The guy who spent the last ten years travelling to all 197 countries in the world has named his favourite country.
With travelling being one of the most popular hobbies, it is the untouched and deserted that is so sought-after and evanescent.
That was the reason why Johnny Ward chose Algeria and the Philippines as his favourite countries.
197/197 countries visited! 10 years of almost full time travel, averaging almost 3 weeks per country, I started this journey broke, teaching English in Thailand, and today I reach my lifetime goal, amongst 8 of my most loved ones, in the depths of the Arctic circle in Kirkeness, Norway racing huskies, riding snowmobiles as we chase the northern lights and staying in an ice hotel @kirkenessnowhotel A dream come true ❤️?? Traveling the world for all these years has taught me a lot. For a start I've learned that we are all the same deep down. Skin colour, gender, religion, sexuality, culture – none of that differentiates us hugely. We all want to be the best we can be, to make the people close to us proud, to try to leave a positive impact and enjoy ourselves along the way. Let's never let divisive politicians or agenda-driven media let us lose sight of that. It's taught me that we should be grateful for what we have, as most of the world would rightly swap their serious problems for our trivial ones, if we are online, can access free social media and can communicate in English we are better off than we know. We should try to appreciate that. It's taught me that there's much much more to life than competing with others. Life isn't a competition, nor is it a race, or a bragging platform or an excuse to belittle others. We are all in this together, trying our best, making it up as we go along. Life is a beautiful journey, but it's not an easy one, let's try to support each other where we can. The world is a lot more awesome when we are kind to each other. It's taught me to treasure good people. When you're blessed enough to stumble across awesome friends, family members, partners, whoever then don't let them go. Make an effort, always, to keep them close to you. It's not your right to have awesome people in your life, it's a privilege so make sure you deserve them. It's taught me to dream big, and that dreams can and do come true. If you truly, deeply want something bad enough, you can make it happen. When you visualise your path, and every choice you make strives to bring you to where you know you can be, nothing can stop you. #everycountryintheworld
The 33-year-old traveler from Ireland started his journey as a broke English teacher in East Asia for five years before he started blogging and over the past decade has worked his way up to earning over $1m.
The Galway-born explorer told UNILAD:
Both Algeria and the Philippines are two amazing countries. Algeria, due to the crazy western media, gets almost zero tourism but it’s an awesome country. The People are super friendly, the food is delicious, the sights, the Sahara, everything! And the Philippines is pretty much Thailand 20 years ago – still has loads of untouched places and it’s just paradise everywhere.
Journey of a life [email protected] Arabian Sea on a cement cargo boat to get into Yemen, my 196th of 197 countries! Check out my story, and let me know your thoughts, oh and have a look at the photo of the toilet on board ?? BLOGGED: http://onestep4ward.com/4-days-cement-boat-socotra-i-became-tourist-yemen/ #yemen #oman #socotra #realtravel #everycountryintheworld
It wasn’t all paradise and beauty though. Ward has found himself in some sticky situations particularly when he was arrested in the Ivory Coast, hospitalised in 20 countries, smuggled across boarders, rejected from Saudi Arabia, and got caught in the middle of the civil war in Yemen.
Of all the countries in the world, the Irishman confessed it was Guinea that was his least favourite place to visit.
Guinea! I had to leave Liberia when a new Ebola case broke out and to get there is supposedly 18 hours in a rickety bus but in reality it takes about 70 hours and U sleep on the side of the dirt road, instead I took the back of a 16 year old guys motorbike, 16 hours through the jungle off road, insane. When I got there then, Conakry the capital was a bit rough around the edges so when I tried to leave, there was a prison break and the entire prison population were roaming the streets and I couldn’t leave!
