Name: Ildikó Szabó
Occupation: Marketing and Sales, Solo Traveler
Hometown: Nyíregyháza-Oros, Hungary
College: University of Birmingham, UK
College major: Marketing with Events Management
Facebook: Ildikó Szabó
Instagram: @endlesstravelcoma & @endlessgastrocoma
Short bio: I was born and raised in the countryside of Hungary. I am definitely a late starter when it comes to traveling, I was 18 years old when I first left my home country, the very first trip lead me to Rome, Italy, and almost 22 when I first set on a plane to the land of thousand lakes, Finland! Throughout my university studies as a result of various scholarships, I lived in Finland, Germany before completing my degree in the UK. At the age of 25 I went on my first solo backpack trip outside of Europe to China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the UAE. That was it, that was the start of my love affair with travel, and simply wanted to explore more of our beautiful planet, therefore I decided to persuade a career in aviation.
The next thing I knew after having visited around 80 countries on my own, I contemplated on one sleepless night whether it is feasible to visit every country on Earth. In 2018, aged 36 I set foot in my final country, Saudi Arabia as the first Hungarian to visit every country in the World and amongst one of the youngest female travelers achieving this milestone without any sponsorship. Afterwards I broadened my horizon by visiting disputed territories and partially recognized countries. Here we go after having ’conquered’ 222 UN+ countries, still on the go!
How often do you fly? on average every week (pre-covid)
How many countries have you been to? All 193 UN countries completed in 2018 and afterwards added a list of partially recognized countries and disputed territories. (222 UN+ countries)
How many continents have you been to? All except Antarctica.
Earliest travel memory: I have some vivid memories about jumping into our old Skoda car and going on a family trip in Hungary, must have been about 3 years old and I was so thrilled about the ‘big journey’ that I barely slept the night before.
Favorite American city: New York, New York.
Favorite international city: It just so hard to name only one: Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town.
Least favorite country: I cannot really think of any.
I have no desire to go to: As a naturally curious person simply that place does not exist!
Friendliest people in the world: Everywhere I go I encounter with the loveliest people, if I need to name the friendliest, two nations come to my mind Iranian and Omani.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: I have never met any or maybe my memory is not the same. ?
Favorite World Heritage Site: Leptis Magna, Libya.
Favorite airline: Singapore Airlines.
Favorite aircraft type: Concorde – I wish I had flow on it before its retirement.
Aisle or window: It depends on the flight and aircraft type, usually opt for a window seat.
Favorite airport lounge: I am always last-minute at airports, (mostly barely make it to the boarding gate on time ?) and unfortunately, my tickets do not normally include a lounge pass, therefore favorite airport lounge simply does not exist for me.
Favorite international airport: Singapore Changi Airport, Dubai International Airport.
Favorite hotel: Fairmont Bab Al Bahr with a room overlooking the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi, UAE and a small, charming boutique hotel, Beit Al-Wali in the heart of Damascus, Syria.
Favorite cruise line: I have been on a handful of occasions on mini cruises to Estonia, Sweden and the UK, generally I do not think cruises are for me. (Except if it involves visiting Antarctica or the North Pole. ?)
Favorite travel credit card: MasterCard.
Favorite island: Socotra, Yemen is arguably one of the most stunning places on Earth, such a unique, otherworldly hidden gem, almost unreal!
Favorite beach: Bora Bora, French Polynesia – no explanation needed.
Favorite National Park: Komodo National Park, Indonesia.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Traiteur – Park Hyatt Dubai, Gruvelageret – Svalbard.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: A quick stop at ‘Nase maso’ in Prague is a must every time I am in Czechia for the insanely good beef tartare and another favorite is ‘Al Habasha’ in Dubai for my Ethiopian injera treat.
Favorite airport restaurant: I do not have any, as usually try to minimize my time at airports.
Favorite bar: I am a huge fan of rooftop bars with stunning views. Probably the best cocktails nomination goes to Skye Bar of Hotel Unique in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Favorite fruit: Berries – especially raspberries.
Favorite food: I know it may sound boring but anything green (my diet includes lots of fresh salads, green vegetables) with any seafood, especially enjoy Japanese, Peruvian and French cuisine. When it comes to meat ostrich and South African juicy steak is my absolute weakness. Oh yes, I love Ethiopian food too! Not mentioning my ultimate favorite one when in my home country: stuffed cabbage.
Least favorite food: Anything unhealthy and/or overrated food. One of the best parts of traveling is experimenting and trying out the most bizarre food items, the ‘award’ of the least favorite food goes to the Icelandic ‘delicacy’, fermented shark. Thank you but never again.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water, coffee, herbal tea in the air, else freshly squeezed juice, smoothie or a glass of wine/bubbly depending on my mood and occasion.
Favorite travel movie(s): The Secret Life of Water Mitty, Into the Wild.
Favorite travel show(s): Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Favorite travel podcast(s): Ric Gazarian: Counting Countries.
Favorite travel book(s): Lonely Planet travel guides; Eat, Pray, Love.
Right now I am reading: Just finished The gift by Edith Eva Eger.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Eva zu Beck, Sorelle Amore, Johnny Ward.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! National Geographic, FlightConnections, NomadMania.
5 things you bring on a plane: A bottle of water, earplugs and eyeshade, travel size skin care set, warm jumper, chargers.
What do you always seem to forget? Almost always seem to forget to pack my PJs.
What do you like least about travel? Queues at airports, at sites, at immigration and the ‘aftermath’ of arriving home, the art of (un)packing and laundry. :D
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Postcards or fridge magnets for my collection or any destination specific souvenir, else a bottle of wine or a package of unique coffee beans will do. ?
Favorite travel app(s): TripAdvisor, GoogleMaps, GoogleTranslate, Uber, AirBnb, CouchSurfing.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Forgetting my passport in my hotel room in Reykjavik, which resulted almost missing my flight to Greenland.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon – I feel like these are the two must-visit places to check off while traveling in the USA and I still haven’t been to.
Worst travel moment: I had to cancel my trip to Easter Island due to the pandemic.
What’s your dream destination? Antarctica, Easter Island, The Galapagos, Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, Hunza Valley in Pakistan, Sana’a in Yemen, Al ‘Ula in Saudi Arabia – my bucket list of dream destinations are endless.
Best travel tip: Go local. Go with an open mind where the locals go: to restaurants, supermarkets, food stalls, bars, sport events etc. and embrace our differences. My travel motto is: ‘One World, One Life and We are All One.’