I should start by saying that I am fully aware that without counting countries the premise behind this blog would be null and void. For a full list of the countries I have been to have a look here.
But what was the reason I started doing this in the first place?
Fundamentally – curiosity. I had read an article on a woman who had set herself a goal of visiting 30 countries before she turned 30 (yes, this did spark my goal and blog) and wanted to see where I was. At this point (aged 24) it was 18.
So writing down a list of the countries I have been to seemed natural to me. It meant I was able to set myself a goal – my goal of visiting 30 countries before I was 30. And once I had achieved that it just seemed natural to carry on. Being able to say how many countries I have been to is something I enjoy, and find it often a bit of a talking point.
I am kind of person who is goal orientated and I love nothing more than ticking things off a list. Often I write items on a to list after I have done them, just so I can cross it off.
Therefore, I do have a ‘bucket list’ list as well, obviously, and nothing thrills me more than moving one from the ‘to go’ list to the ‘have been’ list on my notes section on my phone.
How has my view point on counting changed?
It did get to the point where if I knew I had been to that country before I would be very reluctant to go back and this was something I made a conscious effort to change. I realised how limiting and blinkered this was making my travel. Yes, I have technically been to Greece but does a week in a sailing resort and a girls trip to Zante mean I shouldn’t go back? Absolutely not!
Now I have created two lists (see I told you I love lists). A country list and a places or experiences list. Things in this second list include visiting a Christmas market and seeing the Northern lights.
I was given the book ‘Travel Listography‘ for my birthday and I am loving filling it with list after list of things I want to see and do. Starting to feel I may never get to the end! It also has lists for places you have been – if you are anything like me I can’t recommend enough!
I also now have relaxed about feeling like I am ‘wasting’ my annual leave or even my money on going back to somewhere like Menorca for the 5th time. Anytime spent doing something you love, is time well spent. I tend to over think things a lot, so have made a real conscious effort to not give myself a hard time over things like this.
How else do I track the countries I have been?
One of my favourite ways of doing this is my world map bin board. I love this thing and stare at is obsessively.
Putting new pins in is the one thing I look forward to when I get back from a trip. It means I can chart somewhere new I have been, even if I have been to that country before.
And of course I have other ways, my scratch map and my cross stitch map. So now, when I visit somewhere new all I have to do is add the country to the list, tick it off on Been, add the pins in, put in a cross stitch and scratch the area off. Not much then.
The most important thing?
To me, now, is to enjoy travel. I have found there can be a lot of judgement over how someone travels, whether they count countries or not, whether they travel deep or visit 3 countries in 10 days.
I don’t think it matters, time is often a constraint so do what feels right. There are some places I am dying to go back to and will never tire of, New York for example. Others where I know I have only been for a few days and am aware it’s unlikely I will ever get the chance to go back to. So in this case is whistling through a few key places the worst thing in the world?
The most important thing – just because I count countries doesn’t mean I feel that I have ‘done ‘that country. You can’t have ever ‘done’ a country. It isn’t about crossing it off the list, there is always more that place can give. But it doesn’t mean you have to go back. There is no right or wrong.
Do what is right for you; count, don’t count. It’s all the same – Count memories, count places and count countries.
Do you count countries? If so why? And if not, why not?