Why I Don’t Count Countries

Plane

While I write this, I’ve just returned from my second trip to Costa Brava in six months; my fourth trip to the region ever and one of countless trips to Spain in total. It’s one of my favourite countries, Catalunya is one of my favourite regions, and Barcelona is easily my favourite European city – so I can’t help but keep returning again and and again.

As a travel blogger, though, having visited less than twenty countries in total, I sometimes find my inner monologue berating me for returning to the same places when I “ought” to be seeking out new experiences and cultures. I also catch myself feeling like a fraud, comparing myself unfavourably to other travel bloggers who boast having visited 50+ or even 100+ countries. Not long ago, I posted on Twitter that I was heading to Scotland for the first time ever (and that, as a Brit, I was feeling a bit ashamed of myself), and some mean old Twitter troll retweeted it with a nasty comment about what a rubbish travel blogger I must be, causing a few more people to chip in (“can’t believe she calls herself a travel expert”* etc). A few days before that, someone had commented on a Facebook post of mine saying “you’ve travelled so much less than me – why is your blog doing so much better?”.

*I don’t.

Kangerlussuaq Airport signpostI shouldn’t have let it get to me, but of course it did – and once again I found myself feeling ashamed of my measly country count. Here’s the thing, though. It really doesn’t matter! I only started travelling properly a few years ago, and in that time I may not have racked up a huge number of ticks for the 196-country-long checklist, but I have racked up a serious amount of knowledge – not to mention stories – about the countries, regions, and towns that I’ve spent a lot of quality time in.

As a writer, I think quality time is far more valuable than a vast number of passport stamps – it gives me a level of expertise about certain regions (like Catalunya) that my readers find really helpful. It also means that I have a wealth of experience from which to create the kind of travel stories that I love to write! And, let’s not forget, there are always new experiences to be found in any country, no matter how often you visit – I’ve lived in England for nearly 30 years and I could never, ever, say I’ve experienced even close to every aspect of the country and it’s culture!

For me, spending at least a month each in five countries in South America was far better use of my five months there, than cramming in as many countries as I could just to rack up the numbers. One guy I met during that trip had done the same number of countries in three weeks – claiming to have “done” Bolivia in about three days. I spent nearly five weeks there and it still wasn’t anywhere near enough time for me to see and experience everything. Worse still, I recently saw a fellow blogger post on Facebook proudly about having visited 52 countries in 3 months – that amount of movement and lack of actual experience in each place sounds dreadful to me!

Travel Deeper! Travelling slower and deeper will always be my thing. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but many travellers I know say they initially started out cramming dozens of stops into their own trips, only to find they couldn’t keep it up. You’ll quickly become burned out, and all your stops will merge into one until you can’t remember what you did where or who with. Travel is all about making wonderful memories, so the worst thing you can do is cram in so much that you can’t remember most of it.

My number one piece of advice for newbie travellers is to slow down. Move less, stop longer, see more – and travel deeper. You’ll have a far richer experience and get much more out of a trip by really connecting with the different places and cultures you visit, than you’d get from a big long list of ticks. Travel isn’t a stamp collection – it’s an experience!

The Road Less Traveled

So, there’s my confession. My name is Emily and I’ve only visited 19 countries.

And I just don’t care anymore. Many of the countries I have been to, I’ve spent long enough in – sometimes over multiple return trips – that I can really consider myself an expert, which is invaluable as a travel blogger. I’ve spent time with locals, gotten to know the culture, tried more of the cuisine than the stand-out “must try” dishes the guidebooks feature, spoken to people about the political climate or current issues… and ultimately I’ve explored further and deeper than I possibly could have on a whirlwind trip darting from city to city and airport to airport. Deep travel is all about forming a real connection with a place to get the most out of it, and that’s what I’ll always try to do.

Agree? Disagree? Don’t care? Leave a comment – I’d love to know your opinion! 

