Why you shouldn’t visit all the countries in the world

By Joan Torres 70 Comments Last updated on May 30, 2023

visit all countries in the world

Apparently, the sooner and faster you visit all the countries in the world, the more of a travel expert you will be considered, and the more famous you will become on social media.

Heads up:

I believe that the growing trend of competing to visit all the countries in the world in a limited timeframe doesn’t make any sense, and it’s actually harmful to the travel community.

This article is my criticism of it, explaining why you shouldn’t be part of this boring competition.

Before reading my opinion, here are a few things to take into account:

1 – This is a personal opinion. As a traveler myself, I also have good, close friends who are trying to travel to all the countries in the world in a limited amount of time. It’s fine, we are all good and we are still friends, for the same reason that I also have friends with different political views.

2 – Visiting all the countries can be OK but not when it becomes your main aim or a competition. As someone who is constantly traveling around the world, I do wish to visit each and every country on Earth but I am in absolutely no rush, because the experiences come first. Perhaps, I’ll finish them at the age of 96, or perhaps not, we will see.

3 – Not all country collectors are the same. Wanting to visit all countries on Earth in 3 years is not the same as trying to finish them in 10, 20, 30, or 50 years. Similarly, doing it just for yourself isn’t the same as doing it for mere competition and bragging on social media.

4 – How many countries have I visited? I would rather not say, because the number of countries I have visited is not conclusive for getting to know my traveling experience, plus this is an article aimed at criticizing precisely that.

I sense that this is going to be a very unpopular article.

visit all countries

Why you should not enter the game of traveling to every country on Earth

Here are my reasons:

The number of countries you have visited means absolutely nothing

According to public opinion, the more countries you have visited, the more well-traveled you are, as if your traveling experience was something that could even be quantified.

Lesson number one: It’s impossible to quantify how well-traveled you are because travel experiences are so personal and intangible, that they can only be evaluated and proved through in-depth conversations, and the number of countries you have been to will never be able to reflect that.

Imagine the scenario of a traveler who is planning to travel overland from Beijing to the south of India through Pakistan over the course of 12 months.

That’s quite a big, challenging trip through some pretty remote remote areas where incredible experiences are guaranteed, not to mention the complex cultural diversity.

Now, imagine the scenario of a traveler who visits 20 countries in Asia in 4 months. Surprisingly, there are many travelers who actually like to do that and, given the short amount of time, they tend to fly between countries.

With an average of 6 days per country, this person will probably only have time to check out the capitals and some nearby highlights.

The first person has visited 3 countries in 12 months, while the other has visited 20 countries in 4 months.

Who will be considered a better traveler?

Traveling can’t and shouldn’t be quantified.

Market of Kashgar, China
Believe it or not, this photo was actually taken in China, not in India or Pakistan. The people from this picture are Uighur, an ethnic group of people who live in the Xinjiang province in the west of China

And it certainly doesn’t make you a travel expert

It’s not my main aim to discredit or mention any specific people in this article but, to give you a real example, there is a certain traveler who holds the world record for being the fastest person to visit all 196 countries.

They did it in their early twenties and in only 18 months. That’s an average of 2.75 days per country, half of which were probably spent in airports and planes.

Look, this traveler might have had their own reasons for traveling around the world, and I am not going to judge that, because everyone can use their time as they please, but it’s not acceptable when people with such achievements become the ultimate travel experts and advisors.

Quoted as one of the most well-traveled persons in the world in an interview with CNN, when this traveler was asked what the top 10 countries in the world to travel to were, Pakistan featured as one of their favorites.

This traveler affirmed that one should travel to Pakistan because it’s the one country where you can experience untouched, raw Asian culture.

What does that even mean? This could be said by half of the countries in Asia.

The traveler also said that one should travel to Pakistan because of the food, which proves that all they did was eat in fancy restaurants in Islamabad and that they know nothing about the country, since food is the one thing all travelers who have actually backpacked across Pakistan complain about.

Someone who has visited all countries in such a short time, at such a young age, can teach you a lot about earning credit card points and booking flights, but I seriously doubt they learned much about a country, and they certainly shouldn’t be out there giving lessons and opinions about backpacking.

visit all countries on Earth
Pakistan is full of surprises and one must travel all around to really get a sense of what this country can offer

The number of regions you have visited isn’t relevant either

As mentioned, visiting all the countries in the world is a trending topic, the reason why, every year, more and more people are trying to accomplish this goal to the extent that sooner or later, such event will become a mainstream accomplishment.

