A young Catalan man has visited Palau in a globe-trotting bid to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest person to have visited all sovereign countries worldwide.

After leaving university at the age of 19, Oscar Herrero Requena first acquired his vibrant taste for travel, playing the ukulele as a wandering street musician.  After six-months on the road, Herrero decided to try and find a way to use his travel adventures to help support those less fortunate than him. And so he turned into a global-trotting fundraiser for Medicins Sans Frontiers, a charity that provides vital health services in some of the world’s poorest and hardest to reach countries. Any money raised as a result of Herrero’s world-record bid expedition, Herrera explained, “doesn’t go to me, it goes to people who really need it”.

So far, Herrero has visited 65 countries, including many other Pacific Island states such as Tuvalu, Tonga, Vanuatu and Nauru, where he had slept on a beach with locals. Nonetheless Herrero has some especially warm words for Palau, which he says is “different to other Islands in the Pacific, more connected to the world and more mixed culturally”. But, he highlights, “I just arrived a few days ago”, so he still has a lot to learn about Palau.

Herrero, who is now 22 years old, spoke of the more peaceful, different way of living he had observed on the Pacific Islands. They offer a “more relaxed” way of living and are “so safe all the time”. He could imagine, he stated, living here in the region full-time.

He even spent some time working in a bar in the Solomon Islands. Working there, Herrero said, had also shown him some of the problems Pacific societies face; Businesses were often owned by people from outside the Islands, who paid “almost nothing” to local workers, $10 a week. “It was … sad” seeing this racism, he remarked.

Herrero, who is currently in Koror but might visit Peleliu or Angaur, told the Island Times in an interview this week that after Palau, North Korea will be his next destination via a short-layover in mainland China. “You must pay for a tour, and it is a little bit expensive… I will only be there for two nights”, he commented about his North Korea travel plans. “I don’t feel so much scared of it”. Herrero has other unconventional tourist destinations coming up. Afghanistan, he says, “will be in a couple of months”.

While travelling globally has brought Herrero to far-flung shores, he also recounted how he misses some aspects of life at home, his sharing times with his other young friends in particular.  Travelling has also meant missing out on basic creature comforts that can’t always be experienced on the road.  Until he reached Palau, he had lived “like 5 months without a hot shower”.

If Herrero wants to succeed at winning the coveted Guinness World Record for being the youngest person to visit all of the world’s sovereign countries, he’d better hurry; The current record holder, Brit James Asquith succeeded in visiting all of the world’s sovereign states by the age of 24, only two years older than Herrero. Asquith received his record when arriving in the Federated States of Micronesia, the final country on his list of places to visit, in 2013. (Colin C. Cortbus)