A bit of background for those who do not know Thor. Thor is a 40 year-old guy going to every country in the world (193+2), plus some more, he decided on 203 countries. His gimmick is he is doing this without flying. Ever.
Why did I need to add that “ever”? Because there is already Graham Hughes who is on the Guinness World Records for travelling the world without flying. However, Thor argues Graham flew a couple of times, back home and back to the place he left off. Even though Guinness had no objections to that and approved Graham's record, Thor says that does not count.
Where is Thor now?
In Hong Kong.
Stuck in Hong Kong.
How far is he into this project?
You want to know time-wise, distance-wise or country-wise?
Well, he left in October 3, 2013. So that makes 6,5 years.
He is in country number 194. That is he has 9 countries left.
Seems sort of the end of the road is close. Not really. All those countries are islands and with this coronavirus outbreak, every gate is closed; be it the countries closing their doors or cargo ships, the only alternatives to flights, not accepting any passengers who are not essential for running of the operations on the ship.
Thor is also trying to promote the message. “Keep on keeping on” and that you'll get where you want to be if you never give up.
That is a good motto.
Unless of course you are stuck somewhere where you don't wish to be, when you've got better things to do. When life is going on without you, passing by in front of your eyes while you wait for things to change, biding your time... No, it's not so good.
Biding your time when you are mentally at the end of your limits, when you have been like that for such a long time. Nopes, not a good idea.
You see, Thor has been stuck in Hong Kong for two months plus.
He's been stuck in Lebanon and other places too before. Waiting for visas. Hoping to get some access to some hard-to-get-in country.
He has had to deal with bureaucrazy too many times. He has had to do turn arounds and retrace his steps for tens of thousands of kilometers because there was no overland access to the place he wanted to go from the place he was.
I wouldn't want to be in Thor's place now.
Well, even he doesn't want to be in his place either.
But isn't it funny?
He has put all these restrictions on himself. 24 hours in every country. It doesn't matter if he has to sleep like homeless people out in the cold on the street, twisting and turning.
Ah, and of course no going back before the trip is finished. Well, this one he has to keep because he wants to be unique. He wants to be above Graham. He wants the grandeur. He wants to bask in the glory of being the one and only. Well... Even if not one and only he will always be the first. That's what he is after.
At the end of one of his posts, Thor says he did a Skype call with students in Hong Kong and he got asked the question “Is the journey more about experiences or setting a record?”
Thor just says: “Brilliant!!”
Doesn't answer the question directly. But I suppose when he says “Brilliant” he implies that it is about experiences. After all, we all know that that is the “correct” answer!
However, I'd say, if Thor was honest to himself, he'd admit that it is more about the record or at least finishing up what he started rather than experiences at this point. As it is obvious he doesn't enjoy being out there and would much rather prefer to experience a different life after so much time on the road.
But he will not tell you such a thing.
Actually, he will tell you he is doing other things with this project. He is inspiring people, he is showing people that you'll reach your goal when you keep hanging on. Like he answered the person who labelled his saga as a vanity project.
Well... I'd ask him:
“Thor... You want to give the lesson that it is ok to torture yourself by self-impositions which aim at grandeur??”
You know what would be so cool and really shoot Thor up to respectable status for me (not that he'd care to be respected by me of course but still...) If he could just go to every country and skip the last one. Even find the boat or transportation to the last one and not go. Or go and not stay 24 hours.
Like the great sailor Bernard Moitessier did in the “1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first non-stop, singlehanded, round the world yacht race. With the fastest circumnavigation time towards the end of the race, Moitessier was the likely winner for the fastest voyage, but he elected to continue on to Tahiti and not return to the start line in England, rejecting the idea of the commercialization of long distance sailing.” (From Wikipedia)
“One of the world's most famous ocean sailors, Moitessier had sailed for more than a year from Plymouth, England to the Indian Ocean when he inexplicably abandoned the lead in the 1968-1969 Round-the-World single-handed race. He sailed to Tahiti, dropped anchor and dropped out.” BoatUS
Sailing Inland & Offshore writes:
“For Moitessier, the race finished in mid-Pacific after he had passed the three Capes and crossed his outward track, leading, and with the hardest sections behind him, he decided to forfeit the race and continue into the Pacific again, to anchor finally among friends in Tahiti. His actions were never explained by the news media; they could not have been, for the voyage had always been seen by Moitessier as something other than a sponsored, publicized, competitive event. It was on the ocean, alone with his boat, that Moitessier began to regard this as a voyage that could not end for him with the reward of those whose values were not his.”
A voyage that could not end for him with the reward of those whose values were not his.
Yes, this is the important point. What are your values?
Unfortunately, for Thor, the values are his too. That's the trouble; that's the dilemma.
I wish he could be strong enough to give up these values.
It really would be to his advantage/profit. As a person. Make him grow as a person.
Sunk Costs Fallacy- Escalated Commitment
I know Thor is never going to do that.
But apart from that, he should still be giving up the project. If only to cut his losses.
On one of Thor's posts, Ric Gazarian commented:
“Keep up the good fight! Your patience is amazing!”
"It's not patience, it's having no other choice!" I replied.
"Going back at this point after investing so much time and effort would be such a downer that it is not really an option. Plus, obviously, having the right to brag about being to every country without flying is such a big deal to Thor to pass up."
However, if Thor knew any better he'd give the sunk cost fallacy some deep thought. Sunk cost fallacy makes you act stupidly. There is something called Escalation of commitment related to that. Which is "a human behavior pattern in which an individual or group facing increasingly negative outcomes from a decision, action, or investment nevertheless continues the behavior instead of altering course. The actor maintains behaviors that are irrational, but align with previous decisions and actions."
One can never get back the time, nor the money spent on some dream to pursue. So people keep playing, they keep on keeping on to avoid the pain of loss. Negative impulses are greater than positive ones. It is so designed for our survival.
However, for Thor, he shouldn't feel it as a loss. As he has greatly benefited from the experience already. In fact, he has benefited enough. But now, it is just costing him, taking away from him. Without adding any more value.
On his “You Are Not So Smart” website, David McRaney writes about the sunk cost fallacy:
“It is a noble and exclusively human proclivity, the desire to persevere, the will to stay the course – studies show lower animals and small children do not commit this fallacy. Wasps and worms, rats and raccoons, toddlers and tikes, they do not care how much they’ve invested or how much goes to waste. They can only see immediate losses and gains. As an adult human being, you have the gift of reflection and regret. You can predict a future place where you must admit your efforts were in vain, your losses permanent, and when you accept the truth it is going to hurt.”
There is merit in giving up. When you realize that what you are after is not worth it. It's called cutting your losses.
IT IS OK TO QUIT!
I believe Thor is now at a point where whatever he does, he'll be regretting it later in life. He will always wonder what if he had taken the other road, done the other thing.
If he goes on, he'll regret it:
I suppose by now it is clear that this Covid-19 is not as innocent as Thor was claiming at the beginning. Someone in his family or his circle might get sick. He'll be feeling the guilt of not being there for them.
Or suppose he completes the project and returns, but they have trouble having a child. Thor will be blamed. “You and your stupid saga...” I can hear his now fiance, future wife if be, saying.
Perhaps I am too pessimistic. I am a doom's day scenarist.
