As part of the Annual Review series, I look back at everywhere I went in 2010.
It’s a long list! From my usual 20+ new countries to a book tour to every U.S. state, I spent a lot of time on the road this year. In rough chronological order, here’s everywhere I went in 2010:
United States, Canada, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Maldives, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Germany, Ukraine, Cyprus, Cape Verde, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Morocco, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Thailand
Of these countries, exactly 24 were new to me—I tend to go back to places like Hong Kong, Germany, and New Zealand frequently.
Fun things (and misadventures) happen almost everywhere I go, so you’d have to read the whole year’s worth of travel archives for the whole story. I’ll assume you won’t torture yourself that much, so here are a few highlights:
- Getting to Belarus required a herculean effort of three separate attempts. When I finally made it, I paid for the most expensive tourist visa I’ve ever heard of (anywhere!) and was admitted to the country after a—wait for the travel cliché—Kafkaesque exchange of epic proportions.
After I wrote about the trip, someone translated my post and the ensuing backlash prompted the ministry of information to write an official response. I then heard from more than fifty Belorussians with apologies and their own stories of encountering bureaucracy—approximately 70% of responses—along with comments on my own incompetence—approximately 30% of responses. Thanks again to everyone associated with Belarus for making my visit a memorable experience.
- Algeria was also a close call with the visa—after I left the U.S. with my duplicate passport and no Algerian visa in sight, I ended up having it FedEx’d to me overnight in Frankfurt, arriving the evening before going to the airport to fly out. Yikes! But it made it, and that’s what counts.
- One of my favorite adventures arrived via the midnight train to Georgia from Azerbaijan. My time in Georgia itself was enlightening; I had the impression that Tbilisi was a fairy tale city. I also especially liked Lithuania (I wish I had more time there—it’s on my list to go back), and Kazakhstan was surprisingly welcoming as well.
- On a couple different trips, I spent a lot of time back in what I call “real Africa” – this time in Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Cameroon. I could do without Equatorial Guinea and its $500-a-night hotel rooms, but the other West African stops were fun.
- I’ve been to Thailand probably ten times in the past decade, but never to Chiang Mai until this year. The photo shoot with a few feline friends was worth the whole trip and was a great way to transition away from international travel for a while.
Update on the Quest to Visit Every Country
My total number of countries visited is now 151. I use the U.N. standard, not one of the larger lists that includes various islands and other “non-countries.” By the inflated list standard, my total would probably be around 175.
So far along, but yet so far to go—and the closer I get to the goal, the harder it becomes. This year during the review, I spent some time to think through how I’d get to each of the remaining 41 countries before my deadline of April 7, 2013. It’s going to be tight with several big logistical challenges, but so far, so good.
The 53-City, Unconventional Book Tour
I don’t usually do a lot of domestic travel, since I spend so much time around the world. This year was an exception with the all-50-state book tour (more on that in a moment). I also went to Austin for SXSW, to Pittsburgh for TedX at Carnegie Mellon University, to Seattle for a travel industry talk, to Southern California for a short vacation, and up to Vancouver, B.C. in Canada because it’s awesome.
On September 7th, I set off on a different kind of adventure. The launch of my first book, The Art of Non-Conformity, happened that day, and I wanted to travel to meet readers wherever they lived. Most Americans don’t get to visit all 50 states in their lifetime, but the tour took me to all of them in a few short months.
The book tour was self-funded and collectively-organized, mostly by AONC readers and a number of great co-hosts. In most stops we kept it very informal, with a 15-minute talk, lots of “Questions and Attempted Answers”, and often discussion over cupcakes and wine afterwards.
A few highlights of the tour:
- Driving eight hours through the mountains from Salt Lake City to Missoula (I pulled off the interstate near a “Rest Stop” exit… then I saw a sign that read “Rest Stop, 6 Miles.” I guess that’s a Montana thing)
- Driving through tornado warnings and talking with a professional train-hopper I met from Oklahoma City to Little Rock
- Attempting to smuggle a big-ass sign on 15 flights (success rate: 12/15)
- Great crowds in unexpected places: Lawrence, Kansas; Portland, Maine; Tampa, Florida, and so many more.
- This fun mini-documentary that Crystal made in Durham, North Carolina
- Spending time with my brother and Adam, who both joined me for several stops of the midwest portion of the tour (and then with my sister who came to Birmingham and Atlanta)
- Houston, Texas, now known as “highest per-capita alcohol consumption by participants of any AONC meetup”
- Seeing Pace and Kyeli at the Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix stops (after that, I told them I wouldn’t be surprised if they showed up in Alaska)
- Driving from L.A. to Phoenix and catching up with longtime friend Stephanie
- A full-size mural of AONC in Atlanta… an amazing AONC cake in my hometown. And the list goes on.
I’ve only been off the tour for a few days and am still reflecting about all the conversations and experiences. I have a lot of big commitments in early 2011, but I’m hoping to make some space to write an in-depth report on the whole process of publishing a book and going on tour. In short, it’s been an incredible 90 days and I’m extremely glad I did it.
Whether I write the report or not, the book tour will continue to every province in Canada starting January 14th. (I’m bringing a warm coat.) Canadians, I hope to see you on the road—details here.
Feel free to share your own travel list, stories, or misadventure of 2010. And by the way, don’t worry if you haven’t been to 50 states and 24 countries this year… remember, I’ve been doing this a while. This year was especially manic with the book tour, but every year lately has been manic one way or the other.
I’m grateful I can do this and looking forward to another great year of travel in 2011.
What about you—where did you go in 2010?