Winners of the NomadMania Travel Awards 2023

23 October, 2023 | Awards ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ, Blog

Travel is not just about moving from one place to another; it’s about the stories we collect, the boundaries we push, and the connections we forge. Each year, the NomadMania Awards shine a light on these unique travel tales and the individuals who live them.

From those who have roamed every corner of our planet to those who capture its beauty through words and pictures, these awards are a celebration of the global travel community.

Let’s meet the 2023 winners and get inspired by their amazing journeys.


๐Ÿฅ‡ Biggest NomadMania Friends

Odette Ricasa’s ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ home in California is a shrine to 40 years of wanderlust. The first Filipino to touch all 193 U.N. nations, her adventures span continents.


Mikael Staffas ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช, amidst a management career, finds passion in exploring cultures. Annually, he’s off to four new countries, often with family in tow.


๐Ÿฅ‡ Against All Odds Traveller

Houston Vandergriff ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ is a travel photographer with a vision: bettering the world one snapshot at a time. Based in Tennessee and blessed with Down syndrome, he’s a testament to pursuing dreams against the odds. With travels spanning over 25 countries, 49 U.S. states, and all Tennessee counties, Houston’s journey inspires many.


๐Ÿฅ‡ Most Intrepid Traveller

Joy Ryan ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ s a 93-year-old adventurer who made history earlier this year as the oldest person to conquer all 63 national parks across the United States. This awe-inspiring journey was a remarkable eight-year adventure, shared with her 42-year-old grandson and fellow explorer, Brad Ryan. Hailing from Duncan Falls, Ohio, Joyโ€™s story is one of late-life wanderlust, as she went from never seeing the ocean or mountains at 85 to witnessing the breathtaking beauty of Americaโ€™s natural wonders. From the Redwood Forest to the Channel Islands, their Instagram-documented odyssey is a testament to the enduring spirit of curiosity and the joy of sharing unforgettable moments, often found right in the confines of their trusty car.

Joy Ryan


๐Ÿฅ‡ Best Travel Content Creator

Shiho Zekkei ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต a passionate traveller and accomplished writer from Japan, has etched her name in the world of travel content creation. With nine captivating travel books under her belt, including the acclaimed The Breathtaking Sights in the World I Want to See Before I Die, she has become a renowned voice in the industry. Beyond her literary achievements, Shihoโ€™s dedication to her hometown, Hamamatsu in Shizuoka, is evident through her role as a welcome ambassador. However, her wanderlust extends far beyond her roots. Shihoโ€™s Instagram account serves as a visual testament to her adventures, showcasing awe-inspiring landscapes both within Japan and around the world. Shiho is a must-follow influencer for travel enthusiasts seeking inspiration and wanderers seeking guidance.

Shiho Zekkei


๐Ÿฅ‡ Most Purposeful Traveller

After staying in a Tanzanian village where people had to walk far to bring home clean water, Charlie Christensen’s ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ founded the NGO Walking for Water and embarked on a philanthropic pilgrimage, walking from Denmark to Tanzania, to raise funds for public boreholes in underprivileged communities. Till now he has walked 13.000 kilometres from Denmark to Equatorial Guinea, never paying to sleep but primarily couch-surfing or camping in the bush. Ahead Charlie still has about 6.000 kilometers across the African continent to end in the Tanzanian village where it all started. His project has already funded a public water service for a Tanzanian village and another 64 public boreholes across Africa.

Charlie Christensen


๐Ÿฅ‡ Best Travel Book Author Award

A passionate traveller since early childhood, Boris Kester’sย ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ other dream was to be an author. He wrote The Long Road to Cullaville: Stories of My Travels to Every Country in the World, a riveting book about his travels. Many readers call it a travel thriller. In the sixteen chapters of the book, Boris shows his readers some of the most memorable places in the world and makes one think about the risk-taking that is inherent to travel and adventure. The book is breathtaking, impressive, funny, very adventurous and touching at the same time. Moreover, it is among the most travelled books on earth: it has been to 190 countries (early September 2023).

Boris Kester


๐Ÿฅ‡ Most Trusted Local Fixer

Fadi Assi ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡พ is a fixer and humanitarian from Syria. Originally from Homs, he worked in tourism before the war, during which he was kidnapped no less than four times. As co-founder of the Golden Team agency in 2019, he has been partially responsible for the return of tourism to Syria. Fadi claims his agency is now the largest in the country, and foresees further growth with his company reaching 20 employees; he also sees himself as a pioneer, opening destinations such as Bosra in Southern Syria for visitors before anybody else while insisting on authentic, people-based experiences. Fadi is also the Syrian representative of iCare, aiming to help Syrian orphans with educational and other programmes.


๐Ÿฅ‡ NomadMania Lifetime Achievement Award

Rauli Virtanen ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ, a journalist with five decades under his belt. From covering conflicts to visiting every nation, he’s seen it all. His newest book promises to be yet another riveting chronicle.


๐Ÿฅ‡ Biggest LPI (Low Passport Index) Traveller

Maliha Fairooz ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฉ is a Bangladeshi female solo adventurer who by the age of 31 has travelled to 100 countries with the 7th worst passport in the world. Maliha has been deported, detained, questioned, put in immigration prison, searched, interrogated, harassed, and assaulted, but none of these things has dampened her travelling spirit. She currently works for a human rights and democracy NGO in Berlin, whilst simultaneously creating content on Instagram and her blog, which caters to young people of colour with an adventurous spirit. Maliha is on a quest to visit 197 countries and decolonize travel in the process by sharing perspectives and stories of the places she visits from the point of view of a brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi woman.


๐Ÿฅ‡ Biggest Traveller Award

Anna-Katri Rรคihรค ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ is a solo female traveller from Finland. In 2023 she became the first Finnish woman and the youngest Nordic woman to visit all UN193 countries. She lives for adventure and wants to go beyond the ordinary to explore the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. On her social media, she brings unconventional destinations to the limelight but also shatters the stereotype that only men can experience adventure travel escapades. She has been living out of a suitcase for years spending more time on the road than at home. After finishing all the countries this year, she has been forced to stay at home for several months, but she is already planning new adventures.


The NomadMania Travel Awards 2023 showed us that the spirit of exploration is alive and thriving. These exceptional individuals teach us that travel is more than just seeing new placesโ€”it’s about embracing challenges, cherishing experiences, and connecting with diverse cultures.

Congratulations to each winner for their remarkable achievements! Their stories serve as an inspiration, urging us to discover the world with fresh eyes and an open heart.

Cheers to the boundless spirit of travel! ๐Ÿ™‚

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