How many countries have you visited? This far we with Una have been to 14, but for Latvian traveler Ivars this number is 124. And it’s constantly growing, because Ivars has a dream – to visit every country in the world.
To make it easier, he has decided, that it should happen before his fourties. As we all know, deadlines help to achieve things.
You may already know Ivars because we wrote about him as one of the Latvian adventurers you need to know about. But I’m sure, there is so much more you don’t know about this adventurous Latvian guy. Continue reading and you will find it out!
– Please, tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m Ivars, 32, male, 196cm, 82kg, left-handed. I grew up in Latvia, but for the past 10 years I’ve lived mostly overseas and travelled extensively. 5 years in London, 3 years in Sydney, 6 months in Spain, 3 months in US.
I’ve been to 124 countries and plan to go to all of them (in total 193) over the next 3-4 years. My little personal goal is to become first Latvian who has been to every country in the world, lets see if someone beats me to that.
– Where are you now? How do you like it there?
Now I’m in Amsterdam, where I moved just few weeks ago. Plan to stay here for couple of years until the wind takes me to the next destination. Still settling in, but city has a great feel. Going with bike everywhere, very diverse neighborhoods with restaurants from all over the world.
People say Amsterdam is like a big village, and there’s truth to that, but it is one hell of a village and its got Schiphol airport that shuttles 30 million people a year, not bad for a village.
– How and when your wanderlust started?
Traveling is addictive, it’s like heroin times 10, do it a few times and you’re hooked for life. I guess it started with my first longer trip overseas, which was 3 months in US when I was 19.
But it really exploded when I moved to London. With 5 international airports London is the best-connected city in the world. You could be in Tokyo in 13 hours or New York in 7. It’s a perfect place for a travel junky.
– Are you a planner or spontaneous?
I’m a spontaneous planner, haha. I do plan my trips, the seasons, regions, as often I combine 2-3 countries per trip, so there is some planning going on. But generally I’m not German about the details; I don’t have every day planned out, so I can be quite spontaneous when on the road, keeping it flexible.
– Do you already know the next destination or destinations you will be traveling to?
Every year I visit 6 to 8 new countries, so for this year the plan is Mongolia, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, may be Turkmenistan, Afghanistan.
The list is not definite yet, as I just came back from the big 4-week trip around Caribbean. I really wanted to join some of my friends going to North Korea in March, but it did not work out, may be later in the year.
– What’s your secret – how you manage to travel so much?
There is no big secret, you just do it. If something is really important, you find a way to do it.
I’m 32, but own very little stuff. I don’t have a car, I don’t have a house, I don’t even have a TV, all my belongings can fit in couple of bags. But I have travel. That’s where all my money and time goes.
Over time I’ve worked out that taking longer breaks every 3 years works best for me. So I work for 3 years and travel for 6-12 months, then work again. This model allows me to earn enough money and still work long enough to make a meaningful contribution for the company I work for.
So far I’ve done 3 full cycles like that and it has not really impacted my career, allowing me to work all over world (London, Sydney and now Amsterdam). When I’m at work I also use all the holiday allowance, 5 weeks, plus, 1 week of public holidays, so you can actually plan 3 two-week trips. I don’t take sick days I never “waste” a holiday for non-travel activities.
– How much do you carry with yourself?
Very little, I always take the same 30L backpack that I can pack in 15 minutes. The contents change very little, be it two week or six month trip. Every last thing in my backpack is being used at least once a week, there is no excess, there are no “just in case” items. Its always hand luggage only, I have not checked in luggage since 2007 and I’ve taken hundreds of trips since then.
In few weeks I have a short weekend trip to London planned and I plan to try to go without any luggage at all, just clothes I’m wearing and toothbrush in my pocket, will see how that goes :)
– So, you have a plan to visit every country of the world. Do you have any rules – when you say, yes, this country counts?
True, I’m working towards it :)
Rules are self-imposed and I define it as “meaningful travel”. I don’t go to countries just to tick the box, I want to understand what its like to live there.
First, airports and few hour stop-overs don’t count, you have to spend at least few days or ideally few weeks in a country, to get a feeling what its like.
Second, I always try to go where the locals go (public transport) and eat where the locals eat (street food). Taking taxis everywhere and locking yourself in all-inclusive resort does not count as travel.
Third, only UN member states count. I’ve been to independent territories like Kosovo, Gibraltar, Macao and so on, but I don’t count them as countries. There are 193 UN member states and that is my reference point for the challenge.
– Is there something you miss from Latvia?
Rye bread and cottage cheese, but I would not say I miss it. I just appreciate it every time I’m back. And seeing, how pretty the Latvian girls are :)
– Why we all need to travel?
We don’t. If everyone would travel, it would be a disaster.
It’s like if all Indians would start eating meet and all Chinese could afford to buy cars, the world would implode. But it is definitely nice to travel. It’s more easier and affordable than ever so if you want to travel, there are very few excuses not to.
Travel because it puts things in perspective, the everyday worries the trivial things we often spend so much time on, when you travel you realize what’s really important, human connections, living and treating others with dignity, learning new things and appreciating the simple things. Its liberating, but very addictive, you’ve been warned.
All pictures used in the article are from Ivars’s personal archive.
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.