Then, what will be next?

Instead of counting countries, travelers are now competing for the number of regions they visit, the ranking of which can be checked on a website named NomadMania, a popular site for country collectors that ranks travelers based on the number of places/countries/regions they visit.

Certain country collectors are now using that region ranking as a shield against all the criticism, believing that by ticking all the 32 states from Mexico on the list, people won’t be skeptical about their swift visit any longer.

However, they don’t realize that rushing across regions just to be able to say that they traveled all around Mexico, is the same nonsensical game as before, and that if you have visited all 32 states in Mexico in one month, the only conclusion we can make is that you spent 30 days living in a car.

Again, traveling can’t and shouldn’t be quantified.

Monastery in Abkhazia
This is a Russian orthodox monastery found in the unrecognized region of Abkhazia. The region legally belongs to Georgia but it self-declared independence shortly after the Soviet dissolution. Not many travelers visit this area, but it’s a real must for anyone venturing into the Caucasus area

To not be part of the never-ending discussion of what counts as a visit

Within the segment of people wanting to travel to all the countries as fast as possible, there is always the argument of what is the minimum amount of time required to spend in a country, so that you can tick it off your list.

Some people say that you have to spend at least one night in the country, while others say that you must experience something local, whatever that might be.

I don’t even get why this discussion exists in the first place.

The main point of traveling is trying to live as many authentic experiences as possible, and perhaps learning about the cultural differences between different regions within that specific country.

If your objective in life is to spend a minimum time required in a certain destination, so that you can tell others that you have already been there, move to your next destination, and repeat the same process, I am very sorry to tell you that, as a traveler, you really suck.

remote area of Pakistan
If your objective is just to remain the minimum amount of time in a country so you can count it, you’ll never have the chance to visit places like the Astore Valley in Pakistan, a particularly remote valley

Traveling to all the countries in the world is actually easy, as long as you can afford it

You would be surprised to know that you don’t really need to be a particularly adventurous person to travel all the countries in the world, but all you need is time, money, and learning where to get your visas.

Pretty much anyone can jump into a plane, fly to whatever destination, and look for a driver to take you around for a few days.

However, how many people can travel solo from Beijing to southern India via Pakistan without taking flying in any plane? To do that, you’ll need more than money and time, but also some guts.

how to visit all the countries in the world
The capital of Eritrea, Asmara, is one of the most unique capitals in all of Africa, a former Italian colony with a lot of heritage, not only seen in the architecture but also in the local lifestyle. Most country collectors will only visit the capital, which is great, but they don’t know that as soon as you step out of the capital, you enter a whole new world with many different ethnic groups and people that have absolutely nothing to do with the sophisticated lifestyle from Asmara

If your aim becomes visiting all countries, traveling may become extremely unpleasant

In my humble opinion, one of the main reasons to travel is to disconnect from the rest of the world, by getting immersed into a certain culture, while getting lost in a specific area, always planning on the go, and going with the flow.

This is the most beautiful – and healthiest – part of traveling, just enjoying the moment and not worrying much about what will happen next.

On the other hand, when your objective is to visit all the countries within a limited time frame, your travels become absolutely overwhelmed with pressure, since your tendency will only be thinking about when and how to move to the next destination, rather than truly enjoying the moment.

Sure, you will gain a lot of followers who will be awed by all your selfies and reels of the most epic destinations, but they won’t know that anxiety that makes your travels lose all the glamor they are meant to be for, and what’s the point of that?

hanging out with locals in Saudi
Instead of rushing from country to country, do absorb each and every place, hang out with locals and enjoy the moment

If you travel too fast, you will only visit the most mainstream places

Country collectors don’t tend to spend a lot of time in the countries they visit so, usually, their swift visits always focus on the most obvious places everyone goes to, and that’s really a shame.

Any well-traveled person will agree that the best and most rewarding places in the world are always those difficult to access, located in the remotest regions, for two reasons mainly:

1 – The less you have heard of a place, the bigger your WOW effect will be. I have never been to Machu Picchu, and I am sure it’s an awesome place to visit but I have seen it in so many videos and IG posts that I am sort of bored with it already. On the other hand, places difficult to access that nobody visits will always have a certain element of surprise, an essential part of any rewarding travel experience.

2 – The fewer tourists there are, the rawer and more authentic a place will be, and that’s the best part of traveling.

