2006 2007… 2009 when I decided this was to be a blog teaching others how to travel smarter I wanted to also give foXnoMad, this site, a story as well. Around that time, I set the goal to visit every country in the world, with no particular end date. It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on that particular journey of mine, so here’s the latest.
How Do I Count?
One of the first responses if this goal of mine comes up is: how many countries are there? Well, it depends on who you ask. The United Nations recognizes 195, the International Olympic Committee 206, not to mention there are a number of widely unrecognized states as well.
Originally I had been using a map on the now defunct website Trav Buddy which abruptly shutdown last year. Prior to that, the first thing I would do when I got to my accommodation in a new country would be to check it off on the site. A small act to note the personal achievement.
Since the loss of that site (it was terrible but at least kept a record of everywhere I had been), I created another map of where I’ve been. The interface of that map though isn’t great – there’s no grand list of countries on the user interface – and after reviewing it now, some countries were missing. Relying so heavily on Trav Buddy wasn’t the best idea because it couldn’t be backed up and served as my memory for a long time.
As this journey has progressed (I’ve been to around 90 official and de-facto nations) the world has, to my eyes, become a lot smaller. There’s a bigger truth of the natural world we humans overlay with lines on a map, although they often delineate cultural or political differences, can be more arbitrary as well.
Do the sea lions in Galapagos know they’re in Ecuador? Of course not and it’s not very obvious to visitors either. Ecuador has done a very good job of preserving the environment in the Galapagos Islands, but if Mexico took over and did just as good a job would it really matter? Taking a trip to Quito would have checked the Ecuador box, including Galapagos by default. And it would have been missing the most amazing ecosystems I have seen during my travels.
Goal Still Set
There are many other examples of this I’ve witnessed. Seattle is very different than Miami so when I see people making the news for visiting every country in record time, I know they’ve not seen much of anything other than airports. The opposite side of the coin being having a long-term goal to visit every country means I’ve gone to places I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
Frequently, places I’ve not had a prior interest to go have turned out to be some of my favorites. Macedonia would have been put off. I would have missed this. Craiova, I hadn’t heard of it prior to the 2014 Best City Contest. The best bar in the world might be in Montevideo. Asuncion has the world’s most conspicuous electronics black market.
Before I go somewhere, I’ve either got a story in mind or one to find. For the former, lines on a map aren’t usually relevant but for the latter, they might get me somewhere to learn something I didn’t know, that I didn’t know.
And hopefully along the way, in words and video, I am able to share those lessons with you.