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Why I Don't Count Countries

About Emily Luxton

An award-winning writer and travel blogger on a mission to explore the world through deeper, more intelligent travel. Seeking out adventure, cultural exchanges, food experiences and more as she attempts to get to know the world. Lover of the great outdoors, sunsets, good food, and the odd bit of luxury!

103 Comments

  1. worldjourneysdiscover

    to thine own self be true. I do count. Because I’m soulless probably 😛 but i dont judge or equate that with experiences. because one day i was in Almaty waiting for my Uzbek visa and someone proudly told me they’d been to 210 countries. Which I think is only achievable by taking a certain view on what counts as a country. Anyhoo.
    great post!

    • Haha, 210 eh? Wow! Most counts make the world’s total countries at 192 or 196, so that guy must have discovered a few we don’t know about! I guess you could count some places that are technically owned by larger countries, though – that would certainly bump my count up thanks to all the Spanish islands! But yeah – it really isn’t about the number of countries. It’s about the number of experiences, memories, interactions, friends, people, funny stories, character-building (!) disasters. You could only ever visit one country for the rest of your life, and still get as rich an experience as if you visited all countries in the world, as long as you travel well!

      • Thanks for your great blogs, Emily! Reading them in the dark Finnish November helps me cope. I read the new and the old with pleasure!

        I don’t count countries, either. 50+ something, I guess. But I do count destinations… 😎

        A bit over 600 at the moment.

        But hey, I’m 55, I used to work as a tour guide in several countries for eight years in my youth and then worked in a travel agency as the production manager for 16 years – looking for new destinations, islands, cities and resorts.

        I still travel, but less.

        Will try and visit Scotland mid-November, taking my son to Lancaster to see a friend for a few nights. A day trip by train, would you recommend? Or something else? We’ve only got 2 full days…

        Cheers, Jaana

        • Thanks so much for reading Jaana 🙂 I loved Finland in summer but I can imagine it’s much colder and darker in winter. Hang in there!!!

          Scotland is pretty easy to reach by train, you can get into central Edinburgh quite easily. If you can stay overnight I’d recommend that, but there’s plenty you can see in a day. Luckily the centre of Edinburgh is pretty walkable and most things are nearby. Have you decided on what bit of Scotland you’d want to see?

  2. Hi Emily, this is a really interesting post and you put your argument across really clearly! I too don’t see the point in maximum country travelling as you’re just getting a whistlestop tour and skimming the surface with mainly tourist attractions rather than real culture. Having said that I guess I kind of sit in the middle of your argument and trying to see as many places as possible. With just 5 weeks holiday a year from work I and a lot of other people probably don’t have the luxury of revisiting places especially if you have a travel wishlist – life is short and I worry about not seeing all the places I want to! But I love the fact that you have such an in-depth knowledge of places and you are right that some of the best travel writing comes from that intimate experience. I guess it depends on what you’re looking for in life and from your travel experiences! All the best, MaryLou

    • Thanks MaryLou! I know what you mean about having limited holiday and wanting to visit new places – but still, it shouldn’t stop you from going back to a place you really loved, either. It is really all about what you want and how you want to travel, though! I just think that when it comes to rushing or trying to fit in as many new countries as possible – that’s going to ruin a trip and stop you from really connecting with a place. Like you said, it’s just skimming the surface, and actually you can get so much more out of a place than a tour of the touristy highlights! I know it’s not for everyone of course but I really think there’s a lot more to be gained from slower, deeper travel 🙂

  3. Hi Emily, I’m so glad that you have written this post. Just like you, though am not a full-time blogger and traveller, I keep returning to India, have made multiple trips, and have found myself learning and knowing so much about this country compared to others. I don’t really care if I haven’t seen much of Europe, US or other Asian countries like China or Japan. Most importantly, it’s the experiences and memories that count which will last a long time. Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂

    Cheers,
    Kat

    • Thanks Kat! I’m so glad I’m not the only one – and it’s really cool that you keep going back to India. It’s a huge country and there is so much to see there – you could go somewhere different every time and still not see all of it!

