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Border Junkie: 142 Countries and Counting

Featured Photo from Border Junkie: 142 Countries and Counting

LMHS grad is traveling the globe and capturing his adventure for all the world to see

Have you ever wanted to quit your job, sell your stuff, and travel the world with only a backpack? Many people think about it, but how many actually do it? Lake Mary’s JP Salva is one of the few who literally walked the walk. A software developer and consultant for 15 years, JP, now 38, surrendered to his wanderlust more than four years ago.

“Life started to feel mundane,” says JP. “I was making decent money, which is why I can do this in the first place. But I realized it’s not just about money. It’s about filling an important need.”

That need was to see the world firsthand and never look back. But what possessed a thirty something to take this enormous leap?

It all started with a family trip to the Philippines that changed the Salva family forever and fortuitously ignited JP’s thirst to explore the world.

When JP visited a Filipino orphanage with his brother JC and parents Marisol and José, who moved the family to Lake Mary from Puerto Rico, the Salva clan was destined to grow by two. The family fell in love with two children at the orphanage. JP, meanwhile, was bit by the travel bug. 

Almost three decades later, JP has traveled to 142 of the world’s 196 countries in just over four years, documenting it all on his website and Instagram page under the name “Border Junkie.”

“A good friend of mine said, ‘Hey, you travel a lot; you’re a travelholic,” JP recalls. “While I thought I needed a nickname, I didn’t like travelholic. So, from there I came up with borderholic, then Border Junkie. It all happened while drinking beers.”

After leaving his IT job, JP didn’t start traveling right away. But he eventually left Lake Mary and set out on the adventure of a lifetime, slowly making his way to countries very few visit. He didn’t fly first-class or stay in five-star hotels. Far from it, in fact.
“I don’t want to feel like a tourist; I want to feel like a local,” JP says. “Blend in as much as possible. If everyone is riding in a bus full of chickens, that’s what I’m going to ride in.”

The photos JP posts confirm his preference. He often rides in overcrowded buses, takes the train, walks a lot, and stays in hostels or on the couches of friends he has met along the way.

“He’s never met a stranger,” JC says of his brother. “His personality is massive. He’s a free spirit. People gravitate towards him.”

It helps that JP speaks seven foreign languages, all self-taught: Japanese, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

JP’s travels have taken him to the world’s most remote countries, some that are difficult to reach or are consumed by poverty, and war. But he has discovered that many of those same nations have immense beauty and a unique sense of pride and rich culture. That is what JP seeks out. He wants to know, show, and share the authentic stories of humanity, not “the stories portrayed in the media,” he says.

Instead, JP has countless stories of his own to retell.

Reaching base camp near the top of Mount Everest was an especially memorable moment.

“While I was going up the Himalayas for two weeks, some of us didn’t make it,” says JP, referring to fellow climbers who were forced to turn back. “It changed me. I felt like I was capable of anything.”

Another one of JP’s favorite journeys landed him at the doorstep of President Barack Obama’s grandmother’s home in Kenya.

“After I found out where she lived, I knocked on her door, and she answered,” JP says. “We talked through a translator. One question I asked her was, ‘Why are you still here? Your grandson is the most powerful person in the world.’ She said, ‘I like it here, I am a simple person. I live a simple life. I have no intentions of moving from here.’ She gave me a cordial hug. She seemed like a strong woman.”

JP’s Instagram page has 35,000 followers and is rapidly growing. The photos JP posts often look like pieces of art, and each breathtaking shot has a story of its own to tell. His posts are a collage of faces, places, food, events, and brilliant landmarks, all taken with a small point-and-shoot camera.

“It takes a lot of courage to do what he did,” his mom says. “It wasn’t something I saw in him growing up, but it became a goal he set out for himself, and I’m excited he got to do it.”

The 142nd and most recent country on JP’s itinerary is Iran.

“I can’t believe I’m finally here,” JP posted on his Instagram page. “After years of waiting on a visa! Now, let’s explore the real Iran… experience tells me Iran is going to be nothing like what’s been portrayed in the media.”

To see JP’s posts about Iran and all the countries he’s visited, follow him on Instagram @BorderJunkie.

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