We’re sure you have all heard of counting calories, but how about counting countries? We have been a part of the travel blogging community for about 9 months now and can’t help but notice a recurring theme among our fellow globetrotters: Tallying up the number of countries one has been to and proudly telling anyone and everyone.
Now, we completely understand the good intentions behind declaring this stat. After all, having been to 52* countries is a huge feat, and one heck of an accomplishment. In fact, Shelly totally has one of those scratch-off maps that keeps track of where you’ve visited. It’s just fun and hey, sometimes we do like to brag about all the cool and different places we’ve been!
We just don’t think it should be the main point of focus while traveling. And here’s why:
Strive to seek a new culture or experience, NOT a new number
We aren’t into going somewhere just to add a new country to our list. You won’t see any “50 by the time we’re 50” proclamations here. Instead, our goal is to see how long we can stay in a foreign country rather than how quickly we can bag the next one.
There’s a massive grey area in counting countries
Do hours spent in a car/train/bus passing overland count?
Does spending half a day in an airport mean we get to tick off another place on our “countries visited” list?
Should we only count countries if we’ve spent a certain amount of time in them (for example, more than three days)?
Do we count Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland separately or simply leave it as the UK?
For the love of God, can we include Vatican City or not?!
See what we mean? In searching for the answers to these questions we stumbled across this website noting that there are a total of 324 countries and territories. If you look at it closely, you’ll see places like Alaska and Hawaii on the list. How does that even make sense? There are quite a few different sites out there which state how many countries should or should not be included in such lists. This number can easily be inflated or deflated based on which group you refer to at the time.
Having a low country count doesn’t make you any less of a traveler
Just because you have a low count, doesn’t mean you are any less cultured. In fact, it could mean just the opposite. Sure, maybe you’ve only been to 5 countries, however you traveled them thoroughly and have felt what it’s like to be a part of that culture. After all, wouldn’t you agree that living somewhere versus traveling to that location gives you a much greater insight into the people, customs and way of life?
Fellow blogger and fearless female Lucy of Lucy’SmilesAway said it best:
“Travel shouldn’t be a competition, it’s just about enjoying it! I spent the last six months thoroughly and slowly exploring India which I think is just as cool as seeing thirty countries”
We couldn’t agree more, Lucy! We recently spent 3 months living in Prague and felt our views of the city would be drastically different if we’d only stayed for a few days. We got to experience different seasons, delve deeper into Czech customs, and even began learning the language (which is like trying to learn how to write calligraphy with a blindfold and your hands tied behind your back). Try doing that on a brief visit!
We don’t mind going back to the same country twice
Have you ever thought, “Oh I’ve already been to France, so I shouldn’t go there again since it’s not a new country.” Sadly, this thought has (fleetingly!) crossed our minds. And it’s flat out ridiculous.
Yes, we’ve already been to Norway. But did we get to see the incredible beauty of the Northern Lights? No. Did we have the chance to have coffee at a tiny shop in a town that rarely sees English speakers? No. Would we like to go back to Norway? Absolutely!
We don’t want getting caught up in the numbers game to dissuade us from seeing more of a country we’ve already been to.
As someone who loves being organized almost as much as Monica Gellar, Shelly can definitely be a bit of a list ticker. Sometimes it just feels so good to cross a destination off your list! However, we’re hell bent on combating this urge and letting travel happen organically. Our preferred style of exploration is one in which we can truly understand and embrace the culture of the place we are visiting. We would rather KNOW a country rather than just have been to it.
Recently, we were told about an article out there in which a traveler mentions that he determines how well he’s traveled a country by the amount of locals who would make an effort to see him if he returned. How cool is that? What a unique way to classify your travels by!
All of this being said, we realize most travelers don’t just put one foot on either side of a border in order to check off the two countries they just “visited.” Nevertheless, it can be super easy to get caught up in the numbers, especially if that’s a selling point to potential sponsors. But don’t you ever look back and think, “Ugh, I wish I’d seen more and really gotten to know that country?”
*We made this number up. We have not been to 52 countries, and we definitely didn’t take this specifically from someone’s site!
Okay so now that you’ve heard our thoughts on the matter, we want to know yours! Do you keep a country count? How do you keep track of when a country should be added or not? Feel free to brag all you want about how many you’ve been to in the comments section below 😉
Jimmie & Shelly
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