Prasanna Vee in Chhatisgarh
Prasanna Vee in ChhatisgarhPrasanna Vee

From Gorilla Trekking To Unexpected Detours: How This 'Serial Traveller' Conquered The Globe

Unlike typical techies from his homeland in India, Prasanna Vee's relentless passion for travel has led him to explore over 250 countries and territories worldwide, including all 193 UN-recognised nations

Many dream of travelling the world while maintaining a full-time job, yet this dream rarely becomes a reality for most. However, there are exceptions, and Prasanna Vee is one of them. An American of Indian origin, his insatiable passion for travel has led him to visit over 250 countries and territories worldwide, encompassing all 193 nations recognised by the United Nations.

Vee has been fortunate to live and work in numerous exciting global destinations, including the United States, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Germany, and Denmark. OT recently spoke with him to delve deeper into his journeys and experiences in some of the world's most remote locations. Excerpts from the interview here.


What's one of your most unique experiences during your travels, something that wouldn't be found in a typical guidebook?


African travel is often associated with luxury safaris and leisurely game drives. However, it also includes rugged journeys to remote locations. Tracking gorillas on foot in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park exemplifies this adventurous spirit. Situated in the Rift Valley, Bwindi houses over half the world's mountain gorillas.

Trekking through this dense forest unveils its daunting darkness, justifying its name. Our trek, lasting nearly 8 hours round trip, required navigating thick vegetation with machetes as we pursued an elusive gorilla group. Exhaustion melted away when we encountered a captivating gorilla family up close, including a vigilant silverback, an unforgettable moment we cherished while reliving it at Gorilla Forest Camp. This experience underscored the transformative power of such encounters, etched in memories and photos over drinks, forever changing our perspective on Africa's untamed beauty.

Tracking Gorillas in Uganda
Tracking Gorillas in UgandaPrasanna Vee

With so many journeys, there are bound to be unexpected turns. Can you share a story of a travel mishap that became a memorable experience?


Absolutely. One memorable misadventure occurred during our trip to South America in 2004. After exploring Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, we reached Lima, Peru, eager to see Machu Picchu. Our plans hit a snag when a flight cancellation delayed us, making us miss the train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. Disheartened, we explored Cusco instead.

Tired and hungover the following day in Cusco, we stumbled upon a tour operator offering a slim chance to catch the train at Ollantaytambo. We raced against time with a spirited driver, who doubled as a tour guide, navigating winding roads expertly. Miraculously, we reached Ollantaytambo just before the train departed. As we journeyed to Machu Picchu, clouds cleared, unveiling the stunning citadel. This experience taught us the power of adaptability and the joy of embracing unexpected twists.


Across your travels, what hidden cultural gems have surprised you the most?


Backpackers often seek authentic, unspoiled destinations before they become mainstream tourist hubs. Finding these hidden gems between minimal and mass tourism waves is a sweet spot. Take San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, where we visited before tourism surged. The serene beaches and colonial charm were untouched by crowds then, a stark contrast to now. Similarly, Robertsport in Liberia offered pristine surf spots and golden beaches before it appeared on travel radars.

Congo-Brazzaville surprised us with its modern amenities and vibrant coastal scenes, which differed from our preconceived notions. In East Timor, political complexities have stymied tourism potential despite its natural beauty rivalling popular spots. South Sudan's unique Sub-Saharan vibe impressed us with its warmth and burgeoning expat scene.

Juba, South Sudan
Juba, South SudanPrasanna Vee

How have your travels impacted your perspective on the world and yourself?


Travel is invaluable for broadening horizons and challenging prejudices. Experiencing diverse cultures firsthand fosters a more informed worldview. We can only gain true insight into their lives and form unbiased opinions by engaging with people, socialising, and understanding their customs.

My travels have often shattered misconceptions I had absorbed from mainstream media. For instance, my visit to Syria in 2000 revealed a vibrant nightlife, modern youth culture, and rich historical sites that contrasted sharply with media portrayals. Similar eye-opening experiences occurred in China, Iraq, Eritrea, and Uzbekistan. Encountering different perspectives teaches us that our worldview isn't universal and encourages us to appreciate diverse ways of life. Marcel Proust's quote, "Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes," resonates deeply with my belief that travel enriches our understanding of the world.

