Carlos from Spain joined the UN Masters List of individuals who have been to every country in the world a few months ago. In this interview, he tells us a little bit about his take on travel.
Tell us something about your childhood and how the travel bug bit you.
When I was a child at school I always loved atlases, maps, geography and travel books. .Anxious about knowing places and very curious about new cultures.
When did you ‘decide’ to visit every country in the world? What was the reaction of people around you to this idea?
I took my decision after having visited the first 100 countries. But at the time, I thought that I was making the craziest decision ever. In some countries, the security situation is so bad that you know that it is not going to be easy or funny. Sometimes it was even a real nightmare. Many people cannot imagine, you have to experience it to understand. Many travellers visit more than hundred countries but few go to Africa which in my opinion is the most difficult and dangerous continent but still my favourite one.
Have you ever have moments when you have wanted to give up on the aim or when it has seemed pointless?
Many times I was asking myself why I decided to go to that country and sometimes I felt very lonely. In Africa, countries can have different names but the attitude remains the same with white people as they want you to help them. If you are a backpacker and travel by land, it is very hard to cross borders because they always want something from you and it is not just a smile.
Of all the countries you visited, which ones surprised you most compared to what you were expecting in advance?
Positively: Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Malawi, Burundi, Nicaragua, Colombia, Oman, Yemen, Papua New Guinea … I was surprised because they were isolated for a while due to conflicts and there still was little tourism. People tend to have more human contact out of curiosity to see a stranger.
Negatively: Paraguay, El Salvador, Nigeria, Somalia, Djibouti, Lybia, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Belarus, North Korea…I didn´t enjoy traveling there because they were under a very severe regime with their crazy rules to pay a lot of money for “invitation letters” or other bureaucracy stuff.
Give us one travel story which really stands out for you.
In Nigeria, when Muslims lost the elections, they started to burn churches and people all around the country and I hid for 3 days. I got caught up in a demonstration and people were carrying machetes and guns. I was attacked but left unharmed.
What do you think of the term ‘competitive travel’? Does it sum up what people like you do or is it a complete distortion?
I believe that in certain way maybe we want to reach more places and countries than the others because it is human behaviour: competition. People always ask how many countries have you been ? Because they usually have been in many and think they traveled more. But for me, it is also a disease that many adventurers, explorers and great travelers have called ¨dromomania¨: (Greek term), dromos (going from one place to another), mania (addiction) …
How do people in faraway lands react when you tell them you are Spanish?
Depends on whether the country has been conquered by Spaniards, or sometimes they confuse Spain with South America. For example I say that I am from Spain and they ask me if I come from Argentina or Chile. Or they liked Spain because we won the soccer World Cup.
To what extent do you take photographs and use social media when you travel?
I like to take photos and use social networks but I must admit that before, travelers used to interact more explaining their experiences during the journey, exchanging some tips and having more empathy. Nowadays we only take photos to prove that we have gone or done something, it seems that we like to envy the others. At this time the best ¨travel mate¨ is the smart phone or the computer because you can get all information without talking to anyone.
Have you ever felt lonely and disconnected while travelling far away from home?
During the last years I have had to go to remote countries where there is no tourism or with more difficulty due to war, terrorism or they just didn´t allow you to visit because of bad relationship between my country and the others. I felt so lonely and couldn´t visit places in the country because of security reasons.
So, now that you have ‘done’ the 193 countries what remains for you? What are your following travel plans?
I try to go to countries where I can meet friends or visiting other areas where I didn´t go. But also i want to do another project. It has been 20 years since I said: ¨one day I will have people coming to my hostel¨. Always thinking about opening one. So maybe now is the right time. But who knows. The travel bug is still around and when I am bored it is pushing me out. I am ¨dromomaniac¨. And proud of it. 🙂
And a final question we always ask – if you could invite four people from any period in human history to an imaginary dinner, who would they be and why?
Darwin, Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Bob Marley.
The photographs accompanying this interview are from Carlos’ private collection.