Kuwait may not be large but it seems to have quite an active community of travellers and Bader is certainly no exception – he has travelled to half the countries of the world and details it all on his Instagram and YouTube channels. We have the pleasure of sharing his experiences with us today in his long, thought-provoking interview.
The Sphinx, Giza, Egypt
Bader, please tell us something about yourself, your early days and your first trips. How did your travelling “career” really begin?
I’ve grown to be fond of adventures and extreme action, all thanks to my childhood which included watching movies with such themes. However being born and raised in a small country surrounded by desert in the Middle East, I didn’t have many options in hand to live out my own movie, hence my love of cinema grew and my only escape to an adventure was if I can act in a movie! My focus as a child was basically to be an actor and a tv star (something that was a big struggle given the circumstances surrounding me)
However my early days of travel, I would say, started when my family went on vacations every summer across to Iran to explore! There was the first experience that I recall I got to experience travelling by ferry, road-tripping by bus between cities, and getting around locally by a motor taxi (motorcycle). We slept in cheap accommodations, hostels, and guest houses. The experience didn’t stop there, it included desert exploring, mountain venturing and swimming under waterfalls in the middle of nature. We met locals, shared meals and travelled together! All of these experiences helped shape me as the traveller that I am today; unconsciously, my family helped make me who I am – and I only realized this recently whenever I compare myself to other travellers from my region and ask myself: “How come I find this type of travel (low budget) non-troubling while others feel uncomfortable with it?” And that’s when I tap back to my childhood and realize I’ve done it as a kid when these things didn’t matter to a child; hence in my unconscious memory, I still find it a norm for a traveller to live these experiences.
The next experiences that followed were a road trip to Jordan and Syria, and later on, a camping convention for Arab scouts in Jordan followed by a school trip to Malaysia finally came my first solo trip at the age of 16 when I went to visit my sick grandpa who was getting his treatment in Germany. From there I travelled to meet my friend who was vacationing in Berlin and spent the rest of my summer weeks with him before I headed back to my home country Kuwait.
All of that was just me travelling as a tourist with a love of adventure and exploring.
However, my career as a traveller started at the beginning of 2020. That’s when I set a date to start travelling around the world solo. The plan was in progress since 2018 and was just an idea to be considered, back in 2016 – I left my job, took all my savings, and moved to California, USA to study filmmaking and pursue a career in the film there. Nonetheless, such a big step is not 100% guaranteed to succeed, so that’s when I put different plans for my future in case things didn’t go my way. Well, plan B was to travel the world and spend my savings on adventures and creating memories worth every penny spent, rather than spend my money on rent, food and films – with no big benefits!
I reset the count and when I was at 30 countries visited throughout my life, I decided on the 1st of January 2020 to start from 0 and count the countries that I visited solo with my own savings, and not count those paid for by my family as a child.
Diving in the Bahamas
Tell us about lesser known gems to visit in your home country.
This is a hard question for me. There isn’t much to do or visit in my motherland, unfortunately. Sadly a lot of the valuable cultural and historical destinations have been replaced. The efforts to preserve culture and history in my motherland are lacking. Yet I would highly suggest visiting Failaka “Ikarus” island but with a local or historian who has family roots from the island.
I’ve recently been there on a family trip (my family are originally from the island of Failaka – both my grandparents were born and raised there, and my father and uncles spent some of their childhood living there too) we planned a tour around the important parts of the island with a cousin who had valuable historical information and folkloric stories. Just a day trip with the ferry or so-called “resort” is not enough to know or experience the island. And for travellers interested in such destinations, I would advise they plan to visit soon before the island loses its value and turns into a big commercial project taking over the island, leaving no trace of its history or culture and heritage.
Ethiopia – Lake Assal
Do you prefer to travel alone or with someone and why? What kind of travel companion would be ideal for you?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I would feel strong travelling solo because it gives me more freedom and flexibility. Some of the trips I’ve been on with others (whether friends, family, or group tours) turned out to be a disaster and one of my worst travels; this is due to having different interests and travel personalities, which would make it difficult to come to a solid agreement where all persons get to enjoy the trip, and at some point, someone has to compromise. Yet travelling solo at some points is a disadvantage when you want to go on a tour or a trip that requires multiple persons to reduce the price of the trip, otherwise, you end up paying the full price of the total required passengers for the trip. In some destinations, renting a car to get around smoothly is better, and being with other travellers could help with the price and be beneficial. In addition to experiences which are more enjoyable with family or friends, like theme parks. So I end up not doing these experiences or not visiting some destinations; and prefer to postpone them for another time to save on my budget.
For a companion, I prefer someone who is super flexible to the point that knocking on a random cabin in the middle of nowhere to ask for shelter does not freak them out. Someone who would, during travel, removes all barriers and guards and just goes with the flow and accepts what the experience brings on! At the same time someone with a sense of adventure, energetic, and rarely says no to a new experience!
