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This Magic Journey

Everything begins with a crazy idea, and this particular crazy idea comes to you in stages.

You don't decide to visit every country in the world when you haven't been out of your own neighborhood. First you go to a dozen countries in Africa, then a dozen more in Europe, and before you know it you've reached 50-country status.

That's when you start thinking about goals, and that's when you first decide to visit 100 countries before you die.

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Travel Hacking in Early 2013

Every year when the calendar rolls around to January 1, it's time for me to get back out on the road. I love travel and I love doing events—I've been in eight cities in the past ten days—but I also have to get back to work on requalifying my elite status with all my favorite airlines and hotels.

Last year I hit the mark for the highest status with American Airlines, Hyatt, and Hilton hotels. This year I'm hoping to requalify for each, with the addition of more Starwood stays to earn the highest status with them as well.

Why bother? Because it makes my traveling life easier, and also because it's fun.

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Tuvalu to California

A few weeks ago, your humble correspondent was sitting on a modest balcony in a guest house in Tuvalu, a tiny nation in the South Pacific that is now known as country #192 in his mind. The island itself was somewhat depressing, at least for a modern traveler. He walked the entire island—and then back around the other way—in less than one morning.

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2012 Annual Review: Travel Roundup

Where did you go in 2012? Feel free to share with other readers … my own notes are below.

Every year as part of the Annual Review, I look back on where I've been. As usual, this year's list is fairly long—though not as long as some previous years in terms of new countries. This year has been more of a clean-up mission, where I've visited a number of places that have eluded me over the previous few years.

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Getting to Guinea Bissau

The biggest challenge was the uncertainty. Stepping onto the transfer bus for Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1, I considered the journey thus far and the upcoming adventure that the next few days would hold. I was coming off two weeks in India with events and media every day. Then I flew to London after two other quick stops in Singapore and Hong Kong. After making it to London I camped out in Heathrow airport for a few hours—due to flight schedules there wasn't room for a day off where I could go to the city—and then I flew down to Lisbon and eventually Dakar, Senegal.

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On the Road Again: Next Stop, Portuguese Africa

I'm off to see the world again, heading out to West Africa via JFK, LHR, LIS, and DKR over the next couple of days. This time, I'm attempting to visit two challenging countries, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome. After ten years of active travel, these are also my final countries in all of Africa. These countries are hard to visit. In addition to being difficult to limited flight schedules and far-away jumping-off points (Lisbon and Dakar), I don't have a visa for either country, something that both require prior to departure. Why am I going anyway, with a real chance that one or both of the visits could fail? Because I have no choice.

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On the Road Again: Next Stop, SoCal (and beyond)

Happy Labor/Labour Day! If you're in the U.S. or Canada, I hope you're enjoying the holiday. Everyone else, enjoy the lull in traffic while many people in North America are offline doing other things. As for me, I'm heading back out on the road, flying down to San Diego today and then around the U.S. for a few more tour stops over the next two weeks ...

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The Frequent Flyer Challenge Returns!

In the early days of this blog, I conducted a public experiment. Over the course of 45 days, I applied for every credit card I could find that offered a sign-up incentive of Frequent Flyer Miles or hotel points. I had been applying for cards for years with success, earning 200,000+ miles every year with little effort and no adverse effect on my credit score, which remained in the 90th percentile or higher. However, I had never applied for so many cards all at once. Would it work? Would my accounts be shut down?

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Adventures in Yemen

Upon my arrival in Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen, it took a while to get underway. Immigration was uneventful and I had met the guy who would serve as my guide for the next three days, but we had a problem finding a working taxi to take us downtown. After putting my bag in the back of the first taxi, I went to sit down, but a heated argument was taking place between the guide and the driver. Finally it was determined that this driver was attempting to extort us, so I retrieved my bag and we walked further down the road, where cheaper taxis were available ...

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Letter from Brazzaville

Brazzaville, the capital city of the Republic of Congo, has a spiffy new airport in the style of Paris or Madrid. Coming in on the RwandAir flight from Kigali, I'm shocked to see actual jet bridges where one can walk directly from the aircraft into the airport. Dozens of times I've landed in random African airports, deplaned the aircraft and been bused to the terminal, even if it's a short walk away and there are no other aircraft anywhere to be seen. As far as I can tell, the logic is, “Hey, we have these buses—we need to use them.”

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On the Road Again: Next Stop, Republic of Congo

Greetings, friends and readers. For the past few months I've been confined to a short leash. I visited twenty cities in North America for the first leg of The $100 Startup tour, and I managed to hop over to London for the U.K. launch as well. Last week, I also went on a post-WDS vacation to Alaska. Aside from those trips, however, I've been homebound and my passport has been sorely underused. I'm now heading back out to see the world, with only eight countries remaining ...

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Getting to Ashgabat

I often think in airport codes, and I know at least a couple hundred of them by memory. Name an airport, even a fairly obscure one, and there's a good chance I know its shorthand.

But even I was stumped when it came to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Until a few years ago when I had racked up my first hundred countries, I wasn't even sure where Turkmenistan was.

Answers: Turkmenistan is in Central Asia, bordered by Iran, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and the Caspian Sea. The airport code is ASB, for the two people out there who are curious.

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