How many countries have you been to in your lifetime? 20? 30? Even more? Meet Henrik Jeppesen – the Danish 29-year-old who’s visited every country in the world.
“I don’t collect objects,” he shrugged, “I collect experiences.”
Starting his travels just 10 years earlier at the age of 18, Jeppeson decided to put travel first in his life and made a plan to visit 50 countries. With a background in business and a desire to visit luxury hotels for cheap, he started a blog to write about his project. At first, with only a small readership, he contacted hotels asking for a night’s stay in low season. As his following grew and he reached 100 countries, he started to receive complimentary accommodation. It was at this point when he decided to make it a goal to visit every single country in the world.
Already a huge fan of couch surfing and hitchhiking, Henrik also prioritises low cost airlines: “Sign up for their newsletters and book a lot of tickets when they have promotions.” He continued: “I travelled on a low-budget by looking actively for low-cost airlines’ promotions – I flew for under five dollars many times. Instead of staying at hotels, I stay with local people and to keep my costs down. It’s about timing. For example with Air Asia and Ryanair, as soon as sale starts I recommend to be ready.” Henrik also forfeited spending a lot of time in some countries because of this: if he could only find cheap, or sponsored, flights at unsociable hours, he would sleep in the airport or just leave a day earlier, if it would save a lot of money. In contrast, when he visited a country he thoroughly enjoyed, combined with cheap, frequent flights, he would stay longer: “I’ve probably spent the most time in Italy or South Africa. I was there for several months.”
Of course, safety is a priority for Henrik as much as anyone else, and he spent less time in some countries because of this. “I think the least amount must have been Syria during the war. I saw what the fixer could show me of sights and went back to Beirut. There was no need for me to spend longer than necessary.” he said. However, he’s not one to shy away from difficult situations, and is a firm believer of trying, and trying again. When asked for his top tip for overcoming travelling anxiety, especially in higher risk areas, he said: “I would recommend to keep travelling. Get more and more out of your comfort zone and there should be a good chance you eventually will be ready to visit the so-called dangerous countries. [If you’re worried about language barriers] It’s rarely an issue. You can usually find some that speaks English and if not, just learning a few basic words is often enough.”
Visiting every country in the world leaves a lot to comparison, and by that logic, Henrik is quite possibly the best person to ask for travel recommendations. If you’re bored of Spain, France or Germany, he has a few favourites that’ll most definitely impress your friends back home: “Principe Island in the Atlantic Ocean is amazing. Socotra when Yemen again is safe to visit. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean is a wonderful island and so different from Mauritius of which it is part of. I loved Saba in the Caribbean, too.”
Once we’d quizzed Henrik on his travelling tips, we felt it was crucial to ask him for some of his strangest experiences. First – what was the scariest situation he’d been in during his around the world trip? He said: “This is probably the only time I felt in danger for my life. Sikkim is a special region in India that has border control. I tried to hitchhike back to West Bengal, but nobody wanted to talk me. I decided to tell my story to an officer, and he then asked a driver to take me.
He continued, “I get in the car with this man that didn’t speak English and ahead were some of the most dangerous roads that in itself made me nervous. What made me a lot more nervous was that he stopped the car after just a few kilometres. He then took out a bottle of vodka and drank it all in one go. If I left the car, I would be standing alone on extremely dangerous roads, so I decided to stay. It was very scary, but I got safely to a town in West Bengal after a couple of hours. I should have paid for a taxi, but I had the mindset of saving wherever possible at the time to increase the chance of completing the project of visiting every country.” It’s clear Henrik thoroughly enjoyed his adventures, but is there anywhere he wouldn’t visit again? He considers this, “I’d previously cancelled a visit to the Central African Republic as I was too scared of going – it is currently one of the most dangerous places in the world due to war and political unrest. When I rebooked, I was assisted by a guard, which I thought was necessary after a former expat had warned me they would probably confiscate my laptop, and settled into my hotel. I was warned not to walk the streets by an expert from the C.A.R but I wanted to explore, so I did anyway. I got into trouble with soldiers. It felt scary. By far the scariest country. Even more than Syria. The worst episode was a threatening soldier that said I couldn’t walk the streets and he demanded money to let me go. After a long discussion, I managed to talk myself out of it.”
Lastly, I asked Henrik, out of everywhere in the world, where was his favourite place? He said: “It’s such a difficult question to answer! I love many countries for different reasons. Italy and France for the food. South Africa has a lot to offer for travellers while Iran probably has the friendliest people in the world.” He has no plans to halt his travels anytime soon, and I’m excited to see where he heads next.