A view of Red Sea view from Masawa, Eritrea
A view of Red Sea view from Masawa, EritreaPrasanna Vee

With so much of the world already explored, what places still pique your travel curiosity?


Foremost on my list is cruising through the otherworldly landscapes of Patagonia in Chile, where towering glaciers and untouched wilderness beckon. Following this, I dream of spending a night in a cosy glass igloo in Swedish Lapland, mesmerised by the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights overhead. Another adventure I eagerly anticipate is kayaking through the crystal-clear turquoise waters amidst the dramatic karst islands of Raja Ampat in Indonesia's West Papua province. Equally captivating is the prospect of witnessing the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) paint the Antarctic skies, complemented by a celestial spectacle in New Zealand.

I also yearn to explore Egypt's White Desert with its unique chalk rock formations and experience the Arctic charm of Norway's Lofoten Islands bathed in the enchanting glow of the midnight sun. For a deeper immersion in nature, I seek out the raw wilderness of the Amazon Rainforests, contemplating a stay at a remote jungle lodge in Ecuador or Peru. Lastly, I envision unplugged days amidst the pristine white sand beaches of Myanmar's untouched Mergui Archipelago.

Glaciers in Greeland
Glaciers in GreelandPrasanna Vee

Your book "One for the Road" focuses on venturing beyond the usual tourist spots. How do you research and plan these off-the-beaten-path adventures?


For me, the thrill of travel doesn't start at the airport but much earlier, in the meticulous research and planning phase. It's a quest for undiscovered destinations and hidden treasures fueled by a deep curiosity for the unfamiliar. My inspiration often stems from diverse sources, including various travel magazines. In the past, travel guidebooks were my trusted companions, offering colourful insights into places yet to be explored. Today, while digital platforms dominate, I still find immense joy in discovering destinations through printed and online travel magazines.

However, I've also learned the joy of spontaneity. Sometimes, the most memorable experiences arise from stumbling upon hidden gems not found in any guidebook or article. My unconventional method of exploring destinations by clicking through Google Maps has led to delightful surprises and breathtaking scenery that surpassed all expectations. For instance, during a recent trip to Uttarakhand, we discovered charming cafes, scenic viewpoints, and serene lakes that traditional guides did not highlight. These unexpected finds added a layer of excitement and genuine surprise to our journey, making each moment more magical and memorable. The lack of detailed information heightened our anticipation and made every discovery a delightful adventure.


What inspired you to document your experiences in the book? Did you face challenges translating your vast travel wisdom into a book?


I've visited every country globally and had the privilege of residing in over a dozen countries for extended periods. This enriching experience has granted me profound insights into diverse cultures and perspectives worldwide. It has prompted me to challenge and discard preconceived biases, replacing them with understanding and appreciation. Over time, I've gathered countless fascinating stories and anecdotes.

Until now, these experiences have mostly been shared with family and friends. However, I've realised that the insights gained from extensive global travels deserve a wider audience. This realisation allowed me to compile them into a book, allowing readers to enjoy and learn from my journey firsthand.

Indian and American Passports
Indian and American PassportsPrasanna Vee

What key life lessons have you gleaned from traveling to such diverse destinations?


Travelling has taught me a profound lesson in appreciation: the ability to value what I have. Amidst the routine of daily life, it's easy to overlook the uniqueness of home and the blessings we often take for granted. Exploring different countries opened my eyes to this truth. For instance, visiting historical sites abroad made me realize the rich heritage back home in India, from ancient temples to colonial-era architecture in Chennai. Seeing how foreign cultures celebrated their history and cuisine was eye-opening, prompting me to reflect on the richness of my own cultural tapestry. Travel also exposed me to the resilience of people enduring hardship, like the Bosnians I met in Sarajevo, who survived a siege that put my trivial complaints into perspective.

By experiencing diverse cultures and witnessing different ways of life, I learned to cherish the comforts and privileges I enjoy. Travel doesn't just broaden horizons; it deepens appreciation for the familiar. It teaches us to notice and celebrate the distinctiveness of our surroundings, fostering gratitude and humility in the process. Without venturing beyond our comfort zones, we risk missing out on understanding and valuing the richness surrounding us at home.

Outlook Traveller