An illustration of alumnus Watson Mills, done in a realistic comic style. He is standing in front of a world map, and is saying
Illustrations by Katie McBride

The best-traveled Spider ever?

July 5, 2023


By Matthew Dewald

Watson Mills, R’61, has traveled to 174 of the 193 UN member countries, including every country in Europe and the Americas. His most surprising stat might be another number: 30. 
That was his age when he made his first international trip. The pace of his travels ramped up significantly about 20 years ago, after he retired from his career as a religious studies professor. Here’s a look at his travels, plus some of his advice.

An illustrated map showing in one color all of the 174 countries that Watson Mills has visited, and in another color, the 19 countries he has yet to visit.

Where has he been?

It’s genuinely easier to say where he hasn’t been. 
He has visited every country EXCEPT five in Africa, five in Asia, and nine in Oceania 
(blue on the map).

His top travel tips

  1. Don’t ever carry a wallet. Carry a fanny pack tucked under your shirt.
  2. Make a travel vault online with scans of your documents — passports, credit cards, hotel reservations, etc.
  3. Take half as many clothes and twice as much money as you think you should.

Adventures in getting there

Longest Flight. An illustration of an airplane making an arc in the sky above icons depicting the sun rising and setting and the moon coming up.
Nonstop from New York City to Singapore, 20 hours
Worst flight. An illustration of person's hand, gripping an armrest to show that they are
Into North Korea on a mothballed pre-World War II Russian-transport-turned-airliner for Air Koryo. Every year the airline ranks at the bottom of the 500 airlines in the world.
Hardest travel logistics. An illustration showing a grounded airplane with a silhouetted person on the tarmac with their suitcase, then an SUV driving across the desert into a sandstorm with the silhouette of Timbuktu in the background.
Getting to Timbuktu, Mali. Cancelled flight, drive through the desert, then caught in sandstorm.
He gets around. An illustration showing a man in a bicycle rickshaw, being pulled in a llama cart in front of a mountain, on the back of an elephant, and in a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings, Egypt.
Some of his more interesting means of transportation have been: rickshaws (multiple places in Southeast Asia); a llama (Argentina); an elephant (Jaipur, India); hot-air balloon (Valley of the Kings, Egypt).