Professional travel blogger

No matter the destination, budget or time frame, travel is a love of discovery sought after by millions around the globe.

And when you’ve become known as the World’s Most Travelled Man, naturally others will want to know how you did it, what countries your enjoyed the most and how long it took.

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Alberta-born Mike Spencer Bown is no stranger to country-hopping. His upcoming book, appropriately titled The World’s Most Travelled Man: A Twenty-Three-Year Odyssey to and through Every Country on the Planet digs deeper than your ordinary travel journal.

After all, he’s not only hit some of the most beautiful spots in the world but has also seen war-ravaged nations up close and personal — often during periods of unrest.

Leaving the reader with vivid accounts on the road (his Iraq experience is pretty hairy) is what Bown does best. Living out of the same well-worn backpack since the early 90’s, this read is entertaining, thoughtful and educational all in one go. I’m continually awestruck by this brave global trekker and his accomplishments as I read through the book.

Many of his stories involve major, sometimes frighteningly subpar lodging and ridiculously long overland bus rides but in effect, being on the road this long afforded Bown a seemingly nonstop string of adventures that would take the average person millions of dollars to recreate — if at all. Entering some of these regions can lead to risking losing your life.

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[Mongolia, 2009]

When asked to describe one of the most adventurous trips he’s taken, Bown comes back with his Democratic Republic of Congo story:

For years I’d heard that the Democratic Republic of Congo Overland route was difficult – the word among backpackers was that after crossing near volcanic Lake Kivu, the police and bandits would rob you and send you limping back to the Rwandan border, practically naked and penniless. I got myself a deceptive U.N. card and the right clothes in an attempt to blend with the heavy armoured U.N. presence.

He aimed to pass himself off as a security inspector who’d check road conditions pursuant to sending supplies, sneaking around the U.N. as they were trying to force him to take a flight all the way to Kinshasa (thus missing out on all the “exciting bits”), but managed to hitch a ride in an old truck.

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[Democratic Republic of Congo, 2002]

Passing mud huts and villagers with wooden bicycles willing to sell him hot potatoes and handfuls of swap minnows for a few coins, Bown eventually made it across the mountains to a primordial rainforest of the Congo basin.

He travelled 1,000 miles by motorbike deep into the forest and went to live with the Bambuti (Mbuti) Pygmy tribe, living in a leaf hut and hunting antelope with spear and net. I don’t know about you, but that scenario alone causes my jaw to drop.

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[Bagan, Myanmar, 1998]

His advice for newbies? “Simply travel. Whatever you do, don’t try to travel to every country”, adding, “If you think you’ll have 16 solid years to devote to travel, because that’s how long it takes to get a feel for every country, then try to see all the countries in whatever zone you find yourself in, to cut down on expensive flights. But otherwise, travel for knowledge and experience and for sheer joy.”

Wise words from the man himself.

Bown was last spotted in Canmore, Alberta, but probably won’t be there long. This is his first book. The World’s Most Travelled Man: A Twenty-Three-Year Odyssey to and through Every Country on the Planet is now available from Douglas & McIntyre.

Photos courtesy of Mike Spencer Bown.

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