Chris Guillebeau is a New York Times bestselling author and modern-day explorer. During a lifetime of self-employment that included a four-year commitment as a volunteer executive in West Africa, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Since then he has modeled the proven definition of an entrepreneur: “Someone who will work 24 hours a day for themselves to avoid working one hour a day for someone else.” Every summer in Portland, Oregon, Chris hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people with thousands in attendance. Chris is also the founder of Pioneer Nation, Unconventional Guides, the Travel Hacking Cartel, and numerous other projects.
Now that you’ve visited every country in the world, what is your dream trip?
I’m still traveling every month, so I’m not sure I have a “dream trip.” I honestly enjoy the process of being in motion and transit, making my way towards something or somewhere. And even though I’ve been to every country, there are still plenty of other places within all those countries I haven’t yet visited. Thankfully, I have no plans to stop trying.
Lots of people talk about the sights they see when they travel, but seeing isn’t necessarily the best way to experience a new place. Between taste, smell, hearing, and feeling, what’s your favorite sense to use to fully experience travel, and why?
Hmmm, I think I’d pick “feeling.” There’s a powerful combination of familiar and foreign that I experience as I visit and revisit major world cities. Quite frankly I find the sense of travel itself to be somewhat intoxicating. It doesn’t always hit that way, but when it does, other travelers know that there’s nothing like it.
What would you be doing if you hadn’t started traveling?
Who knows? I had no other real skills or qualifications. Fortunately, I discovered travel and writing somewhere along the way, and something “stuck.”
Think back to who you were before your first major trip. What was your biggest fear?
I wasn’t afraid; I was excited! I mean, I was probably nervous or worried in an anxious way. But mostly I was eager to get out of the familiar and experience something different. In a lot of ways I had grown stagnant in my life, and I had the suspicion that travel would push me out of my routine. I was drawn to it far more than I was afraid of it.
In your latest book, The Happiness of Pursuit, you write about how when disaster strikes and you miss the only flight back from Seychelles, you go into “traveler survival mode”. What’s one survival tactic that even first-time travelers can use?
Start asking questions—both of yourself and anyone around you. Are there any other flights? No? OK, then when is the next one? Is there any other way off the island? Where will I stay? What, if any, are the long-term ramifications of this misadventure—and how will I deal with them?
I don’t want to say that travel disasters are “good.” They’re disasters for a reason, and you wouldn’t wish them on anyone. But I do think it’s helpful to maintain perspective and control.
What does having a “traveler’s mindset” mean to you?
A traveler is curious. A traveler has preferences but is also somewhat open-minded and motivated by discovery and differences. A traveler doesn’t hate the aspect of travel itself—I’ve never understood people who are all about the destination and don’t enjoy getting there.
Lastly, by nature, a traveler is grateful for all they’ve seen and experienced. It’s a very fortunate and unusual thing we’re able to do, so we should appreciate it.