One can only wonder: As a kid, did Eric Hill speculate about how Santa Claus made all his deliveries in one night? A childhood dream has sent Hill on a similar journey. Since February, he's been striving to break two world records — he wants to be the youngest American to visit all 195 U.N.-recognized countries in the world, and he wants to do it the fastest (the current record is 3 years, 3 months and 6 days). As of today, Hill has ticked 46 of those countries off his list. So will he spend his holidays in New Zealand, Guam or South Africa? “I’ll be getting back to Sacramento from Somalia just in time for Christmas,” he told FMU. “Nothing beats coming home for the holidays!”
What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
My smartphone; it’s a flashlight, camera, video camera, notepad, computer and communicator.
Did you pack for the entire journey all at once?
Luckily there are brief stints back in the United States, because I’m going from the Arctic winter to the Saharan summer. I like to plan a few similar-climate visits in a row so I can pack as light as possible. And I love wearing through shoes. It’s hard to throw these trophies away, but it’s such a feeling of accomplishment when I have to get a new pair.
Carry-on or check-in?
Carry-on. I’ve got to get out and explore ASAP.
Window or aisle?
Move to an empty row and take the middle.
What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Visiting a place I can live off the land/sea, sleeping under the stars with a light blanket, no mosquitoes, just the people that came with me and maybe a friendly local tribe nearby that doesn’t mind sharing their paradise.
Tell us about a vacation that’s come close thus far.
There hasn’t been just one place that meets the above criteria. There is, though, the buglessness of New Zealand, the temperature of the Sahara at night in Sudan, the fruitful land and welcoming locals in the jungle of the Southern Highlands in Papua New Guinea.
What’s the worst annoyance you've experienced while traveling?
Airport security making my dream of carry-on just a dream.
What's the most unusual souvenir you’ve ever brought back from a trip?
A 100-trillion-dollar bill from Zimbabwe. Not many people can say their worth is in the hundreds of trillions like I can.
Ever try a food you wished you hadn't?
Even the food I hated, I loved getting to try.
Favorite accommodations you've ever stayed in?
The hut in a remote Maasai village of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley that I shared with the village chief and his family.
Favorite restaurant you’ve discovered while traveling.
The restaurant at the Banga Guest House in Burundi.
Biggest regret you've had while traveling.
Skipping a flight out of Japan, which resulted in a two-day journey turning into five and missing my best friend’s wedding.
The one thing you're willing to splurge on when traveling above all else.
A comfortable sleeping pad. I often end up on the ground for the night.
Three songs on your travel playlist?
Tycho’s “A Walk,” a remix of Radiohead’s “Climbing Up the Walls” and Revolt Op’s “Screwe Dub.”
Where would you take someone visiting your hometown of Citrus Heights, California, for the first time?
The bluffs above Red Bridge at night, where they can see the mist settle on the Sacramento River, listen to nothing but the sound of the river and throw rocks into the moonlit water to their hearts’ content.
You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Back to New Zealand, I guess.