Country counting and does it really matter?

Country counting and does it really matter?

26th February 2018 2 By Biggsy
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last Updated on 24th July 2020

An oft discussed topic is whether it matters that a travel blogger’s been to 111 countries or just 11? Is it then of any concern whether a travel blogger then shares that they’ve been to 111 countries or just 11? Although it’s the bloggers with the higher numbers who are more likely to share them, wielded as some sort of badge of honour. A confirmation of their expertise and pedigree as an influencer/source of knowledge. Country counting is one thing but then telling everybody about it is something slightly different. So let’s talk a bit more about country counting?

Country counting using the Been app
Country counting using the Been app

So what counts as visiting a country?

There’s generally the consensus that a stop at at international airport for a few hours doesn’t count. So that’s why Oman was never on my own list, visited after a short stop at Muscat airport on the way back from Australia. Some people go as far to say unless you’ve had a beer land-side then that doesn’t count as a visit to the country either! Not quite as black and white that one but personal “rules are rules”! Others say you should at least stay one night in a country for it to count.

There’s also the debate of what’s actually a country in the first place. To confuse matters, according to Wiki there are 193 Internationally recognized sovereign states,  8+ states with limited recognition, e.g. Abkhazia, and 60+ non-sovereign territories that are recognised by the UN as part of some member state, e.g. Hong Kong.

When it boils down to it does it really matter anyway? If a person wants to highlight the number of countries they’ve been to in their Twitter bio. then they’re fully entitled to do whatever they like. Social Media is still a funny place where people get irritated by the smallest and most inconsequential of things.

Having a cheeky beer at the airport
Having a cheeky beer at the airport. Source ‘The Sun’

The negatives of country counting?

Opponents of the “country count” might suggest that it’s a mild brag or even Western privilege. Who are they trying to impress? Most of the world’s population only ever visit one country; their own! Is it actually all pretty meaningless if you don’t immerse yourself in its culture? Try their food? Drink their national drinks? Interact with their people, both young and old? Possibly even live there for a while? Have you really “been” to the United States if you’ve only spent a long weekend clothes shopping in New York City?

Environmentalists might suggest that visiting lots of countries is by far the worse thing you can do as an individual. Far-flung destinations can’t be reached in anything other than a plane, even for the most sustainable and eco-friendly of travellers and it’s your own personal carbon  footprint that you’re adding to. A return flight from LON to NYC creates the same weight in CO2 per person as two old style VW Beetles!

I’ve already been fortunate enough to visit Germany, France and Switzerland (all overland on occasions) and when visiting Basel recently I realised I could visit 3 countries within 10 minutes at Dreilandereck. Now if I’d only ever been to one of them before would crossing a bridge in a suburban part of town, taking a photo and then walking back over the bridge really count as visiting a country. Technically yes I guess? Deep down? No

country counting and western privilege
Country counting and western privilege. Source

The positives of country counting?

Supporters of “country counting” might answer why does anybody count anything? It gives you achievable targets to aim for. It incentivises you to start with anything, starting out at number 1. One marathon can become two, then five and then ten or more. Would I ever knock someone for saying on their bio. that they’ve run 10 marathons? Certainly not! My dad’s run over 913 of them. Now that DOES need adding to a bio! So these people have definitely achieved their totals through a lot of hard graft and expense.

Some people have visited 50+ countries and spent 3 months living and teaching in all of them far aware from any touristy haunts. Now that can only enrich them as individuals. However either way, travelling to many countries shows you live and love travel and the more of them you’ve been to the more it will have moulded you and taught you the ways of the world.

Those who travel possibly favour experiences rather than “things” and that’s better for you mentally and creates less “stuff” that you don’t need anyway. It must surely give you more experience, opinions and knowledge of the world in which we all live? But if you haven’t been to as many it certainly doesn’t lessen any of the interactions you’ve had in them.

Interacting with the locals
Interacting with the locals.


If you’re a “country counter” and like to mention it then then good for you. If you don’t choose to display and don’t see it as important then then that’s fine too! I favour the latter because as far as I see it one person’s 15 meaningful country visits equates to another person’s superficial 38. And if you’ve covered the whole of America that should give you more “points” than someone who’s only ever visited Orlando! Maybe drop that one into the conversation if a “county country” goes all superior on you due to their higher numbers.

How many countries have I been to? I know the number as I wondered how many it might be when putting this post together. Is it important? No. Is it in my Twitter bio? That will be a “no” too. I put ‘country counting’ into the same category as all those ’30 before 30′, ’40 before 40′ … and in my take on it, in a ‘50 before 50‘ blog post.

Here’s a great country counting blog post by Adventures & Sunsets that sums things up pretty nicely 🙂

What do you think of country counters?

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