      It really is all about the experiences and memories! 🙂

  4. I totally agree Emily! It’s about just getting out there, quality time spent enjoying and exploring a place. I’d like to say I’ve never visited a country just to ‘tick it off’ but I felt like I’d pretty much done that after a day in Lichtenstein. In my defence it was a short bus ride from the hostel we were staying in in Austria, it would have been rude not to!
    My ‘stat’s’ in the number department are pretty low too (37 I think) considering the amount of time I’ve spent travelling and my nomadic life. I’m happy to return to places, spend that time doing stuff that I love in places that I love.
    I do keep a tally but I’m not trying to grow it, it will creep up naturally!
    It’s quality over quantity every time!

    • Thanks Rachel! You’re so right – it’s all about quality over quantity. I have a tally too, but it’s so unimportant to me – and I’d never start visiting countries just to grow the numbers. I go where I want to go!

  5. Hi Emily! I really liked your post, I found it very accurate.
    Though I’m nothing near a travel blogger (just a simple student/worker) I know that in my next trip I will travel as you say: deeper. Last year I had the opportunity of visiting some of the most important cities in the UK and Ireland, but I only had 3 weeks so, in some of them, it was literally a superficial insight. It’s difficult given the short holidays we may have from our responsibilities but I totally agree with your arguments.
    I’m from this little country named Uruguay, placed between Argentina & Brazil, countries I know you have visited. So for your next trip to South America I invite you to “discover” us. I’m sure you won’t regret it! Plus, it’s in Uruguayan nature to have a very quiet lifestyle and take everything calmly!
    Best wishes, Giovanna

    • Hi Giovanna! Thanks so much for your comment and lovely words. You definitely don’t have to be a travel blogger to travel deeper – and I’m really pleased to hear that there are others trying to do the same as me.

      Funnily enough, Uruguay is actually very high on my list to visit soon. When I was in South America last year, I almost went for a day trip from Buenos Aires to Montevideo but I decided against it as I didn’t feel like that was enough time to do the country justice and I didn’t want to visit just for the sake of it. So, I decided I’d make sure to come back to South America with more time and spend longer getting to know Uruguay – as well as the other countries I missed! I love the sound of a quiet lifestyle and taking things calmly so that appeals even more. How’s the weather in Feb/March time?!

      Thanks, Emily 🙂

      • That would be awesome! The best time to visit Uruguay is from November to March, even early April. February is still summer but not as hot and unbearable as January may be. Both Feb & March alternate warm and mild days and give you the chance to go to the beach (which are pretty amazing around here!).
        In that case I hope to hear from your visit soon!
        Nice meeting you, cheers! Giovanna

  6. Hi Emily,
    I loved your article. Personally, I keep track of countries visited more for a personal goal than competition or anything else.

    I agree with you that there is so much to see in anyone country (especially our own)…perhaps we should be a local tourist sometimes too.

    Also, just like in business, sometimes it is better to be an expert in one country (or a few).

    Keep traveling how you like to travel and I hope you have fun in Scotland (I, too, have not been to Scotland yet but it is on my list). 🙂

    • Thanks Linda! So pleased you like my article.

      I actually do keep track of all the places I’ve visited (that’s how I know I’m at 19 countries now), but again, it’s just for personal reasons – so that I remember where I’ve been! What I don’t do is count countries in terms of choosing where I will or won’t go in order to grow my list, or rush things in order to pack more into each trip. There’s just no point!

      And you’re definitely right about being a local tourist – that’s something so many people forget. Our own countries sometimes seem quite boring, but there’s so much to see. Last year I spent four months travelling around England and housesitting in various towns, which was an amazing experience. I saw so much more of my own country than I had in my whole life, and I got to know a few great parts of the UK which I’ll definitely go back to, like the Lake District.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  7. I am shocked that people could be so rude to you!! Well. I guess not that people could be so rude, but you have such a fantastic blog. I just found it but I have been digging around like crazy. Your writing is so, so great and I appreciate that WAY more than you visiting 100 countries. Maybe that’s just because our travel styles line up more? But let me tell you, those trolls can go suck it.

    Thank you for writing this and sharing your opinion!!

