you’re you meant to say that uh the the the Harley Davidson’s or whatever motorcycles work only for men but I think traveling also works for women because I actually know women who um who also were in in like in a depression or something and they started traveling to uh as as kind of a therapy and and also for them it really worked but but yeah for me um it was um it was very hard in the beginning because because I used to travel with my um with my ex partner and obviously I was struggling by myself so I missed her but then pretty soon I started meeting new people seeing new places um getting carried away by the by all the excitement that travel brings and then um uh and and I even believe I can say that I became a better person of it because uh because I met so much uh tightness and um especially in places where where I didn’t really expect it beforehand because you know there’s supposedly dangerous places with people who are trying to kill you or at least so they say and then you and then you actually uh uh you travel around that that that country and you find out you know what these people are just great I mean obviously every country have have their share of um uh of bad guys um but that’s that’s just that’s that’s minimal I mean but by far most people um uh want well and especially when when they see a foreigner they uh I think the natural reaction is to to help out to protect to to provide whatever a large accommodation food uh drinks um this is what I found almost everywhere yeah yeah go ahead well the only the only the only thing um but we might touch on that later on but the only thing uh I also found that like the downside of travel in some countries can be um authorities um red tape bureaucracy um you know policemen who are out there trying to get something from you so so so but that’s that’s like um by part of the story of travel of course but but mostly I mean obviously mostly you’re dealing with um ordinary people who are who you meet on the bus or a train or on the street or in a restaurant or anywhere else and and and by far most of them are just they’re curious I mean they especially in in in more isolated remote places or more so to say dangerous places they they don’t see many foreigners so so very often they’re super happy and super curious to to hear about uh a part of the world that they just really don’t know I mean they they know the name sometimes they don’t know the name sometimes they do but they obviously they they often have they have very little clue about our lives look like yeah I think it’s absolutely shared a sentiment in general I think you’re absolutely right there is um a natural curiosity that is something really positive and that that that is a social value that kind of is a social glue um that that is out there and makes people talk to each other I think this is this is extremely um positive and you find it in many many places what I found and this maybe leads us to the way you you how you actually travel and how you come up with the specific trips when you go to a new country or when you go to a country you’ve already been to what I find relatively hard given my schedule I typically do trips and I think I’m not alone with this a lot of people have that problem I can organize my own trips which is great but I only have a limited time span say it’s 10 days it’s 14 days and I gotta be back within these time frames but I can do a couple of those across the year and I think this is true for many people right so there is things you need to take care of at home that they just can’t wait forever the problem seems to be at least for me um the way I I set up these these these trips I can only get away so far from the typical tourist infrastructure where I typically don’t see a lot of curiosity what I see or grumpy immigration agents are people that want to take advantage of you the taxi drivers right in every country um there is always someone who is either too a little bit too nice you know those are the con men um that you that are not everywhere with the definitely in certain places you you get to the place where you can recognize them but there is a certain set of of and there’s always jet lag and there’s things where you you just can’t appreciate it because you just you’re not ready right you didn’t have coffee you didn’t sleep in three or four days so there is a couple of things within a 10 day trip that just makes it so hard for me to get outside of this tourist infrastructure so until I get to a place that’s remote enough that’s interesting enough where I don’t I’m not in the middle of a big bus malstrom or another transport thing it’s four or five days and by that time I always have to turn around so for me I find that really difficult and I think this is why we see these these malstroms pre covid of I call it the dark side of tourism where people are in this no no they’re not really aware they don’t want to really be aware I mean I go on my own but a lot of people obviously go with groups or they go with lots lots of big big groups of friends and what happens is you kind of travel loses this opportunity to to experience not just curiosity but experience places that are relatively well they don’t have crowds of people they’re relatively unspoiled that’s what I wanted to say and I’m like kind of like you before you were going fully full on the list I’m at I’ve seen many places and regions have been to many places several times but I kind of find myself going down the same avenues so the last 70 countries they’re hard for me because I can’t do them in a 10 day trip from what I know or I don’t have the risk profile for it maybe you can convince me differently but I think that’s a problem for a lot of people in the time that we have it’s difficult to really appreciate travel I see what you mean and I believe that maybe there’s a law that a travel law way I’m just I’m just improvising now but it might be true that the less time it takes to get to a place the longer time you would need to to delve into the unexplored part of that country if you see what I mean so so what you’re saying is is is I recognize it and actually in this after I finished my or I visited my last country almost four years ago and obviously I continue traveling and I realized that I really do not like to travel to to touristy places like I was in Sri Lanka a few years ago and I had been there before of course but I noticed that in many places like I had to queue to buy a ticket to get into a archaeological park or whatever and then I had to queue to walk upstairs I had to queue to see a painting I had to queue and I was like I don’t want this so so yeah sure you need you need more time to get off that beaten path that said there’s there’s still a pretty long list of countries where there is no beaten path believe it or not when I when I decided to visit to go for 193 in 2008 I I made a list of all the countries that were missing on my well on my list so and there were some of those I didn’t even know where they were on the map so I really had to this sounds really weird but I really had to look them up like now rule what the hell is now rule and and a few other smaller smaller countries or unknown countries and the list gets changing right so there’s new countries has come along and well yeah five or ten that keep seem to be in limbo but but but but not really because the last at least if you stick to the UN list the last country to to be added was South Sudan which is in 2011 so that’s 10 years ago and the one before was East Timor which is in 2002 I think which again is 20 years so in the last 20 years only two countries were added so that that’s not I mean this happened in the 90s when when the Soviet Union fell apart when Yugoslavia fell apart and a few other countries were were were born but I do I don’t I do not even see any new country being born anytime soon because it because then it needs to be recognized right by by by other member states so but imagine how easy would have been in the 80s because the whole Soviet Union would be one passport stamp and now it’s about 20 countries so I lost out on that easy opportunity I just as I think I told you I just finished writing a book about my travels and or actually about the risk of traveling and I calculated how much how many countries there were in the year I was born and there were only 124 so in in my life in my lifetime we went from 124 to 193 yeah so so yeah there’s also a lot of people I guess I guess probably was three four billion um I don’t know when you were that’s an interesting yeah I should I should look into that as well but um but yeah so so but yet to answer your question I I I’m convinced there’s still a lot of places where where where you do not have to travel 10 days to find a real um let’s say authentic experience and where you are not harassed by guys selling tours or guys selling their souvenirs or guys selling whatever um which is what what um yeah which is what I try to avoid yeah absolutely that that that’s a 10 day 10 days is is short I mean most of my travels were were definitely more than that but what gives an idea maybe as a preview we’re gonna dive into more of these countries in just a little bit I really like your website by the way um travel um I I’ve never seen it before I’ve never came across it um but it has really good previews on each specific country and then it goes into trip reports specific things you did within a certain country that could be the places within a city or it could be a specific excursion that you did and I think for most of these countries and I consider myself very knowledgeable I’ve never heard of any of these trips so I think it’s awesome right so that’s amazing knowledge that you have there that I just wasn’t aware of I mean you can find these things the travels always how do you how do you condense it into an easy forward I think you’ve done a wonderful job there I I always think there is this holy matrix of travel destinations that a lot of people follow and one is and maybe you can help us find surprising destinations that people wouldn’t have on their list already so I think one parameter a lot of people look for is obviously friendly locals people that don’t harass you always think Morocco and Egypt those you only meet people who want to harass you there’s tons of friendly people there but you never get to see them unless you speak Arabic and you have tons of friends there and then we always want great value right we want um places that either just came out of a crisis or for whatever reason are very affordable compared to european american standards and one weather is usually good for most people I could I count myself I as part of that I grew up in Germany and I can’t stand the cold weather anymore and then there’s always the question about food for me that’s particularly tricky in some places in Africa where just I can’t agree with the food I just I don’t know I mean I can go back to the basics and eat some veggies but whatever food and dishes are being being cooked and presented to me I just I can’t deal with it I can’t negotiate it so maybe you can help us find using this matrix and maybe there’s more maybe you know you probably have way more parameters than this that are relatively easily accessible that’s maybe one one more of those parameters where would you feel like this is really a surprising destination that people don’t have on their lists and assuming COVID will go away not completely but it will accept travelers with vaccinations very soon again yeah and exactly and let’s let’s let’s yeah let’s pretend um we’re talking uh with disregard disregard the pandemic yeah well I don’t want disregarded but it seems to be that once the vaccinations are through everyone will open up to vaccinated travelers that seems right now hopefully it’s sure sure sure sure sure but I’m what I’m trying to say is let’s just talk as if we can just travel because because yeah I’m convinced one day this will happen again I mean we will not be stuck forever yeah and and and as as human beings we are just we are curious so we will travel um the only question is when but so yeah um okay good that’s an easy question right well yeah so um as for food this is obviously a very personal thing and I I totally