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Enterprising Mourne man close to end of his mission to visit every country in the world

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Enterprising Mourne man close to end of his mission to visit every country in the world thumbnailJohnny Ward has just three more countries to visit in a challenge that has taken over 10 years.

A KILKEEL man has spent over a decade making it his mission to visit every country in the world.

Local man, Johnny Ward has just three countries to tick off his list and he will have completed the epic challenge he first set himself a number of years ago.

After graduating from university, Johnny says he didn't have the money to take a 'gap-year', so he figured the best way to have an adventure would be to find a way to travel and earn at the same time.

He added: "I ended up working at a disadvantaged kids' camp in New York straight after university, then a stint doing some medical research and teaching English in northern Thailand. I realised I wanted to live a fun, exciting, adventurous life as opposed to the standard route."

A few years after this Johnny started his hugely successful OneStep4Ward.com travel blog which changed his life by making him a self-made millionaire.

“It allowed me the opportunity to give it a crack, and now I'm almost there. It has taken me 10-and-a-half years, it doesn't sound so long when I say it fast but wow, it's taken a long time. 

“From 2006 to 2012 during the first half of my journey I was able to only return home to Kilkeel very rarely. I didn't have two pennies to rub together, so flights to Europe were impossible.

“However, since my blog has taken off a bit, and my business stuff is working okay, I try to come home twice a year. I love it, honestly, it makes me so happy to come home, sleep in my old house, eat my mum's food, share a whiskey with my gran, it's great," he added.

Johnny expects to finish his epic challenge by March, with just Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Norway to visit.

He added: "I have been saving Norway for my last country for a big party. I don't think Saudi or Yemen would be particularly good places for my friends and family to visit and pop some champagne!"

However, his travels have not come without any challenges and Johnny has had difficulties getting visas into some destinations off the beaten track.

“Angola, Somalia, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan all have been really difficult to get visas for, Naura and other pacific islands in the middle of no-where have been pricey to access too. And now Yemen and Saudi, two of my last three, have been really, really tough to get permission to enter. 

“Currently, I am really focused on trying to get access to Saudi and Yemen and I haven't really thought beyond that about the challenge ending. Maybe once, or even if I manage those two, I can take a second to reflect, until then it's full steam ahead with fighting for visas."

Johnny has also revealed his plans for when he has completed the challenge and his first stop is to return home to Kilkeel for a couple of weeks.

“It will be nice to come home and try to step back from the madness of the last decade. I then have a trip 'around the world in 80 days' this summer where I'm going to try to circumnavigate the globe with no flights, just cargo ships, trains and buses - it should be an adventure."

Johnny has also used his success to give something back to the community and countries that he has visited.

He added: "Last year I founded my charity, the GiveBackGiveAway.com, where I try to leverage my social media to give something back.

“I've been so fortunate to travel and I feel it's my turn to give something back. Recently I worked, along with 10 of my social media followers, to build a playground for an impoverished school in Cambodia, the kids were absolutely buzzing, it was great.

“I am running another charity trip in June to build a project for the Burmese migrants on the Thai/Myanmar border, so that will also take a lot of my time up planning too."

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