Do you count the number of countries visited?

In the world of travel blogging it is very common to see people say they are on a mission to visit every country in the world or their bio proudly lists the number of countries they have visited with a row of flags. It often leads me to think about how many I have been to, and what this means for my travel plans.

The number of countries I have visited to at the time of writing is a fairly low 8. But what exactly counts as visiting a country?

Image courtesy of Paula May on Unsplash

I can say for sure I have spent time sightseeing and stayed overnight in England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Paris, the United States and Canada.

If I include the country I live in (Australia) then it is 9.

Then do you include countries you have stopped over in? I have spent a few hours in Changi Airport, Singapore so technically I have “been” there but I wouldn’t say I have visited it.

Airport stop-overs are easy to characterise in this way, but then what about Canada where I’ve only stayed a few nights in Toronto.. it is such a huge country that visiting one city almost feels the same as stopping by the airport.

I am all for travel statistics, they are fun and even more interesting when you start adding maps and graphs.. but I feel like you should never use them to compare yourself to others. A simple number doesn’t tell you how much you have explored, or how awesome your adventure was.

The world is also not broken up into even squares that are equally accessible. I can spend hundreds of dollars to get on a plane and travel for a few hours and not only still be within my own country, but not have even left my own state! In Europe you can hop on a train and go through a couple of countries before bedtime.

I have also traveled across the US for over three months combined and experienced over 25 states each with a huge variety of landscapes and cultures yet it’s still just the ‘one’ country. A simple number doesn’t quantify how much time and effort you have spent exploring, nor should it.

While I also think it is amazing that some people want to dedicate their life to visiting every country in the world, it just isn’t something that appeals to me. There are quite a lot of places that would be difficult, or even dangerous to visit, not to mention how much time and money is involved. It may be my perfectionist nature but if I can’t tick them ALL off then why bother counting!

I also wonder if the pursuit of visiting as many countries as possible comes with a risk of not fully enjoying or experiencing the countries you can get to. I am currently planning a trip to Scandinavia (which will add at least 5 more countries to my list *phew*), and I have come across some day/overnight tours and cruises to nearby countries. It is tempting to think that while I am in Helsinki I could pop over to St Petersburg and “tick Russia off the list” but the reality is I’m likely to only have one or two full days in Finland. It comes down to the decision to spend that time more fully exploring and enjoying one city rather than cramming in only a few things for the sake of more travel to another place I can also only visit for a short time.

In summary of course it is cool to keep a tally of different places I have been, but it isn’t something I let worry me too much.

How many countries have you been to?

Categories: Daydreaming, Travel Planning

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8 replies »

  1. I totally agree with you. I made a list few weeks ago and I visited 25 countries. It is a lot easier to reach higher number if you live in Europe and you can easily get around and do lots of weekends trips. In the end the only thing that matter are you experiences in the places you do visit.

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  2. Thank you! this constant pressure of quantity over quality gets to us… Like the USA, India (where we live) is a huge country. We’ll be lucky to be able to see the whole of it in our lifetime! So, this constant fascination of going abroad and counting countries is beyond our understanding…

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  3. Totally agree, and I wrote a similar post recently. I would absolutely include Canada – at the end of the day, you could have gone to say, Toronto AND Montreal, but your experience would have been completely different to if you had gone to the Rockies or Vancouver. You could have gone to all 4 of those, and it would still be totally different to further north. Doesn’t mean you haven’t visited the country though. 🙂 What I do hate is when people say things like “oh, I’ve been to Toronto, I’ve done Canada now” – like NO! I think people should count if they want to, but NOT make that part of why they travel otherwise I think the experience loses its value a bit.

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  4. I’ve been to 18 countries now but I think “been to” is the key word there. I do think some people think they’ve “done” a country once they’ve been to it once but as you say, some places are so big and diverse that you can’t have possibly experienced a country in one visit.

    In a lot of cases too it’ll only be the capital city that people have been to and you quickly find a very different country when you get outside of the capital. I’m not sure any capital is reflective of the country as a whole.

    Whether you count or not, I think the important thing is we continue to travel and see the world 🙂

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  5. I have an app (‘Visited’) that helps me keep track of countries I have been to but really its a pointless exercise for all the reasons you mention. I have apparently been to 33 countries (including the UK where I live) but Sweden is ticked because I spent a day working there and it was so foggy I saw nothing. The list includes Canada but, like you, I have only seen a fraction of it. Nonetheless, the app does highlight (with a map) major regions I have yet to visit such as South America so it does at least remind me (admittedly, rather needlessly) that there is still a lot of travelling to do.

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  6. Hmm this is interesting! Whenever I start counting the countries I’ve been to I get confused. To be honest I much rather prefer counting cities…not because I have a number to reach, but it makes more sense to me to count the memories in a way. I don’t count airports if I haven’t seen anything outside of them.

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