To give you a practical example, I have been to Azerbaijan twice, and on my second visit, I had the chance to go to Nakhchivan, an enclave of Azerbaijan nestled between Armenia, Turkey, and Iran.

Since the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed you need to fly in from Baku (or enter from a remoter part of Turkey or Iran), so that’s why not many people visit Nakhchivan, but I did it back in 2018, and what I found was a region that nobody had written about, and home to an unbelievable castle, similar to Macchu Picchu actually – but probably less beautiful – but it truly amazed me because I wasn’t really expecting to find something like that.

Traveling to remote places, however, requires a lot of time and that’s something most country collectors don’t have.

How to travel to all the countries in the world
This is Alinja Castle in Nakhchivan, the remotest place in the whole country, yet the most amazing one

If you only count countries, you miss a lot

Greenland, Scotland, Faroe Islands, Madeira, Alaska, and Chechnya, just to name a few.

Around the world, there are many regions, islands, and states that technically, aren’t countries but they are so different from the country they belong to that they deserve a big trip on their own.

However, since they don’t add up countries to their list, country collectors tend to skip them for the sake of the competition.

Traveling is about collecting experiences, not numbers, so who cares about Greenland not counting as +1, if it gives you totally different experiences from Denmark?

You don’t do it for yourself, but for social media

And that couldn’t be more true.

If social media suddenly stopped existing, the competition of visiting each and every country would disappear because many travelers pursuing that goal would suddenly stop, and all I can feel is sorry for them because it can only mean that they aren’t really enjoying the way they travel.

There aren’t many things out there that are as personal as traveling around the world and when you do it for others and the gram, it just loses its main purpose.

Against the Compass on Instagram
It’s OK to post on social media, but it’s not OK when Instagram rules over your life


I hope this article didn’t sound too harsh on the travel community and if it did, it was never my intention, but I just tried to give my sincere opinion about this topic.

As I mentioned, I do have friends who are country collectors, people with whom I do talk about this topic and the reason I wrote this article is that they fully agree with everything I say.

So, why are they keeping up with it?

Because in most cases, it’s an actual competition and, like in all competitions, there is a prize, and this prize is getting online exposure, something which can eventually be translated into gaining sponsors, views, and media attention.

Everyone can do what they please but if you want to travel around the world and become a good traveler, my personal advice is to stay away from this boring competition.

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Completely right Joan, I’ve visited also a lot of countries, but the number doesn’t really matter, it is the feeling & memories you bring after a visit.
I’ve visited some countries multiple times (India, China…) and I still feel I’ve only seen a fraction. It’s wrong to put in a competion or bucket lists. I even don’t have any social media. Good article, Ivan

Thanks, Ivan, and China and India are the best examples. Actually, in China, I have only been to the western part of Xinjiang province and did a 12-hour visit to Beijing. In India, I have only been to the region of Ladakh. I have never considered that I have been to any of those 2 countries, so I am looking forward to doing a big trip there soon!

You’re a great traveler, a great travel writer, and a true inspiration. As usual, every point you make in this article is spot on. Personal exampme: last year, I spent 5 months in Turkey, and I’m doing 2 months this year. And I still haven’t made it to the Black Sea coast! But I just love the country and people and the sites–and just the feeling of being here. How can you get that in a few days or weeks? Impossible! Keep up your great work. Responsible travel needs advocates like you

I wholeheartedly endorse your views on the subject. I’d rather talk to someone who’s only been to one country but got something interesting to say about it than someone who’s only spent a few days in dozens of countries. I find it takes at least two weeks in a place to even start knowing what kind of questions to ask people about their culture to get an understanding of it. After a month you at least pick up on some interesting aspects of the culture but you’d be foolish to say you really understand it.
Keep up the good work

Also, regarding your comment, I am sure that you’ll be the type of person who will make the best of his visit in only two weeks and I know that because I have read some of your stuff but again, overall, in the travel community, it doesn’t make any sense to think about how long does it take to know a country because, while you have only been eating in local places for 2 weeks, taking public transportation, hitchhiking and hanging out with locals, someone else mostly stayed in their 5-star hotel, hired a driver to take him around and only had international food in a fear of getting stomach sick. That’s why I emphasize the fact that traveling can’t be quantified. Keep up the good work!

