Traveling can be such a personal endeavor, a way of discovering the world and yourself and sharing those experiences or keeping them tucked away. For those who love to travel, it’s curiosity that drives the will to explore completely unknown backdrops, plunge into entirely new cultures, mark paths through uncharted territory, and evolve for those experiences. These five travel pioneers each have boundless love for exploring but accomplish their dreams in their own unique ways, exhibiting immense courage, inspiring wanderlust, and above all, testing the boundaries within themselves.
5. Jessica Watson
Growing up on a 52-foot cabin cruiser for five years of her life clearly had a huge impact on Australian Jessica Watson’s life—and ambitions: she was one of the youngest people ever to have sailed around the world over 210 days unassisted and without stopping. During the five years aboard her family’s boat, Watson was home schooled by her parents and took sailing lessons for years along with her siblings. Her plan began taking shape when she was just 12 years old. She began devising the plan to sail around the world with her hero at the forefront of her thoughts: she had always admired Jesse Martin, who, at the age of 18, completed the same journey and became the youngest person to have taken on the feat. Watson left Australia in October of 2009 and successfully returned seven months later.
4. Geoff Mackley
Geoff Mackley has traveled all around the world from his hometown of Auckland but not exactly for the same reasons most people travel or to the same places: from a love of the natural world and a passion for photography came Mackley’s penchant for capturing natural disasters, which has taken him all over the globe on intense adventures throughout his freelance photography career. Geoff covers breaking news on the natural disaster front, photographing images from burning forest fires, tsunamis and hurricanes but perhaps his most impressive feat was in 2010 climbing into the heart of Vanuatu’s Marum Crater…while it was erupting! He and a crew climbed down more than 1400 feet underneath the volcano’s rim while the eruption spewed and bubbled up. They wore heat-defying suits and claim to only have gone down that far because they ran out of climbing rope.
3. Paul Salopek
From environmental biologist to commercial fisherman to reporter to National Geographic alum, Paul Salopek has enjoyed a diverse career. He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner ( 1998 & 2001) and has extensively covered many conflicts in Africa, much of it as a National Geographic reporter. At the onset of 2013, Salopek began an epic 7 year journey–on foot–to trace ancient migration routes out of Africa. Planned to span more than 32,000 kilometers, he began in Africa, and will walk through the Middle East and across Asia by way of Alaska and then toward the west end of South and North America to Chile’s southernmost tip. He’ll report on the people he meets on route–fishermen, nomads, farmers, villagers and others whose voices are rarely heard through “slow journalism” and also cover issues connected with the biggest topics of our time including cultural survival, technological innovation, and climate change.
2. Jason Lewis
Just a small bit of travel experience gave Jason Lewis an appetite for more–a lot more. At 26 years of age, Lewis spent two years planning his journey, he left England and his small cleaning business, and struck out with unyielding ambition to circumnavigate the globe. The idea came late one night over drinks with a friend over an offbeat suggestion. Lewis made the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person to travel around the world without any motorized accompaniment: he walked, pedaled, kayaked, and roller bladed more than 74,000 kilometers through 37 different countries. His roll-the-dice attitude was powered by sheer determination–ambition pushed him out into the unknown where he shrugged off society and dove into the wilderness in a completely sustainable way. During his adventures, he sponsored charities, spoke at schools around the world, experienced dozens of distinct cultures, and wrote several best selling books.
1. Don Parrish
Don Parrish has always had lofty travel goals. With many of his travel aspirations achieved, he now enjoys the rank of #1 Traveler in the World, having visited 193 countries, 321 territories, and counting. Parrish hit the road in the 1960s with a vow to visit each of the states of the United States of America. And so he did and then went on to explore the rest of the world–but he appears to have no ambition for slowing down. The renowned club for world travelers, The Traveler’s Century Club, defines traveling “everywhere” as 324 distinct countries and territories. Parrish has traveled to just about all subdivisions in all major countries, all with his own pillow nonetheless: 27 regions of France, 23 Argentine provinces, 28 Indian states, 32 Chinese provinces, 16 German Länder, 20 regions within Italy, all 50 US states, and the list goes on and on.