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Travel to Remote Places

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  • Bob Conrich
    For those interested in remote places, this article appeared in today s Contra Costa Times. The tims serves a large suburban area east of San Francisco and
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 1, 2006
    • 0 Attachment
      For those interested in remote places, this article appeared
      in today's Contra Costa Times. The tims serves a large
      suburban area east of San Francisco and north of Oakland, in
      Northern California.


      1 April 2006
      'Country' Club members boast worldly endeavor
      By Dan Leeth
      TIMES CORRESPONDENT

      Gig Gwin sat at a beach-side restaurant in Lampedusa, an obscure Mediterranean isle rising between Tunisia and Malta.
      Digging his toes into the warm sand, Gwin nibbled pasta, sipped fine Italian wine and admired the lovely ladies who paraded
      by in their skimpy outfits.

      "Aah," he thought. "This is such a great way to cap 30 years of travel."

      The owner of Gwin's Travel in St. Louis had reason to feel proud. He had just reached the ultimate goal of country
      collectors. With his stop in Lampedusa, Gwin had finally visited every country in the world.

      While some people collect postage stamps, travelers such as Gwin are more interested in accumulating entry stamps on the
      pages of their passports. They long to visit unfamiliar places, see unusual sights, meet uncommon people and partake in
      unconventional experiences. The more out of the way or harder to reach a site is, the more determined they may be to get there.

      Not just a checklist

      Although checking lands off a list may be the ultimate motivation, most have a genuine desire to see and experience as much
      of the world's diversity as they can. In the vernacular of tourism, these are the true travelers.

      "They're prepared to go to places where there may be few other foreigners," says Edward Hasbrouck, staff travel guru of
      Airtreks and author of "The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World" (Avalon Travel Publishing). "They've had the
      kinds of experiences that those visiting more touristy places may never enjoy."

      Country collectors come from a variety of backgrounds. Some started as students armed with a backpack and Eurailpass. They
      spent their summer vacations trying to out-patch their counterparts on whirlwind escapades through Europe.

      "Every country you visited, you had to get the patch for your pack," says travel agent Sue Kasmar of Strictly Vacations in
      Santa Barbara. "I still have the backpack. Now my son looks at all the patches and goes, 'You were really there?'"

      Others had employment backgrounds that allowed them to travel frequently. Gwin worked for an incentive promotions company
      before starting his own travel agency. Others began their journeys in the military. John Rae, an 85-year-old Toronto
      resident, started his country collecting as a broadcaster with the CBC.

      "I did stories all around the world. I guess that's where I got my liking for travel."

      Now an avid cruise boater, Rae estimates that he has visited more than 90 countries. When he gets to his 100th country, he
      will be eligible for Travelers' Century Club membership.

      Travelers' Century Club

      The TCC, North America's leading group of country collectors, began 50 years ago. Before the advent of jetliners, reaching
      distant destinations required more effort, and a few well-traveled souls wanted to see who had been to the most countries in
      the world.

      "In the '60s, I think we had about 60 to 70 members," says Klaus Billep, TCC chairman. "It really didn't take off until the
      '80s when it was easier to travel. Today we have 1,600 members worldwide."

      To join, one must have visited at least 100 of the 315 countries on their official list. Some might find it strange to see
      Alaska, Hawaii and the contiguous United States count as three separate "countries."

      "When the club started, there was less commercial air available," explains Billep. "The original rule said that if an island
      is separated from the mother nation by at least 200 miles (322 kilometers), it's considered a separate country. We still do
      this today."

      The TCC adds new entries as needed. Kosovo (formerly part of Yugoslavia), Srpska (northern Bosnia) and Trans-Dniester
      (between Moldova and the Ukraine) made the list in 2002, and in 2005 Nakhichevan (near Armenia) and Prince Edward Island
      (which qualified as a separately governed state, province or department with a population of 100,000 or more) were added.

      Sneaking in

      Since not all entities stamp passports, the club decided that touching ground would constitute a visit. Gwin admits that of
      the 315 countries, North Korea and Afghanistan were simply toe touches for him.

