Why I Don’t Count Countries

This is a question I see often from the travel groups I’m in. Someone will post “How many countries have you visited?” and piles of ladies respond with their numbers. Then there will be a debate about what counts and what doesn’t. Questions like, “Do you count it if you didn’t leave the airport?” run rampant as participants justify their country count. 

Here’s the thing. Just because you spent two days in Paris doesn’t mean you understand France, its people, or its culture. 

There are countries I’ve spent weeks in, and others only days. This makes the depth of my knowledge and understanding vastly different, and still minimal at best! Truthfully, even the places I’ve stayed for weeks, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

Questions like this leave me wondering, “Why do you travel?” I truly mean that as a total curiosity, not a sarcastic judgement. I know each of us has our own reasons for why we want to explore.

What’s your reason for wanting to see the world?

For the sake of curiosity, it forces me to examine my own motivations for travel. I have an adventurous spirit, so there’s the thrill of seeing new places, discovering a new city, and simply filling my senses with all of the new and unfamiliar things. It’s a total rush for me!

That’s what usually gets me to pull the trigger. As the trip gets closer, I usually get a little nervous and research the shit out of basic things like getting to my accommodation, navigating the transportation, and where I can find food. Yes, always food! You’ll never go hungry if you travel with me! 

amsterdam cheese market image
Always about the food! My husband calls me the Commander of Cheese…

Once I feel fairly confident that I can at least get to my accommodation, then it comes to the real stuff. While the thrill will get me to say “yes”, the best parts of my experience when I go aren’t the things you’d expect. I like to wander through the city, stopping for whatever catches my eye, on my way to some iconic historical or cultural attraction I want to visit. All of that happens between meals, because food is my jam and checking out the local cuisine is my favorite way to connect with a place. 

At the end of the day, I really want to get a sense of what it’s like to live there. I want to feel the rhythms of the city – this is why I LOVE walking the streets. Just to get a peek at what’s behind the scenes of these places I’ve heard about is exhilarating. I want to add layers and depth to the vague ideas and knowledge I have about a place. Who are the people and what are their lives like? How does that create this rich tapestry I get to experience in real time?

Maybe as the world has become more accessible we’ve lost our wonder for it?

This is why I don’t keep a running list of how many countries I’ve visited, because it’s really unimportant to me. I travel to explore, connect, and understand. There’s no quantifiable way to measure those experiences.

Your Turn

What gets you excited to explore the world? What experiences are most valuable to you?