Why I Count Countries

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Within the travel sphere, there seems to be opinions on the habit of counting countries you’ve been to. Some people seem to base their travels on ticking off countries from a bucket list, whereas others will roll their eyes if the topic arises.

I get why people who hate counting countries get so annoyed. You can’t really ‘tick off’ a country ever, even if you’ve lived there for years. Realistically, you can never do ‘everything’ in a place. Plus, that shouldn’t really be a primary driver to travel. But I think if counting countries helps motivate someone to travel the world, then by all means go for it.

I guess there’s this perception that ‘real’ travellers don’t count countries. They travel organically and float country to country submerging themselves into the everyday culture gaining a truly authentic experience. The travellers who do count on the other hand are simply doing it for the passport stamp and bragging rights, likely not leaving the confides of the resort. 

Of course these stereotypes aren’t necessarily true and in my opinion you can be a combination of both – or neither!

Here’s why I personally love counting countries!

girl taking selfie on the salt flats of bolivia

What’s My ‘Number’?

I’ve been to 35 countries to date and have given myself the personal goal of visiting 50 before I’m 30 (only 2 years to go – tick tock!). Since setting this challenge, I have still visited countries I have previously already been to.

I am by no means going to write off a country just because I must visit a new place so I can achieve my goal. Rather, it’s something I aspire to and it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t reach no.50. I like to know where I have been, and keeping track by counting countries helps.

I don’t necessarily agree with travels being dictated by the sole aim of ticking off a place – but I’m sure that’s rarely the case. Even if it was the initial goal, a visitor will no doubt leave a place having learnt something, having met great people or having experienced a least a part of the culture or sites of a destination, and truly, that is the main thing.

… But I Don’t Want To Go Everywhere

I don’t however aspire to visit every country in the world. This may be surprising to hear considering I am counting them.

For personal, political and humanitarian reasons, there are some countries I want to avoid. A personal boycott you could perhaps call it (at least until some leaders and governments sort their country’s sh*t out!).

So considering I don’t want to, (and probably physically can’t) visit all 169 countries, why specifically do I still count countries then?

1. It Helps My Travel ‘Career’

It’s still very much early days for me (it’s been four years), but channelling my love of travel into starting this blog has already opened up a huge amount of doors for a side career (maybe one day full-time career?) I adore.

Blogging firstly helped me to get a writing job for the female online magazine Travelettes. It has been an awesome platform for me to make contacts and expand my knowledge of the industry, all the while gaining experiences such as being flown on sponsored trips and scoring free hotel stays.

It has also allowed me to earn some regular passive income from this blog, gain a portfolio of paid freelance writing and social media management gigs.

Realistically, the more countries you visit, the more credibility you gain as a ‘travel expert’ or ‘travel writer’. It’s important to the readers, clients and even your colleagues to prove that you at least vaguely know what you’re talking about. If you’ve never left your home country yet write about worldwide travel, will anyone truly take you seriously?

If you can prove that you’re well-travelled by providing ‘a number’, it intrigues people and adds that little bit more professionalism and authenticity to your work.

girl on deckchair on beach of resort

2. I Like Having Goals and Motivations

My best friend and I joke that we have split personalities, and she’s not entirely wrong. Without goals and motivations I’m the kind of person who could waste days scrolling on social media, reading endless blog posts and planning fictional entrepreneurial projects that never materialise.

But then there’s the obsessively hard-working side that makes watching even one programme on TV feel like the worst crime in the world. ‘You should be doing something useful and productive you lazy shit!’ my inner critic cries. To keep the self-loathing imposter away, as dramatic as it sounds, I have to set goals (and hit them), to make myself feel better about life.

One thing I’ve learnt about myself recently, is that goal setting is actually a weird form of relaxation. That of course, by default, includes my travelling!

flexing muscle on top of active volcano

3. It Inspires Others

Whenever the topic of travel arises, I’m always careful to avoid sounding like I’m bragging. Luckily, I’ve always been met with incredible support and enthusiasm when discussing the number of countries I’ve been to.

I love chatting to people who have never travelled or those who don’t travel any more, and seeing their eyes light up. I love seeing that ‘click’ in people’s head when they realise they too can travel like me, if they really want to. Or just as heart-warming, when they love living vicariously through your own stories.

The comments on my blog posts saying that I’ve inspired someone to consider a country they may not have previously, are some of my favourite. It’s a big part of why I blog. Sharing knowledge from a country I’ve been to and someone telling me they’ve found it useful is incredibly rewarding.

sapa group picture with locals

4. It Allows Me To Reflect

I want to look back at my life and have not only achieved some badass things in my career, I also want to have gained memories that fill me with happiness. I want to ensure I don’t take this beautiful and fascinating planet for granted. I want to explore new places and learn as much as I can. Counting countries allows me to see that I’m doing just that.

