Home Is Where The Map Is: An Interview with Janie Borisov

10 September, 2023 | Blog, Interviews

Welcome to this intriguing conversation with Janie Borisov, a seasoned traveller with an insatiable wanderlust. In this interview, guest interviewer and NomadMania member, Jaquelyn Kunz dives deep into Janie’s extraordinary journey, where she reveals that has visited an impressive 193 countries and counting.

From her childhood dreams of exploring the world to her relentless pursuit of uncovering hidden corners, Janie shares her travel experiences and the driving force behind her adventurous spirit. Join us as we unravel the stories, the mishaps, and the moments of serendipity that have shaped Janie’s unique perspective on life and the world. Get ready to embark on a captivating journey through the lens of a true nomad.


This interview is available in video form on our Youtube channel …


What’s your background for those that don’t know you? So how did you get into travel? Where are you from? Tell me a little bit about you.

So I was born in Moscow back in the days when it was the Soviet Union. When I was growing up, Russia was rather cut off from the rest of the world. Dreaming of traveling was a little bit like dreaming of going to the moon. The opportunities were non-existent, and the future was rather unclear. But my parents bought me a world map when I was a little kid, a preschooler, and I had that above my bed my entire childhood. For as long as I remember, I’ve dreamed of visiting not necessarily every country, but every place and every corner of the world. So what moves me is the thing that’s very familiar, I think, to most of us here on Nomad Mania—the travel bug itself, which I believe is genetic. They’ve discovered the gene. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, DRD4 7R. It’s the Wanderlust gene, so it’s an actual thing. I’ve met a few people like myself who just simply cannot imagine life without traveling, without moving.

The pandemic made it extremely interesting, and I did, at some point, get a special permit to leave Australia when Australia was still closed. But yeah, back to my background. I just lived in Moscow until I was 15, and then my family moved to Australia. I did a little bit of traveling when I was a kid, but obviously just around Russia. And then, as soon as we moved to Australia, I started working. I picked pragmatically a career that would allow me to have the flexibility and the resources to travel. I made sure it was a fast and furious career, so I quit when time spent became more important than finances. So, I’ve been traveling, you can say, for two-thirds of my life, pretty constantly.

While I was working, I was working in finance. I probably traveled about three months a year. So if my work didn’t let me do that, I would quit. And then, once I quit finance, I’ve traveled, with the exception of the pandemic, probably about seven months a year. But I always have a base here in Australia. My base is where my map is. I was reading your article about home, so my home is where my map is. This map has moved from Brisbane and come back to Adelaide, where I am at the moment. But yeah, home is where the map is for me.


You said you’ve been traveling for many years. So, would you say you’re on the slow travel side or what is your travel style?

Erratic. Not necessarily slow. I think I’m very fast, but it’s not a methodical way that I travel. If I had set myself a goal of, say, visiting every country in the world, that might have taken a few years. It would not have taken 27 years. The reason why it’s taken so long is that I kind of let my trips plan themselves a little bit. I really fall in love with places and continents as well. At some point, I’ve come to the conclusion that I absolutely have to visit every continent at least once a year; otherwise, I miss it too much. So, where I go next kind of depends on what signs the universe gives me, almost more than anything else.

If I start hearing a name of a place here and there, or if I see something in my dream or taste something in the restaurant, that might determine where I’ll be going next. I’m developing a sort of relationship with places, like one with the people. The first time I go to a country, it might be just for a few days to see how we’d get along. And then from there, we might remain acquaintances. I may or may not come back, or it might become friends, and then I’ll just want to come back. So it’s been like that. There are countries that I’ve been to 10 times, and even 15 and even 20. So yes.

Masjid-e-Kabud, Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan


So, then you have a head start if you’re going to do a second time around.

Yeah, absolutely. But you know, like I said, my general goal was very vague, and that hasn’t changed since I was a kid. It’s a very big “get to know the world and its people,” rather than take off any particular boxes or complete any specific list.

