x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Practical Traveller: the end of the road in Norway

Chris Guillebeau's five-year journey to every country in the world finishes, drama-free, in Scandinavia.

Chris Guillebeau's five-year journey to every country in the world finished in Norway with an End of the World Party in Oslo. Courtesy of Armosa Studios
Chris Guillebeau's five-year journey to every country in the world finished in Norway with an End of the World Party in Oslo. Courtesy of Armosa Studios

Chris Guillebeau, 35, is the author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup. He is on a five-year mission to visit every country in the world and this is his final stop.

In all my previous adventures to 192 of the world's 193 countries, the biggest challenges were logistical.

Travelling through Central Asia by train required dozens of hours and numerous interrogations by officials. Sleeping on the floor of the Dakar airport - while memorable - isn't something I hope to repeat.

But when I got on the plane to fly to my final country of Norway, it couldn't have been easier.

I was flying through Dallas and London, two hubs I know well. There were no necessary visas or formalities, and I had plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the trip.

Why Norway? Why go to the entire world and save a quiet Scandinavian nation for the end?

For a long time, I assumed that the final country would be a more unusual one - Tajikistan, Togo or Tanzania. But as I progressed in the journey, I realised I should have a plan for the end. Since I was to finish on my 35th birthday, I knew the final stop would be important.

More than a year ago, a number of friends and readers wrote in to say they were planning to come along to the last country, and I didn't want to bring them anywhere difficult. The only country in Europe I hadn't yet visited was Norway, so I decided to block it off. No visiting Oslo until everything else was done!

Eleven years after beginning the journey, and five years after publicly announcing my intention to finish on April 7, 2013, I touched down in Oslo airport and walked out to arrivals.

"Why are you coming to Norway?" the immigration agent asked.

"It's a long story," I replied, "But I'm really glad to be here."

My family was waiting at the hotel, along with a few close friends. The next day we went on a two-day tour, bouncing along in a second-class train compartment (a much more comfortable one than in Central Asia) and sightseeing from the ferry through the fjords of Bergen.

Back in Oslo, I prepared for a party. We called it "The Party at the End of the World", and much to my surprise, more than 100 people showed up from 18 countries. One guy even travelled overland from Portugal in a week-long trip that ended with the party.

We had a band, a DJ and a cake with "End of the World Party" written on top.

Toward the end of the night I stood at the microphone with a glass of prosecco and said, "I can't believe you all came to Norway!"

It took 11 years to see the world. Going everywhere was often difficult and expensive. But there's no doubt it was absolutely, positively worth it. I have a thousand good memories and no regrets.

Over the next two years I hope to visit readers in dozens of cities to hear their stories. I want to encourage others to embrace the spirit of taking on a big task and seeing where it leads.

It's the end of the world for me, but the story is just beginning. After five days at the end of the world, I left Norway and began a slow journey home through Asia.

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