    • Thanks Amanda 🙂 🙂 🙂 That really means a lot! I was pretty surprised as I’ve not really had anyone make mean comments about my blogging before. It upset me at the time but I’m happy to say I’m over it now. My travel style suits me and I think most of my readers like it (hence why they stick around and read my blog), so it doesn’t really matter if that’s not the way other people want to travel. They don’t have to read my blog!

      Thanks so much for your encouragement 😀

  8. I adore this post. I also prefer slower, deeper travel. I seek out experiences that allow me to live and work in countries, and I make plans to return to places I love. It’s my travel style. For me, travel is about getting to know places, not checking them off. It’s a shame that people would feel the need to bash your credibility as a travel blogger when you’re staying true to your own brand of travel and cultivating deep expertise. Travelers should respect each other’s travel styles, not judge them. This post is a beautiful response.

    • Thanks so much Kate! It took me a few weeks to write the post as it was hard to put my feelings into words – I’m so pleased it’s getting such a good response. That tells me I’m right to stick with my convictions 🙂

      I love deeper travel. Obviously, it’s not always possible – but even if you only take a weekend break somewhere you can still make an effort to travel deeper and connect with the local way of life etc. I’m so glad other people value the same travel style as I do – it’s all about getting to know cultures and places, rather than collecting countries!

      Thanks so much for commenting Katie 🙂

  9. It’s refreshing to read posts like this – FINALLY a person who has understood the actual meaning of travel as an all-encompassing cultural experience. I am sick tired of bloggers who count countries. One I know in person is now to his 74th. I know that of those 74 countries, lots of them are actually places that he’s traveled through with a bus, on his way somewhere else. Or, he spent months in a place without actually not even exploring that city, trying the food, meeting the locals, learning about the culture or speaking a word of the local language. How’s that traveling?

    I have done both slow and fast travel. I have spent 2 weeks in Peru my first time over, and I have done so much when there, met so many people, embraced the culture, that I can say I got a good BASIC knowledge of the country. Then I have returned multiple times. And like that, to many other countries – which I wish to visit again and again.

    Thanks for this post, Emily!

    • Thank you so much Claudia! It’s so nice to hear that so many people are in agreement with me – I’ve always felt so inadequate!!

      You can definitely see enough in two weeks to get a good knowledge of a place, as long as you’re travelling well. It’s nice to hear of other people revisiting countries and trying to make sure they really get to know places, because that’s what travelling (in my opinion) is all about!

  10. Heres my confession: my name is Julie and ive only visited ten countries. For me its totally okay and i agree with your point of traveling slow and deeper. Travel is an experience not some math calculation or some competition for winner to tout their numbers. Last year i have spent more than a week in Quebec city, bt most my friends visited Montreal and Quebec city in three days, and i was just shocked that how can they possibly get around the two largest cities in the largest province in just three days. Abut the success of travel blogging, its 80percent marketing and 20percent traveling and writing. Sadly most daydreamers dont know this sad truth.

    • I always hate when I hear of people visiting huge, incredible cities in a few days and then considering them ‘done’ forever. When I was in Rio last year, I spent just over a week there and I think I explored about 1% of the entire city – but loads of people were there just a day or two on the way to other places and acted as if they’d seen everything, just because they’d hit the biggest tourist attractions. What happened to just wandering through cities and exploring? So many people seem to rush from attraction to attraction, tick it all off, get a photo, and then head home feeling like they’ve done everything! It’s crazy. I could go back to Rio again and again and still not see everything! In fact I lived in London for two years and I’ve still barely seen any of it! Places aren’t made by the tourist attractions that are in them, it’s about the streets, people, food, interactions, etc.

      Sometimes other travellers annoy me 😉 Thanks for commenting Julie!