I really hope he doesn't hear these words but if he does, they will definitely hurt. They'll hurt much more than a stranger calling his project vain.
He will wonder if he should have gone back. Gone back when he was stuck like this. Instead of trying to push it through, waiting a pandemic wave to pass.
He will wonder if it was worth giving up his personal life for the glory of that Guinness World Record he craved so much.
Upon return, he will realize most people do not care at all. Even the ones who followed him back then, that is those who are applauding him now... They'll be long gone too, gone after their own life, or following a new traveller guru after Thor has finished.
At that point Thor will realize the meaninglessness of it all, he'll find life empty once again. He will realize that all these “rewards” he was after were not worth. That they do not give satisfaction.
Yet I know... If he returns home now, he'll regret it too. He'll always wonder what would have happened if he had grit his teeth and endured, what opportunities he missed.
I, of course, wish none of this happens. That the road is cleared soon, even if a month or two, and he goes on to complete t/his project.
It means so much more to him, I know that very well. I wish he finishes his saga, returns and has a happy life, basking in the glory and reaping the rewards of his efforts and “patience”. Unfortunately, real life rarely works that way. It never runs smoothly or as we hope it to. The repercussions, the unintended consequences of our actions follow us.
Life never matches with our expectations.
Even though, of course, it sometimes does surprise us and exceeds our expectations. Mind you, that usually happens when we listen to what it is telling us to do instead of persisting stubbornly on the path we are obsessed with.
The question is... Which one you will regret less?
It is said that at the end of your life, you regret the things you didn't do, not the ones you did. But here, Thor is not doing one thing when choosing to do the other.
Another thing that is said is that you never think "I should have worked more" at the end of your life. You wish you'd have spent more time with your family and for yourself.
So for Thor, I think the choice is obvious.
I know you want to keep on keeping on but life has a way of letting us know when to stop. It guides us, if only we should listen.
We are human beings who should be capable of weighing situations and changing plans.
As in Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”
"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run..."
PS: Actually, this piece was meant to be written privately to Thor. However, I couldn't find his email address on his website (he doesn't have it). So I changed all the second persons to third person and published here thinking it is also good advice or good food for thought for everybody.
PPS: Of course, for Thor to give up at this point, it would mean such shame and feeling of failure. So how to deal with that? How to get over that?
The Way Out... is hidden in the wind.
PPPS: If you think what I write is worth something, please support me on Patreon
Somebody has apparently called what Thor is doing “a vanity project” and he found it hurtful. I understand that very well. There is always someone who interprets what you are trying to do in a bad light and it is not nice. I've had my share of hurtful comments like I was waiting for applause etc.
Most “ordinary” people are not aware of what it is to be out travelling like Thor, they have never been out in the world like that. They do not know what it is to be away from your home for so long, to miss the familiar, to have to run after visas and arranging transportation day after day month after month year after year. They do not know what it is to not to be able to enjoy the small ordinary things of routine life. You cannot expect them to understand either. We all use guidelines based on our own experiences.
On the other hand, it is true that it is a vanity project. Every “every country chaser” is a vanity project especially those who do it publicly, publicizing, not privately.
Safe from mine of course ;)
Just joking... I mean I of course I keep my project out of the vanity travel projects but -apart from the likes of Anthony Asael, the Israeli guy who has been helping villages etc. or Sal Lavallo or perhaps a handful of other people's who do not center on themselves but their project- most world travel “expeditions” are vanity projects.
Thor says he replied saying:
““I have met with and promoted the humanitarian work of the Red Cross Red Crescent across 189 countries. In turn this has brought the movement more volunteers, more donations and more visibility. In addition to that I have shown thousands of people a world behind the cameras. A world where a mothers love to her child is no less across any border. The Saga also inspires many people to chase their dreams and motivates them not to give up when it gets hard. It is such a vanity project”.”
Well... Sorry but if you are after a Guinness World Record, that definitely goes under the category of a vanity project.
What's worse, there are now people going to every country twice; it is becoming a race towards vanity and stupidity.
Open Message to Thor
I had written this to Thor as a comment on his website last year. If he could do this, he could get out of the classification of a vanity project:
Keep on keeping on on your project. But please do NOT keep on keeping on the blind faith in the antiquated status quo of borders, people defined by the borders they are born into and their radius of movement on the earth defined by their nationalities and visas required from them.
Ahh... And I have a proposition for you. Would you like to take over my flag and burn your passports at the end of this trip? :)) I guess that would be too much to ask of you, I believe you cannot bring yourself to burn and destroy those passports which you have worked and suffered so much for. They are a testimony to your feat. Well, you can get the Guinness certification and burn them ;)
I know you won't be doing it, but if you did, I believe only then would you take your place in the records of humanity as a true pioneer. Just think of this... How would people who live in a borderless world and see this current state of the world like the way we see Apartheid or slavery today look at you and your project? How would those future generations look at you?
Someone in that distant future would be just travelling all the “countries” without the need to get any visas or cross any borders in no significant amount of time; s/he might even trace your exact steps, only without the visa and border hassles. How long would it take? Definitely less than a year.
What do you think they'd think of you? I'd say they'd think you a fool. So I'd beware if I were you, lest you go down history as a laughing stock while intending to be written as the biggest hero in history ;) Or of course there'd still be people who hail you as the greatest hero of your time because of your achievement. I believe those will be the minority though.
Homo sapiens is the most stuck-up name a species has bestowed upon itself. If there really will be a true homo sapiens in the future, I have no doubt they will look at us only as fools, hopefully they'd not only condescend us but feel pity for us too. Even though being pitied is not a nice thing either, under the circumstances, I suppose that should be a welcome judgement for us.
What has carbon gas emissions got to do with making friends? Nothing if you ask me. But for Gunnar Garfors they are certainly related. In a far reaching attempt to justify his excessive flying, he has come up with this idea/claim that when you fly to travel and meet people, you get to make friends with them, that means no wars or at least less wars, thus less carbon emission from warfare.
He has an excellent point, but mixed with ridiculous assertions, so I need to dissect t/his thesis.
In his piece “How travel can contribute to the green change” Garfors writes:
“If we travel differently and use our trips to exchange knowledge and establish friendships with people who live where we go, then travel can be a part of the green change as opposed to a part of the problem. Increased mutual understanding, more friendships and more trade across borders and cultures can and will reduce risk for conflict and war. Which in turn will result in reduced military budgets, fewer military operations across the world and therefore a big decrease in both fear and the perceived need to maintain big forces with their significant emissions.”
I was just so bewildered to read such a ridiculous claim! “Increased mutual understanding, more friendships and more trade across borders and cultures can and will reduce risk for conflict and war.” ???? This guy really thinks travel, especially his way of travel, going to a place for a day or two will increase mutual understanding and friendship so as to reduce conflict and war??? He really must be very very naive. Conflict and war are not caused because of un-understanding; even when they are, you cannot form friendships just like that. It takes a lot of effort and time to really connect and have a bond between people.
This is only sharing a moment, making a contact. Sure, even that is something. Sure, it is nice to have that feeling that you have touched the life of someone. Even for a fleeting moment... But that's where the magic is. The fleeting moment. Just wait until you live in close contact for some time with all those people you claim to have formed "friendships" when travelling! We see how long it takes you to get into a conflict of interest and fall apart. The fleeting moment gives you an illusion, an illusion of "friendship".
