"This is the account of twenty-three years of wilderness wandering, sea voyages and overland treks to survey the earth, with no home or possessions other than what fit in my trusty backpack. There was no specific destination in mind except to visit countries, not the airports and luxury hotels but the country itself, to experience local culture and ways of life. This entailed sleeping in tribesmen's huts and cheap hostels and using local transportation whenever possible: traversing jungle roads packed eighteen souls to a single Peugeot station wagon in Guinea-Bissau, boating the length of the Amazon snacking on roasted piranha, and hitchhiking across Iraq during the war. I've floated on dilapidated ferries across surging estuaries, ridden horseback or in military trucks across deserts and plains, followed the course of rivers, crossed wastelands, bused and trekked through deep jungle, traversed mountain ranges and lounged on the remotest beaches. I adopted local customs and ate local food: roasted goat's eye as the guest of honour at a Mongolian tribal feast, alligator nuggets, mystery kabobs, ‘bush meat' ubiquitous to certain regions of Africa ... but drew the line at wheelbarrows brimming over with smoked monkey corpses. A man's got to know his limitations." --Mike Spencer Bown
In 1990, Calgary-born Mike Spencer Bown packed a backpack and began a journey that would eventually take him through each of the world's 195 countries and span more than two decades. From relaxing on the white sand beaches of Bali to waiting out blizzards in Tibetan caves, Bown trekked from country to country, driven by a desire to see the world in the most authentic way possible, not to just collect stamps on his passport. Eventually, he began to earn international recognition for some of his more unconventional destinations--such as a memorable trip to war-torn Mogadishu.
The World's Most Travelled Man is an eye-opening account of the universal human experience as seen from each corner of the changing world. Blending a romantic connection to nature through solitude and the social examination of culture, Bown fully immerses himself in each experience, however diverse, dangerous or dirty, veering way, way off the backpacker circuit to see the world through an unparalleled perspective. The World's Most Travelled Man is a journey of global proportions shared with the humility of a man who simply wants to satisfy his own curiosity and live life to the fullest.
“Spencer Bown shares his wild, wacky, and touching travel adventures as he describes his quest to visit every country and quasi-country in the world. Surprisingly, he travels without a camera, explaining that his interest is in collecting not images but stories, and the book is packed with those. … His approach to tense encounters, such as being put in detention as soon as he arrived in the notoriously dangerous Puntland State of Somalia, could be seen as either foolhardy or brilliant: “I find it better to be my normal friendly self in these situations,” he advises a fellow detainee. (He was eventually invited to meet the Puntland president.) This book is endlessly fascinating.”
“an impressive literary première…Where he engages with the landscape and locals, his writing is fresh and illuminating. His account of his travels in the countries of north-central and Central Africa is stellar, especially his intimate-yet-dangerous escapades in the eastern Congo with rainforest Bambuti pygmies… These are great tales of travel adventure…”
“…an eloquently written adventure story that follows Bown through a mind-boggling number of experiences. Some were treacherous, many were enlightening and most were eye-opening.”
…assured storyteller… His exceptional travelogue provides a banquet of highs and lows… Another small miracle is how Bown has compressed over two decades of journal writing into a readable, enjoyable, eye-opening and fully captivating travelogue… his book is an ideal opportunity to learn while enjoying the familiar comforts of home.
“In the process of crisscrossing the globe, Spencer Bown saw some of the world’s most exquisite landscapes and undertook the most remarkable travel experiences our planet can offer. He describes these with much economy, making it clear that we need to go and see them for ourselves. But his book is rich in advice about how to do just that.”
“His prose manages to be both blunt and stimulating as he, quite successfully, condenses his adventures in 195 countries down to a digestible travelogue. From his accounts of traveling through the Middle East in the early aughts to gaining minor-celebrity status in Ireland, readers catch a glimpse of what it means to truly experience the human condition in all its forms. A delightful odyssey in itself, Bown’s first book will inspire readers to seek out a new experience, even if it’s just around the corner."
“[In the book, there is] a meticulous weaving of a ‘sense of place’, with the introduction of the wacky, wild and wary inhabitants of Valhalla where everyone knows everyone else’s business but nobody talks about their own, where everyone threatens but also offers advice. There’s a supporting cast of drug dealers, pimps, probable murderers, chess playing intellectual recluses with killer dogs, unhappy housewives, drunks, crooks, yachters, cultists and plain old thugs. The atmosphere is pregnant with suspicion, innuendoes, mysteries and fear but Valgardson is too good a writer to leave it so one-sided. There is also a sense of community, sharing and compassion, people making the best of their lives.”