by Todd Romaine
|Are you a globetrotter?|
I am sure most of us have been asked at some point in our lives, ‘where have you travelled to before?’
Most people in the world never visit more than 2
countries in their lives. This obviously is different for people from
developed countries. Consider these statistics:
- In the United States, approximately 4 out of every 5 people at some point in their lives leaves the country usually for a visit to Mexico or Canada, and about 2 out of every 5 people in the US travel to at least 4 foreign countries in their lifetime.
- In Europe, where geographical real estate amongst the numerous countries is small, more of its citizens have travelled internationally and too multiple countries.
- On a global basis, the biggest travellers in the world hail from Germany and they happen to spend the most amount of money when they are overseas.
- The United States is 2nd, the United Kingdom is 3rd and Canada is a distant 8th.
Our obsession with counting
Keeping the track of the number of countries you have been to, for some, symbolizes a sense of personal accomplishment of being international/well-travelled/cosmopolitan.
For many travel enthusiasts, marking your travel is done simply by memory,
a physical map in your home office with pins indicating visits, or the
‘where have I been’ application in Facebook.
I confess that my brother and I had an immature contest going for many
years on who has travelled most extensively around the world. The common
benchmark was always the number of countries one would visit. I soon
became aggravated by this seemingly unfair tabulation as he would take a
cruise in the Caribbean for 6 days and cross off 3-4 countries with a
casual afternoon in the various ports walking along the beach with a beer
in his hand while I criss-crossed from Russia’s Far East to Russia’s Far
West (9 time zones) over a period of a month and would only get credit for
1 country. I guess the competition could be reconfigured in my favour to
base it on the number of miles we have traveled over the year but who
counts that stuff?!
Inevitably this general discussion leads to some technical unanswered inquiries and ensuing confusion on what constitutes being to a particular country. Some people count a brief stopover in a particular airport as a country, while others do not. Some people count a full day in a particular location as grounds for legitimacy while other use several days to a week to count it accordingly.
Guidelines for counting
Before you start counting, here are some ground rules to consider for counting or not counting a country in your travels:
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|Transiting in a foreign airport does not count if you do not get out of the plane or if your transit is confined to the airport. No, I am sorry but walking outside of the terminal where others are smoking or a block away does not count! This would fit into the category of ‘airport layovers’ but not countries visited. Bottom line, if you are not leaving the airport premise and immediate area you are not really seeing a country first hand. |
|In transit at Kuala Lumpur Airport|
|Transiting in a foreign airport, leaving the airport for a temporary period of time and making it down to the city/town’s central business district or surrounding suburbs does count towards your country count. Even if it is only 2-3 hours, you have been to that country, walked around, and were off airport grounds. It barely counts, but it does count.
|A whirlwind Paris layover counts|
|Transiting by train, car, or bus across another country but not leaving the train, car, or bus does not count as visiting that country. Yes I realize you were physically present when the train, car, or bus went through Luxembourg but you never got out, walked around, did normal stuff. |
|Does Luxembourg train station count?|
|Transiting by boat near the coastline of another country but not stepping foot in that country does not constitute visiting that country. If you went to shore for some time, walked around, saw people and buildings then this would barely constitute a visit, but a visit nonetheless.|
|Malta counts only if you go ashore|
|Flying over a country does not count. Even if you fly over in a small plane at low attitude and can make out details on the ground, flying over a country does not count. It does not count unless you land and leave the airport premises, ideally the nearby city/town central business district.|
|Monaco from the air does not count!|
|Islands that are not countries, count for countries if they are at a considerable distance (200 miles away) from the home country. So if you have previously been to the United Kingdom, and go to Guernsey or Jersey, this does not count as a separate country. However if you fly or sail to Bermuda, then this counts as a separate country, even though it belongs to the UK. Yes, Hawaii and the Cook Islands would count here. |
|You can count Bermuda|
|Regional autonomous areas / former countries count as countries – if you go to Tibet, consider this as additional country beyond China. It is at great distance from Beijing and therefore such a trip there warrants an additional count. Scotland, Wales, Western Sahara, Hong Kong, Macau, Greenland etc. constitute regional autonomous zones and count. Places like Texas, Alaska, Tasmania, Stewart Island or Nunavut do not count. |
|You bet, a visit to Tibet counts|
|Non-recognized legitimate states count in your calculation: Republic of Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Somaliland, Kosovo, Western Sahara while non-recognized non legitimate states do not count: Swan River, Sea Island etc. |
|A visit to Northern Cyprus counts|
|Antarctica counts as one country and even offshore islands that are owned by another country count as one country (South Shetland Islands, Bouvet Island, Heard Island etc.).|
|South Shetland Islands = Antarctica|
|The Vatican is considered a country and counts accordingly.|
Vatican City State, its official name, is a landlocked sovereign city-state within the city of Rome. The walled enclave territory has an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), making Vatican City smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world.
|Visit Italy and the Vatican = 2|
Go ahead and add up your numbers…what do you get?
Perhaps you've set a New Year's Resolution with regards to how many countries you will visit in the year ahead. Or maybe you have "bucket list" that you are tackling.
Whichever way you slice it, we're interested in hearing what pin, or pins, will you add to your 'places visited' travel map this year?