Without running a Google search or checking a current almanac, most of us probably wouldn’t know that our Earth contains 757 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces. Certainly most of us wouldn’t consider it possible to visit them all. Most of us would be wowed if we made it to 100 countries. Even 50 is pretty darn good. But all of them?
Charles Veley and others of his ilk aren’t like most of us. They want, and intend, to go everywhere.
I met Charles last night when I went to hear Rolf Potts speak about his books, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer.
I’ve known Rolf for many years now but catch up with him only occasionally. My excuse last night was he was in San Francisco, and as executive editor of Travelers’ Tales I was partly responsible for bringing his latest book, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, into the world. I couldn’t let our author pass through town with saying hello and shaking his hand.
It turned out that Rolf had written a story about Charles for The New York Times Magazine that had run just two days earlier, on Sunday, Nov. 16, and Charles and his wife were there with a basket of wine to greet Rolf and improve the mood after the event.
Charles looked vaguely familiar—I realized I’d read about him somewhere before and must have seen a photo of him. But here he was in the flesh, the current title holder of Most Traveled Person in the World with 709 of the world’s recognized places under his belt (well, perhaps more appropriately their soil in the treads of his well-worn boots). Turned out the reigning king of travel isn’t a swashbuckler but an engaging, gracious regular guy.
We chatted about kids and schools and books and finding office space in the Presidio (where Triporati is located) and when Rolf’s book-signing duties were over the party moved down the street to a restaurant. When you’re with the World’s Most Traveled Person and Rolf Potts, vagabond and writer extraordinaire, you assume the conversation will range all over the world, and I’m sure it did.
I, however, being a writer myself, had a deadline that night for a story that my editors in the eastern time zone would be demanding before I awoke the next day, so I had to leave. But I took solace in the knowledge that I’d have another chance to talk with Charles because he was here in San Francisco—for a while. I’m sure it won’t be long before he heads out to visit place number 758.