Image by Chris Spencer-Payne 

A ship in harbor is safe,
but that is not what ships are built for.
—John A. Shedd, Salt from my Attic, 1928

You can never cross the ocean until
you have the courage to lose
sight of the shore. 
—Christopher Columbus

‘Isn’t it dangerous to travel to all those weird countries?’ That is the question I’m most frequently asked (after ‘what is the most beautiful country in the world?’). Perhaps an obvious one to ask someone who has visited every country on earth.

To me, it’s all a matter of perception. My motivation to travel is fired by an unbridled curiosity for unknown places, for people with very different lives and for cultures that are remote from mine. I’m elated when I cross a border to a new country and can crave for all the new things I’m going to see and do.

I can be intensely happy when I meet extraordinary people and when I encounter natural or man-made beauty that overwhelms me. When strangers invite me wholeheartedly into their lives. My heart starts to beat faster when I embark on something without having a clue how it will end. Where others might see danger, I see adventure.

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Travelling to all the Countries in the World

After I decided to travel to all the countries in the world, I compiled a list of the 75 remaining. I used the only objective definition of ‘country’: the one used by the United Nations. At the time, it consisted of 192 countries; South Sudan was added a few years later. As soon as you divert from this list, you quickly get bogged down in a subjective, complicated, endless, and often politically charged discussion – which can be entertaining and exhausting at the same time.

Among the remaining countries were destinations that many would consider ‘dangerous’. Somalia, Iraq, the Central African Republic and several others that, according to all current travel advice, had been colored deep red for years, and where you were advised not to go.

‘Don’t travel to Somalia. Are you there now? Leave the country as soon as possible [...] Serious crime occurs in this country; including armed robberies, kidnappings, murders, explosions, and sectarian violence.’

I have read more compelling promotional holiday brochures. Nauru, Tuvalu and São Tomé & Príncipe: although not on the red list, I had never heard of them either. Where were those countries really, and how could I get there?

The Greatest Adventure of My Life

I quickly realized that I had set myself a goal of which I could not foresee the consequences. I wasn’t even sure whether it was feasible. Excitement took possession of me. It was clear that I found myself at the beginning of the greatest adventure of my life. The more I thought about it, the more enthusiastic I got. It would certainly be exciting. But dangerous?

During one of my many Interrail wanderings, in my early twenties, I overheard a few young Americans exchange experiences about their travels across Europe. The sights not to be missed, the best food, the most beautiful cities. Barcelona, Venice and Athens were all high on their list.

Then they talked about where you should avoid going. One of them mentioned Amsterdam. He had heard several stories of people who had been robbed. A girl supported him: she too had been told that it was unsafe. The others nodded in agreement. In no time, they labeled Amsterdam as the most dangerous city in Europe and decided to steer well clear of it.

I could hardly believe what I was hearing. They were talking about my city! I lived in Amsterdam, cycled through it day and night without ever feeling threatened or unsafe. Yes, a junkie once stole my bike. But to call that dangerous? It made me realize for the first time how biased and unreliable the advice and warnings of others can be, how easy it is for people to frighten each other and how a bad reputation, once obtained, is very diffcult to erase.

How often have I been warned during my ramblings about the people in the next village, the next region, the capital or (especially!) the neighboring country. Only to discover on the spot that the inhabitants received me like a prodigal son with the corresponding treatment. But when I left, they would warn against the residents of the next village. They really couldn’t be trusted!

What is that about? Is there an ingrained sense of superiority in people? An aversion to everything different and odd?

Is It Fear of the Unknown?

Fear of the Unknown? The unknown is precisely what the traveler longs for, which drives him to go on and on to the next place he wants to discover. Granted, the unknown by definition also entails risk. But risk is not necessarily the same as danger.

By nature, humans are equipped to assess risks and make decisions when facing dire situations. Those decisions are by no means always rational. Confronted with acute danger, we have the well-known freeze, fight or flight reaction. That has helped humanity to survive for many centuries in all kinds of frightful situations.

In recent decades, we have done everything we can to eliminate as many risks as possible and make life as safe as we can. We have created labels, warnings, regulations and much more to achieve this which, in many cases, has certainly been useful. For example, cars, airplanes and trains have now become so safe that we use them without even thinking about possible dangers, convinced that we will arrive safely.

Controlling Life to Exclude Risks?

Gradually, we have come to think that we can fully control life and that we can exclude all risks. We have forgotten that certain risks are inherent in life and that destiny still has the final say. Besides, taking risks doesn’t always have to be negative.

Look at it from the other side: if we never took risks, everyone would stay in their comfort zone. Many inventions and discoveries would never have been made. Columbus would never have crossed that ocean. We would never improve in our lives; we wouldn’t dare to ask that girl or boy that we have set our eyes on for a date.

Travel and adventure go hand in hand. They don’t exist without taking risks. Images and reports about terrorist attacks and insecurity flash around the world in a matter of milliseconds. They enlarge the risks, feed the fear and put the ‘Dangerous’ stamp on a country. Once obtained, it’s very hard to get rid of. It’s because of those images that people ask me if all that traveling isn’t dangerous and if I have gone mad.

Fear and Reality: Two Different Things

Reality on the ground is always different. Often very different. Especially because of the people I met on the way, I realized that the large majority of people around the world are kind to their visitors. This also applies to countries that are supposedly dangerous – or even more so there.

Man is apparently keen to welcome the stranger and to protect him. That helped me a lot to have confidence and bring my travels to a happy conclusion.

Was I scared? No. Fear is a bad counselor, especially for the traveler. This is certainly the case for the adventurer who wants to visit all the countries in the world.

Risk was unavoidable. Situations arose where I had to make choices, often without overseeing the consequences. Many of my destinations are probably very different from what you would expect beforehand. Just like those countries surprised me when I traveled there. And I always came back safely.

Copyright 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Published with permission of the author.

Article Source:

BOOK:The Long Road to Cullaville 

The Long Road to Cullaville: Stories from my travels to every country in the world
by Boris Kester.

book cover of: The Long Road to Cullaville by Boris Kester.Get ready to dive into an unforgettable journey with Boris Kester's riveting book, "The Long Road to Cullaville." Join Boris on his audacious mission to visit every country in the world and experience the astounding beauty, captivating cultures, and memorable adventures that await in some of the most exciting places on our planet.

Perfect for both seasoned globetrotters and armchair travelers, "The Long Road to Cullaville" will inspire wanderlust and curiosity in everyone. Whether you're dreaming of visiting every country in the world or simply yearning for a taste of the unknown, this book will undoubtedly change the way you see our world.

For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.

About the Author

photo of Boris KesterBoris Kester is an author, fearless adventurer, senior purser, polyglot, avid sportsman, programmer, and political scientist. He is one of about 250 people worldwide to have travelled to every country in the world. According to the authoritative travel site, Boris ranks among the best traveled people on the planet.

He is the author of  The Long Road to Cullaville, Stories from my travels to every country in the world. He shares his travel photos and stories on Learn more at