Have you ever been in an extreme situation? Tell us about the most exciting.
Yes, I’ve been to quite a few. I ventured into a famous and claimed to be the “most dangerous” abandoned hotel in Cairo due to the neighbourhood it is situated in, and that’s when I got in trouble with some locals in the hotel who demanded I pay ransom money in order to get my phone back! It’s a long story that I shared on a vlog on my Youtube channel, but the short story long was that I had to negotiate the price to technically “buy my phone back”
Another situation was getting into trouble with the local authorities within a few hours of arriving in the Central African Republic, in which they wanted me to pay a fine for walking 200 meters outside my hotel without any identification on me. Long argument and negotiation – mixed with my stubbornness – they confiscated my passport and asked me to visit the police station the next morning. There was when I had to negotiate a price to get back my passport!! Lucky for me the UN police were on site and they were Arabs, and they thought that the local police are acting ridiculously. They interfered and had their boss take over the negotiations with the local authorities. In the end, the deal was that in order to get back my passport I needed to stay at the station til the end of the day as a punishment. That was a total of 8 hours hanging out at the police station in CAR.
Extreme situations happen frequently and should not be eliminated from expectations during travel. They are bound to happen one day. For instance, I went into quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic once I landed in Sierra Leone due to a Facebook rumour started by one traveller. He suspected that one passenger from an Asian country could be infected just because he coughed once or twice on board. The story goes on and has more to it!
In South Sudan, locals accused me of being an English spy, and gave a hard time to my local guide, a just because I was holding my phone in my hand! I wasn’t even using it or anything! But they claimed that I was using my phone to record videos and spy on them!
Lately, I got denied entry to Cape Verde during a long series of travels from one country to another, hence being deported meant I had to go back to my home country! But the airlines I used to travel to Cape Verde didn’t fly to my home country during that season. So when I returned to the original departure airport (in Morocco) I wasn’t allowed to enter Morocco because I’d been deported and I had to fly from the airport back to Kuwait, but again, no direct flights were available that season! So that was a mess even in the airport in Morocco! I was denied entry to Cape Verde for no valid reason either! Their comments on the paperwork were that “citizens of Kuwait are a threat to Cape Verde”!! But the facts are that Kuwait has donated millions in money to help aid Cape Verde! So how are we a threat?
What is it about travel that gets you excited the most and what keeps you going even when it is tough?
Exploring new destinations and having the experience in person gets me excited. To learn about a culture or the story behind historical locations and events by physically being there is far more interesting than reading books or watching a documentary. Learning that reality is different than what is projected in various media platforms is what keeps me going even when it gets tough!
In fact, when it gets tough, it gets more exciting. I don’t seek regular boring high-class experiences. I’m not into luxury hotels and relaxing spas and five-star cuisine – that’s just so damn boring! For me that’s not travel – I’d rather spend my money on expensive adventures and experiences – walk on the wings of a flying plane, chase after a tornado storm, and hopefully one day fly to space!
What changed in yourself since you started travelling?
I became more humble and my perspective towards others has changed. I would like to say I became more social, but I think that is more of a work in progress. My money management skills were improved and my problem-solving skills were put to the test!
I did start a travel profile on Instagram and that has had its good days. I’ve been getting a lot of good feedback which pushes me to continue to travel even though I don’t have a source of income from my travels yet!
Even though I consider myself as “quick to be irritated” and “quick to get angry”, I’ve learned to chill at times and let things happen because there is a reason for everything and soon I will realize things happen for the best, and it actually does turn out that way eventually. However I can’t be chill all the time, there are times when things are unbearable and I’m bound to flip.
Give us a few of your favourites in terms of countries and experiences.
I found Ethiopia to be one of my favourite countries in Africa probably because I planned for some exciting experiences while I was there as opposed to the other countries in Africa. I also fell in love with Sao Tome & Principe because it was heaven on the coast of Africa, unknown to so many, hence you get to enjoy it all to yourself when you visit.
I loved the variety in Mexico and the beauty of both Colombia and Venezuela. Definitely, destinations that I would love to visit again and explore more.
My favourite cities so far, I would say Los Angeles, Cape Town, and Rio de Janeiro – due to the feeling that I’m home; with easy communication, access to food, weather, lifestyle and vibes; but I haven’t been everywhere yet – so the list might change at some point.
As for experiences, my top two would be feeding hyenas in Ethiopia and walking on a plane wing in mid-flight!
My whole trip to Antarctica and the South Pole was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially since the whole camp got stuck for an extra week or more due to covid related situation – and that added to all of our experiences and we got to bond together on an isolated freezing continent!
How do you choose the next country or city to visit? Is it your goal to visit all countries in the world?
