Leave it all behind and travel: a 10-year adventure to 193 countries | Valencian Community | Spain

Rubén Arnal is a traveler who has visited 193 countries in the world recognized by the United Nations in his van.Monica Torres

He said he doesn’t “just stick to one thing,” but will emphasize “everything.” He objects to such rankings. So when Rubén Arnal insisted and asked him to choose a scene (just one) from his travels to various countries around the world, he mentioned not one, but three moments: From the Pyramids of Cambodia Sunset seen from temples, some of the 4,000 temples in Bagan, Myanmar, on a cycling route through Cambodia, and one in particular, a road through Mozambique. He spent four days in the African country traveling from north to south through guerrilla-attacked areas, where trucks like his must be escorted by the army. He wrote on his blog: “No seatbelts, seven people where there should be three, camping gas cooking in the truck, trash thrown through broken windows, flat tires and a passenger who kept peeing out of the door , the driver drank more than one beer.” I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. “You live in it and you go ‘Oh my gosh, this is travel and adventure,’ and it’s not ‘I’m going to the beach in Thailand’ tourism, it’s more like travel,” he admits. When he says this, you can see that if he had to stick to the single scene that defines his way of traveling, there would be just one instead of three, this Valencian man who has been to 193 countries in the world recognized by the United Nations, Second youngest Spaniard to complete this challenge, I would choose this one.


He eventually visited five continents, but it all started at home. In 2012, economist Rubén Arnal was working at a bank. “I chose it not because of my career, but because I considered a good salary and an eight-to-three schedule,” he said. For now, he believes he has been “programmed” to lead a comfortable life: “Get a degree, buy a house, find the best job, start a family, retire, and then, if you can, travel.” But in 2009 Still working, he spent a year volunteering in a children’s home in Peru, an experience that opened his eyes to a new way of life. For this reason, in 2012, with the banking crisis, he took advantage of the suspension of his five-year paid contract (during which he received 20% of his salary) to stop going to the office and devote himself entirely to travel.

China, Macau, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Bahamas and Dominican Republic. During these years Rubén Arnal made his first trip around the world, in addition to a great trip to South America, Asia, Africa and Europe, during which he tried to “Been to as many countries as possible, but not too many countries.” Cross them off the list, but really see things. ” 143 countries later, five years later, the moment of truth arrived, and Rubén Arnal was not even ready to return to his job at the bank. So he informed the company that he would not rejoin, collecting Compensated, saved his pension plan, rented out his house and decided to devote himself full time to the world. With 50 of the world’s 193 countries waiting for him to visit, there was still a lot to do.


He travels, but he does not disappear, which is why he wants to return home, to Valencia, at least for “Christmas and the wedding”. “Now, it’s easier to stay connected with family and friends than when traveling without a cell phone,” the traveler said. Even so, Ruben Anar still likes to travel alone: ​​”The positive side is that you can do what you want, the negative side is that if something goes wrong, all the responsibility falls on you.” But he Having found friends along the way, it was no surprise to him to “have coffee in Bali with someone he met five years ago in Venezuela.”Furthermore, it even maintains the Couch surfinga network that provides free accommodation to travelers, which Reuben used in particular in Africa.

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“Some homes have no electricity, some have no running water and only have communal taps, some have no bathroom and just a hole, and some you sleep on the floor with a mat,” he said. Anal said that in Africa, an alternative concept of family and hospitality still exists, with neighbors opening their homes to visitors despite poverty in some areas. He said their sole purpose in doing so was to “have a purpose at home, something that would bring social prestige” and potentially seek help or favors from travelers in the future.


Compared to Africa, countries such as Australia have “public bathrooms and water fountains everywhere” but also have the most expensive services, transport and accommodation. Rubén Arnal travels on a budget and with a backpack, so frugality and minimalism are key. Therefore, he usually ate “like a poor man”, sometimes for less than a euro, and always drank tap water, even if it had to be boiled first. Not drinking bottled water has its pros and cons: One day, he had to drink brown water from a puddle in the Somali desert, but on another occasion, he was able to “make a bottle of ice from ice extracted directly from the Perito Moreno glacier.” A whiskey on the rocks, in Argentina.”

As for baggage, in his book Five years on the roadA compendium of travel experiences and advice that recommends using a small backpack even for long distances – “You wash more often, or space the laundry further apart, that’s it” – and carry needles and thread for mending Clothes, if they are torn in places like this. Desert, there is no Decathlon there. When it comes to Internet access, globalization has provided its own tricks: McDonald’s and Starbucks often have open Wi-Fi networks that anyone can use.


Fortunately, Rubén Arnal visited the United States on his first trip around the world, because since his last visit to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen, he now Unable to obtain ESTA authorization. ten years. His travels made him realize the privileges of having a Spanish passport, which ranks third in the world for visiting the most countries without a visa, 156. The ones with the most powerful passports are also the richest. “Being European gives you convenience and privileges,” admits Anal. For him, “it’s more worthwhile to visit all the countries in the world with a Bangladeshi or Pakistani passport.”

However, during his travels he encountered some difficult borders to cross and visited countries where the media had a poor reputation or where freedoms were restricted. In the case of Venezuela, he writes that “it remains a warm and friendly town,” although he acknowledges the presence of “weapons and crime.” Regarding Cuba, he confirmed that he was “safer than Los Angeles, New York and any other country in Latin America” ​​and that the people there were “happy, outgoing and eager to keep fighting and dancing.” He has also been to North Korea. “There is a ritual of reverence when visiting the mausoleum containing the embalmed bodies of Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il. If you think this is an act of submission and are unwilling to show respect, then you’d better not go,” he said in the book.


Rubén Arnal ends his journey through all the countries of the world recognized by the United Nations in Turkmenistan (number 193 out of 193), thus becoming, as far as we know, the first person on the map The Valencian on the mark of all nations is also the second youngest Spaniard to do so. Arnal acknowledged that there is “anger” at platforms like NomadMania, which ranks travelers based on the number of countries visited, but that the anger is directed at oneself rather than others. “The atmosphere among travelers is healthier than among tourists,” he said, although he admitted that everyone, including himself, sometimes does some “touristy stuff”: taking photos at iconic sites, touring, succumbing to “gestures.” “I’m committed to letting everyone travel in the way they like best so it doesn’t become an obligation,” he defends. He was clear: he didn’t want to “monetize” his travels, preferring to remain “independent.”

There will be many more trips to come. Through all the provinces of Spain, through some countries he wanted to repeat, through the routes of the World Heritage, touring in the campervan he just bought. For “non-existent countries”, disputed areas such as Nagorno Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan are their next destinations. Arnar estimates that the money will now allow him to travel for another two or three years: “In that time, a lot of things can happen, from me winning the EuroMillions jackpot to me getting tired of traveling.” But he admits that the latter Seems unlikely.

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