      "I tried to get across the Afghan border when the Taliban were there, but I didn't have a visa and didn't want to get shot.
      At the crossing, there was a long walkway bisected by a white line. I walked the road very slowly. When I approached the
      boundary, the Afghan guards stood up, and I was close enough to see their eyes. I stepped over the line, leaned down like I
      was tying my shoe, then spun around and walked back. Technically, I was in Afghanistan."

      Asked why they venture to exotic places, country collectors such as Gwin usually say it's because they have a love of
      adventure and a thirst for knowledge. They often come back with enlightening stories to share.

      "I went out into the souk (market) in Marrakech," Sarasota, Fla., resident Bob Keeley says with a chuckle. "At a big, double
      tent, they were selling expensive ebony and mahogany carved figures. I found a place where the two tents joined and stuck my
      head in. In the back, there were cases of black- and mahogany-colored shoe polish. Two guys sat there rubbing the stuff in
      while another guy polished it with an electric buffer. I learned that if you're going to buy wooden objects in Africa, you'd
      better know what you're doing or you'll be purchasing junk only stained to look like the real thing."

      Remoteness the draw

      For many, the challenge of reaching isolated destinations such as Pitcairn Island in the Pacific or Tristan da Cunha in the
      South Atlantic is another draw. To get to Diego Garcia, a group of islands south of India, Gwin had to charter a boat and
      sail the open sea for five days each way. When he got there, he almost landed in jail.

      "We told the authorities we were coming and just wanted to step foot on the island," says Gwin, "but they were convinced we
      were there to go fishing and diving, which you're not allowed to do. A naval vessel came out and threatened to arrest us,
      but after we shared about five beers with them, they agreed to let us go. They shadowed us with their huge ship for 27 hours
      until we got out of the archipelago."

      For some, it's not just hitting the country that counts. They have a specific activity they want to do while there.
      Coloradan Gerry Roach ascends summits, Californian Alan Glover pumps pedals and Minnesotan Ron Carlson counts only countries
      he drives in. Carlson has now negotiated roadways in more than 60 nations, including Egypt, where he rented a car and
      crossed the country after the Luxor terrorist attack.

      "We tried to enter this town and were stopped at a checkpoint. They sidelined us while they rounded up two pickups full of
      armed soldiers bearing automatic weapons. With one truck in front and one behind, we drove like a bat out of hell to our
      hotel. They dropped us at the door, escorted us in through the metal detector and past an armed guard. The next morning, a
      similar caravan drove us out of town to the checkpoint where we were handed off to an armored personnel carrier bristling
      with guns. They escorted us for an hour through their territory to the next military zone. We did this eight times on our
      way to Cairo."

      World tour for starters

      For many, a prime way to collect countries is to imitate Magellan and take a trip around the world. For those who have the
      time and inclination to make their own private journeys, companies such as Airtreks in San Francisco specialize in booking
      globe-circling flights at economical prices. These are ideal for self-reliant travelers.

      For those craving a more catered approach to country collecting, there is ship travel, which offers the additional benefit
      of being able to reach places where planes cannot land. Some globe-girding cruise lines offer similar itineraries every
      year, while others pride themselves on including new and obscure ports of call on each sailing.

      "It's fairly easy to go to the common places around the world," says Simon Douwes of Holland America. "It's the odd,
      out-of-the-way spots that give our trips the interesting flavor that's so appealing to collectors."

      Holland America's 2007 global cruise will touch six continents and include such collectable destinations as Easter Island,
      Pitcairn Island, American Samoa, New Caledonia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Croatia.

      In addition to providing food, entertainment and the need to unpack only once, cruises offer country collectors another
      appealing advantage. They can provide a higher degree of safety.

      "Cruise lines reserve the right to revise itineraries when they don't feel it's safe for either the passengers or their
      three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar ships," points out travel agent Edward Infanti of Cruises Abroad in Vancouver, British
      Columbia.

      While safety is always a concern, most country collectors are not excessively worried. They research destinations in advance
      and try to stay out of danger zones. Many feel any risks they take in sampling the wealth of human habitats are worth the
      rewards they gain through exploring and understanding the diversity of mankind.