understand what you’re saying um some countries are I just have a better cuisine than others and um I suffered in a few uh yeah there it’s just a matter of taste and it’s also a matter of being flexible and and to to to just forget um you know better food I remember if if I’m allowed to say to to to like sidestep through a different story I I was starting with an Italian guy in uh Tajikistan and um in Central Asia and and we were uh like for more than a week and like every dish has um uh how do you call it coriander I think it’s a different name but you know this this herb um which they use to spice up their food and he just I think cilantro is the other word for it that’s the maximum word but it’s coriander I think in Middle East and um that’s yeah that’s the word I was looking for cilantro so so he just couldn’t stand it and he was every day he was dreaming about having Italian food and oh if only I could have a uh this nice pasta with this and this sauce or you know this proper uh so we were having this this fun discussion because I I was like teasing him I was like well you just tortured yourself because you’re not going to find that here so why don’t you just let go of your Italian food and just uh you know eat whatever is available because there’s there’s there’s no I mean this is what it is that you that’s it so so um so countries which are um easily accessible and which are surprising and which people might not know about first thing first country coming to mind would be a south main principi which is in um uh let’s say south of Cameroon um and west of probably Gabon anyways in in that little corner in africa in south of west africa which is um uh it’s they’re just they’re two islands south of me is one island in principi is the next one and they they were a portuguese colony um so what I really like so that that that would be one of the countries I I had not heard of before I started going for 193 and it was one of the countries where I really was thinking why is there no tourism here because this is like um especially from you for europe it’s the same time zone it’s it’s not too far uh it has beautiful nature with a lot of variations there’s like beaches there’s mountains with very peculiar shapes uh it’s tropical uh the climate is nice you get tropical food uh fruits and the food is fantastic I mean you really get fresh fish every day you get really good food there is history um it was a um uh cacao growing island especially um south of me uh so you have all these old colonial sorry colonial portuguese buildings uh even with trade tracks where they used to grow um uh cocoa and and um uh transported to europe so you can you can visit those uh plantations and um people are nice it’s it’s small you can you can see it in a couple of days that you don’t need like well for you it would be perfect like 10 days you could see much you could see most of it you can do diving you can you can you can do a beach day you can well pretty much whatever you want I remember um lufthansa has a direct service from frankfurt and I couldn’t believe it oh they do really yeah and I I think it had a huge oil boom um during the last three or years pre covid that is and I don’t know what the connection to germany is but they don’t run a lot of direct flights to africa lufthansa but they always have one I think their capital is malabo so correct no no no that’s akutari gini oh okay well maybe it’s maybe it’s continuous from there it’s pretty close but yeah yeah now as far as I know as far as I know um tap tap serves it several times a week yeah and um because I’m not even sure they have oil I know akutari gini obviously has a lot of oil but okay maybe I’m mistaken maybe I’m mistaken well I don’t know but actually I could tell you gini actually was probably my worst experience ever so that I would definitely not advise that as a tourist destination what’s the problem but I heard good things about akutari again relatively good things the problem is that they um first of all it’s super super hard to get a visa I’m talking I visited in 2013 uh as far as I remember and back then I’m not sure about the current situation back then a visa was almost impossible to get uh first and then secondly um I managed I managed to get one for like a crazy crazy amount of money in Gabon and then I had a lot of trouble getting into the country even though I had a valid visa they they made a lot of mess it was really it was a nightmare they always almost put me in jail um and then uh you need a photo permit you cannot go anywhere because they um as a foreigner they they probably do not want to uh to have people traveling around by themselves and um the the government well the the the dictator ruling the country because it’s it’s it’s a very rich country I think per capita uh potentially they’re richer than any of the Gulf states in the Prussian Gulf um but all the money goes through that one family and the rest of the people are just suffering like crazy so um so it’s also certainly times in in Africa what I found there might not be true for akutari guinea is that there’s kind of an informal visa system so typically when you need a visa before you go to a country right and then the airline will check it before you board because they are afraid of um the fines that they will have to pay or they will have to bring you back and then do you take up a seat right so they check that in particular but in most places in Africa there seems to be either no fines or there seems to be no enforcement of this and I noticed from Ethiopian airlines I think most countries I went to in in Africa I’d say 50 60 percent of the time the visa was never checked at time of boarding what that means is you can just fly there literally you stand in immigration you can present your case um and there was the case in Sudan where I was last year um I was basically just I was there for a transfer but this and you typically have to prearrange a visa you have to go through an embassy and you can’t just walk in um but this is exactly what I did and I said well you know I’m here so why don’t you let me in and he said no no no you can’t you know it’s not possible so I had to wait 15 minutes and he came again said well you bring some cash and I’m like yes he said yeah well you you’re good to go um tell me how long you want to stay and that that seems to be true in big parts of Africa maybe not in equatorial Guinea where I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily corruption but there is a process in place it’s extremely difficult for pretty much anyone to visit and it’s it seems to be huge trouble to get the visa but if you try without it 50 of the time you’re good to go I even know a story for equatorial Guinea where people had a visa uh they go to then Germany and they flew down to Malabo and they arrived at the airport with their valid visa and the the officer goes like yeah we decided we will not let anyone in today so he invalidated their visa and they were sent back on the same flight so okay well that’s a bad example then I I know yeah I know another few months before I because I crossed over land from Gabon and a few months before a German guy had done the same crossing and I had read this story before I went there and he he so he he was unlucky unfortunate to cross the border on the first of January so he had a lot of trouble getting into the country like just like I did and then he he rechecked his passport when he finally got through he checked his passport when he was in his hotel and then he saw that they the date stamp was not adjusted so the year was still the previous year so even back the next day to to ask them you need to correct the stamp and then they they these were the same persons because he was talking to the guy who put the stamp and instead of admitting his error he was thrown out as a criminal because they they claimed that he overstayed his visa for a year which was up to shocker ridiculous because yeah because I’ve seen that coming but so yeah so um anyway but um I I went to Gabon and I don’t know if this makes makes is any comparison but I went to Gabon I thought this relatively pleasant people were very very worried about talking to anyone it seemed to be a bit of a police state and it seemed to be pleasant in sense of because it was easy to get around good roads and everything but it was extremely boring that’s how I remember my trip maybe it doesn’t apply to the nature because I didn’t do any nature trips I’m kind of lazy but maybe that also applies to Equatoria Guinea maybe it’s totally different um well it’s it’s it’s comparable I think it’s much more of a police state so so people are they’re not really shy um I speak Spanish because it’s it’s the only Spanish speaking country in in Africa and people are actually very much willing to talk to me and and and some of them even begged me to to please write up a story about our country because it’s no one knows about us and and we are suffering and so so um so for some reason they were not even afraid to um to talk to me this is outside of the big cities this is like in small villages and and they were telling me stories like yeah it it made me super sad to hear what they had to live through because so that that was basically a consolation for myself because I was like okay I’m I’m out of here next week but they have to live here like every day so they didn’t even had a choice they they’re they’re stuck um but yeah Gabo actually Gabo has a few nice places but you need to get out of um uh yeah you need to get out of Liverpool and and and really go somewhere it’s pretty big country but yeah let’s go back to this to the to the list of the surprising destination it’s our time so tell me a principle I would have never called so I mean I think you mentioned it on your website that’s why I would have known maybe but besides this I would have never known about it maybe have another one for us um so we’re still looking for uh unknown or surprising countries right yeah like very undervalued countries let’s put it this way yeah so to well there’s there’s a couple of them in Africa I want to play that game with you later the overvalued and the undervalued countries but we’ll get there maybe some real undervalued countries for for then another very challenging I mean you don’t have to be super experienced to get there yeah exactly so so I want to spread a little bit geographically so instead of giving you more African ones because I know a couple of African ones which are I think undervalued and unknown and surprisingly good um I will go to the South Pacific completely different region uh and I would uh and there’s several countries there but I would probably name Kiribati which is um I don’t think it’s very well known as a tourist destination and it is actually it’s but this goes for much of that for the South Pacific region it’s it’s so underdeveloped there’s probably apart from Fiji um there is really not much tourism to speak of there is um the downside is that the tourist infrastructure is is is not fully developed obviously because they what there’s hotels but um you don’t have a choice like you would have in in in in tourist countries or tourist destinations but um Boris I’ll be I’ll be talking about Kiribati just just yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah okay so I will explain every word ending in ti is uh it’s pronounced s so uh yeah so um so the thing is Kiribati or yeah Kiribati as you as you’re writing is is it consists of like huge atoll groups um so if you look at it on the map it’s like it’s huge it’s uh I’m not sure if it’s as big as Europe but it’s it’s like a really huge surface obviously most of that is ocean um and they’re one of those famous countries supposedly disappearing um under the sea level in in in a couple of decades but um so what I did was I unexpectedly had more time than I thought I care about because of a of a cancelled flight so I went to one of the outer atolls and and like this is really like paradise because there’s there’s they’re absolutely not used to seeing any foreigners so uh so you walk I walked complete I walked the whole island uh and almost every house I passed people would stop me and yeah please come inside and then they would send their