How about that for a message from your son, wife or friend? Well, a mate of mine sent me the exact message a week ago. And not just any mate, mind you. Eric Thanh Nam Nguyen is a hardcore traveller. Not surprised? Fair enough, I have a few of those. But this one is different. He is young. Bloody young, in fact.
Not quite a kid, but so young that he is on track to become the youngest traveller ever to visit every country in the world. And Guinness World Records are watching him closely. They should, he has only got three countries to go to have visited all 198 of them. With about one month to spare to beat another mate of mine, James Asquith. He was 24 years and 192 days old when he completed visiting every sovereign country, according to Guinness World Records (they only count 196 countries).
Eric is also 24 years old. But not yet 24 years and 192 days. The deadline to beat James? June1. But of course a lot can go wrong in a month. He was arrested on suspicion of being a Chinese spy in Ivory Coast, slept under a table outside a hospital in Liberia, was refused to board a ship to Yemen based on his ethnicity and was robbed by a police officer in Congo. Not to mention that he nearly got arrested and sent to concentration camp in North Korea for taking a roll of toilet paper from a toilet or that he flew over a car in a motorcycle accident in Guinea.
I have been in touch with him before and after he finally managed to get into Yemen a week ago, overland from Oman. The only problem about his Yemen trip was that he didn’t have a valid visa to get back into Oman. Unfortunate. Very unfortunate, it turned out. The Vietnamese American was taken to a military camp on the Yemen-Oman border and kept there for 5 days while waiting to get another single-entry Oman visa sorted out.
He shared a room of 15 square meters with Somalian asylum seekers, was given occasional food (but no utensils) by Oman military personell and laughed at when he made a fuss about the state of the water in the showers.
The soldiers just laughed at me when I came out in my soap-soaked boxers to complain about the brown water.
Even the US ambassador to Oman personally called Eric to find out what was going on and why the hell he was in Yemen. A fair question to ask, I suppose. Especially since citizens from Yemen are on the US black list. Eric might be in for a hell of a lot of questions upon returning to US soil. In a windowless interrogation room, in some lovely US airport. But by then he might at least own a Guinness World Record. Which should help explain his recent visits to Libya, Syria and Yemen.
At least he got out, in the end. After all the paper work came through and he was allowed to re-enter Oman he immediately headed for an operational airport. To say that he was happy to be free would be a slight understatement.
Dude I’m fucking ecstatic! I’m free! So happy, man!
I had no problems getting into or out of Yemen, but I can only imagine that I would have said something similar had I been in his shoes. But what’s next, after travelling? Eric T. Nguyen will go to med. school and has noble plans for the future.
I want to work for United Nations to provide medical aid for the refugees in this world. I want to change this world for the better. There is a total absence of human rights and other rights in many parts of our world.
He has seen it for himself. It also turns out that Eric can fly helicopters and planes and legally drives motorcycles, but he doesn’t have a driver’s license for a normal car. Just another typical traveller, I guess. And, yes, ladies, he is single and up for grabs. Remember that travellers kiss better.
The world record isn’t his quite yet, though. Eritrea, Western Sahara and Venezuela still remain untouched by the daredevil. He will not necessarily try to visit them in that order, though. And keep in mind that Eritrea isn’t the easiest of countries to visit.