Relationships are not easy. Even among family, even best friends. People who are so in love with each other fall out so quickly. In a world where even mothers have difficulty in loving their children, this kind of “friendship” discourse is being a starry-eyed romantic to say the least. So much zero understanding.... after all these travels! I am amazed.
War is caused by politicians, by big, global corporations out for hunting and suppressing other people to make a profit for themselves!
Actually I know... It's not that he doesn't know, it's only that he is trying too hard to defend himself. He is not aware how childish he comes off.
“Which in turn will result in reduced military budgets...”
????? Even bigger question marks are necessary here.
This guy is trying so hard to clean himself and his conscience; there must be too many people attacking him for his carbon print. I understand why he doesn't allow comments on his website. I understand his need to defend himself, but come on...
Yet, I must give him credit. Because then, he makes a very very good point!
“But first; How much do wars and military activity pollute? I ask the question since the world’s defense and military organizations have achieved an exception from emission statistics. And that is by no means because they do not pollute. They have however managed to convince the world that their emissions are military secrets, and that they therefore must be kept secret, and not given any attention.”
This is the big problem. The bigger problems are hidden from our eyesight and hearing. We pretend to not know. We do the three monkeys. We did not see, we did not hear, we do not speak. These things do not happen (!)
“A reduction of 14 percent in defense activities will reduce the world’s carbon footprint with as much as the entire global aviation industry currently emits. But let me be realistic. There is currently big resistance to any reduction in military operations. NATO, with its de facto leader USA, would rather see that NATO members increase spending and buy more arms, something which will undoubtedly result in “enemies” following suit, and we have another vicious circle. Increased military spending comes with an exceptionally high cost to the climate, which will eliminate any emission decreases the world population manages to achieve through eating less meat, building in wood instead of in cement and steel and knitting our own clothes from wool instead of buying polyester. To maintain current military spending is in other words probably the most positive climate measure we can dream about in the short term.”
I am so happy that he is putting this in the front. This is a very important point. War is the thing people should be pounding on when talking about climate change, not our individual impacts. Talk about the big players. And believe me, for all his flights, Gunnar is not a big player in the field of carbon emissions.
“To maintain current military spending is in other words probably the most positive climate measure we can dream about in the short term.”
Well... we should NOT be maintaining, we should be striving towards eliminating this spending.
“While more travel between cultures can potentially reduce the need for armed forces.”
This is, once again, too much forced. “More travel between cultures” is not going to reduce the need for armed forces. Less greed, more pressure on politicians will. “Cultures” do not really have anything personal against each other. People are people. Greeks and Turks are neighbors and friends. Just like Indians and Pakistanis. Sure, there is enmity due to past history and conflict of interest, but it's the politicians who fuel the fears and hatreds. Without that, things would stay at the personal level and could not escalate. Politicians need to fuel fears and hatreds because that's how they stay in power. Otherwise, who needs them? Otherwise, how can states manipulate the public and rob their money? The money robbed from the public gets into the pockets of the politicians and keeps them in power. That's what the real fight is about. That and the grabbing resources by global corporations.
“Peace and stability are way too important subjects to leave for politicians and business people alone.”
Yes! So True. However, that's the status-quo of our world. Come and break the inertia. If you can!
“We need more “normal” people to contribute too, in the shape of open-minded tourists that seek unusual destinations.”
Again... Exaggerating what travel can do. Merits of travel. Just because he travels, he feels the need to.
On the other hand, there is certainly truth to that. We need more “normal” people, we need more open-minded people. They don't necessarily need to travel but travel to unusual destinations is generally a sign of curiosity and willingness to make one's self vulnerable, not fearing the different. Of course, I'm not talking about this every country chasers.
In his article “No, Flying Doesn’t Have the Worst Carbon Footprint” Gunnar writes: “Given my extensive travelling it may not surprise you that I am often accused of having the world’s biggest climate footprint.”
Yeps, just as I had thought. He is constantly being accused.
Understandable. That people accuse. Understandable. That he tries to defend himself. Looking for ways to defend himself.
“I got so much abuse over my flying that I eventually looked into figures.”
Ehh... I bet he did.
Then he lists all the other culprits, pointing fingers at cars and building houses with bricks and steel... Then comes the laughing out loud part!
“And let me not even get into the yearly climate footprint of having a kid, per parent (alright then, it translates into over 500 average flights).”
Seriously??? Are we going to stop having kids because of yearly climate print?? And how did he get this figure of 500 average flights??
“It might in other words make more sense to ditch the dog or to crash the car if your goal is to reduce emissions substantially, compared to avoiding a few flights here and there.”
Ahh, good thing he doesn't mention/conclude it might be more sensible to not have kids! Even though the way he reasons hints that.
In his other article “Comments From a Climate Culprit”, Garfors writes:
“But let me also touch upon something way more sexy: Reproduction. To raise a child in the western world causes an enormous carbon footprint, according to a 2017 study published in Environmental Research Letters. Having one child less will save each of the two parents as much as 58.6 tons of CO2 per year for the rest of their lives. That equals between 163 and 532 flights per year (depending on which of the four figures I use). And no, I am not suggesting that people should stop having children, far less that parents have their offspring murdered. It is just worthwhile being aware that having a kid contributes substantially to CO2 emissions, and that that knowledge may mean that more prospective parents want to persue another option. There are unfortunately a lot of unwanted children in the world, one possibility is to consider adoption and/or to become foster parents.”
I agree with his suggestion of considering adoption and/or fostering. This IVF treatments and the extraordinary amount of money spent on this industry is another symptom of our egocentric lives, wanting someone from “our blood”, this need of propagating one's genes... I wish people were more considerate of other beings living on the same planet as them. I wish money was not fuelled into such places but elsewhere.
“I am often confronted by journalists with my carbon footprint 'which must be huge as much as I fly.' With a job in public service broadcaster Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) I have a rather normal paycheck. Almost everything that I make is used for jetfuel, which leaves little money to spend on other ways of polluting the planet.”
Stop it Gunnar. Don't defend yourself. There is nothing to defend. Even if you had other ways of polluting the planet, your impact is seriously inconsiderable. Its our overall effect we should be considering. It's our lifestyles we should be questioning, not only yours. It's not you only, it's all of us who are responsible.
Making friends should be exercised on the upper levels. If politicians can manage to behave themselves, rein in their egos, then we might have a chance. We need to change this definition of Us and Them into Us + Them We are all in the same boat after all. If the boat sinks, we all sink.
Yeah, some later than others, but at the bottom of the sea we will all find ourselves. Not like Aylan, but washed ashore like these kids even.
“Gunnar has been to every country twice?!! Wtf!” was my reaction when I first read the news of Gunnar Garfors.
“No country deserves to be visited only once, and I decided to revisit every country in the world” Gunnar explains.
No country deserves to be visited only once?? What about “No country deserves to be visited for a day or two?”
“Another reason to do it is that people and places change, just like your hometown and the country you live in. That I have been in a country 15-20 years ago doesn’t exactly make me an expert on it anymore, if it ever did.”
Yeah, if it ever did! It's true people and places change. Yet, it is truer that you don't get to see much of that change in the short time you visit. What's more, you do not meet the same people so you have no way of knowing how they have changed, you can only observe the physical space. And, you don't really need to go to all countries once more to see the effects of time.
