Travel tips from the man who’s been to every country on Earth and in space

Jim Kitchen is the only person to have visited the 193 countries recognized by the UN as well as space.

At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we talk to globetrotters in all of our luxury, food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate to learn more about their high-end hacks, tricks and offbeat experiences . These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.

Jim Kitchen knows travel.

The 57-year-old entrepreneur and investor says he is the only person on Earth to have visited all 193 UN-recognized countries as well as space, he was part of the civilian rocket crew of Blue Origin, the same trip that comedian Pete Davidson was on was originally scheduled to fly in March.

In addition to that 62-mile leg, Kitchen estimates he’s flown 7-10 million miles in the air, including at least 3 million with American Airlines. His preferred carrier, however, is Emirates. “It’s just the woodwork of those business class suites, those huge video screens, the best beds,” he says, “God, I hate to admit it publicly, but I still think I have one of their blankets.”

Having worked in the travel industry in various ways for most of his career, including founding (and selling) the group travel company SBT, he now acts as an angel investor and is a professor specializing in travel. entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he lives with his wife Susan. Here are some of the best travel tips from globetrotters.

When packing, bring an inexpensive shirt, but leave your wedding ring at home.

I had been on a bike ride and we had played the unique Colombian game of tejo: you throw, like, a 3-pound weight and there’s a circle and if you hit the center of the circle, everything explodes. My guide asked me while we were playing, “So where’s next?” And I said, “Oh, tomorrow I’m flying to Venezuela.” And he’s like, “In these shoes?” I had a pair of running shoes, nothing fancy. He said thieves often measure strangers by their shoes and jewelry.

So we went to the local flea market and bought an old pair of leather shoes. I keep wearing them, with this kind of scratchy polyester shirt, looking like a Chevy Chase character walking through the airport. If you have the means, traveling through the developing world is not the time to express it. This is the time to fit in and lay low. I don’t wear my wedding ring either, because I don’t want people to know I’m married, because they might kidnap me and call my wife and say, “Hey, we’ve got your husband,” and she’d pay probably the ransom.

Don’t eat in restaurants with great views.

In my more than 30 years of travel, I’ve found that restaurants with spectacular views of the city or sunsets often have terrible food. I’ve found this notoriously true in the Caribbean: Pier One in the Bahamas, for example. There’s this beautiful, long pier with a restaurant built on top of the pier, and the views were spectacular, a million bucks, and the food was just awful. You were happy to feed it to the sharks, it was that bad.

Why you should save and personalize a spare credit card.

I always put a credit card on the bottom of a pair of tennis shoes so if all hell breaks loose like I’m getting robbed and it’s all taken if they don’t take my shoes I’ll probably well, because at least I’ll have a credit card to buy a ticket or to get something. It’s also a Visa card that you can personalize with a photo. I have a photo of me and my family on it, so it will also be a kind of visual identification. In the worst case, I can say, “Hey, yeah, that’s me.” It has my name and my picture on it.

On a long trip, the only thing without which he will not leave home.

Some people don’t care. They are used to sleeping on polyester. I’m not; I’m gonna be itchy all night, and I won’t sleep a blink of an eye. So if I go for a three- [or] four-week trip, I’ll take a ten-pound suitcase, and three pounds might be an old cotton sheet. It’s a sheet that has been in the kitchen house at one time on a bed. I cut a king size in half, pulled it over me, and wrapped myself in the sheet. I don’t sleep much when I travel, so being able to sleep five or six hours is worth that weight.

Tourism in Africa is much more than just a safari.

One of the craziest experiences I have ever had was in Gabon, meeting a guy named Tatayo, who looked like Keith Richards and practices this religion known as Bwiti. They eat the iboga root and go into a trance for about three or four days. And it bothers you, but it clears your mind. I didn’t participate, but it was fascinating. I would say, having been to all 54 countries in Africa and being a beach snob, Gabon has the best beaches there, especially the peninsula part of the country that juts out into the Gulf of Guinea. I love Pongara: It’s a beige-white sand beach that you walk to in crystal clear water and see fish swarming there. I stayed at the Pongara Lodge right there. Animals like elephants live next to this beach, and I mean, they would frolic on the beach. It was kind of like you had to imagine what Eden would look like.

When planning a space trip, this is what astronauts tell you to wear.

I hate to say this but I was actually encouraged by a guy who was one of the astronauts that went on a Hubble mission, Mike Good, to wear a grown man wetness protector which I don’t want call it a diaper. We were 45 minutes late [at take-off], because there was a telemetry problem. So you load into the capsule, you’re there, it’s scary, you wait. You don’t know if you’re going to go for it or not. And my concern was, “Gosh, what if you have to go?” The last thing you want to do is worry about the bathroom; it’s a pretty short flight and you want to enjoy every second, right? Mike said, “Hey, just get the full astronaut experience, man. Don’t worry about it.” And so I kind of adopted it. The reality is that I didn’t have to use it, but I just wanted to eliminate that risk.

Create a routine around what you wear on a long trip.

About 10 years ago, I think I was in Nauru, and I got off the plane, and I started freaking out because I couldn’t find my phone. I was lucky, because I asked security to go look, and 15 minutes later they found him. So after almost losing a phone, I started packing clothes that keep me organized. I will bring two pairs of shorts with four front pockets, they are by Ex-Officio.

In my lower right pocket is my passport, and I keep it there at all times. After passing through customs, I stop and take the time to put my passport back in this pocket. Why there? Because that’s where he resides, always, and being there keeps me organized. If it’s not there, something is wrong. Same with the other pockets: in my bottom left pocket is my phone, and my wallet stays in my top left pocket, it has a zipper, so I know someone can’t steal me there. I leave my upper right pocket free for my boarding pass and everything else.

Want to make your own space trip? Do some extra preparation.

I was physically unprepared for the G-forces which going from zero to 2,300 miles per hour was like Macaulay Culkin holding his face, your face melting into your skin. I downplayed the importance of these G-forces. I think [more] centrifugal force training would be helpful, and I did mine at Nastar outside of Philadelphia.

The five-star family resort where he returns again and again.

The Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo is a true luxury hotel and one of the finest in Costa Rica. It sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but the gorgeous tropical view is just one thing that stands out. For me, it’s an easy flight with a layover via Houston or Charlotte, NC. I spent an inordinate amount of time there with my family, surfing lessons, zip line, or you will visit volcanoes, go rafting, hiking. We volunteered at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border, with some local communities there. To me, this area looks like Hawaii before Hawaii was actually built.

I’m not a keen golfer, I play maybe five or six times a year, but if you stay on the property you can play one of the best golf courses in Latin America: the Ocean Course at Peninsula Papagayo. Most holes offer stunning ocean or bay views and can easily distract players looking to score low.

Kitchen isn’t a fan of street food on his travels and here’s why.

I want to reduce any risk as much as possible. My biggest fear when traveling is getting sick, so I avoid eating most foods that are on sale on the street. Yes, I have made exceptions to this rule, but I generally choose not to seek out street food, no matter how tempted I am to eat it. There are those who advise the opposite. For them, trying new foods, especially street foods, is part of the adventure. I’m going to assume that, unlike me, they never suffered the consequences of eating goat curry from a street vendor in Jamaica. You spent months getting visas to these places, and you did something stupid like eat goat curry, and I was sick for a week. I almost died.

My thing is that I try to see the world, experience it and talk to people. I don’t necessarily need to eat the food like Anthony Bourdain did and make the food the center. My focus is talking to people and getting to know them, learning about the country through the most ordinary people in markets around the world. It’s kind of my thing.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)