What do you do when you want to visit the whole world and learn every culture possible? Would you sit there and think about your travels or would you get up and make it happen? One mad with those very thoughts made his dreams become reality when he took off on a 23 year vacation.
Meet Mike Spencer Bown, a 44-year-old veteran traveler who has visited more than 190 countries over a span of two decades. Hailing from the city of Calgary, in Canada, Mike left his hometown with his rucksack with only a single goal in mind: to visit every single country on earth.
Thanks to his intrepid adventures, he’s been nicknamed “the world’s most traveled man” by many news outlets, journals and travel fans. His marathon odyssey has taken him from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan and every nation standing in between them.
Mike’s last stop was Ireland in October this year, after which he headed to his home country. While there are many other people who have travelled as many places around the world, Mike tries to immerse himself in the culture and traditions of every place he visits.
He was the first tourist in Mogadishu, the worn-torn capital city of Somalia. He has hitchhiked through the hometown of Saddam Hussein during the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq. He has lived with the pygmies in Congo.
That’s just some of the crazy adventures Mike has had over the years. According to him, he has been arrested numerous times, some of which were due to mistaking him as a foreign spy. In spite of travelling across the most dangerous places on the planet, Mike has been lucky enough to escape any serious harm or illness, other than catching Malaria a few times.
While he was in Somali, the immigration officials confused him for a spy. He had to spend many hours to convince them that he is just a tourist, and a very enthusiastic one at that. Having a tourist in a war-torn country such as Somalia caught the attention of news outlets such as BBC World and Time Magazine; that is when Mike Spencer first came to light.
Mike hitchhiked on most of his travel journeys, and unlike many other world travelers, he chose to really get involved with the native people in the countries he visited. By the end of his journey, he was still using the same trusty rucksack he packed in 1990 when he left his hometown.
According to Mr. Spencer Bown, every day of his life has been an adventure of sorts. Over the course of two decades, Mike has visited Egypt and Peru twice, China three times, Cameroon five times, India six times, Africa a dozen times, Indonesia 20 times, and Thailand almost 50 times.
Mike used to run an import-export business in Indonesia, which he sold to fund his adventure. According to him, he was able to travel so long because he was very frugal with his expenses – taking almost no possessions, using the same backpack and staying in some of the cheapest hotels. For example, one of the hotels he stayed in Nicaragua cost just 3 cents a night.
Apart from that, he’s funded his budget travels with several businesses such as exporting gemstones from Africa and furniture from Java, and dealing silver in Bali, and so on. He’s always taken calculated risks to survive in his world journey. According to him, staying with the locals and doing what they do is the best way to travel on a budget.
He’s stayed in Mali with witch doctors, travelled on a reindeer sleigh with drunken Yakuti tribesmen in Russia, and has canoed past sleeping Bengali tigers in Bangladesh. His experiences have been so varied, and to some extent so bizarre, that it would be hard to believe that a single person has experienced all of them.
Mike has traveled in Afghanistan as a pillion on a motorbike, sipping wine, while a Taliban gunfight was happening just a few meters away from his face. He’s also experienced travelling through Iraq at the time of second Gulf War.
While he was in Pakistan, he was mistaken for a terror suspect and detained by the CIA, thanks to his Pashtun disguise. He’s also been held numerous times at gunpoint with a machine gun shoved into his face. Once during his visit to South Asia, he’d also contracted a deadly strain of herpes.
His other adventures include mingling with the Penguins in Antarctica, hunting antelopes and running away from genocidal Hutu rebels, living with a Bambuti pygmy tribe in Congo, and looking down upon the earth from Mt. Everest Base Camp.
Mike didn’t shy away from impersonating government personnel when needed; one of the main reasons why he used to carry a pair of khaki shirt and pants along with him.
Some of Mike’s other best adventures include standing in the grave yard of the blue whales in South Georgia Island in Antarctica, getting away from police by motorboat on the Niger River Delta in Niger, running down black volcanic cones in Guatemala, evading capture by pirates in Puntland state of Somalia, touching elbows with Sikh pilgrims in the Golden Temple of Amritsar in India, visiting Angel Falls by dugout canoe in Venezuela, facing Silverback Gorillas in Virunga Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, searching for the perfect mango in Unawatuna Beach in Sri Lanka, and trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.
All his experiences have been so varied and stunning that is hard to note them all down in a single article. At the end of his journey, Mike has gone through over a dozen passports, met a women on Facebook who he is meeting in Canada, and is ready to settle down, for now at least.
Mike’s recommendation for all would-be world travelers is to carry these things: a mosquito net, an unattractive and shabby backpack to avoid thieves, a simple knife to ward off would-be muggers, some sturdy boots, a visa application kit plus lots of photos, a metal cup and a waterproof pack cover.
A simple journey that started 23 years ago has now come to a riveting end. Mike will surely never run out of exciting stories to tell.
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