Counting Countries … Should you?

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There is often a lot of debate amongst travelers about counting countries.  For some, their number is a badge of honor.  Others scoff and say they never really thought about it (liars!)

I count.  Even though I sometimes have to do math to remember my age, and I honestly don’t know the phone number for my work cell phone, I always know my country count.

But let’s be honest.  How is counting countries different than most other hobbies, passions, and past times?  Ask any runner about their PR (personal record) and they can tell you.  Many avid readers keep some sort of log or journal.  Any athlete can provide all kinds of stats and figures about their best and worst games / seasons.

Does it make a runner less of an a athlete because they know their personal stats?  Some would say that makes you a more serious runner …

Is a fulfilling 5km not meaningful because someone else did an ironman?  (For those not following the analogy I am comparing someone who stays in a country for a couple of months with those that just visit for the weekend).

My recent trip to Indonesia was 85. 

Now I should mention, not only is the counting itself controversial.  How you count is even more so…

The century travelers club counts any location with a distinct culture and history.  They also count all stops regardless of length (or if you leave the airport).  Using their rules I could count Alaska, Hawaii, Kenya, Peru, or Chile.  They also allow you to count Turkey twice for the both the European and Asia sides.  But I don’t.

However, I do count North Cyprus, Okinawa, Palestine, Hong Kong, Macau, and North Korea for the same logic.  Or in the case of North Korea, even though I barely stepped over the border for less than a minute, I know it is most likely my only way there.

The point is to get out there and see something different!

It is really no different than running or a host of other passions.  If you have the time and ability to train for a marathon – do it.  But if you can only make it out for a walk around the block – then do it.  If you can settle in a country for 6 months and immerse in the culture and develop lasting relationships – do it.  But if you only have the ability to visit a new city for a weekend – then do it.  It all counts.  And if you keep track of statistics along the way – it just means it is something that is important to you!

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