“Oops, I did it again!"
That's the title of Gunnar's announcement.
“The last two years I have visited the 20 least-visited countries on the planet. And many others. Primarily to research my next book which is due in April 2019, but during research I realized that no country deserves to be visited only once. So I decided to visit every country in the world, all 198, for a second time.
I finished on December 16, when I landed in Tallinn, Estonia after a little bit of a world-tour to ten countries on three continents in three weeks. No one else has visited every country twice, making this my tenth travel related world record. But that was never the motivation.”
Really?? That was never the motivation? It's quite difficult to make us believe that statement.
“I met people with incredible stories, saw jawdropping sites and sceneries and found myself left with countless unforgettable experiences.”
I wish we heard some of these incredible stories. Some insight somewhere. Again, superficial words. That's the trademark of “world travellers”, every country chasers these days. Look at them. All are trying to show off how great they are! They are in a pissing match.
So are we going to go for third and fourth rounds now? And then the fifth? Is he raising the bar? What kind of a madness is this? Do these people think they are achieving nirvana or getting rockstar status by crossing some arbitrary line just because they are called borders? When are they going to shed their society-imposed blindness, when will they see the pointlessness of borders and boasting about crossing them? I suppose it's too much to expect much out of this crowd who are so full of themselves; such monumental egos! I thought there was something wrong with me; I was asking “What kind of a psychological problem does doing three round-the-world tours point to?” But no, I realize I'm just so fine when I see these people.
Obviously they believe they are doing something special and/or becoming something special doing these “travels”. Otherwise, they wouldn't have done it or wouldn't be bragging about it like this. They think they are the greatest. While actually they are in a race to be the most stupidest (I know that's wrong English, I should either say “the most stupid” or “the stupidest” but stupidity of this size requires more superlatives, for emphasis ;) and they are not aware. The most stupidest to spend one's money and time on flights, visas and the logistics of it all for such short visits, what's more, to do it twice!
Gunnar says “Will I do it a third time? I'm not that innocent.”
What has innocence got to do with it? I suppose he meant to say “I'm not that naive” and used that naive in the sense of “stupid.”
In his blurb for his second book “Elsewhere” it writes:
“Garfors still doesn't think such world records count as travel, merely calling them records in logistics.”
Yeah yeah. Good for him he doesn't count world records as travel but records in logistic. But then one feels compelled to ask: “Why would you want to break a record and do it twice?” Also why do you then promote yourself as a travel guru? You may say he doesn't do that, but he is all over the media for what he has done and is seen as an expert in travel. I'm not saying that he is not. Just drawing attention to the essence. After all, he has promoted himself in the media with “Regardless of progress, I’ll publish photos every day on social media, using #everycountrytwice”, not #logisticsexpert!
“Normally he travels at a relaxing pace, taking his time to properly explore every destination and getting to know those that live there.”
So we are supposed to believe he normally travels at a relaxing pace taking his time to properly explore every destination and getting to know those that live there? Where does this guy find all this time? I thought he was working. Even if not, with all the running around for the records, how does he find the time to travel at a relaxed pace? How old is he anyway, how much time could he have spent in all these places? What's his idea of a relaxing pace and properly exploring a place? How does he get to know people who live there? I feel like throwing my hands up in the air and giving up. It's so easy to just shoot bullshit today, and people believe it. Without questioning.
To Gunnar's credit, he does not say “I am and will always be the first person in history to have been to every country twice.”
I said it, I mean wrote it to Thor too. He keeps iterating how it's never been done and he'll be the first in history. It's no secret he is fed up and finding it very difficult, and I suppose we are among the few who can conceive how trying it is what he's doing. On the other hand...
“Just think of this... How would people who live in a borderless world and see this current state of the world like the way we see Apartheid or slavery today look at you and your project? How would those future generations look at you?
Someone in that distant future would be just travelling to all the “countries” without the need to get any visas or cross any borders in no significant amount of time; s/he might even trace your exact steps, only without the visa and border hassles. How long would it take? Definitely less than a year.
What do you think they'd think of you? I'd say they'd think you a fool. So I'd beware if I were you, lest you go down history as a laughing stock while intending to be written as the biggest hero in history ;)”
Trouble is... These recorders get all the hype, all the attention. The people I look up to do not have their names all over the media, so many people do not even know about them. I wish, rather than the racers, Anthony Asael was known by everybody in the community. Of course I also wish that my project was more respected, popular and followed.
Gunnar can go to #EveryCountry twice and "make friends" because he has the right passport and the money. Thor can go to every country overland too because he has the right passport and money. Other people die to just move around the world they were born on. Not only because they do not have the money, but even if they do have some, they are obliged to spend it on smugglers as the Global Apartheid political system, the #EconomicApartheid we have does not allow them to get a visa and get on a plane. Because they do not have the right passport!
Let's not have HumanityWashedAshore
Support #Mission2EveryCountry to #BurnPassports to #EndGlobalApartheid.
When I saw these photos, I found myself asking “Doesn't this girl have parents?”
Then I asked more questions to myself: Am I just too conservative, too old-fashioned? Am I being over-critical? What harm does it do me? If it doesn't do any harm, why should I bother? Bother her or be bothered myself? Am I too judgemental? She is just having fun. She is young and quite attractive, it is normal.
Or is it? Is this the world we want to live in? Are these the things we'd like to promote?
"Oh, you are old and you simply do not get it. And yes, you are old-fashioned."
"Ok, I accept the 'accusation', I want to keep my old-fashioned ways, thank you."
I really find it difficult to grasp that her parents do not give a word of advice to this girl. I mean it's fine with me if they are fine with their daughter going for fame with half-naked photos in Baobab Avenue or holding seashells to her vagina, or exposing her legs and ass all over Instagram. I have a daughter, so I shouldn't talk big, I don't know what I'd be doing if my daughter turned out to be such a woman. I mean I know of course, I certainly wouldn't approve. However, I also know that I would let her be herself. I have had enough of my mother trying to leash me. On the other hand, I know that I'd probably hug a stone in my bosom and cut my ties with her if she didn't heed my words and our interaction became a zone of constant conflict. There is no reason why people with very different values and no respect for each other should keep a bond. It's sad but it happens.
I am cautious to judge Lexie with the yardstick of my years, she is too young to know much about the world or life. But her parents are supposed to know better, I'd suppose. That's why I find it difficult to understand how and why Lexie's parents support her. I wish there was an interview with them. Because it's not only their saying or not saying anything to such photos, I believe - I mean I may be wrong of course, but I believe there is strong reason to think that they are financing Lexie for this goal. Perhaps they plan/expect it to pay back; after all, they have a travel agency and their daughter is going to hold a Guinness Record.
No, sorry, I do not believe it when Lexie claims she works three jobs to pay for her travels. Call me a cynic, but I don't. How much can one be making out of picking up tourists from airports and guiding? Plus, in between all the rush of travel plans and traveling to every country. I believe her parents are financing her travels, for the most part if not in full. That she pays for her travels is total bullshit even if she might not be spending too much. I realize this is my personal issue. I have an issue because I have not been able to monetize all my efforts. I have not been able to make a cent. I know, it's mostly because I do not want to sell out my soul and become a peg in this cogwheel of travel industry. I cannot stand it.
