Chris Guillebeau has been to all 193 countries in the world, NYT best-selling author, and fellow travel hacker. I like to consider him the godfather of travel hacking, but he is much more than that.
I started following his blog The Art of Non-Comformity a few years ago. The blog was about his quest to visit every country in the world and he made it to all 193 countries by age 35. Since his blog has become about much more than and it “home for unconventional people doing remarkable things.”
Chris inspired Triphackr and reading his blog led to my interest in travel hacking and traveling the world in general. I am on a similar quest as Chris as I attempt to travel to every country in the world. I probably won’t achieve this by age 35 but the importance of quests is the key takeaway from his blog and new book.
Pursuing a quest is what drives me to travel and this can be applied to all areas in life. Whether your quest is to travel to every country in the world, learn a new language, or just visit a place you’ve never been before it is important to set goals in life.
Chris was kind enough to offer some great insight into travel hacking and how his quest led him around the world before the age of 35.
TH: How did you become a travel hacker?
CG: Initially out of a blend of curiosity and necessity. The curiosity came because it was fascinating to me: people really use those “miles” they earn from the airlines? And if they’re creative and invest a bit of effort, they can put them to great use?
The necessity came when I started traveling a lot. I simply couldn’t afford to pay full price to visit every country… but fortunately I didn’t have to.
TH: What inspired your quest to travel to every country in the world?
CG: The short version is that I loved travel and I loved goal-setting. When I put them together, I came up with a quest: don’t just travel “to a bunch of places,” travel to all of them.
TH: What motivates you to continue your travels after conquering the world?
CG: Even though it was a quest, I didn’t do it just to check countries off a list or to say I had accomplished something. I really do love travel for no other reason than simply being out in the world. I love exploration, discovery, and the mere process of transit. I feel at home when I’m away from home, if that makes sense.
TH: How do you rebuild your war chest of frequent flier miles every year?
CG: Yes, a good war chest must continuously be replenished! For the past seven years I’ve earned at least one million miles a year, often a lot more. I earn miles through actual flying (at least 200k butt-in-seat miles per year), credit card signups, savings account + other bank bonuses, manufactured spend (sometimes—I’m getting lazy now, but if there’s something easy I’ll do it), and whatever the flavor-of-the-month deal is.
Like any good travel hacker, I try to follow the “always be earning, always be spending” rule.
TH: Picking a favorite country is difficult, but what is your favorite place to return to year after year?
CG: Indeed, that’s tough—I have several favorite countries. But as for where I like to return year after year, that’s also interesting because I think of more than one place. Every year I’m in Hong Kong at least 4-5 times, in London + Johannesburg + Frankfurt at least three times, and in Sydney at least twice. I like all of those places for different reasons.
Of course, those are all fairly big, hub cities. I also like smaller places, but due to the nature of air travel I visit them less frequently.
TH: In your new book, the Happiness of Pursuit, you write about the importance of a quest and how it can improve our lives. How did your quest to travel the world improve your life?
CG: It challenged me and gave me greater perspective about both the world and my place in it. It helped me craft a new career and gave me a foundation to build on. It would be hard to overstate how impactful it’s been for me.
TH: Would you have been able to travel to every country in the world without setting goals?
CG: Great question—and I’d say the best answer is “probably not.” It might have been technically possible but also extremely unlikely. Combining the love of travel with a structured goal based on easily definable parameters (all 193 countries by the age of 35) was what pushed me along when I encountered challenges along the way.
TH: Where are you headed next?
CG: At the moment I’m writing these answers from the back of a taxi in my hometown in Portland, Oregon…but pretty soon I’ll be underway on a tour to meet readers in at least 40 cities. We’re starting in North America but then going global. I hope to see a lot of great people on the road! Do come out and say hi.
You can buy his new book here: The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
You can also see Chris tonight at WORD Brooklyn at 7pm. I will be there and it’s a great chance to hear him speak and get a copy of his book signed.
If you aren’t in NYC he is making 40 stops on his tour. Check out his tour dates on ChrisGuillebeau.com.