Im in Karachi, the biggest city in Pakistan!! 186/196 – 10 countries left!! If you remember I couldn't get a visa for Pakistan, but last minute Faisal, a reader from Karachi, sent me private message offering his help to get me business visa, with the help of his influential father. Fast forward 10 days or so, they have prepared all my paperwork, I book a last minute flight from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan to Karachi, Pakistan and Faisal and his family organised my visa in the airport, no paperwork or embassy visits required – now that's influence! ? Upon hearing my dodgy cheap hotel booking (I've spent enough of flights this month!), they wouldn't accept it, now I'm staying in their luxurious villa complete with drivers, cooks and guards. I'll try to shoot a quick video tomorrow in his house, amazing. Thanks Fasial, and Karachi is coooool! ❤️?? #everycountryintheworld #pakistan #karachi #lovetheworld #travelbeautifulpakistan
A stark lesson that Ward took away was about different people, and how we’re all actually very similar.
The Western media’s portrayal of the world encourages fear of the unknown, but after actually meeting individuals from everywhere and embracing the cultures, Johnny saw how much of this is based on constructed stereotypes as oppose to reality.
Ward told us:
Western Islam phobia has gone off the scale, but the Arabic world for example is my favourite area in the world, the people are so friendly and the travel there is unreal. Deep down, we are all the same – we all want the best for our loved ones, we all want to improve ourselves, we all want to be happy, not so different.
Arriving in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with no hotel booked, no transport booked, no sights to see planned, I chatted to Eyad @eyadajaj via couchsurfing. He couldn't host as his extended family was in town, but he organised someone to pick me up from the airport, drive me to Jeddah and he had organised a hotel for me for my 3 nights. Amazing hospitality from a complete stranger, but now a new Saudi friend ? Arabian hospitality is something else, and Jeddah is so much more than what the Western Media projects. I'm delighted to come here and experience it for myself, here's a pic of Eyad and me in the old city. Eyad took time out, drove 1.5hours from his office outside the city to come and see me, he and spent the evening showing me the best of Jeddah, amazing people everywhere ❤️? #everycountryintheworld #jeddah #saudiarabia #couchsurfing #realtravel
There are about 6,500 different languages spoken around the world, so I was intrigued as to how Johnny communicated and managed to get around so well.
He said that because he traveled alone most of the time, he had no other choice than to learn the languages.
He was ‘Studying Spanish in Colombia, Thai in Bangkok, fasting for Ramadan in North Africa, staying in the slums of Bangladesh’.
Because he was ‘so broke’ in his first five years, Ward had to become fully involved in the local transport and culture because ‘hotels and airports were beyond me, and that was kinda the most beautiful thing about traveling like that’.
As well as fulfilling his own dreams of travelling, Johnny used his success and mobility to start a charity called Give Back Give Away which works on ‘community development projects to improve the lives of those who need it, from playgrounds for kids to market stalls for families to sell their wares’ while also giving away a free two week trip to see the work being done.
Having just completed his whole world challenge in Norway, Johnny expressed that he is ‘proud to have finished but also relieved, 10 years is a long time, I’m kinda free again now!’.
You’d think he would want to sit still for a little bit after such an adventure, but it seems that Johnny will always be travelling and has a property in Thailand which is where he will be ‘based’ (if you can call it that).
Johnny went on to tell us:
I have a property in Thailand and that’s where I’m based when I’m not traveling so I’ve kind of chosen that already! But I have no plans to settle down to be honest, I’m doing a ‘around the world in 80 days (no flights!)’ trip with cargo ships and trains etc later this year. Also, I’m doing a tuktuk race around Sri Lanka in April.
Next year I want to do Bangkok to Belfast by tuktuk too, and cycle from San Francisco to New York City. So I plan to be in Thailand about 6 months a year and then travel about 6 months, that’d be pretty awesome. I’d love to travel with my kids when I have them in my future too
So there is much more to come from Johnny Ward, both with his charity and personal travel challenges.
After such a broad experience of the world, the one lesson he took away is ‘That if we want something badly enough, deeply enough and we are willing to sacrifice a lot to get there, then we can honestly achieve our dreams’.