son up up to a up in a coconut tree to get a coconut from me and then they would just talk because they speak English so you can you can communicate with them so and they’re all I mean they’re just super super relaxed and they live in a completely um separate world I mean it’s hard for us to imagine that you can uh that you can live so far from from the world that we know far from you know pollution noise whatever we have they have nothing they just catch their fish they they they eat dinner and then the next day brings more of the same so so so it’s very laid back um I was fortunate because they have these these traditional houses made of local everything is made of local wood trees that they find mostly palm trees of course so um and the the funny thing is that I I met a guy on the far north and he um he gave me a branch on my on my head and he said that I had the blessing of of a sea goddess so then we ended up talking and he obviously he asked me where why are you from and I said well I’m from the Netherlands up he didn’t have a clue even though I tried to say you know cheese with meals football whatever but he just looked at me like I have no idea so I told him well maybe maybe you know like United Kingdom or France or Germany like bigger countries and and and he he kind of knew the names so but then he asked me how long is it to sail from from Holland to Germany and I looked at him like well you don’t have to sail you just you just go by car by train whatever and but he couldn’t understand and then he he goes like okay so how many hours to sail from from Netherlands to France and I said well same thing you you can just cycle to I mean you can go over land but then first I thought well this guy is really lacking education because he doesn’t know his geography and and then after a while I it dawned on me that he he lives in on an island in a region where identity is basically defined by your island so and even the bigger countries in the region are Japan or Philippines or Australia or New Zealand it’s all island nations so so in the end I realized like this guy lives in a completely different world than I do and I tried to explain to him like if if I if I want I can travel from from Netherlands to China without ever having to to to to get into any ocean or sea and he just he just looked at me like well you’re crazy yeah that’s fascinating because it’s it’s it’s a level of his mental model of the world is so different that it I mean it’s incorrect right it’s kind of like our model of the universe right I feel that so that’s how we think about the universe when we have this model because we think about that and that’s what we write in the book last 100 years but maybe it’s completely different right if someone would tell us differently we’ll be like yeah you’re just a conspiracy theorist right or we would just ignore it because it’s just not what’s in the mainstream right now well I I ended up thinking like maybe he’s right maybe it’s really crazy why would there be a border between Holland and Germany because for him it’s just the same kind of land why would you draw a line on a piece of land and why would anyone decide that this is yours and that’s mine for him it’s like this is our island and we live here with so many families and and that’s it and and this is and we we this is the language you speak blah blah so this is our identity full stop and and so I ended up thinking like you know all the borders we have in Europe and or in Africa they’re they’re all man made of course so so it makes much more sense to say well okay this is the island and this island is called whatever and then and and and these are our rules and you’re welcome to visit us but but please respect what we and the way we want to live yeah have you have you ever done a wider trip into the French Polynesian islands because they they show me when I was there this told me oh this is as big as Europe and there’s all these islands but they’re really far out either have to fly to them we have to bring your own yacht that’s you know can go all over the Pacific I found this very interesting but almost impossible logistically to to pull it off yeah no I did not and and you’re right I think the only way this is what I realized I so I had three months to travel the South Pacific because there’s there’s quite a few countries your countries so and at first I thought three months is a pretty long period but it turns out three months is nothing for for such a huge region and I actually ended up because I somehow naively thought I could I could take boats or ships between islands but it’s just way too big so and then there’s no regular ferry services or anything so you you you end up flying unless as you say unless you have your own your own transportation that would be that would be fantastic because that region seriously is is much of it is completely unexplored yeah and if you would have your own yacht you can you can you’re not totally free because you need to clear customs and immigration everything but yeah you could that would probably be the only way to really see it yeah the South Pacific isn’t or the whole Pacific has big waves so you can’t just go in your little yachts it needs to you need to bring something that you know even works outside of the Mediterranean it’s a it’s a different environment so you either have that kind of investment ready to go or I think what what was a short shortcut but it’s not the same way to explore it is I forgot the name of the the domestic airline in French Polynesia they sell an all access pass I think it’s a thousand fifteen hundred dollars and then for 30 days you can go to wherever you want as long as you want so that’s kind of cool it’s not as good as seeing it from above but it’s it’s a start yeah yeah you yeah and if you if you have your yacht you really need to you need to know what you’re doing the other option would be to try to if you have a lot of time on your hands would be to to try hitch rides with with others because some especially if you pick the right season you might be able to find a yacht going somewhere and they they they might you know want to have you on board for probably some doing some work and everything but you need to improve your Russian for this Russian yeah oh yeah that’s what I would expect right I’ve no idea if they show up in French I said well I’m sorry I’m not talking about French Polynesia but I in the South Pacific actually met I mostly met Norwegians with yachts okay because Norwegians obviously are they’re Norwegians obviously are also pretty rich so because they have all their own money so it’s so they yeah for some reason I ended up seeing lots of Norwegians even though Norway is a pretty small country but they they were overrepresented in in the South Pacific well sometimes there is this this just couriers marketing and maybe it’s more viral so I know that from Germany where I grew up there were certain destinations in the world that were very well known and they were everyone wanted to go there so obviously one of the it’s Mallorca down in Spain that was very well known even though there’s tons of other islands around there’s tons of places in Spain itself the people had no idea they even existed and also weirdly enough people in Germany for instance would think of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as beach destinations they think of it it’s very popular and if it’s winter you have to go there but a the beaches are not great um they’re decent but b it’s relatively expensive not a beachy place at all and see it’s really cold in winter what relatively cold um if you really think of a beach holiday so it’s kind of I don’t know where this happened but it’s like everybody knows that and you it’s it’s very futile to convince people otherwise because they will think no this is what everyone does and I don’t know if this is a European thing it’s not as strong in the US but we have that too right we have a certain view of Mexico that everyone shares even though Mexico is in so many different places and and and areas and that you can’t really compare probably something like that happened in Norway but French Polynesia maybe yeah do you have another one for us I did those were two really really interesting I’ve never heard of those two places in that context um well probably another one coming to mind probably is a surprising one as well which right now is completely even this regarding the pandemic is inaccessible is is Yemen yeah I had a really really I was really touched by by the people in Yemen um especially so I visited 2004 so that was way before the war started but it has it has always been a turbulent country of course so so before I went people were like worried they were why are you going to Yemen I I knew some people who went there and they were really positive about Yemen so I went there myself and I I really found it’s like really really almost forgotten country where as you said before like compared to Egypt where you so the first day I walk in in Sana on the on the market and I was expecting people to to walk up to me like come have a cup of tea blah blah blah and then they sell you your their carpet or their whatever they have their brass wear well you you know what I’m talking about yes yes and and the funny thing is that people actually did ask me in their shop and then after so yeah so we were talking and then I just when I was expecting them to say well why don’t you buy my stuff they would say well you must be in a hurry because you came here to see our country so please feel free to go ahead and explore more of the city so they never no one ever like I would I traveled around for for almost four weeks and no one ever tried to sell me anything they were just generally happy to see foreigners they were they were treating me everywhere to dinner to whatever so I was really really impressed and touched by by the the generosity of of Yemen Yemeni people who also back then were super poor I mean this is this is like in the whole Arabian Peninsula Yemen is obviously by far the poorest because they have I’m not even sure they had any oil a little bit I think but they are much worse off especially now since what is it 2011 or 2012 when they when their current war started they are are yeah I feel for them because they they deserve better but but yeah before the war and as soon as the war is over I’m sure they will be welcoming visitors again but it was and then apart from the people there’s so many things to see the they have like mountains they have deserts they have obviously they have the pretty long coastline and all these traditional towns and even Sana itself it’s like the whole city center of Sana is one one big UNESCO world heritage site so it’s it’s that’s really beautiful you know devil’s definitely in my list as well so I’m pretty surprised you put this on it’s kind of up limits right now what yeah unfortunately yeah go ahead well yeah I know I know people who I even know people who went there recently but right now much of the country is off limits and you can you can more as far as I understand you can bribe your way into into Yemen from Oman which will cost you a lot of money you can spend like maybe two or three days and then you need to get out you can I think you can see a few places but you cannot reach Sana you cannot much of the countries it’s just unreachable unless you are maybe a journalist or something but for a regular visitor it’s it’s it’s off limits plus dangers of course so so yeah that changes you know like Iraq which came back relatively soon let’s put it this way so it’s not exactly a place where you should go for a summer vacation when you’ve never been outside the country but it’s a place that seems accessible enough for most experienced travelers now which is great one place that I saw on your list is Madagascar when I felt Madagascar was was one of those countries that I expected in a certain way but it was completely different it’s like I constantly had to readjust readjust every day to to deal with this with this place I only made it I had about a week to to the capital to an an anantana revo I never made it to the coastline which are spectacular and I think we have all seen seen the recent grand tour episode