Why I count countries

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This post (likely) contains affiliate links, including Amazon Associates links, and I may receive a small commission if you click one. This is at no extra cost to you.

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.

Why I count countries wherecharliewanders.com

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. Get yours here!

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?

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11 comments
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11 comments

Treasured Travels March 27, 2018 - 7:44 pm

Ahh I’ve got the Travel Listography book too, love it! I want a pin map next xx

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Charlie - Reaching 30 before 30 March 27, 2018 - 7:47 pm

I’m getting so into writing the lists. Have only had it a week so trying to take it slow. My pin map – I am addicted to!

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Maria van Straaten March 29, 2018 - 9:56 pm

I have enjoyed reading your blog posts for a while now, therefore decided to nominate you for the Mystery Blogger Award! Hopefully you will accept the nomination, if not then takes this as a thanks for posting great content for many to read! Here is the link if you would to participate. https://travellingantics.com/2018/03/29/mystery-blogger-award/

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Kasia Writes June 20, 2018 - 5:59 pm

I count countries for similar reasons. There are few places that I have visited more than I can count. I often wish I went somewhere new instead of going back to the same place but if I had a good time then it’s not as important 😁

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Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders June 21, 2018 - 2:57 pm

Exactly!! I’ve tried hard to be too hard on myself if I return somewhere. I still have a different experience each time

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The Barefoot Backpacker December 26, 2018 - 5:22 pm

“The most important thing – just because I count countries doesn’t mean I feel that I have ‘done ‘that country.”

Quite 🙂

I don’t count countries, in part because I’m not quite sure how to define having visited a country (I spent 8 hours in Thailand moving from the Laos border to the Cambodia border by bus, minibus, and motorbike. Have I been to Thailand? I’ve certainly set foot in the place, I’ve eaten there …), and partly because I’m not quite sure how to define a country in the first place (Kosovo is dubious enough; Transnistria pushes the concept to its limits. And what about Gibraltar?!).

But like you, I guess it’s not “important” in the sense that it doesn’t define your travel career. I’ve been to the USA and Canada several times, but nearly always to completely different places (*). Comversely I’ve been to the same small town in Queensland Australia three times (I have a friend there). It’s all about new experiences for me, and the passing of time itself leads to new experiences, even in the same places.

(* – there is, of course, the granular level of ‘counting’ – one of my aims is to visit ever administrative county in the UK; there’s over 200 of them. This is my objection to people who say “ah you can’t say you’ve been to a country if you’ve only been to ‘x'”; at what point *have* you ‘visited’ a country? There isn’t a tipping point of ‘number of places’ or even ‘amount of time’ – I’ve never been to Rochdale or Londonderry; have I ‘been’ to the UK, despite living here for 43 years?! That’s why I count Thailand as per above!)

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Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 2, 2019 - 4:40 pm

I agree with a lot of this! I am going to be travelling a lot for work this year. But going to have very little time / if any time in the destinations. However, having given it quite a lot of thought ( I do tend to over think things!), I am going to count. Because, yes, technically I will have been there. And what it definitely does not mean, is that I will never go back because I have ‘been’ there.

The key difference is having ‘been’ rather than having ‘done’ . I don’t think you can ever ever ever have DONE a country. I define ‘being there’ as a passport stamp. I’ve been to Seoul airport, but would never say I have been to South Korea. Those who say they have are lying 😉

Equally I define a country as having it’s own ruling government, which gives me 196. But I would never really argue it, it’s all interpretive and that’s just my take 🙂
P.S I don’t think Gibraltar counts! I don’t count Scotland and Wales as it’s own country! (controversial!)

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Lauren February 28, 2019 - 4:28 pm

I never used to count countries until my friends and family started asking me how many I had been to. Since then, I’ve counted them and I enjoy reaching different milestones. Hitting 30 before 30 and when I reach 40 we’re pretty exciting to me!

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Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders February 28, 2019 - 7:39 pm

I love reaching milestones too! I totally get why it’s so exciting. I remember how I felt when I hit 40 last year. So much yay!!

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Steve Biggs April 15, 2019 - 2:40 pm

The Barefoot Backpacker beat me to it. “The most important thing – just because I count countries doesn’t mean I feel that I have ‘done ‘that country.” “Quite” as well 🙂 Somebody who’s been to 50 countries might be 10x less cultured and worldy-wise than someone who has visited and worked in just 5 countries. Also ‘country counting’ can get you dangerously close to checkbox ticking if a 30 minute detour means you can cross a border for 5 minutes just so you can add another country to the list. Then again – there are no rules but it’s funny that’s it’s a subject that can cause so much debate! I just feel very fortunate that as a westerner I have the funds and opportunities to see so much of the planet. Billions of people around the world will only ever get to see 1 country in their lifetime – their own 🙁

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Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders April 15, 2019 - 6:06 pm

Yes, there is definitely a danger! I think it’s fine to count as long as it doesn’t become the only reason to travel. If that makes sense? It is crazy how lucky we are!

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