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World Travel

World travel is the general term used to describe the practice of traveling around the world going to various countries almost indiscriminately, often with the attempt of visiting them all. This is a page for other travelers to contribute information, opinions, and advice for what defines world travel. What follows are just my ideas, please [...]

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World travel is the general term used to describe the practice of traveling around the world going to various countries almost indiscriminately, often with the attempt of visiting them all.

This is a page for other travelers to contribute information, opinions, and advice for what defines world travel. What follows are just my ideas, please contribute your own in the comments below. This page will be continuously evolving and changing.

Countries and territories visited by Wade Shepard as of Dec. 2012.

Countries and territories visited by Wade Shepard as of Dec. 2012.

Four stages of world travel

There are around 200 countries in the world. This number is often disputed, as there is actually no firm defining parameter of what constitutes a country, and some sources peg the amount of politically autonomous regions at a touch over 350. The UN recognizes 198 areas of the world as being formal countries, so this is the number that I will use when discussing the occupation of the world traveler.

As I continue through my 11th year of perpetual around the world travel I have observed four distinct stages of world travel, each stage roughly comprising 50 countries.

The first stage of world travel

[adsense]The first stage of world travel consists of the countries and regions that most travelers tend to go to first, it includes North, Central, and South America, Western Europe, East and some parts of Southeast Asia, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt, India and Nepal. Many of these could be called the easy regions of world travel, but I think it is more accurate to say that they contain the most commonly visited countries. These are the countries that we most often see in postcards, featured in travel blogs and magazines, shown in films, talked about by friends, ventured to by study abroad students and English teachers, the places that are easiest to identify on maps, the lands that we’ve heard of. These were the regions of the world that I, too, began traveling it, as I believe that it is a normal thing to do. In point, if you are faced with a world that you have barely stepped foot upon where are you going to choose to go first: China or Uzbekistan? Peru or Namibia?

Generally, this first stage will consist of around 50 countries within these regions.

The second stage of world travel

The second stage of world travel comes after you have been around for a few years, have visited Latin America, East Asia, India, the popular countries that have a lot of weight in the folklore of the traveler. But once these regions are traveled through there is still an entire wold out there. This second stage often contains 50 countries spread through Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, Scandinavia, the Caribbean, West and East Africa, the Mediterranean islands, Mongolia, Russia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Tunisia, South Africa, and other places that could be considered a little farther off the well stomped trail. This could be called the glory stage of world travel, as many of these countries are remote enough to be challenging and interesting while still being evident of some semblance of a tourist infrastructure.

The third stage of world travel

This group of 50 countries consists of the truly off the map places, the lands that 95% of the planet could not point to on a world map. Here we are talking about Central Africa from Botswana up to Chad, the South American Guayanas, Central Asia, the Caucasas states, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Bhutan, and many other countries that are far off the tourist trail. I only know a few people that are in this stage of world travel.

The forth stage of world travel

The forth stage of world travel consists mostly of islands and very difficult to reach countries. I do not personally know any traveler who has entered this stage, as I am sure that either a boat or a very large bank account is needed. .

Four stages of world travel summary

These stages of travel is not a rule or a guideline, but is more my observations of tendencies of the countries that world travelers tend to go to throughout their journeys. I am still only breaking into the second stage, but I have already traveled through the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Mongolia while leaving massive gaps in some of the regions that make up the first stage. Going to a “third stage” country does not mean that you have entered the third stage of world travel, it just means that you went somewhere that far less travelers tend to go.

The philosophy of world travel

If the object of world travel is found in the attempt to earn an even impression of the world as a whole then country and region counts are perhaps the only applicable measuring sticks. The long duration visiting of countries across the globe is essential for world travel. There are 50 something countries in Africa, but someone who has only visited these 50 countries is not a world traveler, they are an Africa traveler. This goes the same for Europe, as there are countries in this continent but traveling only to them as oppose to going to the other continents of the world also does not constitute world travel, it is European travel.

List of world travelers

It is my impression that a person needs to have traveled through at least 50 countries across a minimum of 4 continents for over three years to boast of being a world traveler. This is an ongoing list of people that I have met or know of who meet this qualification.


