There's a popular game these days. It's called going to every country. And it seems to be getting popular every day if you have a look at the increase in number of the members of Every Passport Stamp group on Facebook or the news about someone being the first, youngest, fastest etc. to be to every country.
I'm playing that game too. However, my reasons for starting the game is quite different than all the others. Most of these people are doing it out of a sense of curiosity, to get to know and learn about the world or for pleasure; others are doing it for a sense of boosting their ego, or just out of competition. Most fund themselves, have no interest in self-promotion; others, wanting sponsors, attach a meaning, a cause, a concept to it. (eg. Graham Hughes for Water Aid, or Cassie de Pecol who wants to save the planet, promote peace through tourism. Thor for the Red Cross etc.) Yet others, turn it into a travel business, they call themselves travel influencers. (eg. Jessica Nabongo.) Some like Cassie fall into both of these categories.
As for me, I did it the other way around. I had the cause: I wanted everybody to be able to move freely on the world they were born. We are all born on this world; and we all have an inalienable natural right to go wherever we wish without the need for papers. I hold this truth to be self-evident. Unfortunately, most people do not. Because that's not what we were brought up with. As in Colin Blakemore and G.F. Cooper kitten experiment they are blind to vertical lines whereas they see imaginary lines perfectly well! Questioning the status-quo is not easy; it's not something we do regularly and out of the blue. I did because I did two round-the-world tours on a Turkish passport and especially in the second one (2008-2009) I was faced with ridiculous visa requirements one after the other. And even I came to that conclusion only after travelling to more than a 110 countries. But once you start seeing the world through that lens of birthplace racism, there is no going back. The injustice of it is just so crystal clear before your eyes. So I decided to embark on this mission to every country in order to burn all my passports in the end. As a protest against this birthplace racism.
Why do I do this? Because I know what it is to be discriminated against. Because I suffered a lot because of that birthplace racism. I felt like a rat being made to go round in a maze when they ordered me around for such and such papers in order to issue visas so that I could go someplace. So I can understand any migrant wanting to go someplace. Mind you, I did not suffer anywhere near where most migrants are suffering these days. I had the finances and the qualifications that embassies look for to grant you the right of access to “their” territory. These grants are called visas and you pay dearly for them. And what are the visa requirements based on? The place you are born. The enclosed area that is defined by borders drawn by bloody war or bloody politics. Hence, it is birthplace racism. What's the difference between visas and segregating people according to their skin color? I wish to put an end to this global apartheid.
“The entire immigration apparatus is based on the presumption that we know where people belong and we need to legislate their mobility.“ Aviva Chomsky
I want a sponsor too. But I have no glossy photos which seems to be a must to attract sponsors. In fact, I generally do not take photos. I do not carry a camera and go around flashing it like a tourist. At most, I sneak some photos with my cell phone.
Most of all, what I preach does not align with the interests of the travel industry. As for the media... I've tried contacting them, reaching out through emails and social media, either I was quite unlucky that I couldn't reach anyone, or they are not really interested. So no, I don't have, let alone a million, even a thousand followers either. I'm still looking for a sponsor. I'm looking for someone, some company to support me not because I can provide them with anything in return, but only because I have a just and important cause.
Graham Hughes has been to every country without flight. Thor has not liked or approved of the rules of the game Graham played so he came up with a different definition, putting restrictions of not flying at all until the end of the trip, and a 24 hour rule in each country. Well, Guinness is no authority on travel, but if they recognized Graham to have been to every country without flight, it's good enough for me. As far as I'm concerned Graham is the first person to be to every country by land. Still, I have no problem with Thor's claim to be the first to every country without flying. It's something petty, totally unimportant. What difference does it make to me if the name to be the first to every country by land is Graham or Thor?