really showed it very prominently but there’s lots of other movies and and videos what’s your what are your thoughts about Madagascar I thought it’s it’s it was my second last country to visit before my last country so I I I kept it for last because I I was really looking forward to seeing it so I wanted the best for last so to say and I was it’s it’s super big so I only had I think a little bit less than four weeks and you cannot you can just not see the country in four weeks so I will it’s high on my list to be to to revisit the thing is what I found one of the things I found really fascinating is that the first day in anantana revo I was like it’s this part of Africa because because people just don’t look like Africans they they are like then I find out that many like the high the upper class is they’re basically descendants from Indonesian people so they’re from from from asian descent so and then when you when you come to the west coast it’s it’s much more like African African countries because because there’s many African people um obviously their nature is is absolutely stunning I mean they have so much variety obviously they have a lot of endemic species animals which are which only live in Madagascar so so I liked it a lot um at the same time I did find a few places where how to put this in a nice way they were they were they were on their way to getting to touristy yeah and there’s an island right and it’s pretty famous now in Europe yeah yeah yeah I had some of the best foods of the worst food ever in anantana revo which really struck me I had some of the best value things I did I think in that time with some of the worst so it was it was really difficult for me to to adjust to some really beautiful areas up on the hills in the city you could be in any little french town it’s beautiful not quiet and the accommodation is better than most places in France is stunning good quality and then the next hotel which looked good on the pictures is a total dump and you feel like you’re you’re you’re in Lagos but in a bad neighborhood in Lagos so the the differences I experienced during my time were pretty stunning and um the it just didn’t work with the set of expectations I’ve built um going to so many different places I kind of draw up a picture and then I hope it’s it’s gonna help me right it’s just a I mean I I can’t continuously adjust it but in anantana revo I could never this would never work it was completely different which was great as it was very surprising was very interesting destination but also challenging things are extremely slow and like the grantor showed the roads basically don’t exist like a like the it’s it’s not even a dirt path and they have a road that is a national national road that would would allow for trucks and buses to go through and you’re like this is not gonna work because there’s simply no space so that’s also weird that you have to plan four weeks for a country that isn’t that big in the end but there’s literally no roads and there’s also no no ring road so you always have to go back to anantana revo which makes a trip that would only be two or three hundred miles makes it suddenly a thousand miles uh yep yeah one week is not enough no and and the but that was never that was never I would never be be able to see the whole place but it was good enough for the city I felt I had a good feeling of yeah sure yeah yeah yeah that’s all but as I but as I told you even for weeks not enough I mean it’s it’s it’s really it is the going is very slow uh as you said the roads are are horrendous um it’s probably probably my top 10 worst roads worldwide yeah for sure yeah depending where you go I think he’s going first yeah oh yeah yeah sure but but yeah there’s few good roads but I think as far as I remember most roads were were terrible but um and then it depends what you want to do because you can you can you can I mean there’s so many that’s what I like in Madagascar there’s so many things so many options for to explore you can you can go diving you can go canoeing you can go we did um we went down one of the main rivers uh for a couple of days by kayak uh and camping on the on the beaches and every on the side uh which is great but obviously it it takes time and then you can go to the west coast you can go to the south to the east coast to the north and they’re all different so it’s uh and then depending also on the season so it’s you really have to plan it pretty well and and allow for spare time because I I never we didn’t take domestic flights um because we prefer to travel overland I I know people who tried but there’s uh apparently there’s a lot of hiccups and cancellations so so you really need to plan and to allow for a wide margin of error because things might just not work out the way you think they will that’s exactly my my impression as well give me an idea how you plan these trips so I looked at your website which is again really really spectacular in for certain countries more than others um but I would say for most countries you really go into detail I really only looked at Africa and Asia because this is where my remaining countries are um and I I was curious how do you research and how do you plan these trips so you you seem to be having everything in between one day trips or literally just a few hours two or two or three four weeks where you go everywhere across the country how do you how do you come up with a plan for a country like well what’s your what’s your workflow that you go through so yeah so once once again the one day trips is that’s for work but um sure uh and to address your question I I owe your your remark um I know some countries are underrepresented uh and I uh that’s probably because I visited them because before I really started taking pictures and everything so um I’m I’m hoping to or when travel is is it’s possible again to to revisit some of those to um I’ve stand because you know I’m the whole side is done by myself so it’s you can only do so much but um so as far as far as the research is concerned I would I’m I think I’m a pretty conventional guy I still um read travel guides for inspiration uh I use the the internet of course um I am a I am on EPS uh every past percent it’s a pretty big Facebook group for uh for extreme travelers or well stream for for travelers and you can get lots of um uh info there which is actually uh which is very often up to date info because because it has I’m not sure how many but I think around 10 000 members so uh surprisingly there’s always someone who happens to be in uh in Mogadishu today or there’s always someone who happens to be in in in Brazil or in Bolivia or in anywhere so so and well these are obviously uh easy countries but if if you if you need like the latest on visa information on on access on whatever um uh climate or whatever you want to know you you can you can you can get your information there so um so but that’s mostly for practical stuff not not so much for planning so so yeah so then I would I would I would read and then I would try to um make an estimate how how long it would take to um to see the things I want to see and that can be anything I’m I’m I’m very much into nature I’m very much into hiking so um then obviously it really depends on the country um like talking about Madagascar I I I don’t think I did much of hiking there because it’s just uh yeah it’s a country where there’s so much to do and to see that that was my priority um so it yeah it’s it’s it’s hard just to give like a a a uh like a firm plan outline for every country because it really depends on the country so it probably would develop uh as I as I gain more information as I read more things about the country I would I would know okay this is a country for for nature this is a country for where I need to see some cultural sites or history historic sites um and then um as I said before lately these last years I’m I’m trying to avoid uh overly visited places so I might just skip them um just to to you know not to annoy myself and uh so so so yeah is is is that a clear enough answer or yeah I was hoping you have another nugget there uh for us you know like so tell me in principle it’s something that I never never I’ve expected the same way it is obviously you know it there’s there’s a bunch of of of things that people put together in order to make a decision right so do you make there yeah for your research was relatively easy because you knew this this is the list right so I need to go down that list so let’s let’s plan it out well I think for a lot of people the list in their lifetime will also be small and they’re trying to find out what is in these 30 countries doesn’t have to be countries right places that they haven’t been to the question is do I go to a place that I’ve been before because I like that and maybe it’s still that good even post pandemic or the other option is you go to something completely new which gives you this anxiety of especially if you’re not as curious as we are or other travelers are right um if you or extreme travelers are there sometimes called um a lot of people develop an anxiety and as more information they can put their hands on and as easier it seems as more likely is it that they will actually travel there now often the marketing that plays a role there too so it’s it’s not necessarily hardcore facts it’s a more emotional connection that people have in the country and the problem often is that once and one of these campaigns goes viral a lot of people have the same connection and they all end up in something that they didn’t want right so they kind of spoil it for each other I have the same problem so I feel for most people it’s hard to to bookmark these dirty places they really want to go to and I think what they end up doing is they just use these emotional templates that are already known in in that region in that country wherever they live and they say oh well my friend went to Mexico and she wasn’t marked so it should be fine it’s cheap let’s go so I think the the decision matrix I was hoping that is one you know something that people are overlooking and obviously I’ve never heard of that Facebook group so that sounds like a great way to really go to that the last countries right to to get an idea how difficult it is right now I was hoping there is there is good advice we can give people what actually helps a little bit to see you know how touristy a place really is or how dangerous a place really is how likely is it that you’re going to get marked how likely is it that your immigration office will not work the way you think it is and something like you know the McDonald’s index I don’t know who came up with this but he said the golden arches wherever you have McDonald’s in two countries they won’t go to war and so far it holds true so it’s pretty amazing I think someone came up with this in the 60s and it hasn’t been broken in 60 years so that’s pretty spectacular so maybe there’s one of those shortcuts also for countries maybe if you see one thing then you say okay it’s good to go if you have a little bit of experience cool um well I wanted to add to my previous because you mentioned Sal to Megan and which made me realize that I only planned so much before going anywhere because I I mostly leave many things open until I arrive and then I think that’s the best way to assess both the situation and if applicable also the security situation and just talking to locals gives you lots of input as well and what what what it reminds me of a when I was when I was very young a lot of time ago when I started training by myself I was sitting on a train in Europe and I heard a couple of Americans talking between themselves and about it was their first visit to Europe and they were really excited and they were like yeah we need to go here we need to go there and then they they ended up talking about the the the most dangerous place of Europe and they they decided they unanimously decided Amsterdam was really a place to avoid and back then I was living in Amsterdam and I was so I was listening to them like what are you talking about you’re talking about my you’re talking about my city and I don’t think Amsterdam is dangerous at all I mean it’s sure if you’re unlucky you can get mugged or whatever