Growing up in his native Danish district of Thy, HenrikJeppesen’s wanderlust was triggered by television, he told the Daily Trust.
Seeing different countries of the world on the screen awakened the desire in him to see all those places for real and by the time he turned seventeen, he got his parents to sign a letter allowing him to travel and explore the world.
When he first left home, not even he knew how far he was going to travel.
“First I wanted to do 50 countries, then 100 and then I felt comfortable doing them all,” he said.
“Why? I think because I could. I had the chance to visit every country, and I love travelling. It was probably not on my mind as I thought of it as being unrealistic, then when I realised I can actually do them all, both safety and financial-wise, I decided to go for it.”
His first destination was Egypt, land of the pharaohs. It was a natural choice because he found great prices and had a tour operator. “And I needed to start the world travel in a country with many tourists so things would go relatively easy,” he said.
The more he travelled the more savvy he became. He devised ways of cutting expenditure and by the time he had travelled all round the world, he did so more or less on a shoestring budget.
“I looked at every single spending. Staying with locals.Eating cheap food at supermarkets often, instead of restaurants.Hitchhiking (more than 1,000 times) or local buses instead of taxis whenever possible. Hotel points and air miles helped as well. On many days I spent less than 5 dollars. It’s much cheaper to visit every country in the world than people think, but you must be willing to live like a local on a budget, not like a tourist,” he said.
AS he journey lengthened and his fame grew, it became easier to find airlines and hotels willing to sponsor aspects of his travels.
“After I had reached 100 countries, I started contacting smaller airlines and was happy to see it was possible to get free tickets in exchange for inclusion in my project. I continue to work with companies in my new quest of visiting all territories in the world,” he said.
The travelling Dane soon became a sensation that when he turned up in Libya, he had the chance to meet the prime minister.
In every country his routine often determined by his budget and by Wiki Travels, where he checks for things to do and see. If the places are not too expensive or far away, Jeppesen would find a way of getting there.
Most memorable experience
It is natural that one who has travelled this much will have lots of anecdotes to share. And when asked what was the most remarkable experience he had had on the road,Jeppesen said:
“Having successfully obtained a visa for Azerbaijan in Batumi, Georgia, I travelled to the border. Unfortunately, it was only valid from the next day so I had to wait until midnight before I could continue my journey.
“Right after midnight I got into Azerbaijan, but there was no transport or people on the other side. I could do nothing but stand and wait in the dark. Finally, a car came, and I put up my thumb. A man and a woman were in the car and didn’t speak a word of English. The man made a quick call, talked for a minute and gave me the phone. ‘Hello I’m an English teacher, my friends are worried about you, can they take you to their house?’
“They then invited some friends, over and I told my story to the English teacher on the phone and she translated it. The man picking me up then arranged for one of his friends to drive me almost 500 kilometres to Baku for just a bit more than a bus ticket would have cost. I arrived at 6 in the morning and was able to continue my travels as planned thanks to the extraordinary Azerbaijani hospitality.”
The Most surprising country
Of all the countries in the world, Jeppesen said he was most surprised by two. Rwanda and Nigeria.
“Nigeria was one of the last countries I visited. I went in 2016,” he said. “I was a little afraid because of the unfair coverage of Nigeria in the international media. The problem is the media rarely tells good stories about African countries. It’s a shame as many of them are truly amazing.”
In Nigeria, Jeppesen spent a week between Lagos and Abeokuta, sightseeing and mixing up with locals. With unfavourable travel advisories and not so flattering travel accounts of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole, Jeppesen had a completely different impression.
“Just amazing. Wow. The people are amazing. Very friendly. The accent is fantastic. The people have a great sense of humour. The food was great as well. Transport was easy and comfortable in Lagos with the Uber App on the phone. I liked it a lot. Nigeria and Rwanda are two of the biggest country surprises for me. I had low expectations of both because of what I read beforehand, but they are both truly outstanding travel experiences. My first day in Lagos was one of the best in my travels,” he said.
In fact he is so taken by what he had experienced in Nigeria that he is thinking of coming back for more extensive travels in the country.
“I might do a Nigeria project in the future to visit all 36 states. It’s an idea I have as Nigeria was such a wonderful experience. It would require a lot of planning and a partnership with a local company or national tourist board,” he said.
These travels may not have cost him that much in resources, but they have cost him emotionally.Jeppesen has missed out on college. But as the Hausa’s would say, travel is the key to wisdom and having been everywhere in the world, and still travelling, it is safe to assume Jeppesen is a learned man.
Regardless, it was the emotional cost of his travels that Jeppesen points to when asked about it.
“It was hard with loneliness in the beginning, but I am now used to it having spent so much time alone. It’s also been hard when being away losing a family member and my beloved dog. I miss her a lot. In Denmark,a dog is often seen as another family member. There is even a hotel for dogs which I am sure many would find strange, but as I have seen in my travels, everywhere is different from one another and that is why it’s fascinating to travel,” he said.
Often though he had to go back to Denmark to renew his passport and to touch base with his family and friends.
The joys of finding the way
Today, added to his travels, Jeppesen is devoting his time to giving talks on how people can travel the world at minimum cost. He has positioned himself as a travel expert and consultant. He is quick to encourage people to pick up their bags and travel, or not pick up their bags, as he did most of the time, travelling without luggage and buying the clothes he needed wherever he went to. Most often, he would only have his cell phone with him when he is travelling. He says it makes it easier going through security checks.
Sometimes though, there is always drama at the border.
When he turned up at Syria’s border, immigration officers had a hard time believing he was visiting the war-ravaged country as a tourist. But eventually they stamped him in and let him carry on.
No rest for the wandering Dane
Having visited every country, Jeppesen is not resting on his oars. Now his mission is to travel to every territory in the world, a project he updates his followers onon his social media, handles, henriktravel.
He said: “Yes, it’s a big goal. It’s very difficult. Some might say impossible, but I am doing my best. I have been to all countries in the world and have 36 territories left. It would be amazing to visit all 325 countries and territories total and set a new world record. After this, I could perhaps do smaller projects such as visiting all the Nigerian states. I have many ideas. The time is ticking.”
Despite his lofty goals, Jeppesen has his feet firmly on the ground.
“I don’t want to take it for granted that I will manage to visit all the territories. But history has shown me it’s best to take things little by little. I am open for almost anything. My ritual is to pray every night and I am thankful for the things that have come my way. Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you always do what makes you happy if you have the choice. If you don’t have the choice, do everything you can to find a way to get it,” he said.
For someone who has blazed through 10 passports already, by the time Jeppesen is done travelling, it would be interesting to see how many he would have gone through. This is also something that intrigues him.
“I will continue to travel,” he said, “And it will be interesting to see how many passports I have used total in my life the day I die.”