Don Parrish knows his limits. Since the 70-year-old from Downers Grove, Ill., began traveling in the 1960s, he's been to many geographic subregions of all 193 countries currently recognized by the United Nations and is about to tick off all 321 territories listed by the Travelers' Century Club. (The 193rd country he made it to was Mongolia—four years ago.) But all 874 places listed by a man named Charles Veley on Mosttraveledpeople.com? "No one will ever finish that list," Parrish tells the Daily Herald. "It's just too difficult." He attributes his wanderlust to his five ancestors who boarded the Mayflower in 1620 in search of a new world and life, a tradition he's carrying on.
Parrish started off locally, hitting all 50 US states before expanding his focus abroad, reports the BBC. The No. 1-ranked traveler on the MTP site even risked being kidnapped in Somalia, although he did hire four guards carrying AK-47s to get around. Traveling to the most remote places six months a year, often alone, can take its toll—"You have to be willing to suffer; if you value your own convenience, forget it"—but he adds that on the road, "You start picking up pieces of big themes and you start understanding it in a lot more depth." His current focus is on UN World Heritage Sites, and when things calm down he hopes to visit the Gaza Strip and Guantanamo Bay. As for his favorite place in the world? He may answer in several languages, but it's always the same: the US. (Speaking of travel, here's why the trip home feels shorter.)