Interview with Fabio Cao

Fabio Cao


Havana, Cuba

Fabio, tell us a little about yourself and your background and how your love for travel developed.

I was born and raised in Milan, Italy. I started travelling at 18, I moved to the US then for a couple of years and circumstances brought me to live in Asia (Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea), Australia, South Africa and Brazil before i turned 23 years old, which looking back is pretty amazing. For me travelling was a bit like eating candies,you starting eating one and then you want more, you start to get addicted to the feelings that you get to be our of your comfort zone and for the first time experience a culture clash, different smells in the air, different sounds on the streets and the sights of a specific city or country that you've been fantasizing about.

You are planning to do every country in the world. Why?

I am, and the desire of completing the task really came alive for me maybe 2 years ago, when I realized that I was at 120/130 countries already and I said to myself " I think it would be pretty cool to go and visit all the countries in the world", I'm a very driven, goal oriented, competitive kind of person and challenges are fuel to me.

Pyongyang, North Korea

Do you have a specific timeline to achieve your goal? What are some difficulties you have faced so far, and what are some you anticipate in the future?

I don't think a specific timeline, I could probably finish the countries i'm missing within 12 months if I wanted to, but I'll say it'll probably happen with the next 30 months. The biggest difficulties I've encountered so far was getting visas for certain countries, that delayed quite a few trips and made it very expensive as well. I'm working in trying to get a visa to Saudi Arabia somehow, as you might know they do not even have tourist visa, Turkmenistan was a complicated one to get, so was Eritrea and Sudan. For the countries that I haven't been to yet I know I'll have some difficulties with Libya and Yemen for obvious reasons (while I found a fixer for Syria whenever I'm ready to go), Angola, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea and DR Congo might present some issues too. 

Besides getting visas the other problems that might arise are the logistics of travelling overland through certain countries in Africa, due to the total lack of infrastructure and very limited info available on the net before taking off for the trip. Obviously, I would need to stay on top of security situation in certain African countries and the same for certain countries in the Middle East due to terrorist groups in the area, I had to be aware of that when I traveled to Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq the past two years.

Vanimo, Papua New Guinea

Of the countries you have been to, which one surprised you most compared to your expectations before the trip?

That's a good question, I think you're referring in a positive way I imagine . Quite a few actually, Chile and Colombia in South America were amazing, much better than I expected in terms of different landscapes, architecture, culture etc.

I thought Kiev-Ukraine and Bucharest-Romania were surprisingly beautiful and interesting cities if we are talking about Europe, and Iceland has mind-blowing nature and landscapes of a rare beauty. Going over to the Middle East and Central Asia, I have to mention Iran, definitely a must see in the area, and great friendly people as well. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan would make the cut as well for different reasons, Uzbekistan has so much culture to offer with Samarkand and Bukhara, while Turkmenistan has no tourists whatsoever, and when I went to see the infamous gate to hell in the middle of the Karakum desert I was amazed to be the only one there, such an amazing spectacle to enjoy by myself, it's a luxury that you don't come across almost at all nowadays where everywhere is becoming commercial. Bhutan stunned me last summer, what a magical country, I felt like I went back in time while I was there. North Korea makes the list as well, it's the most surreal place I have ever been so far, I had seen so many documentaries about it before I took the trip there, but being there and watching everything first hand is like being part of the Truman show if you know what I mean.
Last but not least Africa, South Africa has something for everyone, such a stunning country. Mozambique has so much potential and I was surprised by the beauty of its coast and so little infrastructure for tourists, and then Eritrea, being from Italy while visited Asmara I could recognize everywhere the Italian vibe in the architecture of their buildings, the name of the streets, the vibrant café  lifestyle on the main strip in Asmara, and the people were really delightful.

Tell us of one travel story which has really made an impact on you.

I think it has to be the trips I've made to Africa, I think each family should take their kids when they reach 8 years old to Africa, it would help them to put things into perspective, to learn the definition of a real problem, and to learn the value of things we take for granted. It did that for me and I'm not a kid anymore, but when i go through problems or issues i always try to look back at these people I've met there and their daily life and experiences and i ask myself "is my problem really that big?" , visiting orphanages and even for brief moments having these exchanges with kids in places like Rwanda, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi etc. made me rethink, reevaluate and put in perspectives some of my takes on life in general. I think they made me a slightly better person and for those short moments spent with them that made them smile, I hope my tiny impact was a positive one.

Baku, Azerbaijan

How has travelling impacted on your life in general? Do you have a home? What do your friends and family think?

I think it did tremendously, we are who we are because of the life experiences we have been through, and I've made certain decision that gave me the opportunity to have so many world experiences that enriched me and molded me into the person I am today. I'm based in London, but as you can imagine I'm on the plane or in airports sometimes longer than I'm home, it just depends, every week is different.

My parents know that I love traveling so I guess they are happy I get to do it, they get worried when they know I'm going to places that have been on the news or the medias portrayed them as dangerous, but they know I'm not totally crazy (just a little more than the average person I guess), I'm very well informed and prepare before I head to certain countries so to minimize the degree of risk you know.

I only have a couple of friends, they think it's great that I get to go to all these amazing places, they like to travel too, and I did quite a few trips with my best friend.

With the pygmies, Burundi

You are active on social media. Is this a big part of the travel experience nowadays? Do you have your own blog?

I do have an Instagram page where I post pictures of my travels and also a Facebook page To me they are just about documenting my travels and sharing pictures or videos of places i think are beautiful or interesting, and my friends and contacts can enjoy watching and maybe deciding to go visit them on their own one day. I can guarantee you that you won't find a picture of a plate of food in a restaurant or bottles in a nightclub on my social media, i don't need validation from anyone, I do what I to do for my own self and put it out there for anyone that cares to see it.

So what are your travel plans for 2017?

For 2017 i'm planning to visit the following countries: Tunisia, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros and a few countries in central Africa that I have not been to, let's see if I can do all of the ones I've mentioned here.

Which countries are you most looking forward to visit between the ones that you haven't visited yet ?

I'm very curious to head to the South Pacific and go to Tuvalu and Kiribati, those tiny islands remotely in the middle of the Pacific that are among the least visited countries in the world, most people don't even know their existence!  Also looking forward to visiting Yemen, unfortunately the conflict is ongoing and can't travel there, I just hope the capital Sanaa isn't totally destroyed, I was mesmerized by the architecture of the city.

Macao Tower

Finally, if you could invite four people from any period in human history to a dinner, who would they be and why?

I'll choose two entrepreneurs I admire and who have taught me a lot - Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuck,  Mark Twain who is one of my favorite writers and Al Pacino who is my favorite actor of all time.

Fjords, Norway

The photographs accompanying this interview are from Fabio's private collection.