At some point, the student becomes the teacher, and in our families, we often play the role of teacher for all things travel, miles and points. One of our disciples has crept his country count up on us and what wasn’t competition before has become an intense battle.
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Travel Isn’t About Country Counting
The beauty in travel is seeing the world, interacting with others and learning something new wherever you go. There is some folly in what we do, but this hobby is like no other. I won’t fill this post with platitudes of how “travel is the only thing you can spend your money on that makes you richer” (I guess I just did).
For a while, collecting passport stamps and country counting was important to us. But over the past few years we have preferred to return to destinations we already know and love. Last year brought us back to Mexico twice, Colombia, and England among other repeat destinations. As a family, we collected just one new country this year, the Cayman Islands and it was very late in 2018.
That’s how we should be traveling though, going places we like even if that means we don’t cross off any other countries on the map.
But We Still Count Them
That being said, we still count them. I (Kyle) am at 57 countries, Carly is at 53 and Lucy at 26 unique countries according to metrics we outlined in this post. However, we have been stagnant for a little while and need to get back out there. Lucy averaged one new country every other month in her first four years (24 countries in 48 months) but that has dropped from a sprint to a crawl.
We still count countries and it’s time for us to go explore new places again.
My wife, Carly, has a large family, among them a few relatives that have really taken miles, points, and travel seriously. One such cousin is living in Shanghai and spending weekends in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Kathmandu, Nepal, and other Far East outposts. Through casual conversations, I recently learned that he has quite the year planned including travel to Antarctica and was slated to pass us up.
We won’t visit Antarctica until our daughter can join us and that will be at least three more years (ships restrict passengers under eight years old) so we will have to let him slide by on beating us to the last continent we have yet to reach.
But no farther. He was slated to reach 57 or more adding ten countries in 12 months. At the time this would have surpassed Carly by five and myself by one – Lucy is four years old and will add countries as we revisit those we had already seen before she was born. We need to find a way to stay ahead of him by country count despite his ambitious year.
Once we learned of how close he was, the gauntlet was thrown down – in a totally friendly way. We need to maintain our lead on him and we have already fallen behind. He added two a few weeks ago, we added one. It’s a little harder for us to add new countries than it is for him as he is buying one ticket, and we are buying three. However, we also have some advantages.
Here are the following candidate countries that may help us maintain our travel superiority over the young challenger in 2019:
- Iceland (direct flights from Pittsburgh would have helped but these just went away)
- Turks & Caicos
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Dominican Republic
- St. Lucia
- Grenada and the Grenadines (my favorite Caribbean band)
- Laos (we have an upcoming trip to the region)
Here’s to a challenging 2019, filling up a passport with new stamps and our heads with new memories.
How many countries do you have? Does anyone challenge you to travel more? Where are you going in the coming year? If you haven’t followed us on Facebook or Instagram, add us today.
I am guilty of trying to increase my country count, such as adding Indonesia by visiting Batam, near Singapore. However, I am now in a phase that I want to add depth and repeatedly go back to some of the same countries.
I may think “I’d rather go to Belgium again despite many trips there instead of trying out Malawi” despite the attraction of a passport stamp from Malawi and having never been there before.
If I had unlimited vacation time, I would probably add another 20 countries but, lacking that, some of them are low priority because I have some interest in them but not the most.
Recently, I’ve also considered how good the hospitals are in a country. I am not sickly but some countries are extremely lacking in that respect. In some countries, if you have a major head injury, the treatment is not much better than a hot towel on your forehead.
I also started out with a country counting goal for the first 20 or so but then realized the importance was in getting absorbed in the culture and haven’t looked back since.
My country count has racked up to 92 and my son has visited 5 continents, and been to 36 countries at 34 months (proper multi day visits, no stopovers or airport layovers included).
What’s not included is the multiple visits we’ve done to many countries (29x France, 15x Spain, 13x UAE, 4x New Zealand, 4x Maldives, etc) as we enjoy going back to our favorite spots or to explore a country more in depth.
Ultimately, travel should help us broaden our horizons and continue learning. As Mark Twain stated, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”. Travel on…
Kyle as I want you to win, be careful…Turks and Caicos is not a country nor is Bermuda. People mistake that all the time!
I agree and I wouldn’t consider the Cayman Islands as a country either.
Can you elaborate? I saw that Turks and Caicos and Gibraltar are BOT’s but couldn’t discover if that precluded them from being their own country?
They (Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, and Bermuda) aren’t recognized as countries by the U.N. As you stated they are British overseas territories and even though they are mostly autonomous, they have not been given independence from British…thus not countries.
Hope that helps!