but but but really I mean unless you’re unlucky it’s it’s fine you can you can go out in the night there’s this really hardly any any any any bad crime or anything so so that made me realize that how all these all these warnings and you know people say yeah you need to be cautious because it’s it’s it’s it’s not good out there and blah blah blah this is so very subjective and it’s really like and and and very often people just copy what they hear and they say oh I heard blah blah blah and then before you know it a place has a very bad name like I went to Colombia in 2009 and back then Colombia was still considered very dangerous and I traveled around I felt totally safe also because people were taking care of me they were telling me yeah you might want to avoid that in that neighborhood but you know as long as you stay here it’s fine and I actually felt safe because I felt that people were keeping an eye on me and and they wanted me to be safe because so what I’m trying to say is once a place or a country or a region has acquired a certain reputation it’s very hard to to get rid of it because I think the same happened for instance to New York New York had a had a reputation of being super dangerous like what 10 20 years ago they had high crime rates and they had so many people dying every week probably a little bit what was happening to Chicago right now uh front of mind uh yeah I mean American cities are very special in that regard for instance right now we have a very huge crime wave and for the standards that we use to like here in San Francisco right so it’s it’s it’s still it’s it’s always the question what’s the base level you compare it to so I give you I give you that but on the other hand the American cities maybe a bit like Madagascar they are from one neighborhood where you you’re almost guaranteed going to get marked to a next one where you can sleep on the street and you can you don’t even have to lock your cars um and this is only like I know a couple miles south here East Palo Alto was one of the most dangerous cities um in the U.S. with the highest murder rate all all traffic that was related to gangs but you know you can be in a crossfire and there’s lots of other spreading out crime and literally just 200 yards to the border is Palo Alto which is one of the richest and the safest um city in the whole U.S. so as a but as a traveler as a foreigner you have no clue if you’re Palo Alto East Palo Alto does not even decide I mean you kind of see the neighborhood but it’s impossible for someone to realize I mean it’s not impossible but if you don’t have the education as a traveler I think it’s very difficult like my own family if they would come visit they would know they have no idea of this how diverse these neighborhoods can be and how dangerous they can be or how safe they can be they don’t see the sides I wouldn’t worry a minute um and I think the same is true for Colombia like my Jean had really bad neighborhoods but if you know where they are and if you have an eye for them it’s extremely easy to avoid them and you’re fine you can go run at night and you’re going to be okay so that’s really difficult to acquire that knowledge and because we are these high people right most people don’t get out of their comfort zone they are now they haven’t left home any year they have no clue and they don’t have real a real incentive to develop that that knowledge which is strange but I think that makes the world more dangerous to them. I believe it’s also a matter of getting more experience and for instance you can um what I do when I write somewhere is where I know you know there might be problems I ask around locals and because as you as you oh you’re let’s say you’re a local right and you can you can tell me like okay this area of San Francisco is fine this area don’t go there because it’s really not good so I think that’s that’s that’s one thing the second thing is you um you learn to uh to be very aware of your surroundings so I I always look I have a lot of things it I might not even be able to um to to to name them to you because because I think it’s it’s even unconscious but I I have a lot of ways to uh to assess what is happening around me to that’s because we have you on you’re the expert but I think it’s it’s intuition that you learn that you don’t have when you’re 18 I don’t think ahead of when I was 18 I was lucky I didn’t get shot when I went to a lot of places but that’s that’s exactly what I’m saying that this is an experience you need to gain and you you cannot buy it you you need to uh to learn the hard way and I’m I’m doing things now that I would never have done 20 years ago simply for the same reason I have 20 years ago I would I wouldn’t have dreamt of going to Afghanistan or you know any of these countries because I would I thought that was me that was just out of the way uh and now you know I’ve done it and I’m like okay well things are different on the ground and and you deal with it but but absolutely you’re actually you’re right this is this is something you need to um you need to acquire and um so I would yeah I would definitely not advise an 18 year old to to just go anywhere and you know even but even though I even though I know people I know I know uh I think he’s 21 years old the guy in uh he’s also an EPS um uh and he’s been uh by himself he’s been to Syria lately he’s been to a lot of uh well let’s say dicey countries but and and he survives he well you always can get lucky right so it’s like the stock market you can make billions um just going whatever you put everything all your money into tesla calls and you rich or on bitcoin but the problem is that as longer you play is more likely it’s going to be devastating for you and it’s not just devastating financially being really rich and then losing it in a few months is really devastating for you so you got to be really careful what you’re playing with and as an 18 year old you have no clue but you can just get lucky that’s fun but but to your point earlier what you said I I in my own travel experience I found the the dicey countries maybe because of my mental awareness and because of the research that I would do before I go I found them generally completely safe I never had any issues um immigration issues like Uzbekistan who was really strict for longest time or Russia they were strict when I was there but they went I mean to the letter like they never gave me any problems because I was you know making sure it’s correct but then I was in Sri Lanka which you would feel like nobody cares about immigration at all because millions of tourists every year and I was in a jail cell and none of this was my fault right so someone stole my passport numbers and my passport was fake and I was a terrorist and I’m like no why didn’t you call the consulate and then eventually they called the consulate and they let me go but it’s in a country where I never thought that would even be an option right so I would expect that in in places where you know there’s political animosities or I would be I was warned to go there and in many places in Africa like Cameroon I never had any issues maybe because I anticipated them and maybe I made sure it doesn’t happen yep so the very true thing you just mentioned is is and it sounds super obvious but it’s just like if you’re unlucky you’re just well you can be unlucky I mean and it can happen anywhere and as I was saying I just finished writing my book and in it I look back on all my travels and I asked myself like so which were in hindsight which were really the most dangerous situations I was in and it was it was not in Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia but it was in completely unexpected situations and places which just happened for some reason I was unlucky or you know something happened unforeseen and this can happen anywhere actually I lost I lost for travel friends they died at a pretty young age and they were all travelers and all four of them died in really almost stupid situations where they were just they were in a safe situation well apart from one of them but they were in a safe normally safe situation but they were just super unlucky for things to turn bad and and for them actually to to to pass away so so yeah what happened to them can can you share well well two of them they were a Canadian couple and I met them when I was still pretty young so they were my they were one of my travel inspirations because they traveled a lot to two countries I had never heard of they actually they were one of the people who advised me to go to Yemen and they went there I think in the 1980s so that was really I think even before they they unified they went to Uzbekistan in the 80s they went to all these these places that I was like what wow so so then one day they so they traveled to all these places everything is fine one day they they have a weekend in they’re from Canada so they go on a kayaking kayaking trip on a sunny Sunday you know like your average something to do on Sunday and then suddenly the weather turns sour and there’s big waves on the lake and they they tap size and they were never well the body of my friend was found a few weeks later and his wife was never even found anymore so so just to say they were really super unlucky and this was really an accident that that yeah should not have happened yeah and after after all the things they did it was it was like it was really sad just to to like really like a kayaking a few hour kayaking trip in Canada yeah it’s tragic what were your personal situations where you were kind of after you went through them you you were holding back and said oh my gosh that was pretty close so I either suffered with my life could have suffered with my life or I could have suffered injuries or it’s something that gave me really great financial loss did you have those situations and how often did they happen well not not not financial loss but I yeah well that’s another strange story I was I was I came home from a flight actually from Canada like I don’t know 20 years ago I was walking home and I I had an I had a new iPod so this is how long ago it is I had an iPod I was listening to music it was also a Sunday morning I was walking home no one on the street and I was just like 10 minute walk from my home I was I heard I was walking on a bridge and I heard like this the sound of a car breaking and I in a reflex I looked behind me and I see this car and this is a street where which is car free so the car wasn’t supposed to be there but so I looked around and I see the car he breaks the fence of the bridge and he falls into the into the canal and so I’m like I immediately realized like if if my train would have been five seconds late I would have been walking 10 meters behind and this car would have completely killed me and then it would have pushed me in the canal with my suitcase so I called one one or 911 112 in Europe but for the police and everything and of course the guys were were rescued there were scuba divers to to rescue the car the drivers and or the passengers of the car and but I was like you know this could have been the end because if I would have walked a little bit more slowly or anything because I didn’t hear anything I was just listening to my music and I only heard the car because well you know this this sound of a car like completely out of control and it was trying to break but this the bridge is in a bend so he couldn’t make make the bend so he just crashed the the fence and disappeared into the water so that was actually one of the closest things I and this is just like 10 minutes 10 minutes walk from from my home so traveling actually saved you from other incidents like that uh another interesting right my life sometimes works I I find that quite quite strange how we that’s one of my observations that really puzzles me but I it’s it’s still the same when we when we live in a certain place we call it home we are comfortable and we worry going somewhere else is a bad idea because it has come with the risk so and we feel like well Europe and the US are kind of similar right I mean there’s differences but they’re really really similar and then but this also applies to someone who lives in Lahore someone who lives in Abuja they also