Home Travel Travelling To 101 Countries – My BHAG

Travelling To 101 Countries – My BHAG

(A how-to guide)

by Robbie Dellow
India during ruble note changeover

Photo : India 2016 currency demonetisation. People queuing to retrieve maximum daily limit from local ATM's.

Everyone should have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). My BHAG is to visit 101 countries in my lifetime.

Being in my 50’s, and having already been to 96 countries, I feel confident enough to say I am well on target to comfortably achieve this feat. Sure, Covid has thrown a (temporary) spanner in the works, but at least this has allowed me quality time to create this website and the NoRuleBook set of ebooks. If you look hard enough, there is always opportunity in the midst of chaos.

The spark for my audacious plan to visit 101 countries started in my teenage years when I learned, from a ‘world-flight’ board game, how much wonder the world had to offer. Subsequent reading about amazing places, and how others live, opened up my eyes to what was on offer. My first travels were in my early 20’s with short trips to Australia and Japan with friends. These early trips  involved lots of partying interspersed with exploring. I was hooked.

For the next few years I worked hard to save for my first, of what would be many, overseas experiences (OE’s), This first OE would involve a one-way ticket to Europe with, an as yet, unknown return date. Apprehension and nervousness racked my body as departure day drew closer. This was happening.

Saying my goodbyes to family and friends (this was a pre-Internet time of sending letters, not emails), was when it all hit home. I knew that I would not see or hear from them for months. But I had to test my wings (so as to speak). My first stop was the East Coast of USA, and I had a flight out of Toronto, Canada 4 months later. That was my rough plan – which was more of a direction than a plan. Incidentally, this style of ‘casual’ travelling, rather than a strict tourist  itinerary, would be my modus operandi when it came to all my future travels.

 Fast forward 4 months and I arrived in amazing London. This was where the one friend I had in all of Europe lived, so I initially stayed with Garry. He was such an amazing host that he even got me an IT job at the bank he was working for. Three months turned into on year, then I relocated to another bank, and before long I was overstaying my 2yr working holiday visa. Whoops! To be truthful, I didn’t mind the 10yr ban, and the free flight home to New Zealand’s summer, in time for xmas on the beach.

 Now fast forward another six months, and with winter approaching, I was ready for yet another big adventure. This time I wanted to experience all that Western Europe had to offer, so I bought a one-way ticket to Germany and guesstimated I would be away for 6 months walkabout. This time I was to travel the first few months with best friend Pete. We travelled so casually that we even once rolled dice to determine which European country to visit next. This was living free. I was hooked. Pete went back to New Zealand and I charged on alone through Scandinavia and on to the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and last, but by no means least, Estonia. It was there in the lovely old town capital of Tallinn that my glorious 9 month travels finished, rather abruptly. You see .. I unexpectedly got a (gulp) job. I was headed to Tokyo!

Living and working in Tokyo was comparable to the old saying of  ‘burning the candle at both ends’ – hard work but also wild fun. I contracted there for 9 years in total, but I set a ‘rule’ to myself that however long my contracts were for, I would take that same amount of time off to continue my travels, and get a good work/life balance. This enabled me to see more of West AND Eastern Europe, and also most of Asia. 

I can now say I have been to every country in Europe, with the last country I visited being the very Soviet feeling Moldova. Interestingly Moldova has the largest wine cellar in the world – an amazing 120miles of wine cellar holding 2 million bottles!  As of this writing, I have completed 3 x 9 month trips in Europe plus countless other ‘smaller’ European trips. I do find most people say that have travelled all over Europe when they really mean Western Europe, whereas I do find Eastern Europe has so much to offer, and I find I feel like an explorer, rather than the feeling you can get when shuffled around the crowded tourist sights in the west. Personal favourites in Europe (I get this question countless times) are Poland, Estonia and Spain. Wanting to see much more of Russia soon is in my firm plans. If you haven’t been to Europe, please do, and make sure to get off the beaten track. Sure Venus, Rome and Prague are must sees, but equally stunning sights can be discovered in far-less-touristy towns.

Similar comparisons can be made when foreigners go to USA. I have heard the ‘I’ve been to most of USA’ comments made, only to find that said people flew in to LA and ventured as far as Las Vegas. Plleease venture further! USA has so much more to offer than just California and Nevada. Go deep into USA and you will find lovely friendly folk and see many interesting sights. Plus not everyone easts burgers in USA, so be adventurous and find those yummy local food haunts. Oh and try real BBQ, nothing like the Australian/NZ grilling that they call BBQ. This is low ‘n’ slow real delicious cooking! I have now been to 46 of the 50 states, so have much more exploring to do in USA. Good Ole USA!

Asia offers as much adventure, discovery and tastes as one can handle. Throw yourself out there when visiting Asia, and the continent will welcome you with open arms. I have spent pretty much one month (at least) in most of Asia’s countries (sometimes much more) and my highlights would be :

Hiking adventures which have included up to Mt Everest Base Camp and a week long hike in Burma sleeping on mud floors of local’s houses. Playing cricket against a Rajasthan team at the Pushkar camel festival,  in Indian. (It was even televised nationally). Staying in a $2 a day air-conditioned/cable hotel well off the beaten track in picturesque Vietnam. (I jumped off the train at a random stop after rolling a 4 on my dice (4th stop get off).

When going there, be adventurous and feel like a traveller.

South America was another 9 month expedition I tackled. This was in 2010 and I have fond memories. Highlights there would be hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, flying over the Nazca Lines and travelling the length of the Amazon on a rickety boat. Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina (everyone loved Buenos Aires) were favourites of mine. 

Other trips have been 9 months travelling from Cuba down through the Caribbean as far down as Venezuela. One would assume you could island hop by boat, but not so. Needless to say this expedition involved many Air Caribbean flights of varying standards. Highlights would be walking the length of Antigua, and also meeting members of Barbadoes best steel drum band.

The more one travels the more it gets into your blood. I know it makes me much more rounded as a person, and helps make conversations very easy to strike up with foreigners. Travel gives so so much more than just the ‘photo opportunity/selfie snaps others grab, only to run to the next photo op. Create stories and experiences and leave the famous snaps to the countless images on the internet. For all the money I spent on walking the globe I feel it has been paid back in so much more than if I had bought, and collected, ‘stuff.’ 

Readers would love to hear your travel adventures. Please send your short story and images to hello@norulebook.com so I can include it as your article, on this NoRuleBook website for our website readers. You can then share with your friends and family too.

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