Meet the Jewish travel blogger who quickly may have visited each nation
JTA – In 2012, Drew Goldberg spent part of his junior year abroad in Prague. It was only the second time he had left the United States – the other time it was for Birthright, the free trip to Israel for Jewish young adults.
The trip to the Czech capital was literally life changing. Goldberg spent the next five months balancing his studies with traveling and visiting more than 20 countries. After that he became addicted.
Now he is nearing a goal inspired by the Prague trip – a visit to each of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations. The 28-year-old will have made it in just a few months.
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He did the feat by making traveling his job.
Goldberg, known online by the name Drew Binsky, publishes videos of his travel adventures daily and makes $ 5,000 to $ 30,000 each month through advertising revenue and sponsorship.
His videos include everything from learning what it is like to live in North Korea, talking about races in South Africa, and talking to Syrians who have fled their homes because of the war. Goldberg has 4 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
It also holds two Guinness World Records – for visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 24 hours (12) and for the fastest time to pack a suitcase (35.59 seconds).
“I haven’t stayed in one place for more than two weeks in eight years,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a video interview from Manila, where he shares an apartment with his Philippine-born friend Deanna.
This spring, Goldberg will begin the final leg of his eight-year journey, traveling to the five countries he has not yet visited: Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Jamaica and Palau. He will bring a film team and hopes to be able to document the visit.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “I’ve been working with this goal for eight years.”
Goldberg grew up in a Jewish family in Scottsdale, Arizona. He attended Temple Chai, a reform community, where he had his bar mitzvah.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in economics, Goldberg accepted a position as an English teacher in South Korea. He created a travel blog to document his experience of traveling through Asia for the next 18 months.
Goldberg places great emphasis on visiting Jewish communities in the countries he visits, and says traveling has helped him reconnect with his Jewish identity. He has visited Jewish communities in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia and the Philippines.
“I feel more connected to religion from a global perspective because I’ve really gone into the homes of Jews around the world,” he said.
Although he says he was well received as a Jewish person, it helps that he publishes his childhood nickname under the name Binsky, which is less obviously Jewish than Goldberg.
“I think it’s not the worst thing in the world to have an alter ego, especially when I travel to countries like Syria and Libya,” he said. “It is not best to represent Goldberg.”
Goldberg says he enjoys teaching people about Judaism in areas of the world where Jews are few.
“In general, I think I am in a very good position to promote Judaism among Muslims and among people who are not familiar with the religion,” he said.
Goldberg generally feels safe traveling and says he wasn’t worried about visiting North Korea as he was on an organized tour. Even so, there were some scary moments, like falling asleep to the sound of bombs raining just a few kilometers from his hotel in Libya and missing a car explosion in Yemen by just an hour. On a recent trip to Syria, he had to lie about visiting Israel to enter the country.
“I had to hide all of my videos about Israel on my website,” he said.
Goldberg says he won’t stop traveling once he reaches his destination, but will instead focus on content in longer forms and post less frequently. He’s also hoping for a travel show like Anthony Bourdain, the personality Goldberg considers an idol.
“It’s so cool to be able to take people with you and inspire them and teach them about the world,” he said. “And I’m happier with it than experiencing it myself.”