“If social media suddenly stopped existing, the competition of visiting each and every country would disappear because many travelers pursuing that goal would suddenly drop, and all I can feel is sorry for them because it can only mean that they aren’t really enjoying the way they travel. There aren’t many things out there that are as personal as traveling around the world and when you do it for others and the gram, it just loses its main purpose.” Thanks Joan for this article, me as a travel blogger (though in the beginning of the journey) I fully agree and I don’t even know how many countries I have been to because it is not important for me. I rather return to the same places more times to get a deeper understanding that entitles me to share something worth of telling to others who don’t have the chance to go there or get inspired to travel to less-traveled places. As you mentioned I also got the most memorable experiences at the unknown places and I also don’t wish to see Machu Picchu…. In the end is who you meet and not what you see is the biggest reward of traveling. Keep on with your work! Agnes

So true and correct. Never counted the countries. Looking forward to read more of ur articles.


Fabulous post. Loved every line and could not have agreed with you more. I am a slow traveller, spending at least a few weeks as a rule in a country, or even a region, and then revisiting, for when I travel and speak to locals I learn about more wonders held within its folds. I travel solo, and usually independently.

I, unfortunately, am often made to feel by ‘country collectors’ that since I have not even travelled to all continents, I do not qualify as a ‘traveller.’ But I don’t really care. 🙂 I am not on any social media. My travel blog is purely to record my travel experiences. And I travel, because it fills my soul with joy.

Thank you for writing this post!

Hi Rama! You are traveling around the world as you like, and that’s the most important. I am sure you have more interesting travel stories than many country collectors!

Right on! It’s all about the cultural experience and visiting, sharing, and connecting with people where they live. To get immersed in the culture and get to see locals’ favorite places takes time. So many people do make a business out of travel of course, through varied schemes. I will say Joan that my backpack through South America in the 70’s when it was raw, was the most exciting trip of my life. Machu Pichu was a very spiritual place. I dont know if they can or have taken that away. Sometimes the well known is also great. Check it out and stay a while when no one is there! Your comments are unusually meaningful. Thanks

I’d have loved to backpack certain in the 70s… they must have been saw raw. We can still travel to absolutely raw countries where nobody goes to like Eritrea for example, but the beauty of Latinamerica, I guess that’s so unique!

Excellent article. I was part of the game but recently decided experiences matter more than adding one more country to my count. Which is about 150 now. It’s taken me some 30 years to do this. I will continue to travel. Just not count countries. Only experiences.

Luckily I learned this at a young age. I loved saying I’d been to XX number of countries, and I had a friend who was the same. He’d always brag about it. Then I found out he’d been going on cruises with his family and the reality was that he’d just spent hours in many of those places and had hardly seen anything at all. It was then I realized what a ridiculous concept counting countries is. I genuinely think it’s the worst reason/motivator for travel.
If anyone wants to see how much (or little) they’ve truly traveled, join a site like Most Traveled People, which breaks your travel map out into regions and areas, rather than just countries. Your true map will be surprisingly empty!
Most importantly, no one cares how many countries you’ve been to. If someone tells me they’ve been everywhere – cool…

So true, Peter! My son has actually been to 12 countries at only 1.5 years old. If he ever starts bragging about all those countries he’s been to with his father at such a young age… Well, he should certainly start over!

I started to travel extensively 15 years ago after realizing I was growing old and hadn’t traveled a lot. My first trips included several countries; I was staying less than a week in each,sometimes just one night in some cities. I then realized how fast tracking prevents from enjoying local life and culture. I now stay longer; my last trip in Saudi Arabia lasted 2 months when I planned one, and yet visited only the southern half. It was awesome.
Tip: buying a one way ticket if possible helps you extend your trip as much as needed so you don’t have to worry about overstaying in a place (within visa validity of course). It’s often more expensive but iy’s worth paying the price….

I’ve been following you for a few yearsbut never commented… until now, because you are SO TERRIBLY RIGHT about it all and so happy that you wrote about it! This sort or competition is just so silly, I understand when people are time constrained and can’t spend too long in a place but to aim just to tick places/countries off a list for the sake of doing it is such a waste of time and money, and not even that enjoyable.

First of all I don’t care about social media or competition. I genuinely want to visit many countries because of curiosity and craving experience. But I get exhausted and overwhelmed so fast. So just yesterday I decided I might possibly only go to Morocco. And stay a month. The other countries I want to see are Kurdistan and Azerbaijan. That will require going in and out of Istanbul a few times, which I also want to see, but I’m afraid this is too many countries for one trip. Thank you for writing about Kurdistan.

