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Interview with a record breaker: How one man plans to visit 195 countries in 542 days
9 min read
Updated on Feb 02, 2024

After a year of meticulous planning, Michael Angelo set out from his Detroit, Michigan, home on January 17th to begin an extraordinary adventure. Dubbed Project Kosmos, this unique journey is built around the pursuit of happiness, with the goal to shatter the existing Guinness World Record by visiting every country in the world in less than 554 days.

Fill me in

We interviewed Michael shortly before his departure to get the lowdown on project Kosmos and check in on his visa status. At iVisa, our purpose is to make traveling easy and to help people discover the world, so we're working extremely hard as a partner alongside Michael to make sure he succeeds in breaking the record, and enjoys this trip of a lifetime hassle-free!

“The biggest challenge of my life begins 18th January 2024. 542 days, 300 flights, 195 countries, and countless stories.”

The man behind the record

Born and raised in Detroit, Michael has been a filmmaker and producer for the past 12 years. He considers himself a thrill seeker at heart and loves challenge and adrenaline. He says that “sometimes we sleepwalk through life, and we don't know what we are doing. Change is good; the challenge is good!”

Michael holds both an American and a Greek passport and has previously visited 55 countries in the world, and as part of breaking this new record, he will have to revisit all of them.

He seemed pretty calm before he set off, which I think means he's the right man for the job and has the right mentality to break this beast of a record.

The why behind project Kosmos - The search for happiness

I asked him why a filmmaker wanted to break such a hefty and potentially stressful world record? Michael approaches his journey from two distinct perspectives.

“The cynicism of seeking a thrill and the practicality of chasing a narrative of happiness. From a personal perspective, I love a challenge, and conflict and fear are all part of the driving force behind the project, but there are also personal gains, like brands backing the project."

From a practical side, he sees it as a happiness project, a movie and a narrative film.

“As if it's a piece of art, the main character, the antagonist, the race against time, the conflict, the setting is all over the world, and the plot is traveling through each country. And finally the theme - the search for happiness.

A full story of a year and a half. Tangible. Not expendable.”

Discover Michael's personal definition of happiness.

“´​​​​Kosmos is about happiness, which I believe can be communicated through stories in a much more direct and relatable way than the complexities of purpose.”

Fill me in

Personal objectives

  • Which country are you looking forward to visiting the most?

“The easy answer is Japan, just because of my childhood desire to go to Japan. It always seemed like an otherworldly mixture of modern and traditional. They have kept aspects of their tradition for over 1000 years, and suddenly you have a city of the future like Tokyo, which looks like something from a science fiction movie. My brother is actually beating me there, he's there right now.”

  • Which are you most nervous about?

“I'm not afraid of going to any of the countries I'm going to, I am very excited about going to the ones that are the most inaccessible or remote and least visited, like some of the Pacific islands. What makes me nervous is the political situation of some of the countries that are in conflict right now and if I'll even be able to get in at the time I'm planning. Countries like Sudan that have been in turmoil for a long time, which is awful to watch from abroad. Those things make me nervous, but of course, there are ways to go to these places. There is a bit of a wait-and-see there.”

The record-breaking journey

Breaking a Guinness World Record comes with strings attached, and there are many set rules and requirements to tick off during the journey.

Check out a few of the requirements that will ultimately qualify the project for a world record:

  • 2 witnesses in every country visited

  • A logbook and a GPS system tracking your waypoint

  • Take pictures and videos in every country

  • Save all of your receipts, tickets, food vouchers, hotels and tours

  • Any press you get along the way

  • Your route

Michael emphasized that “a person could potentially just land at a country's airport and tick it off the list, but where's the fun in that?´

Here, he gives us the official Guinness explanation of how a country qualifies as being a country.

The how - It’s got to start somewhere

The complex planning of this entire project took Michael and his team about a year. Thanks to assistance from several sponsors, including iVisa, Michael received substantial support in organizing everything.

“I reached out to iVisas co-founder Sergio Merino directly, asked a few brief questions about a possible sponsor, and after a few weeks, we had a call. Sergio stated that it was one of the best cold call emails had gotten.

The team was incredibly enthusiastic about the project and came prepared with ideas and logistic planning - Sergio has been a remarkable component of the planning stage.”

The route - 542 days around the world

This is the most complex visa application itinerary ever performed in our industry, 195 destinations perfectly aligned. The route has changed considerably since the planning began. We helped Michael navigate through 8 itinerary realignments, but as of January 17, 2024, it will look something like this map, with a maximum of 2 days in each country.

The role of iVisa

Which passports would he need to use? Which countries are open and which aren't? How and where to apply for the visas?

Only a few of the questions on a traveler's mind when planning a trip to just 1 or a few countries, but when your proposal is to visit them ALL, you have a daunting and stressful task at hand. That's where we came in.

