Please introduce yourself:
My name is Claus Andersen. I am 51 years old and from Denmark. I have been on the road for the past 32 years.
How many countries have you been to?
I have been to 81 UN member states.
How many days have you approximately travelled?
Around 6,500 days.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
Brazil is first of all about the people for me. It’s the one country on the planet, where I found it the easiest to be a foreigner. Brazilians are very curious in a positive way when you arrive as a stranger and you are very easily included in daily life and accepted as a part of society. This is very important for someone like me, who travels almost non stop.
Once again it’s very much about the people. Albania is by far the most hospitable country I have visited in Europe. Albanians are extremely easy going and not moaning as much as many other people in the Balkans, who are busy telling you about the historical injustices that have been done to their nations. More people in this world should take it as easy as Albanians.
My third country, India, is something I have included because it’s simply such an adventure to travel in this country. India is noisy, crazy, dirty, with poverty and horrible governing, but it’s such an explosion of colours, people, noises and holy cows that I catch myself being numbed about it, several times a day. India is simply the most adventurous country I have visited. The Indian intellectuals are some of the most interesting people I have met anywhere in the world.
Are there any countries you don’t enjoy travelling?
No. I have never been to a country where I did not want to return.
What are three of your favourite cities, and why?
Because it’s such a vibrant city, both day and night. Mexican food and Mexican people are simply the best.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio is not just pretty. It’s also a city where I really enjoy spending week after week. The many cycling and running paths along the beaches, combined with the many little beach cafes, just makes it a perfect place to spend a few weeks or a few months.
An extremely vibrant city where you have a thriving bar scene in one street and a very traditional lifestyle just around the corner. I used to live and work in Istanbul and have lots of friends in the city.
What are three of your favourite hotels or places you’ve stayed and why?
This is quite hard, as I am not travelling so much for the hotel experience. But I have picked these 3:
Casino Park in Funchal, Madeira
This hotel was built by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. It looks like something out of an old James Bond movie. In the garden, there is a casino, shaped like a spaceship. The giant dining hall, overlooking the harbour perfects it all.
Caiman Ecolodge in Pantanal, Brazil
I generally prefer ecolodges, out in nature, to regular luxury hotels. I am not really interested in luxury, but more in the adventure. Caiman Ecolodge in Brazil is really great if you like an adventure. It’s a luxury lodge set in the world’s largest wetlands. The lodge also operates as a cattle farm with thousands of cows and horses for the cowboys. You also have access to horses, canoes, jeeps etc, when you stay at Caiman. All in a very beautiful setting, with fantastic food.
Les Paletuviers in Senegal
This eco-lodge is set in a very unusual location, in the middle of a mangrove swamp. But I have always been very interested in mangroves. So this place really fit my interest in that. The place was run by very nice people and the a la carte restaurant was superb.
What are the three worst places you’ve stayed?
Once I was cycling through Cambodia and got stuck in a village with no place to stay. This was way back in 2002. 4 young people who were running a little restaurant and invited me to sleep on the restaurant premises. It was right next to the Mekong river and he rats from the river came into the restaurant at night. I had to chase giant rats out of my bed several times. I got little sleep and ended up being sick for the next two days, after sleeping there.
Munich to Athens Train
I once took the train from Munich to Athens and had a compartment, right next to the toilets. That worked ok until we reached Belgrade, where a large group of soldiers boarded the train. They were super drunk and one of them puked all over the toilet. Then fell asleep next to it, where he pooped in his pants and on the floor. Even if most of the soldiers got off the train in Nis, it was still a very long night, trying to sleep in my compartment.
Guest House in Trat, Thailand
My third place was a little guest house in Trat, Thailand. The place was not air-conditioned or ventilated, making it unbearably hot. On top of that, the guest house was filled with very dodgy western travellers, who were clearly smuggling something across the nearby Cambodian border. I had a really bad feeling of the place, as I was constantly worried about the criminals who kept running in and out of the place.
What are three of your favourite restaurants and why?
My answers here will reflect the fact that I do not like fine dining. I love good food. But I will never enter any place with a dress code. Small, simple restaurants that make fantastic food are always my choice.
The street kitchens in Penang
This is not one particular street hawker. But just the street food in Penang in general. Penang is simply the best place to eat in the entire world if you ask me.
Casinha do Petisco in Lagos, Portugal
This is a tiny local restaurant, run by a couple who gave up working in a 5-star hotel, in order to have their freedom and their own place. Despite being massively successful, they have never extended the place or made the food expensive. I used to live and work in Lagos and have eaten there more than 300 times over the years.
Tio Pepe restaurant in Recife, Brazil
A small casual restaurant that makes fantastic food. It’s on a quiet side street and few tourists find the place. But the locals know where it is. The food is absolutely fantastic, whenever I eat there.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Cycling on an unknown road in a foreign country
Whenever I am cycling down an unknown road in a foreign country, not knowing where I will end up that day.
In the company of people
whenever I am in the company of people from around the world, who are curious about the world and have an open mind. Meeting people the most important thing to me when I travel.
Arriving in India
Stepping out of the airport when I have just arrived from Europe to India. This is one of the very few things that can still give me a culture shock these days.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Travel by bicycle
I do most of my long trips by bicycle these days. I love to travel at a slow speed and I love to see all the towns that are not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. I tend to like these places better than the famed places, where I often have to argue with people who just see me as a walking wallet.
Listen to the people you meet on your travels
And take your time to talk to them. This should be obvious. But I see way too many people who are so busy telling everyone what they think about the place they visit, that they have no time to listen to what people are telling them about the place. These people tend to have formed an opinion about the place, before arrival. But remember that it’s when you listen that you learn something new.
Do not have a tight schedule
One of the things I like the most about travel is jumping into sudden adventures on the road. This is just a lot harder if you are tied to a tight schedule. So make sure that you have time to take time out of your schedule if you suddenly stumble upon a Cambodian wedding, a Russian punk rock concert, or a nice Brazilian girl.
Do you have any little known travel tips?
!) Visit the Azores. It’s a place that lot’s of people talk about going to, but very few end up going there. It’s an absolutely unique part of the world that should not be missed.
I have met Claus several times and even travelled with him to the Gambia and Senegal. He is a real gentleman and one of the most inspirational travellers I’ve met.
Year of Interview: 2020.