198: How I Ran Out of Countries

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“198: How I Ran Out of Countries” by Gunnar Garfors
(First publication: 2015 / This edition: Gunnar Garfors 2015)
Taken during a ginger bread latte break at  I+D Style Café x Brave Roasters

[My father] also told stories about grizzly bears in Alaska, about police officers riding on horses in Canada, and kids riding on boards with wheels in California.
They were fantastic stories from countries far, far away. Lasting impressions were created. I didn’t really have a choice. I was destined to become a traveler—a traveler to every country in the world.

I have to tell the long version of this story. I want to name drop. I want to show off and brag that I met and hung out and spent a day with and had coffee and had sushi and had drinks with the author. In Tokyo, too, FYI.

It’s kind of a funny story. It started all the way back in April 2013, actually. I was doing my exchange year in Amsterdam—and I was taking advantage of living in Europe by spending as much of my “free time” (meaning some class time) as possible traveling around the wonderful continent. Thus, I spent probably 90% of my time of the computer reading up stuff about traveling and trying to find travel inspiration…which led me to Gunnar Garfors’ article: “The 25 Least Visited Countries in the World”..

…which led me to turn into a stalker by going on his Facebook and literally “liking” everything he posted on his wall.

I’m not even exaggerating, I was “liking” so many posts (without the intention of trying to get his attention or anything, I swear, I just honestly liked them, haha) that he messaged me and said, “Thanks for your likes 🙂 ”

I remember getting (mildly red-faced) embarrassed for letting my inner-stalker out like that, but still… I took that as “a welcome note” and queue to ask all my questions and let loose all my curiousness about his trips and his conquer of the world. I was so excited, I felt like a little 10-year-old chatting to her favorite Disney star.

We continued to keep here in touch here and there, and in February 2014, he had a trip to Tokyo. Fortunately, I had moved back to Tokyo at that time already so the timing was perfect. I got to meet who I would consider my “celebrity crush” (haha) and we just spent the day walking around Tokyo, exploring the streets, having coffee, had sushi, went to what would become my most favorite bar in Tokyo, etc. We even walked from Omotesando to Roppongi—which I didn’t even realize was that close. Apparently this globetrotter doesn’t like taking subways and prefers to walk—surprise, surprise.

I was just so giddy because, well, going to every country in the world—that’s my goal too, and I got to meet the only guy (as the youngest hobby traveler) in the world that has done it.

Oh, and he showed me the manuscript of this book that day (which he kept inside his jacket, which kind of blew my mind)—it was still in the editing process, if I remember correctly, and it was all in Norwegian—which was published first before English.

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I have decided to travel, to spend all my money and most of my spare time on travel. You need a hobby, after all.

Anyway, enough showing off and bragging about meeting him and BEING FRIENDS WITH HIM AND SPENDING A WHOLE DAY WITH HIM…

I got this book back in August 2015—I ordered it the moment I found out the English translation version was out. I’ve been reading it on and off because it just makes me so uncomfortable and suffocated with wanderlust every single time I pick it up. So a few days ago, I decided to really seriously read it properly (because I need some travel inspiration and he’s my Travel God).

There are “chapters” for each 198 countries, and those chapters are under umbrella chapters like: “You’ve Got to Go Here”, “Easy is Boring”, “Five Continents in One Day” and “I Won’t Go Back (Anytime Soon)”.

I tried to be disciplined and started reading from the beginning and planned to read it in chronicle order until the end. However, the first few countries he talked about are places I’ve never been (yet)… and I got so desperately travel-craving to go to them that it made me so jealous and so angry at him for going. Very selfish and childish, but I had the attitude like, “If I don’t get to go there, then no one else can go” (haha).

So what I did was… I went to the back of the book where he has a list of all the countries and the page numbers where you can find their stories. I decided to only read the stories of the countries I’ve already visited so that I can reminisce and compare my travel adventures with his, instead of pining for the lands unseen. So far this method has been a lot softer on my heart, soul, and mind. (Though, of course, the act of reminiscing makes me wish I was back at those countries I’ve visited, but…mmm.)

I really enjoy reading his writing. It feels like I’m talking to him over coffee in Harajuku again. He has this unique style of humor and it really shows in his writing. It’s not in the style of a travel guide—it’s more of a travelogue, but in short stories/chapters and they’re all amusing and funny (at least the ones I’ve read so far). Very cheeky too (ahem, Belgium.).

If you like traveling, READ IT.

If you want to travel, READ IT.

If you want to see the world, READ IT.

If you want to be open-minded, READ IT.

If you’re a curious mind, READ IT.

 

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