Yet, I want to make money, I want to have a place in this world, I want to have feedback on my posts on social media. Well, actually I'm not sure if I really want that last one. I cannot deal with people. The less in my life, the better it is. Still... I need some recognition.
Okay, I was glad to come across these posts to see I'm not the only one. When I saw these photos I thought to myself: “Who on earth and why would anyone give photos in a bikini in the Avenue of the Baobabs?” I mean it is one thing she publishes bikini photos by the sea, by the pool or in a waterfall, but this is really something! You don't go to the Avenue of the Baobabs in swim attire. Sorry but Lexie is not traveling the world, she is just promoting herself as a model around the world
Perhaps what bothers me about Lexie is her motto on the main-page of her website.
“How can you change the world if you haven't seen it?”
This girl is definitely not seeing the world; she is not even looking at the world, let alone see it.
Because in order to see, you need to look first. And she is just looking at herself. Yeah, I'm not sure if she sees herself much either. Beyond the physical that is...
I am sort of blind. I do not see things around me. I am one of those people who looks but doesn't see. A friend may pass by me, I may even be looking at her, I may not see. So if I pass you by and don't say “Ciao” it's not because I'm ignoring you, it's only because I was noticing other small details in the surroundings. That's my trait. I see conceptual details, I look behind the physical.
I was going to title this piece “Lexie and Parents”, then I decided to change it. Because this annoys me more because it is associated with travel: This girl is not traveling the world, she is just going around the world holding a magnifying mirror in hand and looking at herself. She is just looking at herself, capturing images of herself and admiring herself in different backgrounds. She is by no means the only one, but she is a prime example. And she is soon going to be the youngest person to travel to every country.
I cry for the massacring of the spirit of travel.
I'll be gaining the wrath of “fellow-travellers” as if I already haven't. But as I have already done so, I can go on some more with my criticisms.
They call themselves travel influencers; what they really are instead is... They are a bunch of advertisement agents to get people to spend money on certain hotels, airlines and other travel related agencies, and gadgets.
Yeah, some do it well. They “hide” their advertisement within “best photos of the year” articles or they pretend they are making an interview with a hotel director or a tour operator. They “review” hotels and airlines making us believe it is totally their honest opinion even though we all know they have been sponsored and, even if indirectly, paid to write those pieces.
What real honest opinion would be is if someone is so jazzed by a hotel, airline, tour agency that they write and promote it without being sponsored. Those days are long gone now. Say good-bye. Only very few like me remain. And I am no travel influencer. If I wanted to be an influencer I'd be an un-influencer of this hype of travel which has become an industry. Travel has lost its charm and has become overrated with the traveller profile proliferating the internet today. It's nauseating, or at least unsavoury when travellers overrate themselves.
"With a membership of only approximately 100 people, it’s one of the most exclusive clubs on Earth. In fact, more people have been to outer space than have earned their way into this, the ultimate travel club..." Says Ric Gazarian in the introduction of his "Counting Countries" podcast.
I find it repulsive when you try to elevate your status with the number of countries you've been to. What makes it worse is that the majority of these travellers are none the wiser despite all their travels. It's all ego boost.
Especially for those 193'ers... They go in for a day and out, tick a box... Of course not all but for most of them, it is 80-90 % at the airport and on the plane, 10-20 % taking photos/videos and posting them on social media, 2 % is actually getting to see and do something in the country.
I don't care much and do not criticize the ones doing this for their personal satisfaction, but I sure take issue with people promoting themselves as travel influencers or going for records, because these people have an impact on society at large.
Apart from the travellers themselves, travel is really not fun these days. Travel in the 21st century is more about visas and air travel. Airports are not fun; when you get to your destination being hassled by poor locals trying to sell you trinkets is not fun. Having to adjust to a new surrounding constantly is not fun. But no one really talks about this stuff. Behind those glossy pictures you see all around social media and magazines, there is a stark reality. There is poverty, there is pollution, there is swindling, all kinds of scams and rip-offs, there is conflict, there is basically the dark side of humanity.
These photos are not mine, I wish I had noted who it was from; yet, I could have easily taken these shots myself. They are a perfect reality check, a complete picture of travel and the world, both in the literal sense and allegorically for humanity and media. It takes just taking a step back to see the whole picture. Yet... Almost no one takes that step back for the overview.
Travellers show you only the first half, they are all like “Oh look how wonderful I am travelling. You could be like me too.”
There is a reason for this of course: To sell. How can anybody sell any trip to the latter?
Sell, Sell, Sell...
I'm sorry to say that women travellers are the worse in this industry. They depreciate both women and travel.
Take the below example. I mean I'd understand it if it was some extreme adventure gear or something, some also become tools in promoting basically totally unrelated items to travel, like yoga clothing, watches, sunnies etc.
Emily Luxton is only one of such “travellers”, she is an “award-winning writer and travel blogger”! According to her website claim. Yeah, I have an issue with these people; more than that, I have an issue with the world who promotes and values such people. Where people of my kind have no place in it.
Emily talks about travelling deeper and slower. Good for her, but where are the values behind deep and slow travel that she reflects on her posts?
Emily says “It really irks me” for people saying they've “done” countries. Good, it irks me too. But what about herself? What she does also irks me. Using travel as advertisement. Talking about what one does, without anything of value.
I understand... I understand one needs to make a living. I realized I need to make a living as well. I had accepted not making money all this time. It's not that I am sitting on my ass and not doing anything. It's not that I produce nothing of value in this world. What I write may not be mainstream, yet, it has to have a place and value.
I understand this is the way our world works today to make money. But seriously... This advertisement thing, this relying on promotion, this “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” is demeaning for the people and it is shaping our character and way of interaction in an awfully bad way. Please... Please... Please reward people of value.
In the article “How the Internet Turns Shopping into an Obsession” by Lauren O'Neill, Oct 15 2018, it says:
“Many people, myself included, deal with consumerist impulses. It's one thing to buy a treat when you've been paid, another to spend hundreds of dollars each month on shit due to a combination of boredom, low self-esteem, and materialism, just because it's easy.”
I know many people have consumerist impulses. We are primed to that impulse by our environment, by everything we are surrounded by. Please suppress your consumerist impulses. Please make the internet turn virtue into an obsession. I do not know how you do it, but do it. Stop the promotion and talk about values and wisdom perhaps, talk about special interactions.
You are supposed to see these people travelling to these wonderful exotic destinations, read how wonderful things they did, have your mouth water with their food photos and try to imitate them. Perhaps then, all your worries in life will fade. You will be a new person. It doesn't work out that way. Becoming takes hard work. Being a full and fulfilled person is lifetime work.
Travel and travel influencers today are overrated. Where are the travellers of once upon a time? The real journalists? I don't want to say there are none, but they certainly are hard to come by.
Just to end on a positive note...
Johnny Harris from Vox is doing a good job with his Borders documentary. But he is no travel influencer. “One World Many Cultures” by Stuart Hirschberg and Terry Hirschberg is a wonderful book, but it's not a bestseller. Let's promote people whose work bring wisdom, add value to us and our world.
PS: I don't have affiliate links, I will not be earning a fee if you click on any link here. So please consider contributing to my project of going to every country to burn my passports to protest global apartheid and birthplace racism. Thank you.
