Within the travel sphere, there seems to be strong opinions on the habit of counting the countries you’ve been to. Some people seem to base their travels on ticking off countries from a bucketlist, whereas others will roll their eyes and lecture you if the topic arises.
I get why people who hate counting countries get so annoyed. You can’t really ‘tick off’ a country ever, even if you’ve lived there for years. Realistically, you can never do ‘everything’ in a place. But I still think there is nothing wrong with a desire to see the world and if counting countries helps you do that, then by all means go for it.
There’s this perception that ‘real’ travellers don’t count countries. They travel organically and float country to country submerging themselves into the everyday culture gaining a truly authentic experience. The travellers who do count on the other hand are simply doing it for the passport stamp and bragging rights, likely not leaving the confides of the resort.
Of course these stereotypes aren’t necessarily true and in my opinion you can be a combination of both – or neither!
What’s My ‘Number’?
I’ve been to 33 countries to date and have given myself the personal goal of visiting 50 before I’m 30 (only 3 years to go – tick tock!). Since setting this challenge, I have still visited countries I have previously already been to.
I am by no means going to write off a country just because I must visit a new place so I can achieve my goal. Rather, it’s something I aspire to and it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t reach no.50. I like to know where I have been, and keeping track of countries by counting helps.
I don’t necessarily agree with travels being dictated by the sole aim of ticking off a place – but I’m sure that’s rarely the case. Even if it was the initial goal, a visitor will no doubt leave a place having learnt something or experienced a least a part of the culture or sites of a destination, and truly, that is the main thing.
… But I Don’t Want To Go Everywhere
I don’t however aspire to visit every country in the world. This may be surprising to hear considering I am counting them.
For personal, political and humanitarian reasons, there are some countries I want to avoid. A personal boycott you could perhaps call it (at least until some leaders and governments sort their country’s sh*t out!).
So considering I don’t want to, (and probably physically can’t) visit all 169 countries, why specifically do I still count countries then?
1. It Helps My Travel ‘Career’
It’s still very much early days for me, but channelling my love of travel into starting this blog has already opened up a huge amount of doors for a side career (maybe one day full-time career?) I adore.
Blogging firstly helped me to get a writing job for the female online magazine Travelettes. It has been an awesome platform for me to make contacts and expand my knowledge of the industry, all the while gaining experiences such as being flown on sponsored trips and scoring free hotel stays. It has also allowed me to gain a portfolio for paid freelance writing and social media management gigs.
Realistically, the more countries you visit, the more credibility you gain as a ‘travel expert’ or ‘travel writer’. It’s important to the readers, clients and even your colleagues to prove that you at least vaguely know what you’re talking about. If you’ve never left your home country yet write about worldwide travel, will anyone truly take you seriously?
If you can prove that you’re well-travelled by providing ‘a number’, it intrigues people and adds that little bit more professionalism and authenticity to your work.
2. I Like Having Goals and Motivations
My best friend and I joke that we have split personalities, and she’s not entirely wrong. Without goals and motivations I’m the kind of person who could waste days scrolling on social media, reading endless blog posts and planning fictional entrepreneurial projects that never materialise.
But then there’s the obsessively hard-working side that makes watching even one programme on TV feel like the worst crime in the world. ‘You should be doing something useful and productive you lazy shit!’ it cries. To keep the self-loathing imposter away, as dramatic as it sounds, I have to set goals (and hit them), to make myself feel better about life.
One thing I’ve learnt about myself recently, is that goal setting is actually a weird form of relaxation. That of course, by default, includes my travelling!
3. It Inspires Others
Whenever the topic of travel arises, I’m always careful to avoid sounding like I’m bragging. Luckily, I’ve always been met with incredible support and enthusiasm when discussing the number of countries I’ve been to.
I love chatting to people who have never travelled or those who don’t travel any more, and seeing their eyes light up. I love seeing that ‘click’ in people’s head when they realise they too can travel like me, if they really want to.
The comments on my blog posts saying that I’ve inspired someone to consider a country they may not have previously, are some of my favourite. It’s a big part of why I blog. Sharing knowledge from a country I’ve been to and someone telling me they’ve found it useful is incredibly rewarding.
4. It Allows Me To Reflect
I want to look back at my life and have not only achieved some badass things in my career, I also want to have gained memories that fill me with happiness. I want to ensure I don’t take this beautiful and fascinating planet for granted. I want to explore new places and learn as much as I can. Counting countries allows me to see that I’m doing just that.
I am grateful to have the ability and means to travel in a world where so many people can’t. I wear the number of countries I’ve visited like a personal badge to remind me of this.
5. I’m a Sucker For a List
Come to my house and you will find multiple notepads with long lists in pretty much every room (and then there are my phone notes..!) ‘To do’ lists, shopping lists, blog title lists, foods I need to try lists, bands I need to listen to lists – you name it, I’m pretty sure I will have a list for it.
There’s nothing more satisfying then getting a nice black pen and putting a fat line through a point. If I can work my way down until that bad boy is all completed – then hell, that’s pretty much my week made. Sad, I know!
There’s actually an app called ‘Been’ that you can download to track the countries you have visited. Though the one downside to this app is that it make you realise how much of the world map is still blank (i.e. countries you haven’t visited!)
For me, counting countries is fun, therapeutic and a useful way to keep track of the adventures I’ve had in both my personal and professional life.
What’s your take on counting countries? Do you do it? Do you hate it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!