Foreign correspondents know how to get under the skin of a country. But where do they go when they want to get away from it all? Here, well-travelled journalists reveal their ultimate holiday escapes
At first I felt critical of the many Africans I spoke to who had never heard of São Tomé e Principe. It is after all an African country, albeit one of the smallest (population 194,000) and remotest – an archipelago of tiny islands nestled in the watery armpit of west and central Africa, deep in the Atlantic, with Gabon to the east and Nigeria to the north.
What challenges await a wheelchair user hoping to visit every country in the world? How long does it take to visit all your Facebook friends? And is a tandem ride around the globe really a dream for two?
After many conversations with fellow travellers (most of whom I’d hosted via the Couchsurfing website), I felt that I needed a very ambitious challenge to match my rare set of circumstances. I have restrictions on all of my joints, and two metal rods screwed into my spine (plus spinal fusion). So it seemed a perfect fit to try to become the first wheelchair user to visit every country, as I was hellbent on exploring as much of the world as I could.I have a gigantically long road ahead, as my current tally stands at only 22. I’m adding countries 23, 24 and 25 in the coming days, as I travel to Malaysia, then on to Australia and New Zealand. I’ve set myself a target of reaching 20 new countries every year, which by my reckoning would give me the complete set within a decade. Travelling with a disability throws up many interesting challenges – I’ve been chased by savage dogs on Cat Ba, Vietnam, while clinging for dear life to the back of my friend’s scooter, all the while sitting in my wheelchair. And determined to make it to the Grande Dixence Dam in Valais in Switzerland, I abandoned my car and my wheelchair due to impassable roads and crawled through three-feet-deep snow. I try to make the most of my time on the road, and in Wellington I’ll spend two months working for the World Wildlife Fund as a volunteer.