And I think that’s why a lot of my trips don’t make a lot of logistical sense sometimes. I might just jump on a really cheap flight and just go somewhere on a complete tangent where I was never really intending to go. Just recently, I’ve ended up in Uzbekistan for the second and the third time. The first time I went, I was like, “Oh, this is really nice, but not necessarily my place, so I didn’t think I’d be back.” But, you know, I ended up being back twice in three months.


Yeah, I like that, more of an impulsive style of travel. So, do you have any favorite countries or favorite regions of the world?

Oh goodness yeah, absolutely great. Some countries are always present in my life, just like my most important people. Once you move, where you come from may not necessarily feel like home, and where you move to is not a hundred percent home. But sometimes, I get these wonderful moments where I feel at home in some random African village or something. My favorites, absolutely, Colombia, Tanzania, Greece, India.

On the banks of Omo river, Ethiopia


That’s a good list, a good cross-section of all the continents there as well. Very cool. So what was your final country?

It was Turkmenistan. I wouldn’t have finished the 193 countries in 2020, or at least I had planned to do it in 2020. So, I’m actually going to Africa at the end of this month, and I’m doing a trip that I was planning to do in 2020 to Madagascar, some parts that I haven’t been to, and then to Mayotte. So, I don’t really feel like I’ve finished all the countries if I haven’t been to Mayotte, for example. Until I go to the rest of those, I’ll still feel like a bit of a fraud. How can I say I’ve been to all the countries if I haven’t been to Mayotte? So, I am planning to keep traveling because a lot of people ask me, “Now that you’ve been to every country, what are you gonna do?” I’m like, that’s not even a question. It’s a milestone, but it’s not a big gift for me. Every trip is important for me, and it’s not just every trip. It’s every day of every trip that is important. Every trip changes you, and every day when you travel, you don’t go to bed the same person that you woke up as. It’s everything that you absorb and all the people that you meet. For me, I’ll never stop traveling ever, for as long as I can walk, maybe even if I can’t walk, I’ll still travel.


Do you have any other travel plans?

There’s Japan and a few places in Asia, but notably Okinawa in September. Then there’s Mexico in November. And there’s probably India towards the end of the year. I have to take my son somewhere; he’s got school holidays. He’s 15 now, and he’s been traveling the world with me since before he was born, so if he still agrees to travel with me, I’ll take him along.


How many countries has he been to?

We haven’t counted properly. I feel maybe there’s 60. I haven’t always taken him because some of my trips are just, you know, absolutely not for kids. Um, so yeah, I’ve taken my own trips that I thought would benefit him more than would make him suffer discomfort, you know? I haven’t taken him anywhere that I felt unsafe. But he’s been around a few times. It’s a great experience for a kid to be able to see so many different, diverse places at that age. I never had a problem taking him out of school for a couple of weeks. I always felt that he would learn more on the road than he would at school.

With Bana tribe boys, Ethiopia


I was reading your bio and I see that you’ve written a book

Yes, I’ve always wanted to do this since I was a kid. I always wanted to write a book. Not about me or even my trip so much, but about the world as I saw it, For as long as I remember, I write almost every day, especially when I travel. I’m very old school. It’s all handwritten and tiny writing, and I’ve got boxes and boxes of those notes. So at some point, I went and did a Master’s in Creative Writing, but did not do, you know, the coursework. And then I came to writing a book, and instead of sitting down to write the book, I just went off traveling. And then I thought, okay, I’ll write this book when I’m 90, you know, when I’m old and frail, I’ll do it. But then the pandemic hit, and I thought, okay, this is perfect. So I actually sat down every day for a year and a half and merged my four big boxes of notes into one fairly long book. But it’s a hundred stories and at the moment, it’s 600 pages.

So I still think it’s a little bit too long. I don’t think anyone reads books for these days, so I have to find a way to either split it into two. But yeah, once I started talking to publishers, which I haven’t yet because at some point I thought, okay, I might as well just do this big traveling book that I can tell publishers, okay, I have been to every country in the world. Here is the book. So that’s the idea. But the main idea behind the book is to sort of show the world as kind of an expanded version of our own backyard, to sort of show, you know, that timeless saying, same same but different. So that even though there are so many differences between people and cultures, we are really much the same. And all the differences are quite superficial and should really be celebrated and not worth fighting over. And just to show that any place in the world can feel like home.


