Ask people who are enthusiastic about travel the places they’d like to see and you’ll often hear city after city only for the person to realize, “I want to go everywhere!” After having a similar conversation like this recently I began to wonder, is it humanly possible to see the entire world in a single lifetime?
What Is Seeing The World?
In this rather unscientific approach, let’s define “the entire world” as all of the cities with a population of 500,000 or more. That leaves us with approximately 1,000 cities. Let us also add a quarter of that for smaller cities that you might want to happen upon and another 250 places that aren’t cities all together (i.e. Grand Canyon). So, for the purposes of this little mind experiment, we’ve got a world that comprises 1,500 places to see.
How Long Are We Staying In Each Place?
There is a lot of debate on how long you need to be somewhere to “really” see a place. I think a week is a good average time to become familiar with a city (especially the smaller ones) and plan excursions outside of town. Due to travel time, I’m going to add 1 day of travel between each city. That equates to 8 days (7 per place and 1 day of traveling) for each destination in the world you’ll be visiting.
The Length of Time For The Entire Trip
In order to see 1,500 places and stay a week at each plus the added days for travel to and from each destination it would take 12,000 days, which is 1,714 weeks or 32.9 years. If a traveling lifetime starts at age 20 and goes through 80 you can see the whole world with quite a few years to spare. Now if you include all of the towns in the world with populations 100,000 and over that’s 3,200 destinations. Using the same traveling criteria it would take you 3,657.14 weeks or 70.3 years to see it all.
A Thought Experiment
This is all theoretical however and assumes an infinite budget, no health issues, and non-stop traveling to see as much as possible in a lifetime. In reality these numbers are probably very optimistic and would only be met if you were actively seeking to beat a record. You now however have a better idea of how long and possible (or not) it might be to “see it all” although I don’t think it will stop any of you from trying.
As far as how much the total trip would cost, well, that’s a much more difficult calculation I won’t even attempt.
[photos by: JasonRogersFotographie, sean dreillinger]
I do remember this conversation! DC Travel Meet-Up FTW!
I suppose, that like everything else in life, a lot of travel is about priorities. I often say that I want to “go everywhere” but I know that in reality I probably won’t. But I also think that quality of travel is a lot more important than quantity of places visited, so I would rather spend a month chilling on the beach in thailand then rush every which way to check things off my “list.”
Personally I like that it’s virtually impossible to see it all. There’s always a long list of places and peoples to see and only a finite time do select what you want to do. I agree with you though, it’s not a race.
I have done maths like this as well in discussions. There are a list of the 1000 best things to see at Hillman Wonders which I see as a good working list of interesting sites to visit – a mix of cities, small villages and natural locations and parks. All up your maths shows that it is important to seelct our desired locations carefully as we basically cannot see the world in a lifetime.
Seeing the 1,000 would be a challenge. I wonder when and if someone will attempt a record like that some day. If it ever happens I think it would be an interesting book to read 🙂
Hmmm, interesting post, Anil. I don’t think I have ever wanted to go everywhere. Aside from the fact that I think some places need more than one week, there are certain cities I would skip altogether. In New Zealand, for example, I didn’t think any of the cities were worth more than a day or two but the countryside has months, if not years, worth of places to explore and enjoy.
Lately I’ve been interested in the various physical limitations that travelers face. It’s come up in the comments and some discussions recently and it’s been intriguing to try and find what travelers simply can’t do due to age, health, or other circumstances.
Like you say though, there are probably lots of places not worth a week and I know there are many more that deserve much longer. Fun to dable in the not-really-scientific experiment though 🙂
I’m one of those travelers who wants to go everywhere. I’ll die trying as I intend to travel until the very end of my days. Having said that, the word “everywhere” means “as much as I can see” to me.
I wouldn’t want to see “the world”. That would be like ticking off a list of places just to say you’ve been there. I’d much rather pick and choose, return to some favourites and occasionally push the comfort levels of travel. Besides, there are places that don’t interest me at all. I’d rather take a trip into space once that becomes an option.
Space, yes I’m there in a second and would love for it to be possible in our lifetimes (fingers crossed!) For me personally I always feel there’s a clock ticking, so much to do so little time. A few of my posts over the past few months have revolved around aging, maybe it’s my subconscious talking.
There are very few places I DON”T want to see! My biggest problem is making up my mind where to go next. One day I think it’s South America, the next it’s Borneo. Hopefully, this indecision doesn’t just paralyze me into staying home. Ha! Not likely.
I’m exactly the same way. I want to go everywhere, it’s probably why I always plan absolutely last minute, to keep my options open 🙂
I have done the math and realized i have to pick my battles, becasue seeing the world, one of my most important goals in life, is too much, since i love to spend a long long time in each place to feel it inside and out. some places, i could see just wizzing by, but the majority of the places i’d really like to stay for a while
so for now, i’m picking certain spots that strike me as what inspires me, and hope that my kids will enjoy traveling with me!!!
I’m sure they will 🙂
I feel dizzy at the thought – can’t we just enjoy things in slow time and live in the moment. Having said that my husband does collect countries by alphabet – I think he may still be looking for a Q or a Z.
haha, looks like Qatar and Zimbabwe are on the list!
I say quality over quantity.
Hey Anil, to quote one of your previous recommendations: Break the bigger problem down to smaller ones. So I have mini goals: A 4 month long trip by 2011, 13 visas in my passport by 2013, every continent by the age of 35, etc. Until then, I just satisfy my curiosities by reading blogs. 🙂
I like your thinking 🙂 I’ve sectioned off my goals into regions, ready to see the world a little at a time. I like your continent goal especially.
What about visiting every country in the world for a week?
Let’s say you were to go to all of the sovereign states in the world (207) for 1 week with a day in between for travel; it would take roughly 4.5 years. But if you add 2 days each for layovers and rest, about 6.2 years. A long and tiring journey 🙂
One more thing to consider is that there are countries that would require visas. I live in the Philippines and several countries require Filipinos to have visas.
Absolutely one more thing to consider.
Though its my dream and I can do anything to fulfill it xD I would love to spent so many years 🙂