Contemporary world travelers

Andy Graham
Michael Robert Powell
Earl Baron
Jasmine Stephenson
Robin Reifel
Dave, the guy looking for home

Old time world travelers

Harry Franck


Filed under: Travel Information, Travel Resources

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

8 comments… add one

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  • seymour April 28, 2011, 7:29 pm

    I generally like sites like this, but this is one of the worst articles I have read on the subject of travel. One has to travel 50 countries on 4 continents for three years to boast of being a traveler. What that is dumb and why do people have to boast of anything?

    There are great travelers who have been to just three countries and crappy ones who have been to 75. Any true traveler doesnt sit around on website and in guesthouses ‘boasting’ anway. yikes.

    As for old time travelers, eric newby or alexandia david neal who could be starters.

    jeffrey taylor is a good contemporary one

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    • Wade | VagabondJourney.com April 30, 2011, 6:12 am

      It seems as if you missed the plot here. This page is entitled, “World Travel,” and is about traveling the world as a whole. This page is not about traveling in one country nor does it say anywhere that world travelers are somehow better than domestic travelers. No, it just states that world travel means going to many, if not all, countries.

      Before sending a nasty comment on this site please read and think about the content you are criticizing first.

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  • John Vensel July 1, 2011, 9:19 am

    I have been reading your work now for a couple of months, and hope that you continue to offer your insights as you have a perspective that is unique.
    This article seems to want to establish the criteria for a “true” world traveler, as opposed to mere posers; people with only a handful of countries under their belt. But I wonder if there isn’t a better measure than just tick marks on a map.

    In fairness I only travel from my easy chair, but I have always thought that world travel was about how you are changed by the world. How experiencing the world changes you as a person. How your view of the world changes through your interactions and acquired understanding of life in a foreign land. This should be the philosophy of world travel. This should be the measure of your travel “worldlyness”.

    I’m just saying.

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    • Wade | VagabondJourney.com July 3, 2011, 11:40 am

      Hello John,

      Every country is different, every region of the world offers something special. World travel means that you set out to travel the world as a whole, and not just a mere part of it. The ticks on the map ensure that you are moving through the planet as a contiguous whole, what you do when you are there is immeasurable — it is up to you to make the most of your travels. This definition of world travel is meant to be very basic and does not have any other underlying qualitative implications: it just covers the act of moving through the world, whether it be as a tourist staying in resorts or an anthropologist studying world culture. It is just the base practice of covering geography that this page is about, it has nothing to do with separating “real travelers” from others.

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  • Jason August 2, 2011, 6:12 am

    Hey Wade, I enjoyed reading this mate, and I’m not quite sure why everyone above is getting upset. I have done a fair bit of world travel over the years, and probably entering the third stage as you have described it above. I feel your descriptions and summaries are quite accurate as to how many people do slowly make their way around this chaotic world of ours.

    When I was younger I was probably a little bit forth coming in telling people where I had been, and what Ive seen. I suppose I was just proud of what I had achieved, and may have come across to some people as a little arrogant or something. As I’ve grown older, I speak with many people about their travels, but seldom do I start name or number dropping about mine.

    I feel that most people can’t really quite understand what you’ve done unless you’ve done something similar, and it sort of goes in one ear and out the other. I for one can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for someone such as yourself, traveling the world with a young family making a living from your travel site.

    Good luck, and safe travels mate. A great site, with a wealth of knowledge.

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  • David W September 15, 2011, 12:36 pm

    Very cool! I’m happy to see things like this. I’m leaning towards a few years of travel myself. These few weeks here, few months there. But a few years. Now that sounds good!

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  • Lundy August 19, 2013, 2:57 am

    I’ve been traveling full time for about four years now. I realize that this article is merely a distinction of what a “world traveler” is, and I speak only for myself, but the weight of my experiences is not a product of the number of countries I have visited.

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    • VagabondJourney August 19, 2013, 5:49 am

      No, not country count but region count is what is important. You can travel to 52 countries in Africa but that wouldn’t necessarily make you a world traveler, just an Africa traveler. Same goes for Europe. So it’s not the number of countries that’s important but the number of different regions across the world. I think the country count numbers may have been confusing here, I only added it to show a general pattern of phases through which people most commonly travel the world.

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