Belfast Man Resumes Ambitious Itinerary to Visit Every Country in the World – with Syria Kicking off his Travels!

Belfast man David Simpson has set himself a target of five years to visit 78 countries having already travelled to 151 destinations

Belfast man David Simpson has set himself a target of five years to visit 78 countries having already travelled to 151 destinations.

David Simpson, a property developer who has travelled to 151 countries worldwide, is set to fulfil his dream to see every country there is over the next five years and become the first person born in Northern Ireland to ever do so.

The 34-year-old has landed, this week, in Syria, which marks one of the firsts stops on his agenda since Covid-19 pressed pause on his plans.

He took to the skies, negative PCR test results in hand and has begun treading the volatile terrain of Syria. David will also travel to Lebanon as part of that same trip in what he says will be his most nerve-racking itinerary yet.

Speaking from Syria, David said his pre travel prep has stood him in good stead for any challenges ahead.

“It was always going to be safe, I had done too much research over the years to think any different. There are countless checkpoints which might make it sound otherwise but these have been permanent fixtures since the civil war and are an effective way for the government to show control. It really takes to have travelled around the Middle East to understand this is just how it is, a way of life.

“We’ve had our own issues with conflicts at home in Northern Ireland but rarely do we bat an eyelid, and the people here have a similar mentality. How these people hold themselves, how they are so welcoming and the warmth they continue to show after going through one of the worst atrocities of our generation, it’s something that humbles me, a huge reason why I visit these places.”

He added: “The biggest security risk will be my trip around Idlib, an area still controlled by the rebels not far from Aleppo. Also, a trip to Palmyra can only be confirmed at the last minute, depending on the activity in these areas and whether it is safe to do so.”

Over the coming year David has also planned to visit West Africa, which he says is one of the most difficult places to travel to and around.

He will also go silverback gorilla trekking in Uganda, drive the length of the Serengeti for the Great Migration and embark on a two-week drive through France — from Normandy to Belgium — and soaking up some war history while some luxury in the Seychelles will also feature.

David, who documents his travels through his social channels under the handle djjsimpson and his website is not fazed by the prospect of travelling solo to what are considered some of the world’s most politically unsettled destinations.

He adds: “I went to university in Glasgow where my interest in seeing more of the world was ignited. I began travelling and being part of new cultures but it wasn’t until I was in New Zealand where I counted the countries I had already visited and was shocked by how many more there was to see.

“This was the first time I had the idea of continuing my travelling to corners of the world I had never heard of let alone planned to visit. I do expect this next year to be a bit more challenging but nothing I won’t be able to overcome, as I have already been in some situations that, for many, could be off-putting,” he adds.

“Being strip searched before boarding a flight in Israel to enduring a five-hour police inquisition in Algeria and being held at gunpoint in Austin, Texas are among some of the most frightening occasions David has experienced on his travels. But he adds: “These negative accounts all become positive learning experiences in the end and are far outweighed by the many great adventures I get to see.

“Some of the most controversial places I have visited have been the most eye opening and friendliest, for example, my last trip before the pandemic was to Sudan, a country many believe to be entirely unsafe but the people there turned out to be some of the friendliest I’ve met to date. Quite often it is these places that surprise you the most. Countries that pose a security risk just require more research and planning. You may pay a little extra for the privilege but it’s all worth it.”

David has taken all precautions for his upcoming travel expeditions including completing testing, sussing out testing stations abroad and ensuring his Covid-19 vaccination and visa requirements are up to date.

Despite ensuring all his documents are in order, the traveller still anticipates challenges.

“It’s inevitable when you are trying to visit the far corners of the earth that you will come into difficulty. That’s why, for me, it’s important to have a plan b, but who can plan for something like the coronavirus?” asks David.

“I recently visited the Caribbean and it actually proved to be a logistical nightmare with arranging PCR tests and arrival forms, not the way the Caribbean should be enjoyed. It’s safe to say if I thought the challenge of visiting every country was difficult before COVID then now it’s an entirely new level.

David has ploughed all of his own savings into his nomadic quest and says doing so offers him the freedom to “be myself and not conform to sell anyone anything”.

He continues: “I want to go back to the travel blogs of old where you can read about honest travel experiences in places that you have always wanted to see but never wanted to visit and because the trip is self-funded, I don’t need to worry about having to put a positive spin on anything. My style is strictly telling it like it is.

“I have had a number of offers but accommodation providers are probably as far as I would go when it comes to sponsorships.”

Besides his camera, phone, headphones and a few snacks, David travels light. He says visiting each country will not be a “quick border hop” but more of an intense sight-seeing experience to ensure he and his followers get a comprehensive, authentic account of his journey. Anyone who has travelled with him, will know how intense these trips are.

David believes he is in a community of no less than 300 people who have visited every country in the world and is, so far, the first NI native to take on the expedition.

Reflecting on his travels to date, he reminisces about his favourite encounters that include skydiving in Hawaii, scuba diving with sharks in the Galapagos and parties at Thailand’s Full Moon NYE and Columbia’s Carnival.

He dubs Asia as his favourite continent and adds: “I have been fortunate to enjoy many once-in-a-lifetime trips but none of these will come close to taking the family to places they wouldn’t ever have thought of enjoying, let alone visiting.

“The world is generally a safe place full of people happy to help,” he concludes.

To follow David’s travels

and his social media channels:

Instagram: @djjsimpson


Twitter: @djjsimpson

TikTok: @djjsimpson

Click to view article images:

Belfast Man Resumes Ambitious Itinerary to Visit Every Country in the World – with Syria Kicking off his Travels!