Around the world in 30 years: Australian to join ‘every country on earth’ club

On Tuesday, the vagaries of international travel notwithstanding, Daniel Herszberg will fly from Fiji to Tonga and join one of the most exclusive clubs there is: people who have travelled to every country in the world.

Herszberg, a 30-year-old global citizen who grew up in Melbourne, is what is known as a “country counter”. The travel fanatic is hoping to become the youngest Australian to achieve the feat.

Daniel Herszberg, seen here in Pyongyang, North Korea, is set to become the latest Australian to visit every country in the world.Credit:Daniel Herzsberg

“I have been like this ever since I was a little kid and I had the flags of the world up in my bedroom,” says Herszberg, who went to school at Yeshivah College in St Kilda East and studied Arts/Law at Monash.

The United Nations recognises 193 countries in the world and two independent nations – Vatican City and Palestine – but does not recognise Taiwan and Kosovo, which some other nations do. Many country counters regard 197 as the ultimate goal.

Country counting has taken off in the era of modern air travel, when circumnavigating the globe has never been easier, and as the number of nation states has slowly increased.

Country counters are regulated by the not-for-profit group NomadMania. The group requires its members to certify their travels and lists about 300 people who have achieved the feat of visiting all countries. It calls them UN Masters.

Herszberg in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. He is due to travel to Tonga – his 197th country – on Tuesday. Credit:Daniel Herszberg

“We are very proud and happy that Daniel has, through consistently travelling over the years, successfully reached a goal that is a standard for many. We, nevertheless, encourage exploration beyond the number of countries, and that is why we divide the world into 1301 regions to explore,” founder Harry Mitsidis told The Sunday Age.

Herszberg’s profile ranks him as the 148th most travelled person.

In a market in Damascus, Syria. Credit:Daniel Herszberg

He took his first trip aged 2, when he accompanied his South African-born mother to visit his great-grandmother in Canada.

Holiday jobs largely funded his early travels, while education grants allowed him to study overseas and he later worked as a lawyer in Hong Kong.

Herszberg quit his job in September 2019 to travel full time, but COVID-19 lockdowns and border closures put his plans on hiatus and he switched to travelling through regional Australia.

Now Herszberg is undertaking a PhD in politics and society in Asia at Oxford University, while hotel chains and tourism boards have provided him some support in return for a shoutout to his 77,000 Instagram followers at @dhersz.

He has never had malaria or COVID-19, but his life was in danger in a boating accident Venezuela.

“I was on the way back from Angel Falls and our boat flipped in rapids,” he says. “I lost everything, I left Venezuela with my arm in a sling.”

As the grandson and great-grandson of Holocaust survivors, he said having an Australian passport was a privilege. “It makes it slightly surreal and extremely humbling to think that while every door was closed to my family, today my Australian passport has opened the door to every country on earth.”

After he achieves the feat, Herszberg will focus on his studies.

“So much of this journey has been about listening and learning. I don’t know if in my early 20s I was equipped to see all that I saw – people dead in the streets and children too hungry to raise an arm.

“I have felt that a return to academia has helped me in my quest of trying to make sense of the world around me and this curiosity that I have had.

“No matter where people are from, South Sudan to the hilltops of Papua New Guinea. Everyone wants their kids to be safe and put food on the table. There is core human behaviour that becomes very clear moving from one society to another.

“The ultimate lesson is that by listening I am learning.”

But there is one final frontier that has eluded Herszberg.

The globe trotter is puzzled until The Sunday Age puts it to him: he has never been into space.

He laughs and says: “Watch this space.”

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