1. Harry, www.thebesttravelled.com aims at becoming the leading interactive travel website for competitive travelers and the general public. How do you plan to achieve that?
We have a vision, that’s true. The main aim would be for most travellers to have an online ‘passport’ with TBT, where they note where they have been, and that every region of the world is also presented, with relevant videos, literature and links to websites about it, plus lots of stories… We would like the site to then sponsor people from developing regions of the world, so they can travel more, on an equal footing with us from privileged countries.
This is all very good, but the reality is quite different. Believe it or not, the hardest part has been finding the right people to create a team of dedicated individuals who will work for this aim. So if any of the readings are looking for a job, or wish to volunteer, please contact me, people are always the key and yet the most difficult to reach. Once we manage this, it will be 50% of the task. We will then become a leading virtual catalogue of blogs (we already have 16000 links to websites in our links section) and will try to make people interested through a lot of quirky, interactive content. When this will happen… we will see!
2. The website divides the world in its own particular way. How did you come up with such idea?
There are other clubs that initiated this division which we can call our inspiration. The most famous and oldest, 60 years old in fact, TCC (Travelers Century Club) currently has 324 ‘pieces’. Most Traveled People has 874 pieces. But we wanted to make something which will reflect the world better. The other clubs focus too much either on islands or on some particular regions of the world. Our list was devised after a collaborative effort which took more than 6 months. We studied every country and tried to identify its regions, while focusing not only on how big it is or how many people live there, but also its economic, cultural and touristic value as a whole. Our key to the list is balance. There is no perfect list of course, there never will be agreement how the world should be divided.
3. What is your main public, are they from a particular place, age or profession?
There are many different publics we serve, all of which love to travel. I would say the core public are those who are interested in a special angle of travelling, either difficult to get to places, or those who really travel a lot. Because one of the main aspects of TBT is counting the regions you have been in, I would say that our main users all have a ‘competitive traveller’ feel or want to have a cool map of where they have been. We have many users from Russia, but that is mainly because we had some publicity on popular blogs there – if CNN mentioned us that would change in a second! We have more young users as a whole, but that is because of our ambassador programmes which were aimed at students, so a young public was brought in. I would say the users who log in daily tend to be older and more experienced travellers.
4. In today’s world it is important to be up to date with the latest trends and technologies. What are the website’s future plans?
We are constantly renewing the design and adding new features to appeal both to the travellers themselves and to reflect new technologies. Because of budget restrictions, there are limits to how far we can go. We have been trying to make an app for Ios, but this has been harder than we imagined; the app is ready but the Apple shop has rejected it with excuses that do not quite make sense to us. We will keep trying, and then hope to also design an app for Android users. In both these cases, travellers will be able to post photos directly from their mobile phones during their travels, which should significantly expand our reach.
5. On your personal website http://charalampos.cc/you said you have been to every country in the world. How has that shaped your personal and professional life?
That is my ‘old’ website, and in reality I feel I have sort of abandoned it lately in favour of thebesttravelled.com, though I feel guilty and do try to go back to it – it does have 35.000 photo, so it’s worth checking out. Yes, I have done every independent country of the world – 193 recognised and another 10 unrecognised. I finished the recognized countries in 2008 when I was 36 years old. Of the 193 countries, I have visited 123 at least twice, and my aim is to do all of them at least twice eventually.
Travelling so intensely has completely shaped my life. Life is all about priorities after all – what you find most important. For some people, this is family, and they dedicate most of their time and energy there. For others it is work. For a small minority, it is something else, whether it is a hobby, a passion or a cause. In my case, as the years have gone by, travel has taken over my life more and more. Initially I attempted to balance things somewhat with work and also in terms of finding an appropriate partner. But I have realized that in life you cannot have everything. Seeing the world and exploring it is ultimately the most important for me, so for sure I am in a small minority. As of last year I don’t work formally any more, and I haven’t had a serious relationship for many years. While many people may find this extremely strange, I find it strange to work for 40 years from 9 to 5! People then say ‘I have to’ – but that’s not true. One can hitchhike and sleep through couchsurfing with very little money, so it doesn’t have to do with that. It’s all priorities. And so, my travels are and will be number one for now. Who knows if this will change…
6. You mention you have lived in several different countries. Do you still keep moving or did you find a place to call home?
No, I haven’t found a place called home. A part of me really wishes I did, but perhaps when you ‘expand’ so much, you become part of everywhere and can no longer fit or limit yourself to one place. I have lived, for at least 5 months, in the UK (where I was born), Greece (where I grew up) and also Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Serbia, Canada and Oman. Right now I am happy using Greece as my general base, from where I travel. One of my plans is to take 3-month language courses in a number of countries, which will kind of make me a ‘resident’ of a place for a short while – Turkey is one of the candidates for this.
So yes, I keep moving.
7. Which are your favorite countries or regions? And why?
I often hesitate to give favourites. I love the whole world so much, and in the end wherever I am, I come back raving about the place. My latest trip was to Nepal and I really found it incredible – somehow the first time I was there in 2005 it hadn’t clicked to the same extent. I think I like going to the Far East and Latin America best, each one of these for different reasons. I also enjoy the less travelled roads of Eastern Europe. If I have to mention countries, here is a short list, by continent:
Africa – Cape Verde, Ethiopia.
Americas – Mexico, Ecuador.
Asia – Laos, Vietnam.
Middle East – Iran, Turkey.
Europe – Iceland, Romania, Serbia.
Oceania – certainly Tuvalu.
8. Where are you heading next?
My next trip will actually be the longest one, and most difficult one, ever, which will put me in an entirely new league of travels and travellers. I leave in early March, start off in well-known Brazil and Argentina, and will then be on a boat for 5 weeks, without access to internet etc., going to Antarctica, Bouvet Island, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension and ending in Cape Verde at the end of April. Despite my great experience up to now, this trip is certainly a new step further, and my first time in Antarctica. A lot about this trip scares me because I am not the greatest sailor. However, no traveller can call himself great until he takes to the seas – so this will be the first of what I expect will be a number of ship journeys during the following years. From Cape Verde I will go to Portugal, where I meet my parents for a week of driving in the region of Northern Spain, and will then head to Vienna for the Eurovision Song Contest. So this is a very varied trip indeed!
The photos in this article are from the private collection of Harry