Like many other adventurous young people, Ottawa’s Mike Bown set out to see the world when he was 21 years old.
“At the start I was just travelling because I wanted to to find more wilderness areas and experience different animals and nature," he said.
"Then I realized that people are equally interesting, if not moreso, so I guess I just got hooked onto travel and once I got into Asia I couldn’t stop. I had to see the whole planet.”
Twenty-three years and 195 countries later, Bown is back in Canada with journals full of stories and the same backpack he left with.
He said he spent a month in some places, as much as a year in others, making sure to visit every country on the map — including bribing his way into war-torn Iraq.
“I like to go in and actually meet the people, eat the food, see the sights and see what fun there is to have in each country,” he said.
Survived on little money
Bown said he was only robbed twice during his travels and despite contracting dysentery and malaria, never had to see a doctor.
Because he was mostly camping, he said he could survive on little money, mostly from trading goods from country to country.
“Because I was living so cheap and living in a local manner, I didn’t really need a lot of money — because I was mostly camping and my cheapest hotel was three cents, for instance,” he said.
Bown said he's reconnecting with his family and friends while staying with his father, but has plans to write a book (on the road, of course).
“I’m going to be attracted by some very low price for a flight down to Guatemala or Panama or something, there I’ll get a nice cheap hut on the beach for a few months and start writing,” he said.
See some of the photos he’s collected over the years in the photo gallery above and watch Steve Fischer’s television story in the player to the left.