      "There is no better education in the world than traveling around and getting the grand tour of life," says Gwin.

      Using the Travelers' Century Club's rules, Dan Leeth added two new countries on a recent trip to Tasmania and the New
      Zealand part of Antarctica, bringing his total up to 71 "countries."

      IF YOU GO

      • What constitutes a country?

      There is debate as to what constitutes a "country" for travel purposes. If one considers only official political
      governments, the United Nations (www.un.org/Overview/unmember.html) has 191 members, and the U.S. State Department
      (www.state.gov/www/regions/independent_states.html) recognizes the same number of independent states. Ham radio operators
      (www.425dxn.org/dxcc/dxccmain.html), on the other hand, list 393 entities, and the Travelers' Century Club
      (www.travelerscenturyclub.org), the source most often used by country collectors, identifies 315 separate lands.

      While Tahiti, Martinique, Miquelon and Paris may all be politically part of France, they are located in divergent corners of
      the world, offering different populations, customs and experiences. For that reason, Traveler's Century Club logically lists
      them as separate countries.

      The TCC also considers continental land jurisdictions separated from the homeland by a foreign country as independent
      entities. Thus Alaska, which is separated from the lower 48 states by Canada, is a separate TCC country. Also, separately
      administered island states, provinces or departments that either lie more than 200 miles from the mainland or have
      populations in excess of 100,000 count separately. That makes Hawaii and Prince Edward Island countries.

      • What constitutes a visit?

      Travelers make their own rules for what establishes a visit. Some count only those places where they have slept, eaten a
      meal, changed money and sampled the toilet paper. Other country collectors, such as P.J. Parmar, who wrote "101 Countries:
      Discovering the World Through Fast Travel," count only visits in which they learned something about the country's culture,
      regardless of their length of the stay.

      • Travelers' Century Club

      The Traveler's Century Club has the most liberal rule: It counts as a visit is one has simply stepped on the land. In some
      places, such as Pitcairn Island, where sea swells frequently prevent passengers from motoring ashore, it may take several
      separate trips even to be able to toe-touch the ground.

      The Traveler's Century Club (310-393-7419, www.travelerscenturyclub.org) is an organization whose members have visited at
      least 100 of the club's 315 listed countries. Those who have collected 75 lands are allowed to attend meetings and go on
      trips. The organization provides a newsletter and has local chapters scattered across the United States. Dues for non-U.S.
      residents are US $50 per year with an initiation fee of US $100.

      • Holland America World Voyage

      The 2007 Holland America around-the-world cruise leaves from Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 15 and returns April 29. The planned
      route touches six continents. Prices for the entire 104-day journey range from about US $19,750-$170,950 (per person, double
      occupancy), depending on the class of stateroom.

      • Airtreks

      Airtreks (877-247-8735, www.airtrecks.com) specializes in booking around-the-world plane trips with prices starting at US
      $2,000 or less. They say they can get clients anywhere there is scheduled air service, so long as travel is not banned by
      the U.S. government and the destination country allows foreigners to enter.

      • For more information

      "The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World" by Edward Hasbrouck gives advice to would-be world travelers and "101
      Countries: Discovering the World Through Fast Travel" by P.J. Parmar tells how one young man became a low-budget country
      collector.


      About The Contra Costa Times | About the Real Cities Network | Terms of Use & Privacy Statement | About Knight Ridder |
      Copyright
    • Wolfgang Schaub
      Do they have Rockall on their list? A country disputed between Britain, Ireland, Iceland and Denmark. Do they have enclave no. 22. of Baarle-Nassau, that
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 1, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        Do they have Rockall on their list? A "country" disputed between Britain,
        Ireland, Iceland and Denmark. Do they have enclave no. 22. of Baarle-Nassau,
        that technically did not belong to any country until a few years ago? Do
        they have SMOM, a country without territory? I could add another few, if I
        wanted. But I leave this to the travel "experts", ha ha ha.