I totally agree with you! We are full time travellers, and we love slow travelling. We prefer to stay longer in each place, meet some people, be a “regular” in the same shop or restaurant… We love to feel like a local and learn about the country and the culture through the people. That’s our goal when we travel.
For example, we travelled to Thailand, Malasia, Japan, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for around 2 years, and we still need to return to all these countries, because we just scratched the surface in 2 years! Also, the worst 2 years of coronavirus restrictions, we travelled around Spain in a campervan with some incursions to the south of France and Portugal, but we still have a lot of places that we want to visit there… We could have traveled all the European countries in that time and marked a lot of places in our “country list”, but we’ll travel Europe when we are too old to visit more adventourous countries…
We travel to enjoy ourselves, not to brag and, of course, we prefer quality than quantity, but that’s the difference between travellers and tourists…
If they prefer to take a picture and go, that’s their loss!
Una abraçada! Ens encanta seguir-te!

I agree with some points but not all. Maybe some people want to sample stuff and not indulge too much due to other dependancies like budget, access, holiday from work, etc and therefore blitz through. You never know.

Hi Eric. Sure, there could be many reasons why someone can’t stay in a country longer but this post isn’t really about that but it’s a criticism to the nonsensical competition of counting countries boosted by social media

Hey Joan, absolutely love this article. Thank you.

I am finishing up nearly 1,5 years of travel in the Middle East as a solo female traveler in my early 20s and I’ve “only” been to 7 countries. I’ve had the most incredible, authentic experience: from learning the Arabic language to an intermediate level, to staying with a big family in Iraq for 2 months, to Couchsurfing exclusively and traveling overland as much as I can.

I do not have social media, and I don’t care about updating most people at home. I met some influencers some day who had millions of followers on Tiktok, and they told me they wanted to visit my homecountry in Europe only to see the one touristy thing. When I told them this touristy thing is pretty disappointing in real life, and that it ruins the local nature, they shrugged and said they didn’t care. They were pretty arrogant and unimpressive.
I even met someone who wrote an article for your blog, which I think they did only to promote their own travel blog, who was very rude and condescending to me. They seemed to be encaptured by the Gram, not by a genuine desire to discover the world, and therefore, their own values.

I think one thing I’ve learned is that one can have an authentic off-the-grid travel experience anywhere, as long as you let go of materialistic tendencies. I believe that travel is most of all an attitude of being humble, open-minded and rejecting mainstream ideas about capitalism (sorry to be political).

I am No 2 on Nomadmania and totally agree with you in every single point. I travel since 35 years but ticking down was never of interest for me. I find it much more interesting to really explore countries and cultures. Well written!

Hey Michael! Thanks for this comment, it’s actually an honor to have feedback from you. As I said, it’s totally fine to visit each and every region but going to all places doesn’t necessarily mean that you are just ticking off.

I completely agree with what you meant, probably because we share a similar view on the “why” of traveling. But although I don’t think you sounded harsh at all, I do believe the way you make a point discredits your argument. How come overlanding makes you a better traveler? I mean, I also much rather overland and stay with locals in remote regions, but that’s not necessary for everyone. Every person’s interest are different. I remember having a conversation with a friend in which I made a (judging) point of how Baku is not the real Azerbaijan, that without leaving the city it’s impossible to understand the country, that you’re blinded by the Dubai-ness. The reply was that she doesn’t care. She loved the city exactly because of the shinny influence of the petro-dollars, and that’s all she wanted to experience, the luxury of a sort of up-and-coming Dubai.
So 20 countries in 4 months flying in between sounds crazy to me, I’d much prefer only overland through a couple, but it doesn’t make me a better traveler, only one with a different definition of how I want to experience the world. Because even if you could assert they overlanding makes you better, then you’re trapped in what constitutes overlanding. If you rent a car you’re missing out on how the locals move around. So spending a year around China in your own car would make you a worse traveler than someone who used public transport?
It’s easy to judge others when we think we have the moral high ground, but to each their own. Starting by the way you even count how many countries there are 🙂

It doesn’t seem that you got the voice of the article and that all were simple examples but anyways.

A good traveler is someone who cares about the local culture and makes an effort to truly learn, respect and appreciate them, while trying to live new experiences and grow from them. A good traveler is usually responsible, someone who has environmental awareness and who loves that type of tourism that has a minimum impact on the local community.

