Friday, October 30, 2015

Charlotte’s Doug Eberhart conquers the Traveler’s Century Club

Sukothai was the ancient capital of Thailand -- Just one of countless sites Doug Eberhart has visited  (wikipedia)
CHARLOTTE  Football season is in full swing and as every player and fan knows, 100 is the magic number. Be it 100 yards for a touchdown or 100 yards rushing or passing, 100 is the standard of excellence in America’s favorite sport.

Every trip is an adventure for Eberhart  
Perhaps that’s why former All-Ohio offensive center for Massillon Washington High School, Doug Eberhart, chose as his next landmark to travel to 100 countries. Today Eberhart measures his success in miles rather than yards but the number 100 remains the standard.

Recently Eberhart, a graduate of Princeton, “touched down” in Piran, Slovenia to become a full-fledged member of the Traveler’s Century Club; people who have visited 100 countries or more in their travels.

Like many “Centurians” Doug followed the wind and Slovenia just happened to be the country that captured the elusive trophy. As a rule Eberhart visits multiple countries when he can, not only for convenience but also as a cost and logistics factor.

Though Eberhart is an expert at finding a deal, he does not scrimp to necessarily seek out the lowest price because he knows all too well that that can be detrimental for a traveler even though it may keep his wallet a little bit fatter.

Over his years of travel, Eberhart estimates he has spent between $200,000 and $250,000 to accomplish his feat, but considering the number of countries he has seen that number is relatively inexpensive. Furthermore, there is no price tag he can put on his memories or his experiences.
Pura Taman Ayun in Bali -- Eberhart never tires of the discoveries he makes while traveling  (wikipedia)
The most expensive trip Eberhart has ever taken was to Tahiti and Bora Bora which rang up a tab of about $8,500. Spending that kind of money is a rarity, however.

Most people do not think of football players as having an interest in seeing the world, but Doug was heavily influenced by his great uncle Eugene Jeffers who was an undercover agent for the CIA for many years. During school holidays, Eberhart and his twin brother, an All-Ohio high school quarterback, were enthralled by “Uncle Jeffs” stories of exotic places from the world’s most intriguing “hot spots.”

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia  (wikipedia)
Eberhart also credits a French professor who brought the world alive, especially when teaching the Renaissance and the Reformation.

That laid the groundwork and Doug has been on a mission ever since. While at Princeton he went to Taipei with a friend as part of the International Student Body. During his visit he contacted a contagious disease know as “wanderlust” which is uncureable. Once bitten the only thing that will stop someone is time and money.

Though Doug did not initially set out to travel to 100 countries, somewhere between 2000 and 2003 he realized he wanted to set a goal of visiting at least 100 countries and territories. Eberhart is careful to qualify his dream because technically territories are not countries and determining prescisely what constitutes a country can be tricky at times.
Ludwig II's fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria  (wikipedia)
For example, the Vatican is a country but it still feels like Rome anyway you look at it. And that’s just one tiny sample of countless other questionable destinations.

 “I always had an interest in the diversity of other countries and seeing the world through other people’s eyes,” says Doug. “I’m not interested in just checking off places for the sake of saying I have been there. I like to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible.”
Africa is one of Doug's favorite places because of its diversity and its wildlife  (John Lasater)
The most obvious question Eberhart gets is which is his favorite country to which he says “Kenya” but actually he qualifies all of Africa in that assessment.

By contrast, his least favorite country is Paraguay which Eberhart found boring.
Antarctica took Doug to the end of the earth  (wikipedia)
Like most world travelers, there are gaps in Doug’s personal itinerary: Israel, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Jordan, Poland, the Seychelles, Bhutan, Tibet and Myanmar to name a few.

The Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden -- Home of the Nobel Prize winners  (wikipedia)
Eberhart’s top five cities, in no particular order, are Sydney, Vancouver, Stockholm, Prague and Rio. Look closely and you will notice that somehow water makes its mark in the rankings.

Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background  (wikipedia)
One of the best things about his job as a sales rep for Merit Medical says Doug is that it has allowed him the freedom of time to pursue his dream.

And so the quest continues as Eberhart pursues some of those “gaps.” Don’t bet against him. He has already scored once and now he is working on his second 100 following his personal “turn of the century.”