Sure, Thor's task is more gargantuan and taxing, it takes more stamina. Thor criticizes Graham for staying so little in some countries. But then again, I call that “the magic 24 hours.” What's the merit of 24 hours? I find the claim -that putting a 24 hours criteria in a country makes one superior to others- to be ridiculous. You may get something profound in a place even in 2 hours or even half an hour for that matter, which some people might not get staying for months in the same place. Or even passing through 7 countries a day... There's nothing wrong with it; if you personally got something out of it. Of course better if you can share a piece of wisdom, some insight after it. It's the experience that counts, what you lived, what you felt, what you learnt.
Then there are others who criticize people flying to places, staying a day and moving on. As I made it clear, I don't have anything against travelling for 24 hours to a country. I have done that in some places after I started this #Mission2EveryCountry. I'm not travelling everywhere because I wish to, it's a mission to be completed so as to burn passports in the end. Anyway... Everybody to his/her own game.
Thor was asking himself if he was a fraud. But concluded he wasn't because 5000 people have climbed Everest whereas there are about 300 people who have been to every country. And he was saying he is to be the first "in history." !!
I don't want to burst their bubble, if thinking that way makes them happy, gives them a sense of meaning to their life, it's no business of mine to contradict. But I don't understand this need of such big words. Someone else was saying he felt privileged to belong to a club of a hundred people in the history of humankind! What's our history, how long have we been around? It's just so short. Besides, a century ago there weren't countries like we know today. So who was to go to every country? Even if there were countries, people simply didn't have the opportunities we have today. It's just recently that we have these commercial flights, even the buses and cars to make it all possible. So now more people will be joining the "club", with the numbers multiplying exponentially.
I was the first person in Turkey to do a round-the-world tour backpacking. The year was 2001. Now there are handfuls and the number is growing rapidly. Being first is nice but it just means you were born early enough and had the opportunity, that's it.
Now I have raised the bar, they'll have to do one round the world by land one by sea one with family in order to -take your pick- “reach” me, “compare” “compete” with me.
While I'm proud of my three round-the-world tours, there are old grannies who have circumnavigated the world 18-20 times. On cruises!
So what should be the real measure?
Now Thor becomes the first to go to every country without flying and staying minimum 24 hours, soon somebody else will come and will do it in a shorter time, somebody else will be younger, etc etc. Someday somebody might even come up saying he's going to every country and will be sleeping with a woman from every country. Then they'll be arguing if the woman has to be born in the country to "count" or if it's fine if she has citizenship or holds a residence. (Actually, after writing this, I found out that there is such a person going for this feat.: Though he doesn't make it public. He confessed that the nationality criteria to “count” in fact did come up in his conversations. He is not so strict as putting a rule to sleep with the woman “in country.” That is, if he sleeps with a Greek woman in Tanzania, it “counts”. Counts as Greece. So he can complete all the countries and all the women separately. But does a woman who has Greek parents, who was born in Greece, who knows Greek, but who has lived almost all her life in the US count? Well, he counts it, but he feels guilty ;)
It's a game. Some people have more money, they play the game of going to every “territory" spending tens of thousands of dollars in order to get to some rocks in the middle of nowhere.
It's a game we're playing. And even though I started it as only a gimmick with the idea of making a statement about the insanity of statehood and its defining our circle of movement in the world, I have to confess it really has its charm and once you start you wish to go on to complete it. Just for the sake of it. I understand all that. And mind you, it's not going to be easy to burn my passports. They're very precious, being a testament to my life. If visas and stamps were not the symbols of birthplace racism they are today I'd have loved the collection.
We're playing a game. Sure, it's fun. But one should never lose sight of the fact that it's a game after all. Yet, for the hundreds of thousands of people who are faced with barriers to go from one place to another, for those who are faced with deportation, who are put in detention centers, who die in unimaginable horrible circumstances... it's not a game. For them, travel and crossing borders is a matter of life or death.
Let's choose life instead of death.
Let's choose life, even if that life is not ours.
Let's choose life and freedom of movement for those others who do not have the privilege.
Support my cause.
* Changing the Rules of the World-Politics Game