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TRAVEL ZEALOT
/ˈtravəlˈzelət/

noun

a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in their pursuit of travel. 

 

Hi, my name is John and I came to the realization that there is more to life than getting up five days a week, and going to the same old job serving the interests of a corporation, that in the end really doesn’t give a shit about you anyway.

After counting the seconds waiting for my shifts to end for a couple of years, it was time to make a change. Since I’d spent a good deal of my time sharing stories of travel and adventure with customers, it was clear that I had one foot out the door already. At 57, if I was going to reach my goal of 100 countries in this lifetime I had better get a move on. I’d already visited 30, but there was still a long way to go. At this point, my time was worth more than their money so I left my job selling high-end wristwatches and hit the bricks for the open road.

Having done quite a bit of traveling over the years, this was my first attempt at a serious long term endeavor. This Five Year Mission I am embarking upon is quite an undertaking compared to the short trips of my past. On my way, I hope to cultivate enduring friendships and eventually find the places where I belong on this beautiful planet of ours. I begin in Southeast Asia where I will explore Han Son Doong, the world’s largest cave in central Vietnam.

You are most welcome to join me as I try to reach 100 countries visited. Follow along if you like, and perhaps you’ll also hit the trail yourself before your time on Earth is up. It would please me no end to meet some of you on the road pursuing your own dreams.

 

-The Travel Zealot-

1/1/2015

 

I began my travels with the goal of traveling for five years and reaching my 100th. country within that time period. Five years was chosen because of the original Star Trek’s five-year mission parameter, and 100 seemed like a good, substantive round number. If there has been any guiding principle to my travels thus far, it would have to be the arts. Fine arts, music, architecture, local and pop culture, cinema, design, and cuisine have presented myriad manifestations which change from region to region within individual countries.

Life is a sumptuous buffet for the world traveler. In Paris, you can follow the footsteps of great artists, writers, or kings by day, and in the evening dine at a Belle Epoch restaurant in a train station where the paintings, gilding, and baroque woodwork would make Louis XIV feel right at home. It’s essentially a little palace in a train station where you can dine for less than a king’s ransom. Paris never fails to surprise. Rest assured, the aforementioned Le Train Bleu restaurant in the Gáre de Lyon is not my typical dining experience. Much like the occasional four-star hotel, these indulgences are much more infrequent than my litany of low-cost lodgings and inexpensive meals.

Many of the hostels in Europe have been delightful, leading to friendship and adventure. Also, inexpensive food in strange lands can yield great value, variety, and tasty results. An amazing meal in a European city need not require a lot of cash or a Michelin Star, even in Paris. In addition to dining, there is a top class hostel in a super location that offers a bed in a two-bed dorm for $45 a night with an ensuite bathroom. Add on dining, sightseeing and a metro pass, and you can enjoy the City of Lights for less than a weekend in Vegas. In Las Vegas, you might end up with a cheap room in the Paris Hotel with its spurious Eiffel Tower and other not quite so French accouterments. Wouldn’t it be better to see the real thing instead of wandering around a cultural black hole in the middle of the desert? If you happen to be a gambler you could even lose that trip to Paris in the first few hours.

So if prolonged travel or even short term travel have seemed out of reach, there are many ways to make these things much more accessible. If you approach things from the mentality of a world traveler your costs will plummet. I always looked at travel expenses through the lens of a once yearly, please the wife, over the top extravaganza complete with shopping spree. Obviously using this metric forced me to dismiss out of hand the possibility of the kind of travel that I wanted to do.

Figure out what type of thinking prevents you from realizing your dreams of travel. Every fear or argument you have likely has a solution. Start small. You will find that there are hundreds of travel blogs that address the needs of literally every kind of traveler and the challenges they might face. Choose the destination that best suits your maiden voyage. It might be the country of origin of your family, a city you’ve always dreamed of visiting or just a place that has always resonated with you. Then just plan out your time according to your tastes, and set a budget for your trip. I call this travel foreplay, and with a travel guide and/or Google, it can be an enjoyable experience that yields fantastic results. It is so fulfilling to find little gems during your research only to have them exceed expectations upon arrival.

Most people dream of more travel and adventure in their lives. The majority of deathbed regrets involve people’s deep remorse over not having traveled more in their lives. I decided not to become one of those, and that my granddaughters would have an interesting Grandpa to tell them real tales of adventure using my blog as an all-purpose bedtime story. My grandkids will be regaled with tales of strange creatures, giant caves, dragon festivals, bizarre foods and beautiful castles which will hopefully inspire their own dreams of travel. If they start to get bored with my yarns, I can always tell them about evil taxi drivers or the malevolent Croatian who tried to run me down with a giant bus(picture included).

 

THE MALDIVES – 100TH. COUNTRY – 5/22/2018

Well, the keystone to my bucket list has been achieved in just under three and a half years. I managed to rack up 70 new independent countries during that time and revisited many places as well. When you embark on a journey like this, you wonder whether you’ve actually got the minerals to pull it off. It’s easy to say you’re going to make it to your 100th. country, and travel for a full five years. It’s a whole other thing to actually do it.

I’m also well over the hump for the five-year goal, and with Trump in office, I will have sufficient motivation to stay on the road. At this writing, I have also completed all Seven New Wonders of the World, having seen Petra, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall in the past two months.

2018 has been a banner year despite a nagging rotator cuff injury. Korea, Japan, Australia, and Fiji still await, followed by a three-week road trip in central France. I wrap up the year at TravelCon, a travel blogging conference in Austin, Texas, for the purpose of developing a monetized travel blog to help offset the costs of ongoing adventures.

 

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Pipeline Bungy – Queenstown, New Zealand 334 ft. – Travel Zealot at age 45

My month in New Zealand was time well spent, but I am upping the ante on adventure at age 57 in March 2015 when I’ll explore the world’s largest cave in Vietnam.

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Navagio Beach in Zakinthos, Greece – A Place I Hope To Visit In The Future