Our approach combines detailed planning and agile execution. So far, we've helped Michael obtain 22 visas and will be helping him get 69 visas in total. And, where we don't offer a visa product directly, we ventured into guiding applications for products beyond our usual offerings. This adaptability was crucial in overcoming the project's unique challenges.

Michael gives us an insight into a few of the most difficult visas as an American that we´ll help him get approved.

Fill me in

How would the process look without iVisa?

  • How would your experience have been different if you’d have done this by yourself? Would project Kosmos be possible without iVisa?

“Yes, if I was simply landing in a country and leaving right away, but to help me tell the story, film, create, and get contacts in each country, it wouldn't have been possible without iVisa.

Having a think tank of experts capable of directly contacting embassies to inquire about specific regulations is a lifesaver. Access to a professional document provider service significantly streamlined the process by saving time, reducing embassy visits, preventing application rejections, and doing the groundwork and up-to-date research on my behalf.”

In Michael’s own words - “iVisa made the impossible possible!”

“My passport was stolen on the way back from the Libyan embassy, ripped right out of the envelope. So, I had some setbacks, but iVisa took it all in their stride and helped me get a new one on the same day in Colorado. I had it in time to then go to New York and apply for 4 more visas.”

Proactive problem-solving: Pre-trip planning

  • What’s been the hardest visa application so far?

“I think, for the most part, it's been figuring out what certain countries and embassies need, and applying for them has been tough. I've not had any of them officially rejected, except for the Malian visa. Which was very bizarre; they had some specifications that were not on their website - needed a letter of invitation; there was nothing about this on their website. So they turned me away and kept telling me to come back the next day, finally rejecting me.

Luckily, I phoned someone I knew from Bamako. He quickly sent me the letter of invitation, a really awesome and generous guy. He sent his passport, signed a letter that iVisa drafted, and the next day I went to the embassy and just said, ´Hey, I got it´! The guy at the embassy was stunned, he even asked who I knew there!"

Need a visa for Russia? iVisa at your service!

Michael calls out the ingenuity of the team here.

“I Went to the Russian embassy and needed an appointment to get in. It was a Friday, so I had to wait until Monday. Alejo and Patricia gave him an address to get to by 4 pm the same day.

So I get a $100 Uber to Broadway, and arrive at a nondescript building with 5 security guards. They looked at me kinda funny. So I go to the top, an empty office space with loads of doors. Go to a random door, with a shell corporation with what looks like a fake name. Knock on the door and ask for Vlad.

After 2 hours, it's all arranged, I pay in cash. And they say they'll mail it in 7 days. The visa. I actually got it in 5 days. Supposed to take 10 business days, and I got it in half the time. Somebody clearly wants me in Russia.”

  • So, despite this story sounding a little dodgy, we can confirm it was actually the Visa Application Centre that Michael went to, all above board and legal! We just wanted to call ourselves out here and give an example of how we really do go the extra mile to make traveling easy, hassle-free, and help you discover the world!

Fill me in

Michaels pre-trip recommendations

Asserting that no advice is truly valid until his goal is achieved, he offers the following recommendations:

  • Network: Meeting people abroad beforehand to get advice on what to do and where to go is your best strategy. Create contacts, and do not be afraid to strike up a conversation.

  • Be flexible: If people are open to showing off their home country and hosting you, go for it (of course, while exercising caution), and be up for staying in hostels or cheaper alternatives.

  • Research: When traveling to countries you aren't familiar with, use wikivoyage for free worldwide travel info.

  • Get social: Join the Facebook group Every Passport Stamp, where nice people who have been everywhere offer their personal advice, whether obscure or ordinary, it's always useful.

Some final reflections

  • What will you miss the most?

“My family, friends. That's easy. I'm very close with all of them. That will be tough, but who knows, maybe my family will come visit in certain countries."

  • What would you say was the happiest moment of your life?

“I don't have a good answer for that yet, which sounds like a copout. I've been thinking about that a lot because I'm asked. There's a lot of things that go through my head because I'm asking that of everyone else. But I don't have something that just pops into my head. Maybe that's disappointing to people, and maybe at the end of my trip, I'll have a better answer for you.”

Michael's quest in Project Kosmos is a testament to the power of ambition and the pursuit of happiness. His journey, backed by meticulous planning and support from partners like iVisa, underscores the importance of setting lofty goals and having the right tools at hand. For those inspired to embark on their own global adventures, streamline your travel preparation using our services to help. We simplify visa applications and increase chances of approval, making your journey as smooth as Michael's.

Begin your adventure effortlessly by utilizing iVisa's visa checker to discover the necessary documents for your travels.

  • iVisa is NOT affiliated with any government agency. This site does not provide legal advice and we are not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. We are a private, internet-based travel and immigration consultancy provider dedicated to helping individuals travel around the world. You may apply by yourself directly on the various government websites. For government source information, please visit our product pages.
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