Okay, I like that. What’s the title?

Tripping all over.

The original title was around the world in 99 disasters but a friend of mine said that that sounds too negative because, you know, it’s a very positive book, but over the years, just by low probability, a lot of things happen. I mean, I’ve nursed tropical illnesses in hospitals in every continent, and I’ve had gangsters kind of kidnap me for a bit. I had a baboon steal all my possessions, I’ve rolled in a derail train in India and Burundi. So, you know, I do have a lot of juicy fun stories in there, but i “Around the world in 99 disasters” sounds like it’s all doom and gloom, and it’s not at all.

The obligatory Darwaza photo, Turkmenistan – last UN country I visited


Oh, that makes me want to read it. Do you have any stories you want to share now? I mean, the gangster story sounds interesting.

Yeah, it was in Jamaica and I’m a big, big fan of Reggae, so I went to the Sun Fest, which at the time was the biggest Reggae Festival in the world. I was still a little bit green as a traveler at that point, and after I flew from Australia for three days with terrible jet lag, I went to the opening party of the festival which was not in Montego Bay where the rest of the festival was. It was kind of outside in the countryside. So there I was enjoying myself, and I asked the same taxi driver that came to drop me off to come and pick me up at two o’clock at night. And as we’re driving back, there’s a lot of people on the roadside, and I thought ‘What’s going on? Why are they there?’ But I was seriously jet-lagged, tired and delirious.

Then the driver asked ‘Oh, do you mind if I pick up more people to make more money?’ I was like ‘fantastic, of course, make more money, you know, why not?’ You’re a nice guy. And next thing, and I’m sitting in the front, next thing he picks up these two dudes, and they’ve got guns, and they squeeze my neck and they’re telling him in their gangster accents ‘turn here, turn right’ and then ‘we’re gonna kill you both’. We drove into the middle of nowhere, and they stole whatever I had, including my key with my hotel name and my room number, and then they stopped and told the driver to open the boot, and I’m thinking, oh, this is where they’re gonna put my body.

I was too tired to be scared, you know. The main thing is not to be scared and not panic. I think this panic is never gonna get anywhere. They dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, I hid in the bushes for a while, and then I ran and rang someone’s intercom, and people in Jamaica, they know about these things, so they’re too scared to open the door for you. So then I hid there for a while, and they called the police, and I was at the police station at five o’clock in the morning.And then it became real funny because the police got a scrunched-up piece of paper from the dustbin, they spread them out like that, and they said, ‘Write down everything that happened.’ I was like ‘Where is this gonna go? You don’t understand, they have my key, all my stuff is on the bed, they’re gonna steal all my stuff.’ And they’re like, ‘don’t worry.’

I’m actually very lucky because people did get murdered at that festival, unfortunately, and it does happen in Jamaica. I think I do have very lucky stars because sometimes even when I was reading my diaries, I was like, ‘I really did that? I went to see, like, the pygmy village in Central African Republic on a motorbike with some dudes I’ve never met before, how am I still alive? I do think I have extremely lucky stars that look after me, and I do try to follow my intuition, and I think I’m getting a lot better at that these days because before, it was barely a big trip where I didn’t have to make some sort of an insurance claim because, you know, all my stuff got stolen, or I was in the hospital, or something always used to happen.

So at least you get a story out of some of these more disaster-type situations or something. I think as long as you’ve learned something, there’s no such thing as a bad day even if you have, like, the most horrendous day, and everything went wrong, but if you learn something, not necessarily about the situation but about yourself, for example, and how you react to things, that’s a good day because we’re here in this world to learn, so you can’t all be smooth; otherwise, learning becomes an extremely lengthy process. It kind of just speeds it up a little bit, I think, when you get bad days.


If you could pick three or four people from any time in history to have dinner with who would you choose and why?

I’ve never had any desire to meet anyone famous, so if I could pick three or four people from any time in history to have dinner with, I would choose my two grandfathers and a friend who passed away too early. My grandfathers were both extraordinary people whom I didn’t get to know as well as I would have liked.

Playing mas at Trinidad Carnival

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