The Favourites of Chris Sutherland

Chris Sutherland left New Zealand when he was 18 and has since travelled a lot. He is one of the estimated 200-300 people in the world who have visited every country in the world.

What are three of your favourite countries and why?

The Philippines
I fell in love with this country many years ago and have been living there for about three and a half years. It’s hands down my number one. The beaches, the prices and every island is so unique. It’s just so livable. Everyone speaking English helps, and the climate is great. The people are the friendliest in the world, and there is always something happening.

Peru
There is so much culture, amazing people and such incredible food. Every time you eat, you are excited that you will get something new and amazing. From the jungle and wildlife to the Inka world, you could spend years there and not do half the stuff it has on offer.

Mexico
It’s just soo jam-packed with incredible stuff around every corner. There are so many amazingly unique things to visit, and the food is in a class of its own. It is overflowing with culture and history, such diverse regions and fascinating people.

What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?

Teaching English in Taiwan and Japan for two years was the most incredible experience of my life. I needed a degree to give to the governments to get the work visa, so I bought one in Bangkok for 30$, and both governments were very satisfied with it. Such an opportunity to live in two such amazing countries already on top of such an exciting job as well. Preschool was just so much fun every day, seeing how their little brains worked and the cute and hilarious things they would blurt out. Then, in contrast, large classes of adults, private one-on-one classes, and junior high all being so varied and interesting, and I got to get really close with students and parents.

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Omo valley in Ethiopia. Undoubtedly my favourite tour. So many tribes all so completely different, so much variety and in such close proximity. It’s like travelling back in time. From the Mursi tribe with their lip disc’s to the wife whipping and cow jumping traditions of the Hamar, I was fortunate enough to spend the night with a family of the Banna tribe where a wedding party was taking place. Sleeping under the stars with the family And watching how they prepare their day.

Not exactly a moment, more a collection of them. I miss the early days, like 20 years ago. Travelling was so different back then. In Asia and South America, we just drank, partied, had fun and hung out at the beach and stuff. No pressure to run around and do everything the guidebook says. No checklists. Going back back-and-forth to the same countries with great friends over and over again, just spending months hanging out in places renting apartments in Brazil or Venezuela without a care in the world.

What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?

Constant scratching from a Couchsurfing house in the Central African Republic
Number one, hands down. Getting uncontrollable constant scratching from a Couchsurfing house in the Central African Republic. I had flown directly to Asia, and this was the most horrible thing in my life. I went to four private dermatologists all of them had absolutely no idea what it was. I was covered in red marks and scratching like crazy and even some blisters. Not knowing is the worst thing. Thinking it’s some rare African thing, nobody will ever be able to identify and swallowing way too many antihistamines all day.

This was over a couple of weeks before someone recommend a free skin clinic because they see hundreds of people a day. The specialist there instantly said it’s scabies, and I’ve never been so happy to get such bad news. Mites inside your skin, eating, poohing and laying eggs. Lovely. The good news was it should be easily fixed by covering your body in a pesticide once. But it still took doing it about 15 times before combining it with the pill form to kill it permanently.

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Flying through a typhoon on a flight from Micronesia to the Marshall Islands
The weather was already stormy and not good when we took off but then entering what we later found out to be a typhoon, the plane just dropped like what felt like 30 meters. And we could feel the pilot obviously struggling with the medium size passenger plane to regain control.

Then we thought everything is ok and a minute later we dropped again even more than the first time. You really begin to feel physically sick with fear. Again it was recovered and then a third time, the same again. The feeling of the plane uncomfortably hitting the runway in what was by now a torrential storm went from the worst feeling ever to the best very fast.

Libya exit
After an absolutely amazing tour, everything had gone perfectly, after a nightmare of stress and problems getting the visa in time. Just two minutes before the planned time to leave for the airport, I can see the guides attitude change and discussing a lot. Then they say, remember that blast we heard this morning? The airport was hit and is closed.

Nobody knew what was going on, and after staying an extra night, we decided to drive some hours to another airport. It was absolute chaos, super hard to get out alone and with no idea what was happening. I had several flights going from Libya to Chile, which all fell apart.

What are three of your best travel tips?

Follow the Sun
Everything is better when it’s beautiful weather. Traveling Europe or wherever when it’s freezing is no fun, in my opinion, unless you want to see something that requires it. The atmosphere is not the same. When the sun is out, people are excited and happy. Cities are buzzing with festivals and stuff.

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Try to avoid hotels
Nothing happens in hotels in comparison to hostels or Couchsurfing. You don’t meet anywhere near as many people, which, of course, snowballs into other things. Every time you check into a hostel, stuff happens. Someone in your room pulls out a bottle of vodka, and the next thing you know, your in a club getting shots poured down your neck by a Mexican midget or something. I’ve met some of my best long-term friends in hostels, lived in some for several months, and every night is an adventure.

Always make a local contact first
It’s so important to have someone that you can ask anything or fix you that sim card that needs a local ID. They most often do everything they can to help you, drive you around, find a laundry or a hidden restaurant. You can also return favours and learn a lot from each other. This has frequently been the difference between a trip being great for me or not.

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