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Going global.

While many take travel for granted, Eve Dugdale talks to one globetrotter who says it's not always that easy When Phileas Fogg travelled around the world in 80 days it's doubtful he was refused entry into a country because of where he was born, or had to wait a couple of years for a visa to come through. Nowadays however, accepting that you may not be welcome in another country just because of where you're from or what stamps are in your passport, is a reality for many travellers. And that's exactly why Dubai-based businessman, Kashi Samaddar's around-the-world mission is an important achievement. Kashi, who was born in Calcutta in India, has visited 218 countries and claims he is the first person to visit all 194 sovereign states. It's taken him six years and cost him dhs2.5million. He began this journey simply by travelling to 80 countries on business, but soon enough he caught the travel bug and wanted to visit as many nations as he could for leisure, and of course, the prospect of achieving a world record. While the entire world trip experience exposed him to beautiful countries, breath-taking scenery, endless hospitality, it also highlighted the vast inequalities faced by many travellers, who, because of the passport they hold can have major difficulties entering certain countries. "Once, when I was travelling to Seoul, onwards to Johannesburg and then to Sau Paulo, Brazil, I was refused access to Johannesburg even though I had a return ticket and all the correct documents," says Kashi. "The Korean engineer, who was travelling with me was fine, he could enter the country, but I had to stay two nights at the airport in Johannesburg, because of my nationality." Kashi began to consider how common these ordeals were for other travellers. "I started thinking about it and thought I'd check with my friends from all around the world and they all said it was a big problem. "In fact 85 per cent of the population of our planet has these problems when they're travelling. That's why I decided to do this challenge - to travel around the world." During his adventure, Kashi visited various tourism ministers from different countries to discuss visa problems and offer solutions. "For several countries, like Costa Rica, Macedonia, Panama and Tonga, I had to travel to nearby countries instead of going there directly, just to get a visa. The most difficult visa to get was Moldova, which took me almost three years with many rejections. "The problem isn't with big countries like America, England or places in Europe, a lot of the time it's smaller countries who don't know what they should be doing," he says. Trekking the globe for Kashi, wasn't just about visiting popular tourist attractions; his journey also took in some of the world's poorest countries. "I had no trouble when I went to Afghanistan and Iraq, but I had some problems in Somalia and also when I was crossing the Guyana-Suriname border in South America. I literally had to go through an area where the fighting was taking place," he says. "When you enter Suriname, you find lots of military men with rifles standing guard. It's a little frightening." Because of the difficulties some nationalities have entering certain countries, back in Dubai, Kashi and some partners decided to set up the web site Travel, Tourism and Peace Global,, which provides travellers with up to date advice on exactly what they will need to be allowed access into different countries. But visa issues aside, Kashi says his around- the-world trip included plenty of postcard moments, including visiting the Alps mountain range and some fantastic spots in South America. "I think Brazil is a very good destination, for everybody," says Kashi. "In Rio de Janeiro, when you get in the taxi, if you are from England they'll play an English music cassette, if you're Chinese they play a Chinese cassette and if you're Indian they'll play an Indian cassette. "The people are lovely." The 200th country Kashi visited was Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean, where Kashi is proud to have helped raise awareness about global warming. Why? Because, at its highest point, Tuvalu is only five metres above sea level and it's possible the whole country could soon be submerged beneath the water. Having already made the Limca Book of Records in India, this globetrotter is now awaiting confirmation from the Guiness Book of Records, for a trip well travelled.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Dec 1, 2008
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