ColorTyme franchisee nears goal of visiting 200 countries
Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, February 15, 2013
CLARKSTON, Wash. — ColorTyme rent-to-own franchisee Gary Hughes' traveling life would make even the most road-weary furniture sales reps and executives squirm.
Not to mention some of the stuff he has eaten.
In the past 17 years Hughes has traveled to 196 countries and has four to go before reaching his goal of 200. He has averaged 10 to 12 countries a year and visited 18 in his best year.
Oh - and he has been running a business at the same time. Hughes, whose home base is Clarkston, Wash., has stores in four states.
He has been to American Samoa, Congo, Vanuatu, Fiji and Kiribati - an island three inches above sea level.
"Quite frankly, there's not much to see in Kiribati," Hughes said.
He spent three weeks in India last year, where he was surprised at the number of McDonald's in a country where the cow is sacred. But they do sell chicken.
"A hamburger company doesn't sell hamburgers there," he said. And the lines are long, his wife adds.
Hughes has eaten alligator, snake, chicken feet and crunchy deep-fried cactus worms.
For this world traveler, the biggest problem now is that when he schedules a multi-country trip, there are few remaining that he hasn't visited.
Next fall he plans to go to England by cruise ship. He has already been to the Faro Islands, Scotland, Ireland and Iceland. The only new country on that trip will be Greenland.
To travel like this, one must be a master of the schedule. Hughes plans 17 months out, and having a wife who's a veteran of the travel industry doesn't hurt either.
"I plan travel with the same intensity that I have for business," Hughes said, adding that with modern communications, he can get his numbers on how his stores are doing anywhere in the world.
So what got into this guy?
"I just sat down one day. I asked: ‘What's my bucket list?'"
He found the Travelers Century Club, which recognizes over 300 countries or places of significance, and he got going. Some of the countries recognized by Travelers - whose membership comprises those have visited 100 countries or more - he doesn't want to visit.
But, Hughes added, he has visited places where ritual cannibalism has been practiced.
For Hughes' Danish wife, Jutta, who travels with him, non-commercialized Botswana, where the animals come close and the nature is as nice as the people, is the most beautiful place they've been. For Hughes, it's Brazil.
"There's a lot of beautiful things there," he said. "There is no city more beautiful than Rio De Janeiro."
In all the places he has been, Hughes has rarely felt unwelcome.
When his wife tells him he could spend a little more time at home, she might have a point. He has been gone 180 days a year for the past eight years.
"But, as she says," Hughes said, "you have to do it while you can."