How would you like to spend the holidays in Bethlehem and Jerusalem? How about going to Antarctica to watch seals and penguins?
Jerry Jallo has done both, and more.
It might be a little unbelievable that Jallo has traveled to every country in the world, but he has the passport stamps and trip diaries to prove it.
Jallo decided he wanted to visit all 195 countries in the world after he retired about 20 years ago; he reached that goal after making a trip to Libya this September.
“I’ve been waiting to get into Libya for three years,” Jallo said.
The country previously didn’t allow American tourists to visit, but that policy changed in May, he said.
“I’ve been to Africa 11 times.”
Jallo doesn’t count simply passing through an airport as a visit to a country; he has spent at least a few hours in each of the places he has visited, and has even spent the night in 184 of those countries, a feat he thinks is more impressive.
Jallo has been to every state in the United States, every province in Canada, and every state in Australia.
He doesn’t speak a wide range of different languages, but has gotten by with English and Spanish. He spent his 50th wedding anniversary this spring traveling through the Caribbean to various islands without even picking up any new countries.
“I’ve always been a traveler,” Jallo said. “I just thought: this is a wonderful hobby. I would rather be traveling than going out to play golf five days a week.”
Jallo’s wife, JoAnn, doesn’t always make the trips, but she has been to 103 countries herself. The couple are Sun City West winter residents from Minnesota.
The Jallos never check luggage — they do all their world traveling with two rolling carry-on suitcases and a three-ounce bottle of detergent to wash their clothes along the way.
“He has the population, religion and the capital of every country in the world in his head,” JoAnn Jallo said.
Jallo does a lot of research before heading out on his trips, which can last for months at a time as he treks from country to country; not only does he want to understand the dynamic of each area, but he has to obtain the correct visas, read up on what to see and do, and book tours or hotels, if necessary.
“I do a lot of exploring on the internet in the last 10 years; before that, it was all Lonely Planet,” Jallo said in reference to the guide books he used for information.
“I wasn’t staying in Hiltons and Sheratons, I was staying in two stars,” Jallo said.
The question Jallo probably gets most often is about which of the countries was his favorite to visit.
“The most interesting intellectually was probably Egypt,” Jallo said. He and his wife spent a month traveling through the country he called “the cradle of civilization.”
“He’s a real history nut, too, it’s like going with an encyclopedia,” JoAnn Jallo said. “He is unique, he’s an excellent planner.”
All that travel hasn’t been easy. Canceled flights or trouble gaining access into various countries frustrated Jallo when he just wanted to complete his list.
“It hasn’t been 100 percent smooth,” Jallo said.
The war-torn or poverty-stricken countries were difficult too, but for different reasons. Some of the countries, like those in parts of Africa, have small capital cities with very few options for tourists, and are just not places you would want to spend a lengthy amount of time, Jallo said.
While there were times when Jallo would be nervous or worried on his trips, he said he’s careful. He dresses in old clothes when he’s traveling so he doesn’t stand out as a tourist. He doesn’t have pictures from his trips because a camera would be too noticeable.
“When I travel, I don’t like to be in the dark or where there’s no light and no people,” Jallo said of his caution.
Jallo said he is proud and plans to continue his years of travel.
“I was determined,” Jallo said. “I was going to visit every country in the world, I was just going to do it.”