English jazz fusion guitarist and composer talks about his association with India
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OT: How many countries have you been to?
Kashi Samaddar: I’ve covered all 194 sovereign countries of the world. The number, however, doesn’t take into account my travels to territories such as Transdnies-tria, Norfolk Island and Tibet, among others. I’m the first and fastest to visit all countries, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Limca Book of Records and the World Records Academy.
OT: Why did you take on this challenge?
Kashi Samaddar: Barring the 34 countries that offer visas on arrival, most other countries discriminate against 80 per cent of travellers. And it’s an open secret that for an Indian passport-holder, it’s almost impossible to get a tourist visa for several countries. So I put my career on hold to take up the cause of equal visa rights for all. While the Internet continues to make the world smaller, I don’t see why visa discriminations should create barriers. Besides, tourism is the best way to promote peace in the world.
OT: Your favourite destination?
Kashi Samaddar: Every destination has its own charm. However, I’m particularly fond of Isla Margarita in Venezuela, Manaus in Brazil, several towns in the Himalayan foothills, the Alps, Costa Rica, Bangaram Island in Lakshadweep, Eua Island in Tonga, Mala Mala Island in Fiji, Victoria Falls in Zambia, Cook Island, Bora Bora in French Polynesia, and Kovalam and Digha in India. I also enjoyed driving on the deserted road from Lusaka to Livingstone. Delhi-Gangotri and Srinagar-Leh are my other favourite driving holidays.
OT: How much have you spent on your travels?
Kashi Samaddar: $768,000, without any donations.
OT: Your greatest challenge?
Kashi Samaddar: I had trouble getting visas for 60-odd countries. But I was persistent. Some of the visas took up to three years and I had to apply anywhere from three to eight times to finally get a visa.
OT: Your worst/most dangerous trip?
Kashi Samaddar: Dodging bullets in Somalia, being trapped in an impromptu war in East Timor, getting mugged in Congo and Senegal… The worst though was when my hotel in Kabul was bombed, moments after I had checked out.
OT: Your top travel advice?
Kashi Samaddar: When travelling abroad, always get your visa, ticket and hotel bookings in advance. I find www.ratestogo.com, www.booking.com and www.hotelscombined.com useful. For visa advice for less common destinations, check www.ttpglobal.com. Arm yourself with information on your destination before you leave and once you arrive there, take a short walk to get a feel of the place.
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