Alumnus Brandon Cox's quest to understand the human experience fueled his
travels to all seven continents and 149 countries before he turned 35 years old.
Narrative by Brandon Cox, Mgt '03
Beautiful Lake Tanganyika stretched before me
never-ending as a fog ensconced the Congo to my east, and on my left a city
flickered in flashes of a muddled death.
My feet dug deeper into the lakeside orange sands, and I clenched my drink harder
as each explosion flashed in the distance. On the edge of town, deafening blasts
rocked a country exasperatedly fighting for a life of normalcy.
I pondered what had led me here, to this place. I thought of my peaceful childhood
home and life growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta. It seemed a world apart from
My global travels began when I was a student.
Fifteen years later, I have been to 149 countries and all seven continents.
My global travels began when I was a student at Georgia Tech. I journeyed overseas
for the very first time to visit a friend of mine studying in Glasgow, Scotland.
A new passion ignited inside me, and I embarked on two study-abroad experiences
before graduating. It seems like yesterday that I was 20 years old and packing for
my first international trip.
Fifteen years later, I have been to 149 countries and all seven continents, yet I
feel the same excitement each time I visit somewhere new.
In those early years, my travels were driven by my studies in conflict resolution.
On my very first solo trip to Japan and South Korea, I met a young woman who told me
a fascinating story about her family — half of whom lived in North Korea, half in
It’s these types of personal connections that would inspire me to visit North
Korea, and later go into Zimbabwe during their stolen elections in 2008.
One memorable scholarly expedition was an overland trek through Africa, from South
Africa to Jordan and back. It was then that I discovered what truly gives people the
means of surviving in conflict zones.
My eight-month journey took me through two different Zimbabwian elections, 11
countries with active State Department travel warnings against all “non-essential
travel,” and four countries embroiled in outright war.
Despite food shortages, no access to clean water, unimaginable violence, and
governmental corruption, life went on for people living in these places. My
determination to understand the coalescence of peace, trade, and war in conflict
zones is what had brought me to Lake Tanganyika on the border of Burundi and the
Democratic Republic of Congo.
I left one civil war for another, venturing farther into lovely but lawless lands.
And, in doing so, I learned that nowhere in this world is inaccessible. I also
learned that trade continues despite war, and somehow, miraculously, regional
economies keep people alive.
Some simple moments will always stay with me, such as sharing a beer with
government officials in North Korea and discussing the joys of our completely
different worlds. My travels have taken me to some very dark corners of the world,
but those corners always surprised me with their magnificent natural beauty — and
the beauty of the people who lived there.
Also, I will never forget hanging out with young men on the beach in Somalia
talking about the funny differences in our marriage traditions. They were quite
shocked that that I didn’t have a desire for multiple wives.
In Iraq, a hotel owner gave me a free place to stay in a town with no available
rooms, but we ended up chatting all night about the scourge of organized crime that
affected his small business and community.
The next day I met some local men who took me on a proud tour of their hometown of
Erbil. A few months later while crossing from Albania into Macedonia, the men giving
me a ride described all the intricacies of the corruption so prevalent in their
countries. They knew best, after all, because they happened to control a modest
criminal empire themselves.
There were absolutely terrifying moments as well. I barely escaped an attempted
kidnapping while crossing from Honduras into Guatemala one night.
In Bahrain, driving around following the Arab Spring uprisings, I turned onto a
street and was indiscriminately fired upon by rioters with AK-47s. They even threw a
Molotov cocktail at me, or maybe it was at the police behind me who were firing tear
gas over my car. I never stopped to ask.
To be sure, I’ve had a great deal of fun, too. I have snowboarded on four different
continents, sledded in Antarctica, jumped off numerous waterfalls, scuba-dived off
countless coasts and gone on safaris in Africa.
Today I work as a senior analyst for Delta Air Lines in Paris, based at the Air
France KLM Headquarters, and I take advantage of the travel perks of working for an
airline whose reach extends across the globe.
Perhaps the most important trip I took was in 2011, when I went on a spontaneous
weekend jaunt from Hong Kong to Taiwan. That night, I was invited to a party where I
met a beautiful American girl.