I don't talk from people's backs; I talk in front of them. Unfortunately, that gets me into a lot of trouble most of the time. People don't like hearing about their faults, even if they know it is true. It's fair. And understandable. But I like to interact with people who are mature enough to take valid criticism and being straight-forward provides me the chance to separate those who can from the ones who can't (or the chaff from the wheat) in a simple, easy way.
Jessica Nabongo is aiming to be the first black woman to travel to every country. Someone commented “I have little respect for this.” He put it very lightly. I have no respect at all for this. I'll be telling you why:
First of all, I see it as depreciating women and travel.
Second, it's a pissing match with no content.
Third and most importantly, it's a game, and they are playing a game without being aware of it being a game.
And all the meanwhile being a nasty player.
I'll give some more examples and reasons of my criticism. In the Conde Nast Traveler podcast, Jessica says “I really want to do something crazy. But something I can say I'm the only person who has done this. So a little bit of ego here...”
A little bit? Sorry but it seems to be “a big ego here” to me.
Look here at Jessica's post titled “In Seminyak? Dash to Dash Hotel”
Advertisement, I understand. But it really makes me want to puke. “Bunny and I had a lot of fun” ?? Really?? It's so cheesy. Sooo cheesy. Are people who look at those photos supposed to think “Woow, how wonderful! Let's go to Dash Hotel in Seminyak so that we get to play with that red bunny and have a lot of fun like Jessica”? Do people really think like that? Of course this is the idea of the hotel's management, but come on... Seriously? Is this the kind of world we want to promote? Is this the kind of behavior we want to incentivize people to? What kind of a world, what kind of a humanity are we trying to create?
Okay, I confess; I've been a part of that world. When I first came out to do a round-the-world tour in 2001 in Turkey, journalists made me pose and I obeyed. I was a naive duckling just out of uni; I did not know the outside world back then. I lived in my cocoon. Enveloped by family, health and personal troubles and the protected world of the university. I was carried away with the pace my life got, puzzled and unable to adjust after the relaxed uni life. I have to confess I reveled in the attention even though I was uneasy with my photos being taken. And so many at that. I had had quite enough. But they called saying the photo editor was not satisfied and wanted some more shoots. I was at a radio interview, they wanted to do it right away, so after the interview I headed out to the park they suggested to meet. I didn't get to choose what to wear. I had a mini-skirt on that day. So this is my memory of those cheesy photos.
I can never do that now.
In “My Life is Not a Vacation, It Just Looks Like It” (May 25, 2017) Jessica writes:
“Life for me is experiencing new foods and new cultures. Life for me is learning new languages and arguing in foreign languages. Life for me is experiencing the world with my closest friends. Life for me is taking calls in Bali with clients in New York. Life for me is setting goals of reaching Diamond Medallion on Delta Airlines. Life for me is about dreaming and achieving the impossible, off-the-beaten path.”
Reaching Diamond Medallion? Thanks, not interested at all. I mean I don't even know what it is; I suppose it is something related to the miles you earn, and I'm not interested the least bit. What for? So that I'd have done scurrying here and there, spent time in the air? Experiencing new foods and new cultures? I do not care about food, I eat to live. As for cultures, I travel and read to learn about the world. Learning new languages is fine but I have no interest in arguing in foreign languages. Life for me is raising a child with awareness, spending time with my family, reading-reflecting-writing. Life for me is trying to change the system. Life for me is making the world free for movement. Simple. I have no glorious goals. I am so off-the-beaten path that no mainstream media is ready to publish anything about me.
On her post “7 Reasons Adulting is the Worst!” (May 19th, 2017) Jessica writes:
“... can we please just go back to the days of not working 40+ hours a week and having to be responsible for the lives of little tiny human beings?”
So Jessica wants her friends not to have children or not to be responsible for them! And what for? So that they can go out, hang out. Woow, good for her. I mean I would have understood it if she had a child and expressed a feeling of not wanting to be responsible for that little tiny human being. I understand that. We all sometimes wish to shed our responsibilities because we are so burdened by them. But asking that of others is just so ego-centric. In my humble opinion of course. Or if she had said she wished she could go back to those days. That would have been understandable. We all have nostalgia. But this is so immature. Again imho of course.
But I feel like asking Jessica... Can we please not share half-naked photos in hotel rooms, pools, beaches and claim we are travelling the world? Can we please stop such advertising? It diminishes women. It takes away the value of travel.
Every time I read such news of women travelling to every country with such photos, I despair. Despair for the state of the world. Despair that such things are valued and there are so many people out there following this.
Anybody out there to claim I am jealous? Yes, I am jealous; I confess. I am jealous that these women get tens and hundreds of thousands of followers while I have merely a hundred. But I want to make something clear: I do not despair personally; I have everything I can ask for in this world. I despair for the state of the world. I despair that messages like mine do not catch on.
My husband tells me people do not look at the message. He recently put up a photo of both of us on FB because I use his account and it is sometimes awkward to write as a woman with the name Carlo. My posts about borders, visas don't generally get any likes, one or two if they do. We got 40 likes on our photo.
Carlo says “Jesus had only twelve followers.”
“Yeah, he has billions now,” I commented sarcastically.
“It took thousands of years. You give your message some time to take hold.”
“I don't have thousands of years,” I laughed.
So shall I stick out my nipples too and post such photos? I actually considered it. I imagined what reactions it would get. It definitely would get a reaction. And that's the important thing in our age. Just as long as you are talked about. But neeaah, I won't be doing that. It's not me. Still, I might consider it as a last resort. If I do not get anywhere in a couple of years. Just to give it a try and see. Out of curiosity; as a test.
Or shall I advertise myself as the first Muslim Turkish woman? Sal Lavallo is a Muslim I suppose, there may also be some Turkish men who claim to have been to every country even though I know they count, let alone stop-overs, transits without even getting off the airplane. Anyway, definitely no woman out there who is Muslim (at least on paper) or Turkish.
Well... I'm not after such firsts. Not interested. I claim to be the first to go out with a meaningful purpose. To abolish visas and for freedom of movement. What is travel about? What are borders? What are countries? How are borders drawn but by bloody war or bloody politics? Why do we honor them? Why do those “travellers” who go to every country profit from it? Use and abuse it to their advantage? Is that what travelling is about? Is that what we should get out of travel? What is travelling for if not an understanding of the world and humans living on this planet of ours?
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
This is not a criticism of travel or travellers. I'm a traveller myself and have respect for anyone travelling for its own sake. Even for breaking a record. I have nothing against Gunnar Garfors who is the first and youngest hobby traveller to go to every country. On the contrary, I believe he is doing a good job on his website. I have nothing against Oysterboy. He is actually Jakob from Denmark. Calls himself Oysterboy. He is doing a very good job on his website too.
“My ambition once was to be the youngest Danish person to visit every country in the world. I failed. Presently 3 (viking) Danes have already visited them all.
My next ambition was to be the youngest hobby traveler to go everywhere. I failed again (Norwegian Gunnar Garfors beat me to it finishing at 37 years and 344 days).
My present ambition is to be the youngest hobby and family traveler to visit every country in the world. Hobby meaning I have a normal job and pay for everything myself. Family meaning that I have a beautiful girlfriend and two fantastic kids that I try to bring as often as possible.
