Samer Kawar is an experienced world travel addict with an obsessive passion for exploring as much of the world as possible. He has been to 143 UN countries and 187 TCC countries during his 38 years of traveling / life, and has ambitious goals to visit all UN countries in the next few years, and all 325 TCC countries by age 50.
Born and raised in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, Samer began traveling at a young age with his family to visit relatives in Amman, Jordan and Damascus, Syria. Along the way, they would often need to connect in some beautiful places like Frankfurt (thanks to Lufthansa), Paris (Air France), Copenhagen (SAS), or Amsterdam (KLM)… and it was on one of these extended layovers that he caught the travel bug – bad.
Since that day, Samer’s condition has progressively worsened, and by the age of 24, he had visited all 7 continents — the seventh surprisingly being Australia, not Antarctica (which he visited in 2002). He reached his next major goals in 2008 and 2014, setting foot in his 100th country, Tajikistan, before his 30th birthday, and his 150th – Romania – at 35. Next goals? 200 TCC countries by the end of this year. 250 countries (and all official UN Countries) before 45. All 325 TCC countries (plus a couple others on his list) by 50.
While first and foremost a travel junkie, Samer is also a trained Architect, receiving his Bachelor’s in Architecture from U.C. Berkeley in 2000. A distinguishing feature of his site and blog is the architectural eye in which he views the world. While his job mainly exists in order to pay for his travel addiction (it’s an expensive habit!!), he really does love architecture – which is evident in his numerous sketches and often architecturally-leaning blog posts.
One of his other goals is to prove that you do not need to be independently wealthy to be able to travel and see the world – you just need to make it a priority in life! All of his trips since college have occurred while maintaining a full-time job and career in architecture. Yes, it does cost money! But it is all about your drive. He has a crazy passion for travel. If you don’t have that, then there will always be an excuse as to why you can’t travel – you don’t have time, you don’t have money, you will do it later in life… you don’t want to give up your weekly mani/pedi, or your daily $7 triple-shot caramel mocha latte… you get the point — it’s all about your priorities!
But if your passion is there, all you really need is some good financial planning (and saving!), a credit card, a willingness to be in a little (or a lot of!) debt, and a boss who lets you actually take your vacation time!
With cities being such a major part of Samer’s wanderlust, another goal is to visit and experience as many of the world’s fascinating cities as he can. Being an architect, he has a passion for cities, the urban environment, and of course amazing architecture, both historic and modern. He has visited most major cities in the world with a few exceptions, but he is working quickly to correct that (Jakarta, Manila, Brisbane, Dili, Port Moresby — watch out, he is coming for YOU in 2017!)
After countries and cities, it is of course, the wonders of the built environment which he gravitates to. Using UNESCO’s World Heritage List and Tentative List as a rough guide along with his own list, he plans to see as many of the world’s man-made (as well as natural!) wonders as possible. He has already seen all 7 of the New Wonders of the World, but there is so much more to see! We live on an incredibly fascinating little planet full of life, beauty, wonder, diversity, culture… and great food! He just wants to be a part of it – all of it.
CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
Born in the U.S., to a Jordanian father (which allowed him Jordanian citizenship), and a Syrian mother (who taught him both Arabic and French), Samer has always felt a connection to the greater world. He had a need to understand it, what existed in it, and a strong desire to be a part of it in some bigger way — never succumbing to the inevitable sheltering bubble of living in the United States. His parents recall his obsession with geography at a young age – in fifth grade, he felt an obligation to learn the capitals of every country in the world, and was dumbfounded to find that this was not common knowledge. In his mind, this was a matter of basic respect to other sovereign nations – of course this was simply naïveté, but it spoke volumes about who he was going to become.
His early introduction to multiple languages, gave him a secondary passion for linguistics, and with it a humility he would grow to use often when traveling. No matter where his travels have taken him, Samer always makes an effort to learn at least the basics of the local language, again out of respect. One of his biggest ‘pet-peeves’ is when he happens to overhear other travelers assuming that the cashier, or waitress, or train-attendant speaks English — going so far as to get upset when it is not understood. (UGH, that bugs me — I mean, him!)
So, if he’s not traveling, planning his next trip, reading about his next trip, talking about his last trip, or uploading photos from his last trip — then it’s highly likely that you’ll find him ‘listening and repeating’ some foreign language in preparation for his next trip!
Having lived and worked all over the Bay Area most of his life, (Fremont, Berkeley, Dublin, San Jose), Samer finally realized his dream of living and working in beautiful San Francisco in 2010. He has always loved San Francisco and its ultra-urban compact mélange of neighborhoods. Its skyline is only rivalled by Manhattan’s — not in terms of height, but in terms of density! Surrounded by water on three sides, and another city to the south, there’s just no room for space between buildings!
To make sure he’s getting the most out of what the city has to offer, he enjoys exploring new neighborhoods or areas of the city, trying out new restaurants, and going on “urban hikes” with friends, usually ending with some (don’t judge) ice cream. (It’s a lot easier to hike for 5 or 6 miles on a Saturday morning knowing that there’s ice cream at the end). It’s incredible what you can discover just by walking around this deceivingly compact — but overflowing with attractions — 7×7-mile square!