On Sunday, June 17, the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC) meeting was honored with two guest speakers. Member Ray Woods, whose life ambition was to visit all the countries of the world on the Travelers’ Century Club list; there are 319 of them and he has met that goal. The second speaker was Margie Grainger from Hand to Hand Foundation. She gave a quick follow-up to her previous presentation to the Club on building affordable housing for the slum families of Pattaya.
Ray Woods began with talking about his recent visit to the Philippines where he became friends with Francisca Susano and her family. Francisca is 120 years old! He was amazed by her stamina having been born in the 19th century. Although she had no birth certificate which is common among people born in the remote hill regions of the Philippines, her village last year threw her a 119th birthday party. Imagine 120 years on the earth. If she had been collecting social security, she could have been doing so for half her life. Ray gave her and a few other special people as examples of the benefits of a life of travel.
He then talked about “The Fifteen Most Challenging Countries to Travel To;” based on his experience, including Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Bouvet, Cambodia (in 1963), and Thailand (in 1963). Ray previously spoke to the Club about his visiting all 319 countries and territories listed by the Travelers’ Century Club.
Ray Woods is one of the most traveled people in the world. Currently he is ranked #56 on Most Traveled People (MTP) – On the Road to Everywhere. Born a traveler and a dreamer, Ray’s Native American grandmother, a Cherokee Indian, recognized this. Together they looked at National Geographic Magazines dreaming of places where he could go. She gave Ray money for travel. His mission from his Cherokee grandmother was to see that all people of the world are friendly. And to return home and tell others.
At age 21 Ray traveled alone through 15 countries… including Thailand where he stayed with Thai families in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Songkhla. The year was 1963 when there were no guide books, no internet, and telephones were too expensive. During the years of travel, he learned that it wasn’t danger that troubled him but rather the unknown. With this in mind he planned all his trips as carefully as possible and tried to always have a contact meet him at the entrance to a visited country.
Was he ever in fear for his life? In Afghanistan driving from Kabul to Jalalabad, his jeep was stopped on the road by two men blocking it holding machine guns. They wanted a ride. After jumping in the back, they rode a while and then got out without incident. Ray said he wasn’t concerned, at least not as much as his two fellow occupants who were mentally “pushing up daises.”
Traveling around the world is not cheap; Ray has spent an estimated 1.2 million US dollars on the feat. This was made possible by the building up of a business started by his family in Kansas which has now been expanded further by a son. After successfully running the business that dates back to 1889, Ray ended up being obsessed with traveling to every country/destination listed by World Travel: The Passport to Peace Through Understanding | The Travelers’ Century Club (TTC). To achieve this, a good example is that Ray took five separate trips to Antarctica to get the 7 TCC “ticks” as there were different countries claiming title to that remote land making the trips necessary.
Ray was followed by Margie Grainger giving a follow up on her previous presentation about the ‘Hand to Hand Foundation. During that October 2017 presentation, Margie gave surely the most moving talk in the history of the PCEC as she shared stories about the founding and progress of the Hand to Hand Foundation that (among many other things) works with slum-dwellers and slum kids in Pattaya.
She gave a brief update about the setbacks, dramas and forthcoming culmination of the project to build proper housing for some of the current slum-dwellers. To furnish these dwellings, Hand to Hand is trying to become part of Global Giving network which will give them access to some of the largest corporate sponsors in the world. As a requirement to qualify for these funds her organization must raise US$5,000 and from at least 40 sponsors by the 29th of June, which was rapidly approaching (the goal was subsequently exceeded within the allotted time frame).
After the presentation, MC Roy Albiston brought everyone up to date on upcoming events which was followed by the Open Forum where members and guests can ask questions or make comments about Expat living in Thailand. For more on the PCEC and their activities or to subscribe to their weekly newsletter, visit www.pcec.club.
After presentation interviews can be viewed at: Ray Woods https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmLY7T2sIw4&feature=youtu.be and Margaret Grainger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B14qR_i25GU&feature=youtu.be