“And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may ask yourself – how did I get here?”
Talking Heads, from their song Once in a Lifetime
So many countries, so little time! I’ve been talking about my ‘fun travel challenge’ for a while now. Having come across writer Ann Morgan’s ‘Reading the World in a Year’ project, and having an unaccustomed amount of free time on my hands as I recover at home from a recent surgical operation, I was inspired to share it here. My fun personal goal is to visit 100 countries by the time I’m 50.
The numbers are fairly arbitrary, but I find them appealing: there are approximately 200 countries in the world, so 100 is about half of them, and I’ve always said I intend to live to be at least 100 years old, so in half my lifetime I’d like to travel to half our planet’s nations. Given my advancing age – I’m getting to the point where I genuinely (deliberately?) can’t remember my age sometimes, but I’m pretty sure I’m 47 – and my current country total (67 or 68, depending on what I decide about Luxembourg), I may be submitting a personal request to myself for extra time. But for the moment, I’m going to humour myself by sticking to the round numbers.
What are the rules of my game? I’ll probably make them up as I go along. Here’s where I’ve got to so far:
- Establishing what counts as a country and what doesn’t is surprisingly controversial. For instance, is Wales a separate country or is it part of the UK? What about Macao? The Falklands? I’ve decided to plump for the list of countries recognised by The United Nations, which does not include dependencies or territories. That rules out Macao, a dependent overseas territory of China. And the Falkland Islands, which, while being a self-sufficient country with the right to self-determination, are a British overseas territory. Though not according to Argentina, which raises another complicated issue, that of disputed sovereignty … While England, Scotland and Wales are considered to be individual countries, they are also all part of the United Kingdom (at least for now), which is a European country (again, for now!) so it only counts as one.
- Following on from the above, what happens if things change? So for instance in the 1980s I went to south eastern Europe when Yugoslavia was still a country. What about East and West Germany? For the moment I’ll just stick to the list as it stands, but we’ll see how things evolve.
- And what constitutes ‘visiting’ a country? I’m pretty clear that landing in an airport doesn’t count. Do I have to have stayed overnight? Initially I was leaning towards ‘yes’ on this point but have decided that it’s not essential. Passing through official passport control seems to be unarguable, but then I did once spend an afternoon in Myanmar (Burma) having crossed a very unofficial border post from Thailand – things were noticeably different on the other side but I certainly didn’t get a visa or a passport stamp! I have been hankering for years to see Myanmar properly, but it does seem odd to deny that I’ve been already, albeit in a very small way. So I think I’ll have to make up my mind on these issues on a case-by-case basis.
For each country, I want to write a brief blog post to capture a few impressions the place left with me. This could be quite a feat of memory in some cases! I’ll be raiding my box of old travel notebooks … I’ll also give some highlights of culture, nature, food and drink and anything else that occurs to me, to give brief pointers to anyone considering visiting that country. I welcome comments and input from other travellers who’ve visited the countries, or indeed from people who live there. I’d also love to read about others who have done similar things, so please do post any exciting links you find.
If you liked this, you might also like:
- My post on travelling: Why go anywhere?
- Nomadic Matt’s website – this guy has been travelling for years and has one of the most visited travel blogs/websites, well worth checking out for travel tips, especially for aspiring backpackers. It’s a beautiful looking site too, very inspiring!
- 12 HRS, a lovely glossy site giving guides of where to go and what to do in a whole range of cities. Will be testing out their Copenhagen post on the ground in a couple of weeks!
- Adventure Journal, a site with some really interesting and quite different travel writing, as well as travel tips and news
And I’ll keep a list here of the country posts as I write them too!While I’m not doing an alphabetical ‘tour’, I’ve kicked off with A for:
- #1 Austria: Ski Disasters and the sound of music
- #2 Mexico: Surrealism, skeletons and pyramids
- #3 Crossing the Bridge: Sweden, scandi noir and leather trousers
- #4 The world’s most hygge city: Copenhagen and Denmark
- #5 Tango, glaciers and cowboys: Argentina
- #6 Egypt: The Blue Vase
- #7 Food, fizz, chateaux and a certain je ne sais quoi: France
- #8 Church hopping in Kiev: Ukraine
- #9 Same same but different: Thailand
- #10 Into the centre of the earth: Iceland
- #11 Golden Gate City – San Francisco, USA
- #12 Church hopping in Lebanon
- #13 Time for a party: Carnival and more in Brazil