- Retired technician Donald Parrish Jr, 70, has visited 840 destinations
- He finished visiting each of the world’s 196 countries three years ago
- Mr Parrish’s first overseas trip was to Mexico in 1957 at the age of 13
- He could become the first person to visit each of the world’s 875 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces
Christopher Columbus? Captain James Cook? Michael Palin?
When it comes to a list of the world’s greatest travellers, there are some pretty formidable candidates to choose from.
But a retired US technician has a legitimate claim to rival those legendary explorers.
Donald Parrish now regarded as the world’s most-travelled person, having visited almost every destination on Earth.
In fact, the 70-year-old has travelled so extensively that he is now closing in on the record of becoming the first person to visit all of the world’s 875 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces.
According to mosttraveledpeople.com, Mr Parrish has visited 840, with just 35 destinations remaining.
Mr Parrish is currently the number one most-ranked traveller out of more than 9,000 members on mosttraveledpeople.com
However, fellow traveller Robert Bonifas has managed to visit 839 – just one destination behind Mr Parrish.
No one in history has ever managed to visit each of the 875 destinations on the list.
Donald managed to complete the impressive feat of visiting each of the world’s 196 countries three years ago.
For members to prove they have been somewhere, they must provide a series of documents including everything from visas to ticket stubs.
Born in the US in 1944, Mr Parrish’s first overseas trip was to Mexico in 1957 at the age of 13.
Mr Parrish says that his interest in travel started with stamps.
By the age of eight he says he could recognise the national origin of any postage stamp and shortly after he began a half-century subscription to National Geographic magazine.
After training as a computer scientist at the University of Chicago in 1968, Mr Parrish began working in research and development at Bells Labs.
In 1971 he made his first circumnavigation of the world, a journey which took him six weeks.
He has since become a lifelong member of the Circumnavigators Club, and is also a member of the Travellers Century Club, which requires that members have visited 100 territories across the globe.
After travelling to 31 countries in 2007 and 29 countries in 2009, he finally visited the last of the world’s 191 countries in 2011 when he visited Mongolia.
During his life, Mr Parrish has spent a total of eight years outside of the US traveling or working. He has made 60 trips to Japan, spending a total of 22 months there.
Mr Parrish is retired from a job with Lucent Technologies and now travels at least half the year.
The journeys generate extraordinary itineraries, often at a considerable cost, with one trip requiring 73 flights.
Mr Parrish said that outside of North America and Europe, his favourite locations include Egypt, Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Cuba, Bhutan and Japan.
He said: ‘While a junior at the University of Texas, I spent the summer working in a factory in Germany speaking only German – not a word of English.
‘Being a real foreigner was a profound experience, something very rare for native-born US citizens.’
Mr Parrish says that five of his ancestors boarded the Mayflower in 1620 in search of the New World and a new life and that sense of adventure, something which he says he has inherited.
‘My ancestors include five on the Mayflower, a famous Mohawk Indian, and the owner in 1651 of the land that the World Trade Center was built on.’
He added: ‘What a joy to visit places you have read about. What an education to talk to people all over the world.
‘I have often visited hot spots with the Travellers Century Club – North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Kashmir, and Cuba.’
‘At one level, I’m running out of world,’ he has said.
He travels about six months a year, often alone but sometimes with one or two others to share the costs.
‘I travel in every imaginable way,’ he says, including chartering planes and ships to reach remote islands.
When he wanted to visit Somalia in 2010, his travel agent refused to help, fearing Parrish would be kidnapped.
He made the trip anyway and was able to find a contact there who helped him with security.
THE DESTINATIONS DONALD
- Gaza Strip
- South Orkney Islands
- Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
- Aves Island
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- Johnston Atoll
- South Sandwich Islands
- Trindade and Martim Vaz
- Nicobar Islands
- Amsterdam Island
- Peter I Island
- St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks
- Crozet Islands
- Kerguelen Islands
- Bouvet Island
- Queen Maud Land (not to South Pole)
- Phoenix Islands
PARRISH HAS LEFT TO VISIT
- Desventuradas Islands
- Heard and McDonald Islands
- Central and Southern Line Islands
- Pratas Island
- Bounty Islands
- Prince Edward Islands (Marion)
- Scarborough Shoal (Reef)
- Paracel Islands
- Scott Island
- Balleny Islands
- Palmyra Atoll
- Parece Vela (Okino Torishima)
- Baker Island (and Howland Island)
- Minami Torishima (Marcus Island)
- Kingman Reef
- Kure Island
- Jarvis Island
When he visited a region called Puntland, his party travelled in two Ford Explorers with four guards carrying AK-47s.
‘It turned out to be an absolutely fantastic place to visit,’ he says.
‘It’s really quite interesting when you travel with your own armed guards. When you go to the hotel, people take notice of you.’
Revealing his top trip for great travel adventures, he added: ‘You have to be willing to suffer. If you value your own convenience, forget it.’
However, even with his many travels, he insists that he will never reach all the sites listed on mosttraveledpeople.com.
He says that two destination on his wish list, the Gaza Strip and Guantanamo Bay, will have to wait because of safety issues.
‘No one will ever finish that list,’ Parrish says. ‘It’s just too difficult.’