Is this the Luckiest Guy in the World?

Is this the Luckiest Guy in the World?
Richard's longstanding interest in people, cultures and societies of the world was first sparked while he studied politics at the University of Southampton in England. Here Richard shares with us what he's learned from traveling:

After traveling to all 7 continents and 125 countries, what still amazes you?

On our trips, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the friendliness, warmth and sincerity of the people in every country we visit.

What are your most memorable travel experiences?

The one moment from my travels that I will never, ever forget was learning how to be an elephant mahout in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

What place has surprised you?

A place I thought I'd dislike, but I fell in love with was Timbuktu in Mali. It's such an arid country with many historical connotations of difficult travel, as well as its symbolism for Europeans as the end of the world. In fact, Timbuktu has a fascinating culture and history, it was integral to the learning and knowledge base of our entire civilization, and it still holds its place in current affairs.

What are the best countries for food?

Some of my favorite countries to eat in are Sri Lanka for its mild and tasty curries and Vietnam for its wide variety of dishes.

What countries are best for shopping?

My favorite place to shop is Cambodia. There are so many different souvenirs: carved Buddhas, beautiful hand-woven silks, silver jewelry and more.

What's the best thing you've ever brought home from a trip?

The best thing I've ever brought home from a trip was a pair of handmade paddles from Papua New Guinea. They were carved from local wood in a traditional design in a village in the Sepik River Basin.

If you weren't in the travel business, what would you do?

If I hadn't been an expedition leader, I would have been in the music industry. After college I worked in a nonprofit, promoting music education in schools. To promote the cause, I organized the world's largest orchestra – 3,500 young musicians performed in England under a world-class conductor. It ties in well with my travel career because music is an international language that transcends borders.

What do you do to relax?

When I need to relax, I run for about half an hour. Traveling involves a lot of sitting, so exercise is great for the body and clears the mind.

What was the first trip you ever took?

The first trip I ever took as a child was with my family, driving through the beautiful countryside of France and Spain down to the Mediterranean Sea.

Where would you like to go back to?

A place I would definitely go back to is Antarctica – and I'd do a “Polar Plunge” in the icy waters.

What's still on your wish list?

One place I haven't seen yet, which I'm dying to visit is Zanzibar. I remember at university, I discovered in the library archives a British Foreign Office report on the Commonwealth Territories of Zanzibar and Pemba. It was from the mid-'60s and was a compendium of everything that happened on the islands in the preceding year. I was fascinated by it and I have always wanted to visit that wonderful place it described.

Who is your ultimate travel companion?

If I could travel with anyone, dead or alive, it would be a former American president who could give me a clear sense of the international relations between countries, which make the world how it is today.

What's your best travel advice?

The best way to get over jet lag is to sleep on the jet and eat meals at the correct time for the new time zone.

If you get motion sickness, you should look at the horizon and take some ginger – either ginger tea or in a supplement.

And my best piece of travel advice is to look around, soak up the surroundings and enjoy and trust the people you meet. Don't hide behind your sunglasses. Take them off, look people in the eye and smile – it is a great way to connect.

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