I am grateful to have the ability and means to travel in a world where so many people can’t. I wear the number of countries I’ve visited like a personal badge against my skin to remind me of this.

great wall of china blog

5. Quite Simply, I’m a Sucker For a List

Come to my house and you will find multiple notepads with long lists in pretty much every room (and then there are my phone notes..!) ‘To do’ lists, shopping lists, blog title lists, foods I need to try lists, bands I need to listen to lists – you name it, I’m pretty sure I will have a list for it.

There’s nothing more satisfying then getting a nice black pen and putting a fat line through a line. If I can work my way down until that bad boy is all completed – then hell, that’s pretty much my week made (28 going on 58 more like!).

There’s actually an app called ‘Been’ that you can download to track the countries you have visited. Though the one downside to this app is that it make you realise how much of the world map is still blank (i.e. countries you haven’t visited!)

girl sat in jungle garden writing in a journal

For me, counting countries is fun, therapeutic and a useful way to keep track of the adventures I’ve had in both my personal and professional life.

What’s your take on counting countries? Do you do it? Do you hate it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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For some travel inspiration for your next trip, how about Lonely Planet’s top 500 places to see… ranked?

Don’t forget to check the government visa entry requirements for the passport you are travelling with.


why I recommend counting countries

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20 thoughts on “Why I Count Countries”

  1. Great post! I don’t actually know how many countries I’ve been to, and definitely haven’t done anywhere near as much traveling as I would’ve liked, but I’m hoping to eventually! I’m usually of the “must be productive and binge-watching shows = wasting time” variety but definitely have a tendency to do the latter too, so having goals is definitely helpful!

  2. Interesting to read this as I actually wrote a post on why I’ve given up counting countries! I actually do enjoy it (for reasons #2 and #5) but I feel like it’s too complicated to be taken seriously (e.g. which countries actually count, and according to whom?) so I’ve given up doing it for any reason other than just to keep track of where I’ve been. That said, I’ve never had anything against people who count countries, but I DO have a problem with people who forget to actually experience those countries at all in favour of racking up the numbers. Absolutely no reason why you can’t do both, though! 🙂

  3. That was such an interesting take to the whole concept of counting or not counting countries! I wish you all the best with reaching your count goal before you’re 30 – that would be so amazing to achieve!

    Eena ☼

  4. This was such an interesting take! Thank you for sharing! It would be awesome to have a goal to reach, but I always break my goals anyway haha.

  5. I found this topic very interesting and thank you for sharing your views on it. I’m a sucker for lists too and I think I do it more to keep a mental note. Never for bragging rights

  6. I have not counted countries, but I found out there is a club here in Phoenix called the 100 club for those who have traveled to 100 countries or more, so now I am thinking about it!

  7. I loved this post!! I never counted how many countries I’d been to before but I’ve been with my boyfriend now for 7 months and someone asked us how many counties we had been to in that time and it’s now 14! And it was actually nice to see just how much we’ve done together in a short time. Doesn’t mean we won’t go back again though!

  8. I love that you wrote about this! I feel the exact same way. I love counting countries for my own reference. I had the same goal of 50 before 30 and I just hit it this summer. I also agree about going back to places. I’ve been to Italy and Japan several times and can’t get enough.

    • Yeah I don’t think a goal should dictate travels, rather just be an inspiration! Good luck suth your 50 before 30!

  9. I absolutely love how you explained why and how you count countries. It’s true that many count to show off, but if you’re really getting to know the culture and the country, there’s nothing wrong with counting. ?

    • Agreed – though I don’t think it’s fair to brag to start with as so many people can’t travel. It’s a privilege but there’s a way you can count and not for sure!

  10. This was such an interesting one. I’ve never heard of people scoffing at those who count, it seems a bit daft. I don’t count, only because I did once and realised it was less than I thought by the time I’d factored in that many of those amazing experiences occurred on different trips to different places in the same few. I have a location goal list, some places on it are towns/ cities, others are countries and that’s the only list I really keep track of. It seems silly to judge someone for counting (or not).

    Glow Steady

    • Agreed! And you’re right – it’s not simply about countries, there’s many experiences and places within a country you can have and count too!

  11. Wow that was an interesting read! I never thought about the two opposing perspectives and always thought that it was perfectly normal to count countries. However, I agree that it would be a waste to do so if only for bragging rights. Hopefully most people do it for one of the reasons listed here!

    • Yes I always thought it was normal but a conversation with someone passionate about the topic whom I met on the road made me realise otherwise!


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