Maybe someone will beat me to that as well. Flight tickets are getting cheaper and entry visas easier to obtain. Record or no record – I could not have dreamt of a better life than this.”
See? This is just reasonable and human. Portrays a nice human being. By the way, Jakob has some wonderful photos. If interested in photos, I suggest you check them out. (Take it from someone who has almost zero interest in visuals.) He has, even if not so extraordinary, stories too. Human stories. Ordinary life stories. And he tells it as they are, not pretentious.
Let's come to Garfors. “Hurrah! World Record Beaten” (February 4, 2018)
What's the world record this time? They “circumnavigated the globe via the six inhabited continents faster than anyone else.”
Gunnar writes: “But why the hell did we do it? I’ll let Ronald answer,” and continues:
“We did this to have fun, to inspire people to explore the world and to show that even big dreams can come true. Travelling 43,000 kilometers at an average speed of 750 km/h, with loads of good stories thrown in, has made this the ultimate boys’ trip.
But it wasn’t all fun and play. We also raised money for The Simple Drinking Water Foundation in the UK. It provides clean water technology to developing countries.
And yes, we have compensated for our CO2 emissions.”
I don't find their goals so meaningful but they are not claiming it is, they are not trying to portray themselves as something else than what they are. They are just boys having fun. And doing something good meanwhile. This is just fine.
But look at the fundraising campaign of Graham. He says:
“I visited every nation in the world without flying for WaterAid because Access to clean water should be a human right.”
Sorry, he didn't visit every nation for that. He did it for his ego. Nothing wrong with that. But there's everything wrong with using a charity or an organization to your ends. Well, or maybe there is nothing wrong with that either. After all, it was a mutual agreement and at least some people got a message and money has been raised for WaterAid even if not a lot. Perhaps it's a symbiotic relationship. Better than none. Publicity is important and one plus one makes a bit more than the parts alone. Still... Hypocrisy is wrong and bad. Just say you are also trying to raise money for Water Aid, trying to help a good cause while you are travelling. Like some marathons where you run and people donate to charities of your choice to support you. Then it's fair game.
Thor is at least honest in this sense saying that he wasn't into it much at the beginning but now he cares very much about the Red Cross.
Look at Cassie De Pecol... Yeah, she is licensing herself as a brand alright. Wearing cool dresses, showing off as if in a podium, showing off a camera. Then promoting hotels... Give me a free room and I'll advertise you on my site. Oh it's “Luxury Lodging” of course, who else pays, or rather can pay for such advertisement?
“A series of personal reviews of luxury accommodations that Cassie has been sponsored by throughout her travels.” A photo of her sitting in a bathrobe, with a flower in her hair, reaching out for the exotic fruit basket.
“I choose to live my life in a unique way. To live in iconic, low key lifestyle where I do what I want, when I want, and inspire those along the way.” – Cassie De Pecol
Yeah yeah, she chooses that! She does what she wants when she wants. Oh my God, what a respectable choice! What a perfect thing to inspire people to do. Just brushing aside the fact that many people do not have that luxury of doing what they want let alone when they want.
Going back to Graham... He wrote:
“This isn’t just about sending plumbers to the slums of India or engineers to rural Africa to dig wells, it is about persuading the United Nations and the governments of the world to prioritise the delivery of safe water and proper sanitation and to make it a basic human right.”
Really? Is it? Is Graham still promoting that message? Is he trying to do anything about the topic? Anything to persuade the UN? No, of course not. The Oddysey is finished, he has reached his goal, he no longer needs the anchor.
I'll still be banging about freedom of movement, ending injustice at birth, ending birthplace racism, ending global apartheid even after I finish my #Mission2EveryCountry. You think I'll ever stop? NO. I'll be going on about it -free movement on the world we are born to be an inalienable human right- as long as I have breath in me. Of course unless a brick falls on my head and makes me a completely different person. This is something I care about deeply, so deeply from the bottom of my heart, so deeply as to wish to devote my whole life to it. (Only second to my daughter and husband; naturally.)
Defining people by the imaginary line they are born in, what's more, defining their radius of movement again by that line is nothing but madness." Gülin De Vincentiis
Having an Issue
I feel bad, in a way, implying my cause is better; but I cannot help myself. Perhaps I am also the pot calling the kettle black. I feel bad about criticizing these people so harshly. But I cannot help myself with that either.
My husband asked how many travellers were heading for every country.
“A couple of thousand,” I answered.
“How many of those do you have an issue with?” he asked.
Well, just a couple. Basically those who are exploiting travel to their ends and promoting completely “wrong” values and messages. (Of course that's my wrong; and I'm totally aware that my wrong can be the right of others.) So as my husband pointed out... I have an issue with only a small percentage of travellers out there. It's just a couple of people among thousands. Unfortunately, most of them turn out to be females. I wish it was not so. I wish I didn't feel obliged to write neither this piece nor the other one.
Oh sorry, I actually have something against almost all travellers. What's that? None of them seem to question borders and nationalities. But I do not blame them. Coming mostly from Western countries, they have not been exposed to such racism to feel it on their skin. I did because I was travelling on a Turkish passport and because I was faced with ridiculous visa requirements one after the other. And even I came to that conclusion only after travelling to a hundred countries. Questioning the status-quo is not easy; it's not something we do regularly and out of the blue. But once you start seeing the world through that lens of birthplace racism, there is no going back. The birthplace racism, the injustice of it is just so crystal clear before your eyes.
But now, where does that take me?
Where Do I Belong?
On his FB profile Ryan Gazder says “A transcendental wanderer who can hold telepathic discussions with animals. Not so good with humans.” I burst out laughing when I read that. I am the same. I mean I'm not good with humans. But I cannot hold telepathic discussions with animals either, so he is much better off.
“I'm not good with humans but they give me headaches acting the way they do; what can I do?”
I smiled when I heard my other self, the one deeper than myself. I was just making myself a different species, different from humans. Or the homo-imbecilus as I call them. As for me... “I'm an alien. I'm a legal alien... I'm a Turkish woman in Rome...”
It doesn't rhyme with the Englishman in New York :(
But I'm truly an alien...
Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto... I'm not from this solar system. Not even from the farthest planet. I'm not even from this galaxy. I don't know where I've come here from, I don't know what mistake, what technical failure of a mother-ship dropped me here on this Earth, but I am here and I exist too. #IWantToBelong
Can I fit in? Can I fit into the traveller community? Unfortunately, the way things are, that's quite doubtful. They won't take me in as one of them. They won't interview me, publish me, back me up. They'll go after Jessica and the like. That's what sells. Who cares about a Turkish woman going to every country to burn passports to protest Birthplace Racism?
Actually my question should have been "Do I want to fit in?" The answer is simple. NO. And loud: NO! I have no wish at all to fit into a community who doesn't care about freedom of movement.
Yet... Yet I'm sure there are those among them, even if few, who might care. And this message is for them: Would you join me so we can be a community of travellers, or just a community of people upholding freedom of movement as an inalienable right?
There has been much fuss over Cassie De Pecol after she has been to every country and claimed to be the first woman to have done so. She picked up two Guinness World Records, other people picked up axes against her. She then “changed” or “corrected” her statement to be “the first woman on record.”