feel it’s very dangerous to go somewhere else and be like well you mastered that city that we consider extremely dangerous for all kinds of reasons but it doesn’t work that way so you just because you mastered the security situation because of it and it’s a data problem right because you you you mastered it in one area doesn’t mean you can apply the same algorithm in your head to the next area and it is I mean once you’ve been to all the countries and I guess you you don’t have any more worries with this but if you go to all these places there’s always another place that’s different and that scares most people and maybe for good reasons because there is definitely a risk involved right so you have to make the straight up between exploration curiosity and risk reduction I guess this is a good one right so a lot of people air on the side of the risk is too high and I think this is what what what made us survive for the longest time if we would be on the side of let’s take that risk and let’s kill that huge animal we would all be dead because these animals don’t die just because we want to kill them right so we would have to reduce risk until to a level when it becomes really easy we feel very confident and typically those are other people telling us it’s safe and they have done it and that seems to be something that really helped us in the past so I think it’s it’s good from an ancestral point of view that we have that and I’m not sure what’s going on you know when you when you think of social media and you think of what how people portray their own life that is so far away from reality like we have this in San Francisco where I feel that people have gone cloud early and cloud only a lot so we literally only live in the cloud they don’t live in their neighborhood anymore it couldn’t care less what’s going on outside the street there could be a hundred homeless people in tents they would never talk to them but if someone puts a post on twitter a thousand miles away they would go ballistic it’s a very odd way to what happened that people are living and they’re consciously retreating into their own realities that have nothing to do with the with the real reality well maybe it’s also a chosen reality because you choose your neighborhood you choose all these places and the travel seems to be the their way to escape right it’s this escapism so if you can’t travel because of travel restrictions right now or because you you don’t have the money or you don’t have the idea the idea the ideas where you should go people just go to the cloud I think this is the new form of travel people just cloudify themselves with this live as cloud beings so to speak they live on their apps and they watch Netflix and they have their cool rated lists what do you think is the role of technology and travel in that sense I mean as a way to replace travel a which seems to have happened the last 12 years or be how they enhance travel but they also distract a lot of people from while they travel so yeah so first I want to address the the other thing you you pointed out I think that at least in in the west we have become I believe we have to come we have become too much risk aware so and I mean to say that we seem to think or at least some people seem to think that they can reduce risk to zero and and I believe this doesn’t exist I mean in life there’s or whatever you do there is always a risk and then you can you can quantify it it’s 0.1 or maybe it’s 100 or somewhere in between but you know so so so I think people are at least some people are obsessed with like I want to lead a riskless life which I believe doesn’t exist and especially if you if we talk about travel like riskless travel also doesn’t exist I mean you take a bus or a train or a car or any any transportation something can happen and on on the way from from your car to the to the aircraft in the airport or during the flight or you know anywhere something can happen you arrive at the destination something else can happen so so so and and then to get to your second or to your real question about technology um uh the other it’s it’s an interesting question and it’s it’s it’s something relatively new right because when when uh when did we start traveling with our phone and um uh being um always connected to our loved ones like 10 years ago probably they started but before that if when you would leave for traveling somewhere you might well first we had email but before email you had to phone home to say you know I’m I’m good I’m okay I’m going I’m here I’m going there blah blah blah and then you hung up and you and you were on your own and now you’re you’re like almost continuously connected to to almost anyone you want which gives a completely different mindset because and I think it gives a sense of probably a sense of safety as well because you think you know I can always if something happens I can always try to reach my friend or my my my my mother my whatever my my partner my my sister my brother to to to help me out so so it might be that this this gives us confidence that we have a backup plan or something to fall back on to to you know we have a connection to an outside world which before we didn’t have um but it might also be that we which is what I sometimes see when I travel you arrive somewhere and instead of exploring a place or a city people are just lounging in there on their sofas and they’re just posting their selfies on instagram and and not really bothering to to explore anymore so so it’s it’s I think it’s a mixed bag yeah does that answer your question or yeah yeah yeah absolutely it’s it’s not so easy and I feel for me the the the iphone and the maps they’ve really they’ve been fantastic like they gave me that safety that I can if I download an offline map and I know where I am um and I started traveling without that and I always find this very confusing not that I can’t read maps but there’s certain places you can’t buy them they just they’re not available whenever you try it it takes forever to get them and you still don’t know where you are even and you can’t and there’s place in India you ask people on the map they’ve never seen the map so they can’t even help you nobody can help you and they say oh it’s that street where I live but I don’t know this cross streets because they don’t have names so it’s maps were not helpful in many places but the downloaded map and that blue dot I think that really changed my life as a traveler because I always know okay I can find my way back and I I had a really hairy situation in that big market in Ethiopia where people were following me then and they tried to push me into this underground garage but I knew where I was going so I was able to run away but not just you know you can’t really navigate easily in this place but I knew where I had to go I know the directions so that maybe you could have done with a compass but I really used my phone at that moment so for me it’s been a lifesaver so to speak many many times and obviously it it’s that I’m not sure if that’s that’s good or bad I rely on the crowdsourced recommendations of other people so I know about the right restaurants I know about the places that people online really like now this is a to to at least it gives you it kind of drives me into the tourist ghetto because often these places are well reviewed because a lot of tourists put these reviews online the locals use a different app or you don’t use an app at all and I I see myself being too convenient and too comfortable but just blindly following them sometimes because you’re on the way anyways instead of asking around to making a real connection so you seem a very sociable guy you seem you seem like you you really develop these skills over the years that you need in order to make that connection I think I’m still working on those and for me it’s a it’s a quite a long journey to get there because it is it is uncomfortable it it seems inefficient right I’m also a tech guy I know how all these tech works I don’t know how people work well I know a little bit I’m learning and it’s it’s something where I feel myself I’m more drawn to the technology app angle and I don’t really interact with people anymore and I think this has happened to other people even more because they they are not experienced travelers and what happens is the there’s two fronts where he and San Francisco we had tons of tourists and everyone hated them right and they also they had the worst behavior and he could never really interact with them anymore because they either weren’t their apps they were like on Lombard Street they take some photos upload them and they could go two days later so both sides of we’re contributing to this problem and I I I caught myself more relying on technology that I wanted and I felt it’s hard to to withdraw because what you do is you think or I think that maybe that’s my own form of someone that I see later on who had technology use technology seemed to have the same kind of experience but minimal effort and I’m jealous so I I find it hard to be myself off it so yeah so this basically brings us to to what what you started with right you were you were saying you were what you were looking for an anthropological view of my travels and and I think this is a good a good example I would I would I avoid looking for recommendations for restaurants or hotels or anything I would always like well almost always go by by talking to locals and ask them you know what what is a good place to what is your national dish what is a good place to have it I don’t know there’s many ways to find out and then you as a side as a side effect you you you get in touch with locals as well so you can you can have a probably a conversation about something else as well but and then in a restaurant I would always ask them like what is the what is your best dish or your signature dish or what would be advised and blah blah blah so so but but I totally see what you mean because because this is the way travel has developed right you you you you take out your phone you have your map you mark the the hotels or the restaurants or whatever or the sites that have been recommended by someone else and you and you just follow that that line on your map and you you take those things off and you have your in your lunch and your dinner and your ice cream and your coffee and whatever and and and then you basically copied someone else’s footsteps and I’m very happy to admit I mean it’s very comfortable and the experience is great I mean I had restaurants that are not possible for for pennies and yeah it’s quite amazing it’s great addictive exactly so so I mean there’s nothing wrong with it but it’s it’s just I think it all depends on what you want to get out of your travels and and and this is what you want and it’s sure it’s very comfortable it’s it’s much more efficient because you you you can do more in less time because you you don’t have to ask around you don’t have to look for things you just well you have to look at your phone I mean I want to get out of the tourist ghetto let’s put it this way and out of the traveler ghetto I’m not I want to be a tourist I want to move beyond that but I found it fiddishly difficult sometimes um and maybe that’s a recent experience maybe the last five years before that I never had but even when I traveled without phones I never had that problem well exactly so I just wanted to say ditch your phone and and and go and oh my god travel I know I know oh my god right right and travel I don’t think I can continue on that basis travel the old fashioned way no I’m but I’m I’m actually traveling with two phones now no kidding there’s a backup but also because um I need them for the podcast so I have two phones laptops iPads so it’s it’s kind of the opposite but yeah you’re right you’re but I think this is too cold turkey I think there is there’s got to be a middle way um I don’t think we can just we should be allowed and just not use the technology that there is and there’s a lot of potential right so the the ability to enhance things that technology is given us is clearly there which is sometimes or often we get wrong the first time we try and then it takes a couple of boom and bust cycles eventually we work it out like tv was supposedly