Someone who is traveling from China to India is more likely to fit in the above definition than someone who travels to 20 countries in 4 months and takes at least 20 planes, since they certainly don’t care about the environment, and are not very interested in getting deep into the local customs.

I am sure your friend from Baku is lovely but someone only interested in the luxuries of a certain city can’t really fit in the above definition either.

Traveling by car doesn’t make you a worse traveler than if you move around by public transportation. I don’t even get why you are jumping into conclusions like that. Both are great ways to travel, each one having its pros and cons. While it’s true that when backpacking across a country using the local transportation, you can experience how the locals travel, when traveling by car, you can get to much more remote places, plus you can visit and stop in many places between destinations, something you will always miss as a backpacker.

I totally agree with you! and this trend, also fomented by social apps like Instagram have only made it worse for many places. Many places have become “massified”… many people only go to exact same places and post same photos… that makes these (mostly beautiful places) loose their aura and attractiveness… making them banal.
Anyway… there are still many places I would like to see before I go, but certainly not all countries…
And some for which you are a “specialist” or at least know well… let’s see if I am able to accomplish that…
Right now my biggest regret, is that I will not be able to go back to all the special places that I loved or which I have not explored enough… because I will not have time… like India or Japan or New Zealand or Mexico or Egypt or Colombia etc… but that’s life…
Just a final note… please go to Machu Picchu, I was also bit sceptical before going… but no… no photo makes justice enough to the place and the experience… take two days… go back… go up to Huayna Picchu… it’s really amazing, the setting, the place…

Thanks, Mario! Oh, I’ll certainly go to Machu Pichu one day, it must be amazing. I wish I had gone during COVID though, it was probably the best time of the century to go!

So very well said. This has been annoying me for some time.
I mean, like you say, everyone can do with their time what they please…the problem starts when these country-counters become travel advisors. I have been to countries that don’t exist anymore. So..what does that make me? Ahead of the game? Bullshit.

I’ve been saying I’ve been to 50+ countries for the last 10 years. And 7 of those years I was travelling full-time (with my family). We go back to the best places to see more. Constantly. I would love to see some of the places you go to in the Middle East / Central Asia, but they’re not easy to get to, maybe I will one day. But my desire to go to Thailand for the 40th time and see something new is stronger, and more practical. Bhutan and Jordan were my last two “must see” countries. Both short trips, 10 days or so, both expensive. I doubt I’ll go to either again. But certain counties, like India, Thailand, Vietnam, I could happily just travel in those 3 forever. Plus anywhere in the Himalayas. Philippines – I’ll never be able to balance interest with expense and difficulty to get to, so I probably will never go. There’s a balance involved. How much money and time am I prepared to invest v interest in that place. I loved Macchu Picchu by the way, but that, for me, was about the trek, I love a good walk. Oh… and Scotland is a country. So is Wales. (I’m from Wales). It’s just not on that UN list that the country counters like to use.

Totally agree with you Joan I feel there’s almost a fixation especially within the younger travel bloggers on collecting countries just because…Yup it’s the IG thing, the selfie culture. There’s even a certain “snobbery” in some part of the travel community: Oh you haven’t been to 160 countries?, not cool enough. I’ve been traveling for a long time, that’s just not my thing. I’m not interested in counting countries. For me it’s about the experiences, not the number, but to each its own I guess. New page looks great BTW.

An excellent article. Thank you. The world is a big place & there is something out there for everyone but, as you say, you do not have to become a collector of countries. Sometimes you can have great experiences close to home. Europe itself is a diverse and fascinating place.

It’s a good article, but in my humble opinion, and following the Pareto law of 20/80, I am convinced that whereas 20% of the people travel to either just post stuff in Instagram or just have fun without posting anything (yes, there are people like that, like my wife), 80% have fun BOTH having experiences while travelling AND yes, posting stuff and ‘kinda’ competing. I include myself here. By the way, if I am not wrong you have a 2 year old baby. I am very happy for you, I also have a child in a similar age, but since having them I haven’t been able to travel much… unlike you. So, with all respect, mate: Maybe we could have a debate on the reasons of having children?