I have taken up the defense on that on behalf of Cassie. I'll continue some more:
If the problem is Cassie's claiming she was the first woman... First of all, we may all make mistakes, we all express things wrong sometimes. It happens. Even I -who claim to be a writer and who take pride in expressing things correctly, spending hours on a word if necessary- make mistakes. Or I shouldn't say make mistakes, but rather put things in a way that do not reflect reality completely. So I don't think Cassie deserves such a beating for that.
Do I think what Cassie did was meaningful? Not really. Still, what she has done is no small feat. We of all people, travellers that is, should know how exasperating it is to run after visas, how tiring it is to go to one country after another trying to catch planes so that the careful plans we have made don't fall apart. I think people are criticizing her a bit too unfairly. If it was a man, they wouldn't have been so cruel. I'll even give you an example.
Thor boasts on his main page:
“BONUS! Nobody in history has ever reached every country in the World completely without flying ;)”
He repeats the same claim in other posts too. But I suppose we all know about Graham Hughes here. How come nobody ever mentions anything about Thor's claim? I mean Thor mentions Graham in the FAQ but it is way at the bottom of the page. And why should anybody need to scroll through so many pages in order to read that? Given that most people are not so well-versed in world-travellers and may not know about Graham, wouldn't you agree that Thor needs to put a link to Graham every time he boasts “how cool it is nobody has ever done that!”?
“Once I learned that Graham had interrupted his project to fly home, fly on vacation and fly to get visas I saw the game as open again!” That's his argument. As Thor himself writes: “By Graham’s definition he has been to every country in the world without flying. I disagree and have my own definition which includes no flights. Sounds logical but it’s a debate with two camps.”
So Thor agrees and is aware that there would be a debate about his claim. So no, mentioning Graham on one post or two is not enough. Thor should give a link to Graham EVERY SINGLE TIME. And especially on the main page!
Thor can still claim whatever he wants, BUT people should know the whole story and be able to decide for themselves. I wouldn't want to travel like him and put myself through such long torture but I'm totally aware how Thor's is a gargantuan project, how much stamina it takes. So this is not to take anything off of what he is doing. I don't like it and believe it is very wrong when someone states his side only, making ignorant others swallow a disputable claim. That's it.
Even apart from the fact that Thor's is a more taxing project than Graham's, if I have to choose one, I'd choose Thor. I don't like Graham's style. “I am, and always will be, the first person to visit every country in the world without flying.” That's the way he opens up his webpage. There is a photo of him showing his muscles up in the air. He is the conqueror.
He has done some serious travelling and accomplished a big feat, nothing to say about that but hats off. But I have much to say about his ego. Plus, in his post on North Korea, he says:
“Anyone who has a problem with this can meet me behind the bikesheds after school for a damn good kicking. Be the first person to visit every capital city without flying why dontcha? At the moment I’m a year over schedule and stupidly over budget: I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
I understand why he comes off as defensive... because so many people criticize him for putting a foot in North Korea at the DMZ and checking it off his list... I understand his reasons very well. Still, there is a way to say things. (And it is interesting that I get to say this because I am bold and blunt and hear that said to me quite often. So if I'm saying this, it must be real bad!)
Anyway, I cannot bear reading Graham; but even though I don't follow on social media I follow and read Thor. (I'm not a social media animal, if I'm interested in something I go and check it from the source. And if I'm interested, I don't leave it with just a follow, I read and learn.) He is a much nicer human being in my eyes and I have to confess I feel so many similarities with his complaints about his project not taking off etc. I've been and am in his situation, that is trying to get recognition and sponsors. It's interesting that he has the same issues even though his news has been published in a hundred countries and he has support from big groups and has many friends. Which is unlike me and my project.
But when it comes to being disappointed in “no support, no interest” in such projects, even Erden Eruç -who did the first solo circumnavigation by human power (or if you want to put it in more grandiose terms you may say he is “the first person in history to complete an entirely solo and entirely human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth.”) He did this in a bit over five years and you have to accept that needs some special special extremely special stamina, strength, courage, endurance etc. etc. He has 15 registered Guinness World Records.- even he doesn't get enough attention or support. But of course he doesn't have boobs or a face that the media and advertisement world can exploit. Tough luck. That's the way it is. People who deserve attention and being listened to are ignored while so many people who spew out crap are held in the spotlight (By the way, interestingly and coincidentally, we have graduated from the same university and same department, Boğaziçi Mechanical Engineering. He is a Turkish-American.)
Going back to Cassie and her claim of being the first woman... Even in the Conde Nast podcast, they are saying Cassie is the first American woman. “It was actually on the heels of the American woman who became the first I think American woman to do, she claimed to be the first woman, which was not true at all.” (Let alone not mentioning the “first woman on record” debate and asserting she said something not true at all, I felt it unfair to Cassie that her name was not mentioned but only referred to anonymously. It would have been much nicer of Jessica if she just said “It was on the heels of Cassie De Pecol who became the first documented woman to travel to every country.” Then I'd have had more respect for her.)
Ms. Lintz who has criticized Cassie severely, felt the need to correct Jessica that there are other American women. In fact, most of the other women are American ;) And to be honest, I would have expected Jessica to know that at this point.
I didn't know about all the other women until I read Stefan Krasowski's post even though I had researched extensively. That was back in December 2015 when I started considering going to every country seriously. I had read about Walsworth on the Columbia Tribune piece “Audrey Walsworth, led by curiosity, only woman to visit every country” by Karyn Spory (June 16, 2013) It's quite ironical that that article puts Mrs. Walsworth as the only woman! And that was 2013. It's even more ironical that Walsworth in turn claims it's hard any other woman will be doing it. “With the world situation, there isn’t going to be another woman who’s going to be able to do this.” Those are her exact words if we are to take the reporting to be correct. It's an unending ego game, trying to one-up yourself out of the crowd. To get attention. That's what you need to do. To try to always stay ahead of the game. Cassie, who has been criticized for going to places without really seeing anything, in turn says of other women trying to break her record “with the possibility of seeing less and less each time.” It's funny. It's darkly funny.)
Anyway, after Walsworth I got to learn of Nina Sedano when reading “Chasing 193” and then I heard about Cassie. So there were only three women I knew of until recently. I thought I might be the fourth woman to have been to every country if and when I completed my mission. I wasn't boasting about it of course, just cautiously saying “I might be...”
Then I found out about the other women almost there. “Ah, so there are many other women! Good,” I thought to myself. I was wondering where all the women were. I don't care about being the first or fastest etc. The only reason I care about such labels to be somebody is to get sponsors to promote my ideas, that's it. Otherwise, I'm just fine being a happy and content nobody.
Shall I advertise myself as the first Muslim Turkish woman? Sal Lavallo is a Muslim I suppose, there may also be some Turkish men who claim to have been to every country even though I know they count stop-overs and transits without even getting off the airplane. Anyway, definitely no woman out there who is Muslim (at least on paper) or Turkish.
Well... I claim to be the first to go out with a meaningful purpose. To abolish visas and for freedom of movement. What is travel about? What are borders? What are countries? How are borders drawn but by bloody war or bloody politics? Why do we honor them? Why do those “travellers” who go to every country profit from it? Use and abuse it to their advantage? Is that what travelling is about? Is that what we should get out of travel? What is travelling for if not an understanding of the world and humans living on this planet of ours?
* The Pissing Match in Travel