SINGAPORE — A 26-year-old Singaporean has made his way around the world, but not in the fashion of the adventure novel, “Around the World in Eighty Days”, but literally stepping foot on all 197 countries.
Basanth Sadasivan, a recent graduate from Durham University and Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, has just completed a trip to the Pacific and reached the country of Tuvalu on 22 December last year at the age of 25.
This completes his odyssey of visiting all 197 countries in the world, which comprises 193 UN member states, two UN observer states (Holy See and the State of Palestine), Kosovo and Taiwan, which was completed mostly between December 2016 and December 2022.
Basanth shared that since he was young, his family would travel together to more mainstream destinations like ASEAN nations, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. And when he turned 18, he made up his mind to visit more off-the-beaten-track destinations.
However, the ambition to visit all 197 countries only came about halfway when he had completed Asia and the Americas midway through High School and realized that he was not far from completing all the countries.
Singapore passports after 2005 were given a validity date of 5 years and increased back to 10 years in 2021 but due to Basanth’s travels, he typically renews his 64-page passport every 1.5 years. His current passport was renewed at the start of 2022 but now has to be renewed again due to a lack of blank pages.
He had made trips to countries within Europe and ASEAN nations, mostly with friends or his family while the rest were by himself. As for the financing of the travels, Basanth shared that the family trips were funded by his parents while the rest were self-funded.
Granted, it is a feat to complete such a journey at such a young age, but one would jump to the assumption that Basanth can do so simply because of his privileged background.
In response to this, Basanth voices his understanding that he has indeed been privileged to be able to study abroad from a young age. And also why he took it upon himself to work multiple part-time jobs alongside a very challenging university degree, as well as work full time every summer to save the funds for travel.
When asked which countries left him with the most memorable experiences, Basanth pointed to Algeria and Argentina.
In the case of Algeria, he shared that he was very impressed by the wealth of historical sites as well as the tasty food the country offered.
“The locals over there are also very friendly and the fact that it is not a very widely-visited country made it all the more unique. It’s basically like a country frozen in time— with its old fashioned bazaars, ancient archaeological sites as well as the fact that credit cards can’t typically be used there.”
As for the case of Argentina, he shared that it definitely had the best food, like the Milanesa and Parillada.
“Getting to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and Chalten National Park, which are on the tip of the country and provide you with a glimpse into the Antarctic, also made it especially memorable.”
Of course, no adventure is complete without danger.
Basanth shared with TOC that during his trip in Mali, his car was stopped by some corrupt soldiers on the way from Timbuktu to Mopti and they tried to demand a bribe of almost US$200 USD to let him pass.
“I had to feign a fainting episode in order to get out of it. This, along with the fact that the road trip is about 22 hours long through an area crawling with bandits and unexploded land mines made it especially sketchy.”
And in another instance in Libya, his plane into Tripoli, the capital, was diverted due to heavy fighting around the city.
“We eventually made it by car to Tripoli and from my hotel, I could hear the faint sound of gunfire and artillery shells late into the night.”
As for whether he has any sense of fulfilment for completing his journey, Basanth said that is for certain.
“The opportunity to see more of the world and experience different cultures is something I will always cherish. It certainly taught me how diverse and big our planet is with many different ways of life.” said Basanth.
When asked if the rich travelling experience has made Basanth appreciate his home country more, he said, “Absolutely. I’ll always be thankful for the stability, peace and safety Singapore has been able to offer me though it was also very memorable to get out of my comfort zone and trade the stability of Singapore for a little bit of “controlled chaos”.”
Basanth will be working as a Foreign Service officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) from next January. When asked if his travels around the world can assist him in his work at MFA, he said his experiences abroad will be extremely useful in representing Singapore from a diplomatic perspective.
“Having some knowledge of the customs and laws of the countries will also be helpful when attempting to provide assistance or consular support to Singaporeans abroad”
As for advice for travellers who wish to follow the footsteps of Basanth, he asks for people not to hesitate to chase their dreams.
“Anything is possible and as long as you’re prepared for the unexpected and have the know-how to weasel your way around tricky situations, traveling is definitely worth the effort.”
“I would certainly recommend that before visiting a country, to read up on local laws and customs, as well as come prepared by booking things like accommodation and transportation in advance to make the most out of your trip. This way, you’re able to have a better time with less stress all around.”
For those interested, you can check out the countries Basanth has been through over the past years on his Instagram account.