Super Traveler Henry Biernacki visits 120 Countries
Henry Biernacki in the desert. He's traveled close to the ground to more than 120 countries.
By Nicole Sobel
“A world map to most eight year olds is merely lines and colors. To me, at eight years old, the world map cured my intense curiosity of the unknown world and what was beyond my own border,” said airline captain and avid traveler Henry Biernacki. When Henry Biernacki was 17 years old, he hopped a Greyhound bus from Colorado to Mexico with nothing but a small backpack, the clothes on his back and a few bucks in his pocket. He hasn’t stopped moving since.
In 1997 he traveled to 40 different countries in 11 months. Today, Biernacki is an airline captain with Virgin America and he has traveled to more than 120 countries, but his travel habits haven’t evolved much since his teen years. No five-star hotels or limousines for him. Most of the time, he’ll get on a plane the same way he boarded that bus – backpack, clothes on his back, a few bucks in his pocket.
Biernacki is a true traveler, in the sense that he travels to explore and discover new experiences and broaden his horizons. “While I travel I truly seek to have nothing occur for which I am prepared. This allows for random experiences that make me adapt to that city, country, and/or situation. Having miserable experiences when I travel translates later to the enjoyment of being able to write about them,” says Biernacki.
Since Biernacki has begun his expedition of travels, he’s written for five books, with one book published so far: "No More Heroes" released in December 2010.
Henry’s travel accomplishments and innovative life journey have gained the attention of the media in the past few years, and along with the books he has written about his riveting travels, he’s been featured in numerous publications. Specifically, his travels of going around the world in 1997 — sleeping in the streets, spending only 3700USD for the entire year, and meeting Mother Teresa three days before she died — were featured in several newspaper articles.
In 2010, He was seen on billboards and other print materials as well as in a national advertising campaign for Virgin American airlines, as he is a captain who flies domestic routes with the airline. Recently, he has also been doing several book signings at Barnes and Noble Booksellers.
To Henry, traveling and seeing the world is his top priority and a gift. He knows the definition of a true traveler, and what it means to genuinely discover a new place and new people through travel.
When I asked him why he thought it was so imperative for people to travel and see the world and experience new cultures he said, “A traveler is the truest of diplomats that everyday local people encounter and watch. People always do things they should not do when they travel. But travelers are humbly excused for their naiveté because they immediately let it be known rather than hide it. It is like being a little kid again. It is this ignorance of not knowing the culture that is the heart of why one should travel ? to learn and feel the complete newness of every step and learn again.”
In 2010, Henry has traveled to an astounding eight countries, one of which was North Korea. When he travels he still sleeps on the street, airports and if he is lucky maybe a guest house. He earned a BA in Romance Languages (French/Spanish) and national Affairs. He has lived in France, Germany, Taiwan, The West Indies and Mexico before returning to The United States.
Out of all of his travels, Henry does not have a particular place that he’s visited that he could name to be his ‘favorite,’ because all of the places he has visited and seen have affected him in various different ways as a human and as a traveler.
“Asking a traveler which is his favorite country is as difficult a question to answer as for me to ask someone which breath of air has been the most memorable. But Nepal and the Himalayas do have a way of affecting a human. Why is this country so special? The answer is simple: it is awake.”
No More Heroes
In his book, “No More Heroes,” Biernacki describes what it means to be a part of such an amazing experience, and what it looks like to travel through the eyes of another, here is a selection from Biernacki’s book of travel:
The morning mist still covered the mountain peaks and Nepali men sat with their legs crossed on the bags of mail. The men leaned on one wrist and sipped chai with the other hand. One man with a large tika mark on his forehead smiled and laughed as he poured chai from a thermos. No one spilled a drop as the bus rocked, bounced and jerked side to side.
The empty chai glasses clanked in a cardboard box by one man’s feet. The bus windows clattered like a gas pedal being pumped getting ready for a downshift to climb a steep hill. The driver quickly took his left hand off the steering wheel and grabbed one of the quick eats that were piled like a small pyramid on a shelf next to the steering wheel, which was on the right side of the bus.
Henry visiting Mother Teresa.
More people piled on the bus and you ask yourself again, “Why, for the love of God, is anyone a traveler?” Your feet only get worse with each trip, the smell that is. Nobody could understand why someone travels unless you go and feel it for yourself: and all travelers ask that question.
You glance out the window and answer your own question about why people travel. You see the highest peaks in the world shear through thick clouds. But it felt like a hazy dream, too perfect, and too soon you think you would wake up and forget what it was you were dreaming. Traveling is for the subtle sights that make a human see life differently. The subtle beauty makes you question everything. You may not want to ask any questions but you are drawn to try to understand what it is you are experiencing. You lose track of yourself and become part of everything.
The Life of a Traveler
Not every traveler could live the life that Henry is living today. He doesn’t stay in fancy hotels, or get driven around Europe by a professional driver, but he’s happy and he knows this is what he wants to be doing, and this is his life’s calling. “In 1997, after sleeping in the streets for that year, I knew I had to travel the rest of my life and see the world. I decided at the time I would pursue whatever it was I needed in order to have the freedom to explore, which is why I learned how to fly.
It is not difficult to merely have an idea ? the far greater obstacle is achieving the result, the grand energy to navigate around the many avenues of the word “no,” to standing firm to your “yes” and believe in your path. In order to have validity, I must take simple steps to progressively gain more experience, which shall lead people to want to hear more about my traveling experiences” says Biernacki.
The process of the journey itself is what keeps drawing Henry back into his travels. He’s sort of a nomad, going from country to country, always discovering something new, always ready to explore. A modern day explorer, a vagabond so to speak.
However, not all who wonder are lost, and that’s the case with this one of a kind traveler. He’s found everything he could ask for in each place he’s visited and journeyed to. “And possibly the better discovery of traveling is not when you go ramble off but allowing yourself to learn through sources other than your own history. Lastly, there is the process of the journey ? to obtain some sort of grasp on the openness of life ? which arrives from an experienced man who has experienced the world,” said Biernacki.
Nicole Sobel is a freelance writer focusing on travel and lifestyle. She lives in Boston.
Buy this book on Amazon No More Heroes
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