        (Americans don't like to see Europeans surpassing their level of nonsense,
        so I better keep quiet this time)

        Wolfgang

        -----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
        Von: tristan-da-cunha@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:tristan-da-cunha@yahoogroups.com]Im Auftrag von Bob Conrich
        Gesendet: Samstag, 1. April 2006 21:47
        An: Tristan Group
        Betreff: [TdC] Travel to Remote Places



        For those interested in remote places, this article appeared
        in today's Contra Costa Times. The tims serves a large
        suburban area east of San Francisco and north of Oakland, in
        Northern California.


        1 April 2006
        'Country' Club members boast worldly endeavor
        By Dan Leeth
        TIMES CORRESPONDENT

        Gig Gwin sat at a beach-side restaurant in Lampedusa, an obscure
        Mediterranean isle rising between Tunisia and Malta.
        Digging his toes into the warm sand, Gwin nibbled pasta, sipped fine Italian
        wine and admired the lovely ladies who paraded
        by in their skimpy outfits.

        "Aah," he thought. "This is such a great way to cap 30 years of travel."

        The owner of Gwin's Travel in St. Louis had reason to feel proud. He had
        just reached the ultimate goal of country
        collectors. With his stop in Lampedusa, Gwin had finally visited every
        country in the world.

        While some people collect postage stamps, travelers such as Gwin are more
        interested in accumulating entry stamps on the
        pages of their passports. They long to visit unfamiliar places, see unusual
        sights, meet uncommon people and partake in
        unconventional experiences. The more out of the way or harder to reach a
        site is, the more determined they may be to get there.

        Not just a checklist

        Although checking lands off a list may be the ultimate motivation, most have
        a genuine desire to see and experience as much
        of the world's diversity as they can. In the vernacular of tourism, these
        are the true travelers.

        "They're prepared to go to places where there may be few other foreigners,"
        says Edward Hasbrouck, staff travel guru of
        Airtreks and author of "The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World"
        (Avalon Travel Publishing). "They've had the
        kinds of experiences that those visiting more touristy places may never
        enjoy."

        Country collectors come from a variety of backgrounds. Some started as
        students armed with a backpack and Eurailpass. They
        spent their summer vacations trying to out-patch their counterparts on
        whirlwind escapades through Europe.

        "Every country you visited, you had to get the patch for your pack," says
        travel agent Sue Kasmar of Strictly Vacations in
        Santa Barbara. "I still have the backpack. Now my son looks at all the
        patches and goes, 'You were really there?'"

        Others had employment backgrounds that allowed them to travel frequently.
        Gwin worked for an incentive promotions company
        before starting his own travel agency. Others began their journeys in the
        military. John Rae, an 85-year-old Toronto
        resident, started his country collecting as a broadcaster with the CBC.

        "I did stories all around the world. I guess that's where I got my liking
        for travel."

        Now an avid cruise boater, Rae estimates that he has visited more than 90
        countries. When he gets to his 100th country, he
        will be eligible for Travelers' Century Club membership.

        Travelers' Century Club

        The TCC, North America's leading group of country collectors, began 50 years
        ago. Before the advent of jetliners, reaching
        distant destinations required more effort, and a few well-traveled souls
        wanted to see who had been to the most countries in
        the world.

        "In the '60s, I think we had about 60 to 70 members," says Klaus Billep, TCC
        chairman. "It really didn't take off until the
        '80s when it was easier to travel. Today we have 1,600 members worldwide."

        To join, one must have visited at least 100 of the 315 countries on their
        official list. Some might find it strange to see
        Alaska, Hawaii and the contiguous United States count as three separate
        "countries."

        "When the club started, there was less commercial air available," explains
        Billep. "The original rule said that if an island
        is separated from the mother nation by at least 200 miles (322 kilometers),
        it's considered a separate country. We still do
        this today."

        The TCC adds new entries as needed. Kosovo (formerly part of Yugoslavia),
        Srpska (northern Bosnia) and Trans-Dniester
        (between Moldova and the Ukraine) made the list in 2002, and in 2005
        Nakhichevan (near Armenia) and Prince Edward Island
        (which qualified as a separately governed state, province or department with
        a population of 100,000 or more) were added.

