I recently had the opportunity to travel to Havana, Cuba for the first time (stay tuned for photos and recommendations). In addition to being an awesome experience, I am excited because this makes an even 75 countries by my count.
What do I mean by “my count?” Since I am not in a race, and it is not a checklist, I am probably stricter than most when it comes to counting.
Some believe you can count it if you leave the airport – but I don’t count Kenya. While we technically left the airport, and were there for about 12 hours, we only traveled across town from the regional airport to the international airport. I didn’t see anything, meet anyone, learn anything…
Some have told me that it counts if you have a meal – but I don’t count Chile or Peru where I had extended layovers but never left the airport.
The Traveler’s Century Club counts additional territories “because they are removed from the parent country, either geographically, politically or ethnologically” which means I can count Alaska, Hawaii, and Turkey twice for the European side and the Asian side… while I agree they are unique cultures, I am not sure how I feel about counting them separately…
But truth in advertising (and sometimes there is no rhyme or reason) – I count North Korea even though I have only been over the border for less than a minute. If it were any other country, I would not count it. But it is North Korea, and the opportunity to see more is really really slim (plus it was on a tour so I spent the day learning about the country, history, relationship with the South etc…). I count the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which is not recognized by the UN or any country other than Turkey. I don’t currently count Palestine, although I probably should. I count each of the countries in the United Kingdom separately and I count Guam even though it is a territory of the United States.
And I am not sure you how you count countries that are no longer countries or separate territories. I was in Czechoslovakia before it became Czech and Slovakia. And I have since been to both Czech and Slovakia. Does that count as two or three? I was in both Berlin and East Germany before reunited as Germany. Does that count as one, two or three? But for the purposes of counting, they both only count once.
With the more liberal counting, I am probably closer to 82 countries or even 85.
And while I am excited, I am not bragging. My point is, don’t fixate on the number – it is obviously not an exact science. Concentrate more on having experiences, growing and getting off the couch. In December I went to Logan Circle DC for the first time. It is less than five miles from my front door. I loved it, and went three times in just a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait to show my mom next time she comes to visit. In April, I will meet my mother in New York. I have been several times before but I am eager to see some things I have never done before (stay tuned). I have never been to Atlantic City and really want to go for a girl’s weekend. It is only three hours from DC (Ya Ya!)
You can spend 3 hours in a place or 3 years in a place and never see and learn it all. I often find that as a traveler, I have seen (and learned about) more of a city or country than the locals. Some travelers stick to the tourist sights. That is ok. They are famous for a reason. Some bloggers are quick to criticize anyone that doesn’t get “off the beaten path.” This is obviously a wonderful way to see another dimension of a place and meet those outside the city and tourism industry. But there is no one right way. And ever experience will be different.
It doesn’t have to count in order to count. Everything counts! Put down your phone and go exploring!! (Or better yet, take your phone with you and send me some photos and let me know how about your trip!)