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Have you been around the world? Visited more than 100 countries? Then congratulations: You’re part of an exclusive travel club.
Ron Levin has done both. As a frequent air traveler, he spent years crisscrossing the globe, living in Madrid, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona before returning to the U.S. to work for a venture capital firm in Boston.
“I have had the travel bug for as long as I can remember,” says Levin, 43. “I reached the 100-country mark when I was in my early 30s.”
Norman Dailey is also a member, with more than 212 countries and 4 circumnavigations. It took 10 years to reach 100 and another 10 to reach 200. Among his favorite adventures: touring Lalibela churches in Ethiopia, ordering a beer at the highest pub in the world in Lesotho and swimming in Zambia’s Devil’s Pool.
“You go to places you would never think of,” says Dailey, a retired government worker from Alexandria, Virginia.
What are the century and circumnavigator trophies?
These achievements – visiting 100 countries and traveling around the world – are the ultimate bragging rights for aspiring jet setters. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic finally starting to fade, people are thinking about their next trip – and they’re thinking big.
By the way, there are actual clubs for people who have met these milestones. The Travelers’ Century Club is for people who have visited 100 or more countries or territories. And the Circumnavigators Club is for travelers who have gone around the world.
But for most travelers, this isn’t about becoming a member of a formal organization; it’s about joining a fraternity of dedicated travelers.
Melissa Smith has watched the rosters of these exclusive travel clubs swell in recent years, and she believes more growth lies ahead. From her vantage point as a matchmaker for virtual assistants and as a world traveler herself, she has seen more Americans loosen the shackles of 9-to-5 jobs and head out into the world, with no definite plans to return.
Smith says these newly minted global nomads need help, which has led to record demand for her services.
“For the first time we have a waiting list for placing virtual assistants,” she says. “These are popular clubs.”
Are you century club material?
Visiting 100 countries is the most popular achievement among travelers. The reason: You can take your time getting to the century mark instead of trying to make it around the world in one stretch.
Fred Cosentino, a retired psychologist from Berkeley, California, began tracking his countries when he started traveling in 1985. He and his wife have reached 127 countries and territories, from the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic to Antarctica.
“We love visiting new places, meeting the people, enjoying the culture, food and local sites,” he says.
That pretty much sums up why people try to reach the 100-country mark. They do it because they enjoy traveling – and because they can.
Silvana Frappier is not only working toward her club membership, but as the owner of a luxury travel agency, she helps others do it. She says that to reach the century mark, you need to set goals and be flexible.
“You need to have a plan A, B and C – and be ready to change plans,” she says. “Because plans will change.”
How to travel around the world
To qualify for the circumnavigator designation, you have to cross all the meridians of longitude in one direction. In other words, no backtracking and finishing the trip later.
Ross Copas, an industrial electrician from Tweed, Canada, has been around the world four times with his wife, Jean. Their first was an around-the-world cruise he booked in 2007.
“We used that as a buffet – tasted a little bit of many places and decided which ones we would like to return to.” And he did return, traveling by motorcycle through North America, Europe, New Zealand, South America and India. That was followed by yet another world cruise to discover new ports.
“That led to more new countries and more new opportunities,” he says.
Jenny Brocious, an event planner from Atlanta, has circumnavigated the world 10 times. She says traveling around the world is surprisingly affordable – an around-the-world airline ticket costs about $2,000 – and she recommends it for almost anyone who has a sense of adventure.
“You can do a trip around the world on almost any budget,” she says.
Another misconception: You don’t have to sell everything you own and spend a year traveling. Brocious has made around-the-world trips in as little as two weeks. It’s a hectic two weeks, but it’s possible. You can spend only a few days, and sometimes a few hours, on the ground before moving on.
Should you join these clubs?
Reaching the 100-country mark or circling the globe isn’t for everyone. For many travelers, it takes years to reach the country goal. And for others, it’s too much time and money. But I have yet to find someone who regrets doing it.
When I started researching this story, I downloaded the list of countries and territories from the Travelers Century Club site to determine how many countries I’d visited. I hadn’t formally tracked them in my three decades as a travel writer. Let’s just say I fell short of the 100-country mark – embarrassingly short.
I’m about to remedy that. This month, I embark on a project that will take me around the world and to more than 100 countries. The world is starting to reopen after almost two long years of COVID-19, and there’s only one way to write about it: I have to be there.
But really, you don’t need a reason to embark on one of these adventures. Just go.
How to get to 100 countries
Find a pro. A travel adviser knows how to plan and execute a complicated itinerary. You can find one at the American Society of Travel Advisors site. “Everyone knows that something can and will always go wrong during travel,” says Tracy Schatz, owner of Elite Travel Journeys. “It’s nice to know that someone is there to help them when a little – or big – glitch affects their plans.”
Get a second passport. If you have two American passports, a visa agency can process your application while you travel. “That way, waiting for your visa doesn’t hinder your travel,” says Janice Lintz, an around-the-world traveler. The State Department site has more information on how to get a second passport.
Take a shortcut. If patience is not your thing, don’t worry. There’s a faster way to join the club. A 14-day Caribbean cruise can take you to six countries; a world cruise can get you past the 30-country mark. Steve Kuriga, a travel adviser with Cadence Travel in La Jolla, California, says his clients use an app like Been to record the countries they’ve visited. “Once they start tracking the countries, they are surprised at how many they have already visited.”
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