the worst drug ever and nobody should watch any tv everybody watches what three four hours of tv on average um and you can still say it’s a drug but it’s not going away like it’s you you can you can dive in that belief that it’s a bad thing but it doesn’t change the life of your children so I’m trying to avoid this whereas I’m trying to become this negative negativity you’ve filled and I understand that it’s often a problem in in human development is that the prior generation didn’t have access to the same tools but it developed a certain level of expertise that had made them at least the ones who survived or the the ones that mastered it they had a enormous amount of freedom and wealth and social recognition but technology changes all this right so it takes away all the skills they had it takes away all the level of recognition they have because that’s big into silicon or steel or whatever it is right so it’s all just just a piece of technology and that is really uncomfortable and is for that generation obviously and sometimes the next generation doesn’t necessarily has a better life immediately it might take a few generations until the better life actually comes around and I think this is where we are with the silicon stuff and with AI it can be so good at at certain decisions but it’s only 99% there in many places and so the crowdsourced stuff is a good idea but you have to overlay it with real real real experiences and double check on the people so that’s kind of my own solution right now so I combine these two maybe I’m this is not useful because obviously the the digital information is more addictive than you get from people I’m I’m sometimes wondering if we are moving towards a a way of travel where people they just stay home with their VR on their heads and they they just they’re just they just well I’m not sure but if I think if you would have told any any traveler 30 years ago like you know people will be walking around with their phones and they will find all the places they will take off on on their list on their phone they would have said oh that sounds terrible yeah right so so so so I don’t know I mean this was just a thought I had a few weeks ago like will this be the future of travel like you you just and and I thought of it because of now during the pandemic there’s a few sites where you can or museums or there’s a lot of places where you which you can now visit online right so they’re officially they’re closed and the only way to see their collection or they’re like we have this famous flower place in Holland which is only open in March April May with tulips and everything and it it was closed last year it was no public no audience no one was allowed to enter and the same will happen this year so what they did last year is they open it online so you can still visit but you can just you can have a virtual walk around the park on your on your computer and this is all I mean obviously this is now because you know you cannot go there for real but I was wondering if this might be at least for some people might be the future of travel like like not everyone can can travel to Kiribati for instance or not everyone wants to travel to Mogadishu so so maybe you can just you know you can download your stuff you can you can install yourself have a good wine or whatever you want to drink with it and you virtually visit this place without ever leaving your house I think that would definitely happen I mean that that would be an enhancement I and I think you do this too a lot of people started doing this with Google Street View right so before I go somewhere I go I look at Google Street View and by that I can kind of see is this a dangerous neighborhood or not I could look with their big tall trees right dangerous neighborhoods usually don’t have old trees the exceptions apply like Brazil has a lot of those and so there’s some markers I look at and then I see how how these houses look like are they good in shape are they well maintained are they well kept that tells you it’s better they kept is less likely it’s a dangerous neighborhood and I think you can read a lot of those things from VR or any kind of screen experience and I think this is this is definitely a good thing but in the end that’s that’s a big if I think the human experience is something that is it’s so HD to us right so we perceive as the extreme fidelity of human connection and in in that’s in relationship even to places that we go because we interact with people but we also want to see how they actually build a culture that is kind of a more abstract way of seeing people right so we when we go to a museum we say oh we look at things but actually these things are done by the culture that’s there so it is an abstraction of what the locals have done that their culture and it’s easily accessible so we go to museums we could also ask around eventually get to the same place but we use the technology of a museum right so maybe we take the shortcut and but ultimately to our mind I feel the human experience is what we crave and maybe that’s why we are not lonely in the under thoughts and we don’t live by ourselves we live in these huge heights of other people and we crave the social recognition that’s kind of the fuel pretty much for everyone out there their money is secondary it’s it’s good to have but it’s not really that important but if you replace it but just a digital experience I think it still needs to cover this human element which is I think possible it’s just we don’t have that yet but I think if you can combine this if you can create a real human experience so to speak but not being the same room but being somewhere else and having a similar learning experience about what these other people do right I think that’s there’s something to it but but I think it leads me to why do we actually travel so what from a human experience I think it’s this we want to explore we have curiosity right which is they have this and cats they do this experiments with cats and they take part of their brain out and then they only explore they don’t learn anything they just go to the same places all the time and so we have this memory that we built up we make decisions but I think there’s more to this idea of traveling especially extreme traveling I don’t know what you probably met a lot of other extreme travelers what do you feel is what they were really after well I think this depends by this is different for each one on each but there’s probably different groups of of travelers right so so some people might be just there to to yeah just to take off a list like I want to see the color same in Rome I want to see the apple tower and I want to see blah blah blah but there’s a more abstract reason behind it right even if that’s the concrete behavior that differs a lot what’s the more abstract reasoning well for me it’s absolutely curiosity and it’s you could have explored say in mine or like like underground right or you could have explored you could have been curious about I don’t know taking apart laptops like curiosity is a big word right but it doesn’t have to be travel and people and other places and other food it’s it’s there’s a limit to this or does this it’s it’s more specific than that um well you mean there’s different kinds of curiosity and and it expresses one of them right yeah yeah so um yeah so I think travel what travel but talking about myself what travel brings me is is is a connection to to people and places that I that are strange to me or that are unknown to me and then um yeah just to find out how how people how people think like like the example I gave before the guy in caribbean who who who didn’t know that there’s that that europe is not an island this is all all these countries or most of these countries are connected by land um I find this highly interesting I mean it gave me a really a new a new um a new view on for something that for me so I mean I never even I mean ever as a european ever since you’re a child you know europe is a continent and most countries are connected by land it’s not nothing you ever think about and then suddenly this guy comes up and he asks this question and you’re like wait a minute what why where does that come from uh same thing I I when I traveled in Colombia in 2009 I um I met a girl and I invited her to um so she she’s from a poor family she has always lived in the highlands in Colombia and then one day I found out that she had never seen the ocean so I took her to the north of Colombia and because I just couldn’t imagine that someone she was 29 years old I couldn’t imagine that someone 29 years old doesn’t know what what the sea looks like so so I took her to the north of Colombia and and I will never forget her face when when we walked uh on the beach and she was looking like her eyes just couldn’t believe what she was seeing and for me the sea I mean obviously I was born like five kilometers from the sea so I I mean most people in at least in european in the states and in many places most people know what the sea looks like like you see a horizon and it’s all water uh but but for her like she was looking like she she couldn’t believe her eyes like this is all water and I said well you start swimming this direction you end up in Spain you will not see you probably see an island on the way but it’s all water between here in Spain and she just she it was it was a crazy thing for her and then um which then for me was was an interesting thought because I there’s so many things you take for granted and then and then suddenly you realize that um not everything is so uh it is is it’s common knowledge for everyone I mean it’s it’s you’re probably privileged if you you have seen this or if you’ve seen if you’ve done that but it doesn’t mean that every everyone has done or seen the same thing you know what I mean no I absolutely I think this is this is a great way to put it it’s this this I call it mental models I call this this how we map out the world right so we go we go out and and map our world and then we eventually became become confident in it and we try to maybe change it a little bit but it’s that model that we feel is correct and then from time to time someone challenges us with a completely new model and that’s kind of my my big inspiration for travel too is seeing well maybe someone else is a better model what if someone’s model is actually much more applicable than mine because mine is kind of crap and I don’t even know where I have it from it’s maybe from from elementary school or maybe it’s from twitter I I I think it’s really difficult for people to understand where these models come from they don’t come with the source attached to it and I think this is for for for a lot of the political discussion especially we have these days you never know where this belief that usually it there’s an overlay with political party or a certain left right idea you don’t really know where these come from and we don’t know how these people made up these positions and there’s often like left right positions in the US at least they switch every six months and you’re like whoops well we just thought that’s the other side that’s the bad thing and then we realize now it’s that’s the good thing now and when if people would know where these models come from that they use every day this decision models I think they would be better off we don’t have a capacity to memorize this maybe there’s a reason to this but that’s something that I feel it could be better and you if you encounter a different model and if you’re intellectually and personally curious and honest enough that excludes a lot of people unfortunately because they they’ve they’ve driven by fear and they’re driven by by a negativity but if you have enough positivity and you encounter another model you will evaluate it and you will eventually if it’s good you will adopt it probably you will forget where it came from but you will continuously and I think this is this is my hope for people when they travel they encounter a different situation and travel unless it kills you from diseases from danger but I feel that’s relatively rare it makes you a better person because in variably you’re being exposed to things that challenge you to the core it’s a lot of people