151 down, 78 to go for NI man aiming to visit every country in the world

A Belfast property developer has resumed his ambitious itinerary to visit every country in the world, having already ticked 151 off his list.
Dressing for the occasion in UzbekistanDressing for the occasion in Uzbekistan
Dressing for the occasion in Uzbekistan

David Simpson had to take an enforced travel break due to the global pandemic, but now aims to visit 78 countries in the next five years.

In doing so he will, to the best of his knowledge, become the first person born in NI to achieve the feat.

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The 34-year-old landed in Syria this week and will also travel to Lebanon as part of that same trip in what he says will be his most nerve-racking itinerary yet.

Belfast man David Simpson resumes ambitious itinerary to visit every country in the world, with Syria kicking off his travels. Photo by William Cherry //  Press EyeBelfast man David Simpson resumes ambitious itinerary to visit every country in the world, with Syria kicking off his travels. Photo by William Cherry //  Press Eye
Belfast man David Simpson resumes ambitious itinerary to visit every country in the world, with Syria kicking off his travels. Photo by William Cherry // Press Eye

Speaking from Syria, David said checkpoints were a way of life there: “We’ve had our own issues with conflicts at home in Northern Ireland but rarely do we bat an eyelid, and the people here have a similar mentality. How these people are so welcoming and the warmth they continue to show after going through one of the worst atrocities of our generation, it’s something that humbles me, a huge reason why I visit these places.”

He added: “The biggest security risk will be my trip around Idlib, an area still controlled by the rebels not far from Aleppo. Also, a trip to Palmyra can only be confirmed at the last minute, depending on the activity in these areas and whether it is safe to do so.”

Over the coming year David will go silverback gorilla trekking in Uganda, drive the length of the Serengeti for the Great Migration and embark on a two-week drive through France — on a war history trail from Normandy to Belgium — while some luxury in the Seychelles will also feature.

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David, who documents his travels through his social channels under the handle djjsimpson and his website www.djjsimpson.com, is not fazed by the prospect of travelling solo to what are considered some of the world’s most politically unsettled destinations.

David in the Faroe IslandsDavid in the Faroe Islands
David in the Faroe Islands

He adds: “I went to university in Glasgow where my interest in seeing more of the world was ignited. It wasn’t until I was in New Zealand where I counted the countries I had already visited and was shocked by how many more there was to see.

“I do expect this next year to be a bit more challenging but nothing I won’t be able to overcome, as I have already been in some situations that, for many, could be off-putting,” he adds.

David said being strip-searched before boarding a flight in Israel, enduring a five-hour police inquisition in Algeria and being held at gunpoint in Austin, Texas are among some of the most frightening occasions he has experienced.

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But he added: “These negative accounts all become positive learning experiences in the end and are far outweighed by the many great adventures I get to see.”

David at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in MoscowDavid at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow
David at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow

He said: “Some of the most controversial places I have visited have been the most eye opening and friendliest, for example, my last trip before the pandemic was to Sudan, a country many believe to be entirely unsafe but the people there turned out to be some of the friendliest I’ve met to date. Quite often it is these places that surprise you the most. Countries that pose a security risk just require more research and planning. You may pay a little extra for the privilege but it’s all worth it.”

David has taken all precautions for his upcoming travel expeditions including completing testing, sussing out testing stations abroad and ensuring his Covid-19 vaccination and visa requirements are up to date.

Despite ensuring all his documents are in order, the traveller still anticipates challenges.

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“It’s inevitable when you are trying to visit the far corners of the earth that you will come into difficulty. That’s why, for me, it’s important to have a plan B, but who can plan for something like the coronavirus?” asked David.

A stunning view of Cape Town, South AfricaA stunning view of Cape Town, South Africa
A stunning view of Cape Town, South Africa

“I recently visited the Caribbean and it actually proved to be a logistical nightmare with arranging PCR tests and arrival forms, not the way the Caribbean should be enjoyed. It’s safe to say if I thought the challenge of visiting every country was difficult before COVID then now it’s an entirely new level.

David has ploughed all of his own savings into his nomadic quest and says doing so offers him the freedom to “be myself and not conform to sell anyone anything”.

He continued: “I want to go back to the travel blogs of old where you can read about honest travel experiences in places that you have always wanted to see but never wanted to visit and because the trip is self-funded, I don’t need to worry about having to put a positive spin on anything. My style is strictly telling it like it is.

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“I have had a number of offers but accommodation providers are probably as far as I would go when it comes to sponsorships.”

Besides his camera, phone, headphones and a few snacks, David travels light. He says visiting each country will not be a “quick border hop” but more of an intense sight-seeing experience to ensure he and his followers get a comprehensive, authentic account of his journey. Anyone who has travelled with him, will know how intense these trips are.

David believes he is in a community of no less than 300 people who have visited every country in the world and is, so far, the first NI native to take on the expedition.

Surveying the Ancient Pyramids of Giza in EgyptSurveying the Ancient Pyramids of Giza in Egypt
Surveying the Ancient Pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Reflecting on his travels to date, he reminisces about his favourite encounters that include skydiving in Hawaii, scuba diving with sharks in the Galapagos and parties at Thailand’s Full Moon NYE and Columbia’s Carnival.

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He dubs Asia as his favourite continent and added: “I have been fortunate to enjoy many once-in-a-lifetime trips but none of these will come close to taking the family to places they wouldn’t ever have thought of enjoying, let alone visiting.

“The world is generally a safe place full of people happy to help,” he said.

David currently lives in south Belfast. He grew up in Doagh, Co Antrim and works as a director at Simpson Developments. He has been travelling the world for the past 10 years.

Since he began his travels, David has visited over 151 destinations including:

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Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Spain, USA, Portugal, Austria, Barbados, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, U.A.E, Holland, Hungary, Malaysia , Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, India, New Zealand, Fiji, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Brunei, Australia, Guam, Burma, Bahamas, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Haiti, Dominica Republic, Puerto Rico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Curacao, Aruba, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, Monaco, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Kosovo, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Andorra, Malta, The Vatican, San Marino, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mauritius, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Bhutan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Algeria, Denmark, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Karabakh Nagorno / Artsakh, Transnistria, Northern Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten, Anguilla, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.

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