        Sneaking in

        Since not all entities stamp passports, the club decided that touching
        ground would constitute a visit. Gwin admits that of
        the 315 countries, North Korea and Afghanistan were simply toe touches for
        him.

        "I tried to get across the Afghan border when the Taliban were there, but I
        didn't have a visa and didn't want to get shot.
        At the crossing, there was a long walkway bisected by a white line. I walked
        the road very slowly. When I approached the
        boundary, the Afghan guards stood up, and I was close enough to see their
        eyes. I stepped over the line, leaned down like I
        was tying my shoe, then spun around and walked back. Technically, I was in
        Afghanistan."

        Asked why they venture to exotic places, country collectors such as Gwin
        usually say it's because they have a love of
        adventure and a thirst for knowledge. They often come back with enlightening
        stories to share.

        "I went out into the souk (market) in Marrakech," Sarasota, Fla., resident
        Bob Keeley says with a chuckle. "At a big, double
        tent, they were selling expensive ebony and mahogany carved figures. I found
        a place where the two tents joined and stuck my
        head in. In the back, there were cases of black- and mahogany-colored shoe
        polish. Two guys sat there rubbing the stuff in
        while another guy polished it with an electric buffer. I learned that if
        you're going to buy wooden objects in Africa, you'd
        better know what you're doing or you'll be purchasing junk only stained to
        look like the real thing."

        Remoteness the draw

        For many, the challenge of reaching isolated destinations such as Pitcairn
        Island in the Pacific or Tristan da Cunha in the
        South Atlantic is another draw. To get to Diego Garcia, a group of islands
        south of India, Gwin had to charter a boat and
        sail the open sea for five days each way. When he got there, he almost
        landed in jail.

        "We told the authorities we were coming and just wanted to step foot on the
        island," says Gwin, "but they were convinced we
        were there to go fishing and diving, which you're not allowed to do. A naval
        vessel came out and threatened to arrest us,
        but after we shared about five beers with them, they agreed to let us go.
        They shadowed us with their huge ship for 27 hours
        until we got out of the archipelago."

        For some, it's not just hitting the country that counts. They have a
        specific activity they want to do while there.
        Coloradan Gerry Roach ascends summits, Californian Alan Glover pumps pedals
        and Minnesotan Ron Carlson counts only countries
        he drives in. Carlson has now negotiated roadways in more than 60 nations,
        including Egypt, where he rented a car and
        crossed the country after the Luxor terrorist attack.

        "We tried to enter this town and were stopped at a checkpoint. They
        sidelined us while they rounded up two pickups full of
        armed soldiers bearing automatic weapons. With one truck in front and one
        behind, we drove like a bat out of hell to our
        hotel. They dropped us at the door, escorted us in through the metal
        detector and past an armed guard. The next morning, a
        similar caravan drove us out of town to the checkpoint where we were handed
        off to an armored personnel carrier bristling
        with guns. They escorted us for an hour through their territory to the next
        military zone. We did this eight times on our
        way to Cairo."

        World tour for starters

        For many, a prime way to collect countries is to imitate Magellan and take a
        trip around the world. For those who have the
        time and inclination to make their own private journeys, companies such as
        Airtreks in San Francisco specialize in booking
        globe-circling flights at economical prices. These are ideal for
        self-reliant travelers.

        For those craving a more catered approach to country collecting, there is
        ship travel, which offers the additional benefit
        of being able to reach places where planes cannot land. Some globe-girding
        cruise lines offer similar itineraries every
        year, while others pride themselves on including new and obscure ports of
        call on each sailing.

        "It's fairly easy to go to the common places around the world," says Simon
        Douwes of Holland America. "It's the odd,
        out-of-the-way spots that give our trips the interesting flavor that's so
        appealing to collectors."

        Holland America's 2007 global cruise will touch six continents and include
        such collectable destinations as Easter Island,
        Pitcairn Island, American Samoa, New Caledonia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Oman,
        United Arab Emirates and Croatia.

        In addition to providing food, entertainment and the need to unpack only
        once, cruises offer country collectors another
        appealing advantage. They can provide a higher degree of safety.