I agree with you. I have been travelling almost since I was born. I agree with your recommendation to visit Pakistan. It is the only country where the taxi driver refused to accept even a dollar (or rupee) because I was an American. The best tourist sites are amazing: Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Mohenjo Daro (a fascinating, well-preserved city built around 2500 BCE, which is well off the beaten track, but sometimes reachable by flight from Karachi, and Taxila (which is the capital city of the ancient Gandhara). Stay to cooked foods (except chicken, which is often undercooked and therefore can have salmonella) and bread and you will not get sick. If you eat fresh fruits and vegetables including salads, you will very likely get sick for 1-3 days during your visit. Avoid the train. Go to Gilgit if you can

Couldn’t agree more! I lost faith in the country counting community a long time ago… After I once heard that I was wasting my time going to Antarctica and South Georgia, or returning to the same country multiple times because it doesn’t count. And apparently… someone who only has “5 countries left” to visit them all told me and my friend that there’s nothing to see in the US so she only spent a day. Least well-traveled people I’ve met 🙁

Completely in agreement! Tired of these country collectors, speedy Gonzalez travellers and passport stamps collectors… I have travelled since 1970… Been extensively in more than 115 countries most of them with repeated visits. Above all I have lived in 11 of those countries a minimum of 1 year in each of them… I enjoy the way I travel and if age plus health permitting I will repeat some places I have been, visit new places and above all do long journeys of minimum 3 months as I have done in many past years! Keep travelling and enjoying!

Brilliant article Joan, and bang on the money! I found this via Matt of the Sleeping Camel’s recommendation.
I’ve been travelling non-stop for 23 years now and just returned from 9 years in South America after working as in overlanding in Africa – so I haven’t visited a quarter of all the countries yet haha but have spent many hours sat down with locals in remote places…and wouldn’t exchange it for anything!
Later this year I will start my attempt to walk the Silk Road from Istanbul to Xi’an, probably around 2 years or more. The experiences out there is what counts for me.
Thanks again for an excellent article, will be checking out more on your website.

I fully agree. I started travelling in 1992, pre computer time. My goal was and is to see the whole world but I do it very slowly. Spent one year in India, and spent a lot of time in asia, south and central america. Now on a 2 year trip in africa. Slowly does it or may be not, i just really enjoy travelling

I totally agree with you. However, unfortunately, I cannot travel for more than two weeks at a time anymore. When I was younger and could, I spent two months in California and more than a year in Portugal. Nowadays, I travel for short periods of time, trying to visit as many places as possible. I hope that when I retire, I can become a full-time slow traveler.

This is one of the best articles I have ever read and I agree with you 100%. Like yourself I refuse to even answer the question of how many countries I have been to, try asking me how many countries I have actually ‘experienced’ and they are far fewer that I have ‘been’ to due to shortage of time there, being ill whilst I was there, visiting with others with a more ‘touristy’ agenda and me obliging their needs. I am even revisiting places so I can actually experience them and this usually means solo travel. As you say “to disconnect from the rest of the world, by getting immersed into a certain culture, while getting lost in a specific area, always planning on the go, and going with the flow” that is my idea of real travel. My lack of patience with the ‘country counters’ is increasing as they seem to be growing in numbers and I tune them out as soon a number is mentioned. Thank you for sharing your opinions they are most welcome and interesting and I look forward to reading many more.

Amen compañero. Muy buen artículo y totalmente de acuerdo. Enhorabuena! Aun teniendo buenos amigos y buenos clientes que los considero grandes viajeros y están interesados en estos “números”, en mi opinión, una moda absurda, basada en el postureo en la mayoría de los casos. Algunxs de estxs “cuenta paises” dan vergüenza ajena directamente. Por cierto me pusieron tu visado de Mali en mi pasaporte en la embajada este pasado febrero (y a ti el mio), menos mal que me di cuenta en el coche 😉

I absolutely love this article, Joan. You write like you travel, with your priorities in line, doing the research and making the connections, working hard for the rewards, no holds barred, keeping it real. Ever since I was a child I was very curious about the world and the people in it. For me travel was always about exploring new places and meeting people unlike myself, having unique experiences, never just ticking a box. While I appreciate that seeing every country on a list might encourage visitors to lesser known places, and therefore can help drive needed tourist revenue in those areas, I really question a visitor’s motives to be able to brag about where they’ve been without desire to know about the locals or any in-depth experience of the journey. I’ve seen firsthand how a quick, thoughtless visit can lead to ridiculous, inaccurate stereotypes. I therefore agree that those types of travelers really suck (I absolutely love your quote on that, lol). Thanks for discouraging this simplistic, mindless, and potentially damaging tourism.

