“How many countries have you visited?” This is a question I get often. Honestly, I don’t know the answer. It doesn’t matter. The world isn’t a checklist.
Counting countries has never appealed to me. When I visit a new country, it’s not another trophy for the shelf but an opportunity to experience the world in a different way. It’s a chance to have fun, learn, and explore! Travel is about embracing new experiences and allowing them to shift my perspective, not collecting countries. The positive impacts international travel has had on my life will never be found in the answer to the question, “how many countries have you visited?” Ever.
You’ll have more memorable, life-changing experiences by being present wherever you find yourself than someone who runs through the world just checking items off a list. If you’ve been a part of conversations about counting countries and walked away feeling “less than” or like you’ve missed something, you haven’t. Counting countries is only one way of approaching travel and it completely disregards some of the biggest things that make travel worthwhile.
In this article, we’re going to dig into why the number of countries you’ve visited doesn’t matter. We’ll talk about better ways to spend your time and energy when you travel and the reasons why revisiting destinations is valuable too. Let’s explore!
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Answering this question with a simple number implies that the three nights I’ve spent in the entire country of Spain is the same as the two months and multiple visits to the one city of Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. This is a ridiculous comparison.
Viewing travel as a list of countries to be counted also assumes that I’ve seen all of Bosnia & Herzegovina because I’ve spent so much time in one city. False! There’s always more to see and experience, no matter how many times you’ve been to a country.
Focusing on the world as one giant checklist to be completed diminishes the beautiful differences that exist between destinations. It turns the world into a one-dimensional experience, like counting how many different types of cereal you’ve tasted. This approach mutes the colors of the rich, layered tapestry of people and cultures that make up the world!
I don’t care how many countries you’ve visited or how many perfect Instagram photos you’ve managed to capture. I want to know how the experience changed you. What did you learn about yourself? About the place and the people who live there? How are you a better human for the experience? That’s what really matters.
What to Do Instead of Counting Countries
Instead of measuring your “success” in travel by how many countries you’ve visited, measure it by the moments that leave you breathless with wonder, make you feel alive, and remind you of the tiny little place you occupy in this great big world. If you do that, you will travel well, my friend!
Make it your purpose to connect and learn. Measure the value of your travels by the number of meaningful conversations you have with people who live there and your ability to see how much more we are like than different. If you’re a nature-lover like me, chase the moments where you completely lose yourself in the beauty of a stunning vista or in the pristine turquoise water lapping at your feet. These are the experiences that make travel worthwhile and life-affirming.
When you come home, how many times do you find yourself reminiscing about the incredible meal you had in that funky little hole in the wall or the random open-air concert you stumbled upon? Memories like these are worth so much more than a simple checkmark on a list. If you want to count something, count these.
The Joy of Revisiting A Destination
The question, “how many countries have you visited?” will never take into account the value of returning to a destination. Unless you have months to spend in a country, you’ll never see all of the good stuff in one trip. Never!
Here’s an example -- I’ve been to Scotland four different times now. Each visit was completely unique, because of who I was traveling with and the experiences we were seeking. While I always want to revisit a few favorite spots, I’ve always explored new parts of the country too. Every single time, I learned something new about the history, culture, and myself in the process. My love and understanding for Scotland has grown deeper with every return trip! Even now, there’s still so much more I want to see. I plan to return over and over again until I’ve had my fill!
When you revisit a place that’s captured your heart, you gain more perspective. Typically, you’re just scratching the surface on your first visit! Getting to really know a place takes time. There is no shortcut. Visiting a certain number of countries as a measure of travel experience or expertise doesn’t leave room for any of these elements.
Also, it’s totally fine to visit a place once and never return. I’ve done plenty of that! There’s no one right way to travel and counting countries isn’t a measure of quality or success. If you love a place and want to go back, do it! If you’re ready to see somewhere new, do it! Follow your joy, not the crowd.
Indie Travelers Won’t Ask, “How Many Countries Have You Visited?”
One of the things I love most about indie travelers is that they don’t care how many places you’ve visited. We want to hear about moments that made you laugh until you cried (like we were after taking this photo) and the ones that took your breath away. We want to know what you loved most about the destination and if you want to go back.
Your country count is completely irrelevant! For us, travel isn’t about showing off your luxurious accommodation or proving that you’re the most extreme budget traveler by sleeping at the bus station. It’s about fun, exploration, and connection! Travel isn’t a competition, it’s an experience.
If you’ve made it this far, I’m going to assume that you’re an indie traveler too! Below are a handful of my great resources to help you create your ultimate travel experience.
- Planning: Here’s a complete guide to planning your Europe trip. I’ve recently come across this planning site, Stippl that’s helpful for organizing all your routes and reservations!
- Flights: Skyscanner is my favorite for searching and here’s an article with tips for helping you find cheap flights to anywhere you want to go.
- Accommodations: Booking.com is the best resource I’ve found, especially for Europe. Here’s a guide to the different types of accommodations and how to choose the best ones for you.
- Guidebooks: DK Eyewitness guides are the ones I love best. Here’s a collection of them for European destinations. If you’re interested in visiting the Balkans, here’s a guide for planning your trip to that part of Europe.
Now get out there. The world is waiting for you!
What are your thoughts on counting countries? What inspires you to travel if it isn’t checking off a list of places?
Share your thoughts in the comments!
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