The Two-Way
1:56 pm
Sat October 19, 2013

190-Plus Nations In 23 Years For World's 'Most Traveled' Man

Originally published on Sat October 19, 2013 9:18 am

Mike Spencer Bown's latest Facebook post has him in Cork, Ireland, which means he isn't quite finished wandering the world.

But after what the Toronto Sun explains has been 23 years, the Canadian-born Bown has now visited more than 190 nations and has a claim to the title of world's "most traveled man," as Outside magazine puts it.

He's due to return to his native Calgary any day now.

According to Canoe.ca, the 44-year-old Bown makes the case that while some others have touched down in as many nations as he has, he's "made a point of sticking around and immersing himself each culture."

Bown's travels have gotten attention. In 2010, he showed up in war-torn Somalia. Officials there at first didn't believe his claim to be a tourist, not a spy. He managed to get the OK to stay a few days.

The Sun says that's Bown's adventures included:

"Taking local transport across Taliban controlled Afghanistan and hitchhiking through Iraq during the U.S. invasion, including a visit to Saddam Hussein's hometown. 'The Iraqis were generous people, with a fascinating ancient culture,' said Bown, who ran an export business in Indonesia before selling it to fund his adventure."

Bown was on Ireland's The Ray D-Arcy radio show earlier this month. He said his quest began when he was sitting on a mountainside and "wondered if it was possible to visit the whole world ... [and] see everything of interest." He was able to afford the travels, he said, because he was frugal — taking along almost no possessions, using the same backpack all these years and staying in some of the world's cheapest hotels (one in Nicaragua, he said, cost the equivalent of 3 cents a night).

By the way, Bown also said his country count is a bit vague — "more than" 190 — because he doesn't want to get into political arguments about whether some places he's visited are or are not independent nations.

We expect much more will be heard about Bown in coming weeks. The Sun writes that "European media outlets like The Guardian are planning features on his staggering two-decade achievement, accomplished with little more than courage and a backpack."

He's also planning a book.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.