who went to rare religious upbringing or religious school they they think their religion is the only one that exists and the others should just die out right that that’s ridiculous but that’s kind of what they learned from school maybe it wasn’t told that way but maybe implicit it was given that message and then they go somewhere where there’s another religion and they realize that religion must work to some extent as well because you know people live somehow and the religion is a part of that and there’s all these these these models that we stack on top there’s a lot of small values that we stop on that we stack on religion and once you go out there and evaluate all this and our careers are not just in your in your in your little small minded view of the tourism ghetto I think this is this is beautiful it brings out people’s personality and they get more things to decide about they don’t have to be left or right or I meant with this party no they can just choose from any number of things that fit their personal mental model and makes them a better person yeah yeah I very much agree but the only thing which is very which is crucial that you would need for that is to have an open mind and I think that’s that yeah and I think that’s where most people might have a problem I think but it’s I think it’s like that it’s like when you start drinking wine you hate it but then you you drink it for a while you’re like you can’t distinguish bad and good and eventually you become really interested in expensive wines that used to be terrible in taste to you 12 months ago that’s a that’s a very interesting analogy but well yeah I mean we grew up with a close mind I mean it’s certainly genetic to an extent but it gets better as we get older now well um potentially you would hope you would hope so yeah you would hope so but I I think we as you say I think we are we all have to a certain degree we all have a closed mind so so so the question probably at hand would be what does it take to for for your mind to open up because because honestly I know I know travelers who have been to probably to all countries and they are very narrow minded and you would and you and you would and you would say well one of the best ways to open up your mind is to travel but if if if you’re not into opening your mind then then you you can perfectly travel your whole life and you you you would not become an opener person you probably would not become a wiser person I think it really depends on yourself on the other on the other like in Madagascar talking about Madagascar I remember when we were kayaking down the river we we stopped at a very small it wasn’t even a village it was like a settlement a few huts and we with the guide we we went into this settlement and we talked to this really old she didn’t know her age but she she assumed it was night either 92 or 93 years old and then we we talked to this lady and she was a very wise woman and we find out that she had never left her settlement so so then I realized like I’m talking to someone in in 2017 who has never seen a car who has never been to her own capital city she has never seen traffic she’s never been on the bus or a plane or she has never seen the sea she like the only thing she knows is is this like that her view she had a really nice view on the river and a few mountains and that’s it and she every few days maybe there’s a small boat passing by and that’s that’s her only contact with the outside world and then and then this woman has a very very wise thoughts and view on life and I’m like okay she has never and my remember this is the second last country I was about to visit so she was my complete opposite in a way in let’s say in a way of traveling and I felt really humble I was like this woman is very open minded she can talk about anything I want within a certain what within a certain frame of course but and and she didn’t have to travel for any of that knowledge she just she and she met very few people in her life it’s probably all mostly her family and maybe some neighbors but which were already far away because there was no no other house inside so the settlement was her family basically and and I was completely I was really I still remember this lady because I was so impressed like wow so to go back to your question yeah sure we can develop we can we can grow and hopefully when you’re older you’re wiser but do we need to travel not necessarily yeah you’re disproving our point I’ll mess but I’m sorry it’s the no it’s good it’s it’s the in my mind it’s the exception to the role but it doesn’t mean I haven’t really figured out how does how people go from from developing wisdom but so you need to have the motivation that you think it’s important you need to be interested in and you need to have the abstraction layers so you need to figure out what is a good solution right for these kinds of problems and I think we all intrinsically do this but some people immediately like you said they strike us as wise and old age and some people don’t even if they’re I don’t know their PhDs they’re professors but they don’t strike us as wise they’re clearly knowledgeable about a couple of subjects so but maybe many subjects but typically it’s it’s focused on a certain on a certain topic that’s at least my observation and the wisdom is when you abstract it out into further topics so you you’re more generalist again that’s maybe not necessarily true and the way you get there I mean I honestly don’t know what what is that that motivation but but wisdom I mean there’s a big five or the big five the opi there’s an openness indicator and the big five in the psychological analysis there is an indicator for wisdom or for motivation to be wise and then at an older age to get there a lot of people not interested in this it’s a good question I feel there is a path out there it is there’s multiple ways to to travel on this path and it depends on your motivation depends on your genetics depends on what’s common in your culture you know what’s easy for you to travel not travel mentally not necessarily in as a person I still feel if you take a lot of people if you take a hundred people and you take them to a hundred different countries I always say this is when people go crazy on on Twitter in in San Francisco I say why don’t you just move to Ethiopia give up everything you can’t take anything not even your phone just live there for two years and tell me two years if you have the same opinions and I almost guarantee them they vote right maybe some will because they hated everything and they shut down but 99 percent will change so I feel like that is the certain experience is kind of like school you can you can they have an impact of people not on everyone the same way but you usually after 12 years of schooling you know how to write some people don’t and they will be geniuses you know they’re like Richard Branson but but writing wasn’t their thing maybe that’s that’s what we said the wrong skills but I think if you take a certain number of people on the same level of experience as a natural travel is a wonderful tool definitely not the only one 99% or 95 whatever the number is will create this understanding of other people but in a in a good sense right in a not in a just richer signaling way but in a way that they truly try to understand other people because it’s in that one good that’s what I’m coming from yeah uh this is the tricky topic you know I didn’t know I’m gonna arrive at how do how do we become wise no no this is this is the I don’t I don’t think this is tricky I think it’s very it’s really super interesting yeah um but yeah well we can talk all night about this but I want to let you go because uh no no no but but I have no no I’m not I’m not in a hurry at all so I don’t care but um uh I’m so we don’t have much time left okay well I didn’t expect us to end up in this discussion before same here same here but here’s the good news we can pick it up next time maybe we can actually prepare um read some research um educate ourselves get a little bit more wise and then you know map out the chart how travel makes you wise or maybe it doesn’t maybe if you just assume oh I believe it does yeah yeah yeah I think it’s gonna be very good very good topic for the next episode as I said before it it does if you if you allow it to yeah there’s more to it for sure and I totally agree what you said before you you send 100 people to whatever country and for a year or two years or whatever and they will come back a broader minded person a better most most of them most of them yes actually the thing I wanted can I still say something or yeah yeah yeah yeah of course well the thing because it’s a little bit in this line but when I was uh when I was younger I I I half jokingly said that uh because I was when I was at high school I was the only one not to go to university because I thought I’ve been in school now for 15 years I need to first see the world and travel whatever and then then I will decide what I want to do in life and study or whatever um and they thought back then that was really weird I mean you were supposed to go to university after high school full stop uh so I told I jokingly said if if if one day I become a minister of education in my country uh I will make it compulsory for uh for people who graduate high school to I will prevent them from going to university I will I will force them to to first do you know work or travel or do something completely different and then decide what I want to do in the lives and then they can pick up uh you know studies or they can they can continue working or traveling or you know because I was convinced that that this will this will have a much bigger impact than than than going to university straight away because you’re in a protected environment in school right you’re you’re half detached from the real from the reality the real world um and and I’m really happy that I see like younger people I see now they often take like a gap the name is now a gap here they often take a gap here to to do exactly that to to to do something else after high school and then uh you know evaluate and decide what they want to do in their lives and I think this is a really good development yeah I think we there is there’s a lot of potential that we based a lot of human potential that out there because we sent them through this idea of 100 years ago when we invented schools and colleges that we streamlined them to become industrial workers now they are intellectually or like you work with your mind industrial workers where you still have this this time um allotted to it and it gets longer and longer and somewhere the people are still not ready it seems so they need to be 40 now to get any decent job and soon it’s going to be 50 so I mean at one point they’re going to be 80 and before they have a decent job that has any demand to it right or isn’t just a simple job so the there is a there’s a big thesis out there and Peter Thiel has obviously popularized it here in the US to to get people actively out of the university and get them into like a starter just like a one or two year accelerator program things would they actually can do something before they engage in what I what I want to do for the rest of my life through I think because we have pushed people into this mindset now it’s over people are like there is nothing that I want to do for the rest of my life I do things for two or three years and I go to the next state which is easy in America but it’s troublesome in Europe I think people haven’t fully grasped how the economy in the world has changed because in Europe you are supposed to have that mindset in Japan and you know China they still kind of live in that world so it’s going to be interesting how they react yep anyways Boris that was fantastic we covered so much stuff I could could really see your your your personality shine through that thanks for doing this thanks for taking the time and I’m really excited to maybe hear more stories from you next time I learned a lot just dropping a line you know to find me and feel free to to invite me over it would be my pleasure absolutely absolutely looking forward to it me too Boris talk soon

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