A good friend of mine who lives in Shanghai, Lorenzo Riccardi, originally from Italy has taken it upon himself, to travel to every location in the world. I found it fascinating, just how someone can actually visit 198 countries! My father had gone to over 100 in his lifetime and I always made that my goal. Now that I know it's possible to do more, I will definitely have to upgrade my challenge. How does one travel the entire world? Where do you begin? What should be the 'around the world itinerary' that will give you the least jet lag and flight time, while also saving you the most money? What visas do you need to enter certain cities? Most beautiful beaches? Nicest people? I had so many questions. He guided me towards a website to start my journey, called NomadMania, a platform that focuses primarily on answering all these questions and more. I spoke with Harry Mitsidis, the Founder who has also taken on this personal challenge and has ample advice to give about his trajectory as a certified globetrotter.
"There are a number of people who have been to all 193 or 196 countries - about 200 people have done it. I am then highest ranked traveller on my own website however, which calculates 1281 regions of the world - I have been to 1189 of these." - Harry Mitsidis
Tell me about yourself. Your nationality and educational background.
My name is Harry Mitsidis, I am a 47-year old British-Greek citizen, born in London but grew up in Athens, Greece. I studied sociology and then did an MBA in the Netherlands and was employed for a number of years as a lecturer in management and organisational behaviour in faculties around Europe and the Middle East. Eventually I decided that travelling is the best thing in life, so I have devoted my life to exploring the world and to developing the website/travel community called NomadMania.
What led you to start traveling the world?
Given I was born exposed to two cultures, from the very start I was aware of the vastness of the world, and my parents also loved travelling, which in the 1970s was a much more unusual and complicated experience than today! I guess there is an inborn curiosity in me to discover how people live, and that led me to study sociology as well, so travelling is my way of understanding planet Earth and in that way ultimately also figuring out myself!
Photo Credit - Meroe
How many countries have you visited to date?
I have visited every country in the world – there are officially 193 countries in the United Nations; I visited the last one (Equatorial Guinea) in March 2008 when I was 36 years old – since then South Sudan is the only ‘new’ country, which became independent in 2011, and I visited it then. I am now aiming to do them all once again, and have been to 176 countries at least twice, exploring them more in depth than the first time, and now with more confidence and experience, generally knowing what to expect. Though I still do get surprised!
Your best traveling tip for a beginner on this journey?
Start at home. People often think that travel must mean going to the other end of the earth where everything is different. But I believe, if you travel far, you represent your country in a way, both in how you behave and also in what you share with people, what you tell them about where you’re from. So, when you are young, explore your own ‘back yard’ so to speak, every country has lots of regional differences, local customs, and even in your own town there are surely neighbourhoods you have not been to, a quirky museum, for sure something exciting. You don’t have to go far to have the travel spirit!
Photo Credit - REI
What turned you into an avid deemed Nomad-mania?
NomadMania divides the world into 1281 regions. It goes far beyond just countries, it tries to divide every country into many more regions to explore, the aim being to motivate people to really discover as much as possible. The fact that these regions are there, waiting to be explored, has turned me into this avid ‘nomadmaniac’ wanting to experience as much as possible. 1281 regions means a lot of places, so there is certainly something for everyone and always new things to see and discover. This online community has given me the motivation to return to countries and see them again in much more depth, often to areas I ignored the first time round. I recently returned to Pakistan and visited the northern mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. This is so different from the rest of Pakistan, different peoples, a much cooler climate and landscape. So, the more one explores, the more one will be surprised and get a much broader impression of a place.
What three things have you retained that were the most valuable life lesson thus far?
First, people are generally good and helpful. This is a positive message that we often forget when we lead our fast-paced lives, especially if we live in big urban environments. Second, we all have a lot in common, we just need to take the time to discover it; in the end no matter where we live and where we come from, everybody’s aim is to be happy and most of us are the happiest through close relations and connections with other human beings. Third, every place is beautiful in its way and one should focus on the positive. This is easily forgotten in, say, 50 degrees heat for example, but it’s important to find the beauty even when things are tough.
Photo Credit - Ancient Origins
The most beautiful place you've ever been to?
I think beauty can be defined by what emotionally touches us the most. In that case I am certainly biased. I would vote for Meteora, one of the few places in the world to combine intense natural beauty together with cultural i.e. man-made riches that blend with the natural. Meteora, in central Greece, is composed of a series of big vertical rock formations, at the top of which various monasteries have been built. This interplay of natural and holy cannot leave one unimpressed. It’s not just beautiful, it is serene, almost out of this world.
What does success represent to you?
For me success is two things. First, to have lived a life in which you touch at least one other person profoundly in a way which changes that person’s life for the better. And the second is to be yourself, to listen to your own heart and soul speaking to you clearly, to shut out the influence of the ‘others’ and then follow that inner voice so that you lead the life that you dream of!