Mike Spencer has been on the road for 23 years and has visited over 190 countries. Having traveled non-stop since he was 21, he is now being called The World’s Most Traveled Man. While a few people may have visited an equal number of places, he says that most of them are just tourists. He considers himself a true traveler for having traveled extensively in all the countries he’s visited, not just staying for a few days like most people would.
During his travels, Spencer has visited natural wonders such as Mt. Everest and visited some of the world’s most remote places including the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. He’s faced danger on the road, too. He braved multiple war zones and hitchhiked through Iraq during the US invasion. He even visited Somalia as the first tourist in 20 years. He prides himself on not being just a tourist though. He has always made an effort to really get to know the people of each country. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo he lived with Pygmies in a jungle hut made of leaves, hunting for food with a spear.
Spencer is vague about the total number of countries he has visited because there is a lot of disagreement about which places are actually countries. How many countries are there? is a difficult question to answer. According to the U.N., there are 193 countries, but this doesn’t really give us a complete answer. For example, both Kosovo and Vatican City are independent countries, but they are not represented at the U.N. Then there are places like Taiwan that have an independent government and military, but many countries do not recognize it as actually being separate from China.
Now, if you look at a map of the world to count countries, what you actually see is the political view of the mapmaker. There is a famous quote that goes, “The map is not the territory,” which means we should never confuse symbols of reality, with reality itself. We have to remember that when using a map, we are of course just looking at someone else’s depiction of reality. For example, have you ever wondered why North America and Europe are always shown at the top of maps, while South America and Australia are always at the bottom? Is there a reason to associate north with up and south with down? If not, then why is the world always depicted in maps this way? Take a look at the upside down map on this page to get an alternative view of the world. How does it make you feel?