        "Cruise lines reserve the right to revise itineraries when they don't feel
        it's safe for either the passengers or their
        three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar ships," points out travel agent Edward
        Infanti of Cruises Abroad in Vancouver, British
        Columbia.

        While safety is always a concern, most country collectors are not
        excessively worried. They research destinations in advance
        and try to stay out of danger zones. Many feel any risks they take in
        sampling the wealth of human habitats are worth the
        rewards they gain through exploring and understanding the diversity of
        mankind.

        "There is no better education in the world than traveling around and getting
        the grand tour of life," says Gwin.

        Using the Travelers' Century Club's rules, Dan Leeth added two new countries
        on a recent trip to Tasmania and the New
        Zealand part of Antarctica, bringing his total up to 71 "countries."

        IF YOU GO

        • What constitutes a country?

        There is debate as to what constitutes a "country" for travel purposes. If
        one considers only official political
        governments, the United Nations (www.un.org/Overview/unmember.html) has 191
        members, and the U.S. State Department
        (www.state.gov/www/regions/independent_states.html) recognizes the same
        number of independent states. Ham radio operators
        (www.425dxn.org/dxcc/dxccmain.html), on the other hand, list 393 entities,
        and the Travelers' Century Club
        (www.travelerscenturyclub.org), the source most often used by country
        collectors, identifies 315 separate lands.

        While Tahiti, Martinique, Miquelon and Paris may all be politically part of
        France, they are located in divergent corners of
        the world, offering different populations, customs and experiences. For that
        reason, Traveler's Century Club logically lists
        them as separate countries.

        The TCC also considers continental land jurisdictions separated from the
        homeland by a foreign country as independent
        entities. Thus Alaska, which is separated from the lower 48 states by
        Canada, is a separate TCC country. Also, separately
        administered island states, provinces or departments that either lie more
        than 200 miles from the mainland or have
        populations in excess of 100,000 count separately. That makes Hawaii and
        Prince Edward Island countries.

        • What constitutes a visit?

        Travelers make their own rules for what establishes a visit. Some count only
        those places where they have slept, eaten a
        meal, changed money and sampled the toilet paper. Other country collectors,
        such as P.J. Parmar, who wrote "101 Countries:
        Discovering the World Through Fast Travel," count only visits in which they
        learned something about the country's culture,
        regardless of their length of the stay.

        • Travelers' Century Club

        The Traveler's Century Club has the most liberal rule: It counts as a visit
        is one has simply stepped on the land. In some
        places, such as Pitcairn Island, where sea swells frequently prevent
        passengers from motoring ashore, it may take several
        separate trips even to be able to toe-touch the ground.

        The Traveler's Century Club (310-393-7419, www.travelerscenturyclub.org) is
        an organization whose members have visited at
        least 100 of the club's 315 listed countries. Those who have collected 75
        lands are allowed to attend meetings and go on
        trips. The organization provides a newsletter and has local chapters
        scattered across the United States. Dues for non-U.S.
        residents are US $50 per year with an initiation fee of US $100.

        • Holland America World Voyage

        The 2007 Holland America around-the-world cruise leaves from Fort Lauderdale
        on Jan. 15 and returns April 29. The planned
        route touches six continents. Prices for the entire 104-day journey range
        from about US $19,750-$170,950 (per person, double
        occupancy), depending on the class of stateroom.

        • Airtreks

        Airtreks (877-247-8735, www.airtrecks.com) specializes in booking
        around-the-world plane trips with prices starting at US
        $2,000 or less. They say they can get clients anywhere there is scheduled
        air service, so long as travel is not banned by
        the U.S. government and the destination country allows foreigners to enter.

        • For more information

        "The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World" by Edward Hasbrouck
        gives advice to would-be world travelers and "101
        Countries: Discovering the World Through Fast Travel" by P.J. Parmar tells
        how one young man became a low-budget country
        collector.


        About The Contra Costa Times | About the Real Cities Network | Terms of Use
        & Privacy Statement | About Knight Ridder |
        Copyright


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