There is no right or wrong way to travel, it’s like saying what is the right food to eat. We all have different motives.
I, as a blonde white female can’t backpack in remote areas of India and Pakistan like you who don’t stick out from the crowd that much. Does that make me a “bad” traveler? What about people with disabilities? Are they bad travelers too?

Do we have to care about local culture each time, or is it ok to visit a country for nice weather and cheap prices? Are we bad people if we do so? I’m not talking about being disrespectful of others, I’m talking about different preferences.

The only valid points I see in your article is that unknown sites are more likely to surprise you, and they’re not so crowded with tourists which is always nice. The rest of this article sounds like jealousy to me

I absolutely detest country-counters and do not take them seriously and put them is the same bracket as people who think they are wonderful lovers as they have had sex with many people, people who linger longer and take the trouble to really experience the visit and much better lovers than the jump in, jump out another notch on the bedpost. I agree with everything you say in your article, a well written and interesting piece.


I agree with you that in some parts this article conveied the idea that backpacking is the real way of travel, for example:

“which proves that all they did was eat in fancy restaurants in Islamabad and that they know nothing about the country, since food is the one thing all travelers who have actually backpacked across Pakistan complain about”

In other part he seems to have discovered the “right” way of travelling:

“The main point of traveling is trying to live as many authentic experiences as possible, and perhaps learning about the cultural differences between different regions within that specific country.”

” I am very sorry to tell you that, as a traveler, you really suck.”

However, in general I think you´ve missed his point. He is saying most of the time just the opposite of the idea of one being a bad or good traveller, as he is saying it is just impossible and pointless to quantify travelling experience. There is no such thing as a right way to travel or a way to see who is more travelled.

” (…) It’s fine, we are all good and we are still friends”

“the number of countries I have visited is not conclusive for getting to know my traveling experience, plus this is an article aimed at criticizing precisely that.”

“as if your traveling experience was something that could even be quantified.”

“Traveling can’t and shouldn’t be quantified.”

In conclusion, I really believe there is no reason to travel just to tick a list (So I agree with the main point of the article). At the same time, if I only have a day to visit a place, I am taking the opportunity. I spent once just 6 hours in Edinburgh and I had a great time. I was in London and decided to take a train there. Nice experience.

Excellent post! I resonate with everything you wrote. I also have noticed that many people like to brag about traveling to more “dangerous” places (mainly the Middle East). I have never been to the ME, but I have a few very close friends from the ME. One of them has invited me to her house when she lived in my home state & gave me an abaya. I majored in Religious Studies and focused on Islam & Judaism. I consider myself more knowledgeable of the Middle East and its culture than people who have been to Tel Aviv for a day and/or partied in Dubai. Friendships and relationships make a huge difference.. thank you for writing what I have been thinking about for a while.

Although the author has every right to her perspective, it’s hard to ignore the underlying hypocrisy. The attempt to cast those who wish to explore a variety of nations as lesser travelers, while simultaneously using a single trip to Pakistan as a pedestal of authenticity, reeks of the same contest mentality she criticises. Perhaps if she wasn’t so focused on gatekeeping ‘authenticity,’ she’d recognize the myopic view she’s promoting. Travel is not a competition to be won but a journey to be experienced individually. And the food in Pakistan is pretty good (if you go to the authentic places ;-))

Reply to Chris. The author is male, not female. His article is directed specifically at social media travelers who are counting countries to build their following. He is not criticizing ordinary travelers who wish to briefly see many countries for their own reasons.

Excellent article. I’ve travelled extensively. My prime objectives are to learn about other places and cultures, meet new people, try new food and learn about the world. I’m not exactly sure how many countries I’ve been to. Counting is not the point. Also, take India, there are many cultures, effectively countries, combined into a single country. I’ve been to the same country many times. Time changes a country. Look at China.
People who count countries as their primary objective miss the real point of travel.

I think you are being a little critical but I kind of agree with you. 18 months for 195 countries sounds terrible. If I had 18 months and the funds I’d probably make it to about 20 countries which even then people would probably still regard me as a tourist over a traveller. At the same time I’ve been to countries I’ve immediately really disliked so why would I spend more than say a week maximum in them and less if possible.

I still consider myself a reasonably versed traveller who can navigate reasonable unfortunate situations like weird public transport rules or lack of English speakers if not fairly cautious.

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