Global Traveler Makes Montserrat His 250th Stop

June and John Barnett are interviewed by Discover Montserrat Editor Nerissa Golden (Ralph Birkhoff)
June and John Barnett are interviewed by Discover Montserrat Editor Nerissa Golden. (Photo by Ralph Birkhoff)

John Barnett paces back and forth in the departure lounge at the V.C. Bird International Airport. He’s worried. This is the second day of trying to get to Montserrat.

He’s only 20 minutes away from reaching his goal of visiting 250 countries. However, the weather and the airlines aren’t cooperating.

He shows me a newspaper clipping from the Irish Times, with a feature on the Other Emerald Isle, Montserrat. He plans to read it when he arrives and sees if it lives up to what is in the article.

He and his wife discuss changing their ticket to leave Antigua a day early if they can’t get on the flight. After quickly checking the cost of changing their tickets, it isn’t worth the more than $4000 they will have to pay to leave early.

The question is, do they hang around and hope their flight leaves. The gray clouds over the airport don’t look promising and the airline’s flights are backed up. Some of his fellow passengers are concerned that if he does make it to Montserrat, they won’t make it back in time to catch their return flight to Ireland. There is no ferry service to use as an alternative.

John paces some more. He checks with the travel attendant for updates. They can’t tell him what time his 2:30 flight will leave. The 10:30 flight doesn’t leave until after two.

At the age of 10 years old, his teen-aged sister gave him her atlas and he fell in love with the idea of visiting all of the countries he found inside. John told her he would and his addiction to travel was formed.

Working as a mine engineer provided a few opportunities to rack up stamps in his passport. However, the bulk of his trips have been with the intention of experiencing all of the places he’d highlighted in his atlas.

His wife June is accompanying him on this jaunt. “She only goes on the gin and tonic trips,” he jokes. June agrees with a smile. She isn’t phased by the overcast weather and being stuck in the airport. She’s confident he will make the best decision for them.

His wife has been to 120 countries and he’s pleased she will be there when he makes this milestone. A platinum award awaits him once he returns to Ireland.

John is a risk taker and he’s been through tougher things than late airlines and bad weather. He once spent three days under house arrest in Equatorial Guinea. His luck held when he attempted to swim in the Antartic Ocean while on a cruise, although the captain had said it may not be possible because of the ice.

“I’ll take the chance,” he says out loud to his fellow passengers. “Even if we don’t get out of Montserrat tomorrow to make our connection back to the UK, I’ve come too far to turn back now.”

He shares that his favourite way to travel  is to “swim. You don’t have to pay anyone to get there.” Coldest place he’s ever been – Antartica.

Despite his flight being more than a day later than planned, he does make it to the other Emerald Isle and gets his stamp which confirms he’s been to 250 countries. They aren’t able to spend much time before having to turn around and head back to the UK. However, he’s relieved. Some of the other countries listed by Travelers Century Club as targets are even harder to get to than Montserrat.

If you’ve been to over 100 countries you are eligible to join Travelers Century Club.