Let’s start with yes! It is my goal to visit every country, in fact, the whole idea started with wanting to travel the world but “how can I do it, without feeling that I spent money with nothing in return” So I thought of setting up a Guinness World Record (GWR). This way the money I spent travelling would be worth it since I would have a record and an accomplishment! But I am not an 18 or 20-year-old kid, so to be the youngest traveller is out of the question! My only option was to travel the fastest. I planned everything, made the budget, applied, and the plan was to travel in 12 months with 1 extra month as contingency making my max travel period 13 months. However, by the end of my first month, I got the news that covid has hit China hard, and an email from the agency I booked with to visit North Korea informed me that my North Korea trip has been postponed until further notice! By March things are not getting any better and almost the whole world was in lockdown. It was time to pack and head back home!
Weeks turned into months and then into a year! During that time I gained some popularity back home and my Instagram account got a boost in followers. With multiple back-and-forth messages with GWR, the solution was that the waiting period during lockdown will not be accounted for, but once I start to travel again the clock is back on! I waited for Asia to ease travel restrictions and the pandemic to end, but it was a cascade of ongoing waves!
I made the decision and I dropped my goal to make a record – that’s where “things happen for a reason” comes into play. I gave it a lot of thought; No! I didn’t want to rush my travel experience! I wanted to enjoy it and be fulfilled. I want to be free and stay as long or as little as I want in each destination. I want to go home and rest, regather my plans, and take my time to apply for visas – all of that without a clock on my back ticking! So a pandemic during my first few months of travelling was my wake-up call to slow down!
At the moment due to budgeting, I chose my destinations according to the area or continent I’m at. It is easy and cheaper to travel between neighbouring countries, hence I would plan to either spend months in one continent travelling around or pick a few countries and visit them in one trip. This way I save up on international flights back and forth especially for destinations far away, like the Americas or Australia and the Pacific – the set back for this is losing chances to attend festivals and events on specific dates or certain seasons or might end up in not the best weather conditions.
However, as I always say, it’s better to not do it all in one visit, this way it gives a reason to come back! I see travellers spend money and stay for months and months in one country exploring every part of it. But then my question is, would you come back again?
For me, at this point, travelling is like hitting an all-you-can-eat buffet. First, you need to check out your options, and maybe have a taste, but make sure you have room to go back and dish in your favourites and ENJOY!
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people to dinner, from any period in history, who would your guests be, and why?
This is a tough question, there would be many people I want to have dinner with, without any specific reason. However, since we are on the subject of travelling, I will choose characters who would be more relevant.
I will start with the most notorious character, and maybe a lot will judge me or despise me for my choice. I would want to invite to dinner the person who was close to changing the world and the map we know today, Adolf Hitler. I’ve always been curious about this character since I learnt about him back in High School, well I tend to be curious about characters or places with a weird or controversial story. I want to invite him to dinner to ask him questions and learn more about him as a person that was not told in history, as well as dig deep into the reasons behind his actions and study this character closely.
My second choice will be a fictional character, Jack Sparrow. This character symbolises the era of exploration and conquer. Many ships sailed across the Atlantic to find new land, and treasure, or start a new life. But even though history might glorify this era, it has a darker side too and a more painful one for the natives. Many people sacred their lands and homes and treat them as treasures, so when an explorer sets foot and takes that away from you in the name of exploration, then he is no different than a pirate in search of gold. That’s why I chose a fictional character like Jack Sparrow to join me for dinner rather than pick a specific explorer. I want to learn more about that period in time and view it from different angles. Way of life, beliefs, hardship, motivations, purposes and many more.
My third choice is also a fictional character, Phileas Fogg. This character was the first explorer I read about back in elementary school. His journey around the world and adventures were the sparks that lit inside me a passion to travel. Even though I wasn’t hooked on travelling or even considered travelling the world, that spark stayed in me, as I was fond of his adventure and wanted to one day travel around the world just like him. I even thought he was a real character in history! Just like Jack Sparrow, I chose Phileas Fogg because I think he represents all the explorers in history and rather than pick just one, I prefer to invite to dinner someone fictional and relates to me more.
Finally, last but not least, my fourth person to invite to dinner isn’t much of a travel-related person, however, I’ve been fond of this person ever since I first saw her on TV and learnt about her. The more I saw her and read about her, the more I admired her and saw her as a role model. Her story and path to success show that no matter what life throws at you, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to have faith and search for it; however, don’t leave the ones who need guidance behind. I choose to invite Oprah Winfrey. I’ve been wanting to meet her ever since I first saw her on TV, and my dream to do so increases every day. I want to just sit and listen to her talk with me, give me advice and empower me; as well as I want to know her more on a personal level. And hey, who is a better person to sit at dinner with the above three characters and conduct an interview? Right?
Kuwaiti flag at the South Pole