The act of keeping track of the no. of countries one have visited, without considering if anything was actually experienced while there.
After working as a travel photographer for almost ten years, it comes pretty natural to have been in quite a few countries. And one of the most common questions I get is “How many countries have you visited?” For those who ask, I always give the same answer; I don’t know.
From time to time, I run into a traveler online with “X countries and counting!” in the profile description. Or, some new world record being broken - most countries visited during 24 hours. At first, it seems like a succinct way to measure your travel accomplishments. But if you scratch just a little on the surface - what does it really mean?
If you look at it that way, you have visited a country when you put one of your feet on the ground at the airport. Done. Let’s go back inside the plane and take off to the next one!
A nation is not the ground it is built on, as little as your home is just four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. It is the people walking on the ground and their faith and culture. It is the steam and smell from the pots cooking in the kitchen. It is the smiles and kisses that you exchange. It is the sunsets and sunrises shining through the windows. It is the conversations and new insights that you’ll get when you start to explore.
For me, visiting a hundred countries means nothing by itself. To live a destination, you will have to go outside your all-inclusive hotel - with the same food as you will get at a decent buffé restaurant at home and where everyone has painted on their smiles and bows in the morning and says “good day, Sir“!
You’ll have to open the windows of your air-conditioned mini-van and smell the fruits and dust and dung along the way.
Go talk to the lady frying Pad Thai across the street from the local 7-11, even if you can’t speak the same language.
Or pet a street dog. Most of them don’t have anything that will kill you. I petted a hundred during my last trip and I am still alive and kicking.
Because if you don’t, you are just doing the exact same thing as you do at home. Only difference is that, you just paid a thousand bucks for it this time.
Don't mind the no of countries you've visited. Mind the no. of countries you've experienced!
Who’s countring anyway?