Baraboo native visits 80th country

January 21, 2017 GMT

Why did David Piery travel to 80 countries? Because they’re there.

The 2008 Baraboo High School graduate spends his summers working two jobs in Wisconsin Dells and working out at a local jiu-jitsu dojo. As fall approaches, he migrates overseas.

Staying in hostels and living on $30 a day, Piery has criss-crossed multiple continents. “I achieve this by actually writing everything I spend money on. Everything. Everyday,” he said. “That way I don’t fool myself with my spending reality.”

“He’s just a penny pincher,” his father Jeff said. “I tell him, I wish he’d spring for the $20 to see some of the museums.”

This week, David Piery chatted with the News Republic via Facebook during a visit to India. He enjoyed French toast and chai tea for breakfast as he peered out over the Ganges River. Room and board: $6. The view: Free and priceless.

“I’ve met people at hostels I ended up traveling with for months and count them as some of my closest friends,” he said. “I also eat the local food. I choose to take public transport, as well. Instead of flying I’ll take a variety of buses and stop at various places along the way.”

Piery charts his course as he goes, living like a local to save money. “More money saved, more places to travel,” he said.

He has walked around the mouth of a volcano in Indonesia. He has shared a bed with a stranger in Barcelona. Next up is a trip to Nepal, the 80th country he will have visited.

“When I choose a destination I see a route,” Piery said. “I usually go somewhere because I haven’t been there before. That is reason enough for me.”

Piery graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2013, but he doesn’t plan to get tied down by a career – or family – just yet. He enjoys being unfettered. “I never plan anything,” he said. “I always go with the flow and talk to other travelers and then adjust my skeleton plan. Traveling is freeing in that way.”

The traveler’s life isn’t always fancy-free. Running late for a flight home can be unnerving. So can crossing the border from Guatemala to Honduras after hours. But he’s none the worse for wear.

“We hope he gets back safe and sound,” his father said.

There are always surprises on the road. Take, for example, the time he met a girl from Wisconsin on a small plane in Cambodia. Not only were they from the same state, but she had gone to prom with Piery’s cousin. The Earth is vast, but the world is small.

Piery said he will settle down eventually. “I just want to do this crazy vagabonding now while I don’t have tangible commitments,” he said. “I like to think I will travel my whole life, but traveling and life show you that nothing in life is guaranteed, not even your own life. That’s why I’ve chosen to travel so extensively now, because the future is not known.”

His is a road not taken for many who chose the traditional path – career, marriage, children, mortgage – at a young age and later found themselves wondering what might have been.

“I haven’t planned something for a long time,” Piery said. “Even today I really don’t know what I will do. I probably will take a walk. I expect something interesting to happen.”