American's global quest ends in Samoa
As some foreigners complain about being stranded in Samoa, David McKee, is looking to make the most of things as he reflects on a major personal milestone.
The 66-year-old American plans to soak up as much of Samoa and the sun as he celebrates the completion of his global “country quest” with his visit to Samoa.
The United Nations recognises 193 sovereign states worldwide and Mr. McKee says he has been to every single one, finishing with his current trip to Samoa.
He has been travelling since he was 18-years-old, mostly for work.
But his last round trip took him to the last remaining six countries of his quest, which took him a total of two months to complete and, he says, brought him to Samoa via Tuvalu in the conclusion of his quest to visit every nation-state.
Travelling has taken him to some unusual situations before, including the current state of emergency in Samoa.
Prior to his most recent round of travel, last year, he recalls a night spent in the last remaining African country on this list: Libya.
He says his timing was far from perfect; he recalls militias were fighting on the city perimeter. He then made his way to Kurdistan in northern Iraq, his last country in the Asia continent.
Mr. McKee said that Samoa was meant to be his second-to-last country on his list but due to coronavirus (COVID-19) fears and global lockdown he had to rearrange his flights and it became his final destination, he said.
“In many ways, the best [was saved for last],” he said.
"Samoa will always have a special place in my travels..
“Samoa was the final United Nations [recognised] country for me to visit. That has been a lifelong goal and now I have achieved it”.
The father of three daughters says from what he has seen and experienced in Samoa, he fully understands why legendary Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson chose to settle in Samoa via Europe, North America and elsewhere in the South Pacific.
Currently residing at the Millenia Hotel, Mr. McKee said he has spent more time in Samoa than any other country on this trip.
As many others would rush booking flights back home once word of a global lockdown was in the air, Mr. McKee instead chose to extend his stay.
He was planning another week but due to lockdown endorsed by Cabinet, he has been here for more than three weeks now. He says it is still not a very long stay.
"If it weren’t for my family commitments I would opt to stay here much longer. I can do my consultancy work here as well as anywhere, but with one caveat: slow internet and high data charges,” he said.
Mr. McKee is set to depart Samoa on the chartered repatriation flight for American citizens now rescheduled for Wednesday next week.
"No matter how much you travel there is always something new, even when it comes to flying," he said.
"It is a very weird evacuation to be removed from a place where Americans seemed to be liked, where it is totally peaceful, safe and free of any confirmed cases of the current epidemic, and to be taken home to Seattle, the original hotbed of the Coronavirus epidemic in the U.S."
Mr. McKee describes his professional life as "checkered", as he has moved from international banking to the brewing industry and now doing independent consultancy work for a living.
Advice he offered to aspiring travel enthusiasts was to save money but not to become caught up in the quest to make it.
"These days young people travel so easily that it seems almost effortless. In relation to average incomes airfares are much less costly than what they were in the 1970s when I started," he said.
"If you have the wanderlust gene then try to satisfy that desire before you start a career. That is pretty standard advice.
"I learned early on [that] it is much more satisfying to go to a country and do foreign language study and then take in neighbouring countries as opposed to just roaming the world for an extended period as a backpacker.
"When you do choose a career, do so with the knowledge that down the road once you have the professional experience and have performed well in your job, you will be given the opportunity to travel for work or be posted overseas, or be able to apply for jobs in other countries.
"Above all be patient. My country quest has been a lifelong journey not a race or competition. If you go to only 4 new countries per year on average for 50 years like I have done you will have 200 countries under your belt."
Mr. McKee is now able to return home proudly as one of the very few people who has been to every single member state recognised by the U.N.
"I am proud to have been paid by clients or employers to go to or at least get very close to at least three quarters of the countries that I have been to. My travels may be unique from most of the others in that respect."
"Now with global travel at a near standstill and so many countries closed [...] I was very fortunate with the timing of this trip. Being stuck in Samoa does not count as misfortune at all."