My country-count has some glaring holes in it.
RHODES, Greece- Europe has a lot of countries. No, really, there are a ton of them.
I came to a start the other day when I realized that after 19 years of world travel — a good number of which were spent in Europe — that I have still not been to 19 European countries. I’m a mere 26 for 45. If I was a quarterback rather than a traveler my numbers would be, well, meh …
European countries I have not been to yet:
The most glaring countries on this list are surely Italy, Switzerland, and Austria — everybody has been to Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. The most startling is surely Russia — how do I call myself a world traveler and general analysts of global developments when I haven’t even been to the largest country in the world that also happens to be one of the preeminent political and cultural powers of my time? What am I doing?
However, when I look at the above map, I notice something: the blue countries — the ones I haven’t been to yet — are generally compiled in blocs. Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova form one bloc; Italy, Malta, San Marino, Vatican City, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Austria form another; Norway, Sweden, and Denmark form a third; and then there’s Belarus and Russia. This is relevant because you generally travel to countries in groups, and this provides me with some architecture for planning my future “why not?” brand of travels.
Positioned another way, out of the 83 countries that I’ve traveled to only 26 have been in Europe. That says something. When somebody boasts of their country count, you need to ask skeptically, “Yeah, but how many of these countries are in Europe?” The general dinky-ness of European countries mixed with the ease of transport makes revving up the country-count here less impressive than say, going into the heart of Africa, South America, or Central Asia.
Why does this matter?
It doesn’t really. It’s just fun. However, having a widespread experience of the earth tends to give you a broader perspective on the state of the place. Someone can rattle off 45 countries and declare that they’ve traveled to roughly a quarter of the (political) world … but never step onto another continent.
People who say that borders are artificial and that things are the same on both sides have probably never crossed very many. Even in Central America, where the countries are relatively similar, border crossings are always bearing-shifting events: the changes from one side and the other are obvious. If you suddenly were to wake up on the other side of a border pretty much anywhere in the world you’re going to immediately know that you’re in a different place.
Well, for now anyway …