Life, work, and travel: Those are the three concentrations of The Art of Non-Conformity (AONC) project, founded by Chris Guillebeau. The Art of Non-Conformity project’s mission is to inspire people to live unconventional lives, make their own choices, and change the world. Chris started the project after volunteering and traveling inspired him to strive to achieve significant, personal goals and help others to do the same. He didn’t want to perform a desk job he wasn’t passionate about, but instead wanted to lead others to follow their dreams.
So far, Chris has accomplished some pretty impressive personal and professional goals: he’s visited 192 of 193 United Nation member states; contributed pieces to CNN, Business News, and Huffington Post, among other news outlets; published two books – The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup (a New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best seller) — as well as several manifestos; started the successful World Domination Summit to help connect like-minded individuals who share the values of community, adventure and service; and many others — and Chris is only 34 years old! We invited Chris to answer some questions for our blog audience as our latest post in the Travel Talk blog series. Read on for some of his thoughts on travel and inspiration in his own words.
1) You’ve been to 190 countries, and set a goal to visit all 193 United Nation member states by age 35. Your goal date of April 2013 is only a month away. How close are you to meeting this ambitious goal?
I’ve now been to 192 countries. I went to Guinea Bissau in December and Tuvalu in January. So I’m pretty sure I’m on track.
2) Tell us about The Art of Non Conformity (AONC) project you started. What sparked the creation of this project?
I had moved back to the U.S. after four years in West Africa. I was turning 30 and feeling dissatisfied with what I had done to that point — I felt like I lacked convergence. I decided to start AONC as a platform for my writing and a community for other unconventional people. Within a year, it had become a full-time career.
3) Do you typically travel alone? Does your wife ever travel with you?
I do typically travel alone, yes. Jolie recently accompanied me to India for a two-week book tour.
4) Since you’ve visited almost all of the countries you set out to visit by this year, do you still have any destinations on your bucket list to visit?
I don’t really have a bucket list, but there are certainly plenty of places I’d still love to visit. I haven’t yet been to Palestine, and I haven’t done Antarctica either. Both of those will be coming up at some point.
5) What has been the most interesting destination(s) you’ve explored, and why?
There are so many! I don’t have a single favorite or “most interesting.”
6) You’ve run at least 10 miles in over 25 countries. How do you decide which countries to run in? Have you faced any challenges running throughout the world? If so, what are they, and have any countries in particular been a challenge to run in?
I don’t usually decide in advance. Some of it depends on my current training — if I have a race coming up, I’ll run longer. How long I’m in a country also affects the decision. The biggest challenge in much of the world is the climate. It’s very hard to run 10 miles in Kuwait during the summer. On the other hand, I ran a half-marathon in Cuba recently and had a great experience. After the race, most foreign runners donate their shoes to Cuban runners, who sometimes run shoeless otherwise.
7) Have you ever been surprised, either pleasantly or disappointingly, about a destination you’ve visited?
I’m constantly surprised. Much of travel relates to how context shapes experiences. I didn’t expect to love the Solomon Islands, but it turned out to be a beautiful place. I was intimidated by Central Asia and the Russian-speaking world before I went, but then I relaxed once I saw how incredible it was.
8) What travel tips would you like to share with our readers?
I share a lot about “travel hacking” on my blog, or how to see the world for free using Frequent Flyer Miles. But I think the more important aspects of traveling will reveal themselves to you as you go. Don’t be afraid! Step out — the world is waiting. Also, never check luggage.
9) Where in the world are you headed next?
I recently resumed the on-going book tour for “The $100 Startup” by visiting 10 U.S. cities. This month I’m going to Korea for the launch of the local version there, and in April, I’ll be in Norway for the final country. Readers can always find out about tour dates by visiting 100startup.com/#tour. Tickets for our big party in Norway are available at endofworld.eventbrite.com.
Thanks Chris! Be sure to visit The Art of Non-Conformity website for all the latest on Chris’ next adventures.