Natural curiosity: Man has travelled all 195 countries in 40 years
A sexagenarian has been dubbed as ‘the most travelled person in the world’ after visiting all 195 countries more than twice in the past 40 years.
Babis Bizas, 64, from Arta, Greece, started backpacking as a student back in 1976 – and hasn’t stopped since.
He said what motivates him is ‘natural curiosity’ and the desire to see hidden parts of the world that are not easy to access.
Bizarrely, Babis’ wife is called Penelope and is from the island of Ithaca – sharing a name with Penelope, the wife of Odysseus from Greek mythology, who travelled for 20 years before returning to his beloved in Ithaca, reports the Story Trender.
Babis said: ‘I started backpacking when I was a student, aged 22.
‘I first went to Bulgaria and Turkey, the closest countries to Greece.
‘I hitchhiked, I had only a backpack and a little bit of money.
‘The next year I realised I had already missed my exams period and thought there was not much point going back to university – so I went to Asia instead, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
‘When money got tight I got a job on a Greek ship anchored in the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka, and sailed to Africa and America.’
During the eighties, Babis realised he would need to follow a career that would allow him to travel as much as he liked.
So he got a job as a tour leader- he would plan and organise trips for small groups, not always to popular destinations.
The first trip to Cambodia and Vietnam was only the beginning as Babis kept traveling both independently and as part of his job.
By 2004 he had visited all 195 countries, with the last one last East Timor.
Babis still travels for around 300 days per year, and is also one of the few people on earth that have visited both North and South Pole.
He said: ‘When I finished all the countries I thought to myself ‘what do I do now? I should either write a book, or keep traveling’.
‘Of course I chose the second one – but this time I wanted to visit places extensively.
‘For example, I went to the Solomon Islands for a fourth time.
‘I went to see nature reserves, I was fascinated by Ethiopia and I loved photographing the Himba in Namibia.
‘I generally choose to visit places for special travellers like myself, as I like to learn about the culture and the traditions.
‘In my opinion one can only say confidently that has fully seen a new place only if he would be able to give an hourly lecture about it.
According to the Greek mythology, Odysseus was traveling for 20 years before going back to his wife Penelope in Ithaca- ironically, Babis’s wife is also named Penelope and is from Ithaca.
But this Penelope has been married to Babis for 39 years and sometimes joins him to his trips.
Babis said because he has seen literally everything, it’s very hard for him to pick a favourite.
He has already planned all his travels until 2020 and is currently visiting Cape Verde before, later Morocco, Bissagos Islands in Guinea-Bissau, Mexico.
Babis added: ‘There are so many places I liked I can’t choose so easily.
‘If I had to pick one I would say Russia – it’s a beautiful place, I like the culture, the language, I could easily see myself living there.
‘Being able to travel so much means that there are also sacrifices to be made, it requires dedication and persistence.
‘It also means that you would not be able to see your friends often.
‘I will certainly travel till the day I die.’