LONDON, England / The Telegraph / Lifestyle / Expat Life / March 4, 2011
Meet Fred Finn, the British expatriate who holds the world record for being the world’s most travelled man
When did you officially become known as the "world’s most travelled man"?
I first became known as the world’s most travelled man in 1983, when Concorde noticed how many tickets I’d been buying. I met up with Guinness World Records, and they counted that I’d flown 150 flights on Concorde, and around seven million miles overall – a record at the time.
Now, I’ve travelled about 15 million miles, and have visited 139 countries. I also have the record for making the most number of flights on Concorde (718). I had a seat on the very first Concorde flight, as well as on the last.
I was very sad when Concorde stopped flying. It was a beautiful airliner – and one of the last commercial airplanes ever built in Britain, of course.
How did you end up doing so much travelling?
It’s always been for work. For a long time I worked for international licensing companies, so had to fly around the world to sort out deals. I spent several decades like a sputnik, continously circling Earth! One time, I had to fly between New York and London three times in a single day to get a contract signed. That was a record too.
You’re 70 years old now. Are you still working?
Yes. Because I’ve had so much experience of travelling, travel companies are very interested in me. I’m frequently hired for after-dinner speaking, and I’ve worked with airlines like Virgin Atlantic, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya airways, Pan Am, Dan air etc, as a consultant on improving their flights and flight service.
I also do a lot of work for tourism boards and holiday companies - I organised the former England cricket captain’s David Gower’s honeymoon in Kenya, and have taken Richard Branson and two royal tours to Kenya.
Are you still flying as much as you used to?
Not quite as much, but still more than most people. I don’t think I’ll ever retire. This week, I’ve met the head of Coca Cola, the head of L’Oreal and the man heading up Euro 2012 in the Ukraine. Working is a pleasure for me – I’m doing things I like to do.
Where’s your home, when you’re not traveling?
I grew up in Kent, the garden of England, but since I married a Ukrainian lady in 2006, I spend as much times as possible in the Ukraine, in a little town about five hours away from Kiev. It’s a wonderful place. The people are very friendly, the food is excellent, and there’s a great outdoor life; lots of fishing and camping.
It’s very cheap too. A good bottle of vodka will set you back £2 or £3. Interestingly though, despite that, in all the time I’ve been there I’ve only ever seen two people drunk in the street. It’s a very family-orientated country, where people tend to drink inside their houses and eat when they drink.
How do you occupy yourself during a flight?
Because I’ve flown so much, I usually see someone I know on a flight, and we’ll have a catch-up. The last time I flew, the captain and chief stewardesses both knew me.
I have my own little habits too, of course - I always set my watch to my destination’s time zone as soon as I get on the plane. That is my way to overcome jetlag. And I like to have a few drinks...
Have you ever met anyone famous on a flight?
Lots - especially on Concorde, as that was a very small plane. I’ve met Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash – lots of professional golfers too. Oh, and John Denver. I was on a flight from Paris to New York with him on Christmas Day once. He ended up singing “Take Me Home, Country Road” and we all had a bit of a party.
How has flying changed since you boarded your first plane?
It’s changed enormously. Most the changes have been to do with security – when I flew on Concorde, I used to sit in the cockpit with the pilot. Now, any captain who let someone sit next to him would probably face losing his job.
Checking in takes a long time too now, what with all that take-your-shoes-off, take-your-belt-off-business. I think it’s spoilt the experience a lot and, considering that the security checks are only done on certain people, is a bit unnecessary.
Asides from the Ukraine of course, where are your favourite places to visit?
I love Kenya. It’s probably one of the best destinations for scenery and food - and game-watching, of course. It’s a magnificent country. I’m currently doing some work for the tourism board there, and next time I go, it’ll be my 600th trip.
I also like the Seychelles. They have the best beaches in the world there - so many you can always find a private place to swim.
You must be a connoisseur of airplane food by now…
I actually quite like it. Though it of course depends what airline you’re on – and where you’re sitting in the front or the back of the plane...
Fred Finn, the world's most travelled man, with Norris McWhirter, co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2011