My weekend trip turned into 10 days exploring the country with her.
I proposed to her on Easter in the City of Love, Paris, with the Eiffel Tower
looming over us. And last August, we got married.
My travels continue, but at a different pace. This year, I am excited to journey to
my 150th country, and now I have someone to share the world with. That is
the best adventure of all.
“I’ve had a great deal of fun. I have snowboarded on four
different continents, sledded in Antarctica, jumped off numerous waterfalls,
scuba-dived off countless coasts, and gone on safaris in Africa.”
Machu Picchu, Peru
I woke up at 3 a.m. and hiked up the mountain in the pitch
black from the town of Aguas Caliente to secure one of the limited entrance passes
to Huayna Picchu. The views were definitely rewarding, and I spent at least 13 hours
exploring (and relaxing with llamas!) at this World Heritage Site.
Antarctica, my seventh continent reached, surprised me with
its completely otherworldly beauty and rich wildlife — especially the penguins. I
swam in the freezing Antarctic Ocean surrounded by an active volcano, helped rescue
passengers of a ship stranded after it struck an iceberg, sledded down snow-covered
mountains, watched whales dance as I ate breakfast, visited scientific research
stations, and even had a barbecue one particularly “warm” day. It’s the adventurer’s
destination of a lifetime!
The Great Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt
A local Egyptian taught me the secret to seeing the pyramids —
go by horseback. We entered through a secret entrance and galloped through the
desert around the pyramids all day for the same price most tourists pay to enter the
“My travels have taken me to some very dark
corners of the world, but those corners always surprised me with their magnificent
natural beauty — and the beauty of the people who lived there.”
Mostar, Bosnia, and Herzegovina
One night I befriended several members of the Mostar Diving
Club. The next day I saw them jumping from the Stari Most Bridge, 86 feet down, into
the freezing cold river below. The bridge joins the Muslim and Christian sides of
Mostar, and remnants of the Bosnian conflict can be seen in the many bombed out,
bullet-hole-ridden buildings throughout the town. The first recorded instance of
someone diving from the bridge is from 1664. In Bosnian culture, the transition into
manhood is defined by a jump from this bridge. I just had to join them in this
tradition! (Yes, that’s me taking the plunge!)
DMZ and Pyongyang, North Korea
Our planet’s most isolated country truly exists in a world of
its own. I was lucky enough to be in the first group of Americans to visit North
Korea since Madeleine Albright’s 2000 visit. The country maintains a tight
choreography for its visitors. I’ll never forget the priceless looks we received
from the U.S. soldiers stationed in the South when we waved at them from the
North Korea’s Mass Games are held in May Day Stadium, which
seats more than 200,000, in the capital of Pyongyang. Some 100,000 children
performed in choreographed gymnastics, called Arirang, while another 20,000
kids held up cards in the background to create intricate and detailed background
murals. The children practice for more than a year for this performance.
I volunteered briefly at this Internally Displaced Persons
camp in North Kivu, and stayed in the town of Goma for over a week. Each day we
bought medical supplies for people desperately in need of help.
“Today I work as a senior analyst for Delta Air Lines in Paris,
based at the Air France KLM Headquarters, and I take advantage of the travel perks
of working for an airline whose reach extends across the globe.”
Another continent conquered! This breathtaking view of the
Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge is nothing less than iconic.
Kaieteur Waterfalls, Guyana
First you must charter a plane deep into the jungle of Guyana
to visit Kaieteur Waterfall, the world’s largest single-drop waterfall at 741 feet
The plane journey was incredibly beautiful, though when it was
time to leave the falls, I sat in the cockpit and saw up close how we barely made it
off the end of the runway, which ended at the cliff’s edge.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of
the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine.
Learn More about Georgia Tech's International Education
Georgia Tech offers more than 90 study abroad and work
abroad opportunities, and 30 faculty-led groups the world over, which is why 52
percent of our students travel overseas before they graduate.
We also offer an optional International
Plan that integrates overseas experiences, language proficiency, and
globally focused coursework into four-year degree requirements.