  11. TOTALLY agree- it’s about quality, not quantity! (And I love Spain too:)

  12. Hey Emily! Really relate to this! It’s funny because I’m proud to have clocked up a fair few countries in the last year since I took travelling more seriously, but I also know that it’s nothing compared to many bloggers. I think the month I spent in Mexico last year was one of the most valuable learning experiences… I would love to have a bit more time to get to know some other places inside out. 🙂 Enjoy the slow travel lifestyle – I look forward to reading more of your tips. Cx

    • Thanks Chloe! I know what you mean – I’m also really proud of my growing list (even if it is hopelessly tiny compared with other travellers) but at the same time I know thatt here’s no use travelling just to grow it. As soon as you start doing that, it stops being travelling at all I think!! But still, it’s nice to keep track of it and watch the list go up – I don’t mind ‘counting countries’ really.

      You’ve travelled so much this year, I don’t know how you fit it all in!! Hopefully we’ll run into each other soon 🙂 x

    • @Chloe
      Same here! I spent a month in Panama this past summer, and I got so much out of it. The culture, the people, the country… Something you really can’t acquire in a short amount of time.

      @Emily
      I love this article! Nobody has ever promoted this type of travel, so I’ve always felt a little like an anomaly. lol I’m braver now, thanks to you. 🙂
      I love staying in a new place for an extended time, learning, indulging, discovering. It’s so amazing. It’s one reason I may be traveling solo a lot in the future. So I can go at my own (slow) pace.

      • Thanks so much Hannah! So nice to connect with a fellow slow traveller! It really is the best (only?) way to truly explore and discover a place. Taking time to really learn what a place is about, build connections, and really experience it, has so much more value in my opinion.

        It’s so nice to get such a positive response on this post from everyone, especially after the negative comments I received which inspired me to write it. Seems like slow/deep travellers are not an anomaly at all – although it’s easy to feel that way when you’re actually on the road, meeting backpackers who are racking up the countries in a matter of months. Each to their own, I say – but I know what I like and I’m proud of it, too!

  13. My name is Anne and I have been to 71 countries. I do count but to be fair I have spent mere days in some countries, largely because of time constraints through work. I guess I find it exciting going to a new country for the first time (and I like a good stamp) but as I mature I’m finding the fun in staying closer to home and really getting to know a place. I am amazed that you get people trolling you though. Please don’t let it get to you as clearly they are just jealous, and should be spending more time focussing on building their own blogs rather than knocking you for your success!

    • Thanks Anne. I’ve actually been trolled a couple of times on Twitter recently – I can only assume it’s a sign that I’m doing well, as surely no one bothers to troll small bloggers?!

      Anyway, I’m not really anti counting countries as the title implies – after all I had to count to know I was up to 19! But, it’s just a catchy way of saying that I value experience and quality travel over sheer numbers, and that I’m not impressed when someone says they’ve visited 150 odd countries. I’m impressed by the experiences people have had and what they’ve done on their travels, no matter how many countries those have happened in. I think among some travellers there’s a tendency to look down on people for not racking up the numbers, but that’s just stupid!

      Thanks so much for commenting 😀

  14. I couldn’t agree more! Just crossing a border doesn’t mean anything unless you’ve taken the time to really get to know a new country. I’ve done both fast and slow travel, but the places I’ve spent longer in are always the ones I feel more connected to.

    I have to say I was surprised to hear about that Facebook comment. What does the number of countries you’ve visited have to do with how good your travel blog is? Sounds like jealousy to me!

    • Thanks Yasmine! I was really surprised by that comment. But then some people say thoughtless things sometimes. Perhaps at a glance it does look like I’ve not travelled much, which is strange for a travel blogger, but in actual fact I have travelled a lot – I just haven’t racked up the numbers! I’ve also travelled well, and like you said, the places I spent a long time in are the ones I feel more connected to. My weekend in Brussels this year was great, but I really don’t feel like I know enough about Belgium yet to ‘tick it off’, but on the other hand I spent a month in The Netherlands (my third trip there) and I can really say I know that country well and can talk about it!

      I do travel fast sometimes – time constraints often mean I have to – but I prefer slow travel, and however quick my trip, I really make an effort to travel well and get to know a place on as deep a level as possible.

      Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  15. As a child, our parents kept going back to the same places…usually we summered at Cape Cod and took a trip every once in a while to Florida to visit relatives or DC to see relatives there. A lot of it had to do with the fact that my aunt had an available vacation house and we traveled as a group of 8 at a minimum. Gets real expensive.

    Right now, I’m torn between going to places we’ve already been to versus new places. I so want to go back to London since we only had a few days there, but more so to Paris since it was added on and we only had 15 hours! And most of that was spent waiting in line for the catacombs 🙂

    Can’t wait to see new places in the old spots I’ve been to, though, since things change and you can never really see everything no matter how often you go.

    • Exactly! Doesn’t matter how often you visit, things change so much and there’s so much to see that you’ll always find a new experience. My best example is England – I’ve lived here my whole life and travelled a fair amount, but I’ve only seen and tiny fraction of the towns and places here. There’s always something new to discover. If that’s the case with my own country, then it’s surely the case with the rest of the world!

      I do love to visit new places and countries though, of course! But that’s not the be all and end all of travel!

  16. Already has been said a lot. So I am not gonna repeat that for the sake of brevity.

    Personally i think that visiting a lot of countries does have some merit. Each country is different and a lot of visits will bring along a host of different observations, experiences, etc no matter if it’s short.. So obviously someone who has visited a lot of countries can tell you a lot about traveling as such. (miles, booking, packing, things like that come to mind)

    But like you already pointed out, for truly appreciating a place 1 or 3 days are usually not enough (depends on how intense you travel, but still). So if I wanna blog about “Secret London – 10 things you certainly never heard of but must see anyhow”, you will need quite a different travel experience.

    I think what you are doing is just right, Emily, as is probably what a lot of other are doing. My point is – everyone needs to find his or her own way. Things that work out for me don’t necessairly work out for someone else.

    That being said: everything you are doing (least of me here commenting this post) points toward the fact, that whatever you are doing as a travel blogger seems right. There r some 6 billion people on this planet and most of them will travel in one way or another in their lives. So if your kind of traveling only touches a million people, well, i guess you’d be quite happy to reach that kind of audience (as every other blogger would be).

    Don’t try to please everyone – that’s a dead-end. Besides – i bet a lot of your readers haven’t visited 200 countries either – so that is a common ground to build on as well. Blogging takes so many different forms 🙂

    keep the good things up emily 🙂

    Norman who has visited “only” 54 countries (i had to count for this post – was never a metric i kept track of.)

    • Thank you Norman for such a lovely and in-depth comment. You are absolutely right about your first point – there is a lot of value in travelling to new places of course, and I do travel to new places as much as possible. My biggest gripe is with people who travel to a place just for the sake of ticking it off, or who just spend a few days (even hours) in a place before calling it ‘done’. That’s what I mean by ‘counting countries’ – travelling just for the numbers, or focusing too much on the numbers and not enough on the experience.

      Like you said, everyone is different and what works for me definitely won’t work for everyone. But I really wanted to talk about exactly what works for me and what I’m passionate about, to show people what my blog has been focussing on and will hopefully continue to focus on.

      Thanks again for commenting (and saying nice things 😉 !) Happy travels 🙂

  17. I just published an article about exactly the same thing (and I didn’t steal it from you, sorry if you think that, if I’d have known, I’d have postponed it!) … but I completely agree with you. Some people think they are so much better than anyone else just because they have been to so many countries while in fact, they haven’t really seen anything of a country at all. It annoys me that people nowadays have a list they want to tick off, kind of the been there/done that mentality – I hate it. I’d rather return to many countries I have been than going to some new countries I have no interest in going …

    • Hi Antonette! I don’t think you copied at all – I think this is quite a common issue, with other travellers looking down on those who don’t travel the “right” way, and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one standing up for my personal travel beliefs. I’m not saying mine is the “right” way at all, but I am very passionate about the way I travel and I’m going to keep on doing things my way.

      Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  18. I really relate to this post. I couldn’t believe people were so rude to you, until I remembered having lunch with a friend who is a world traveler (but not a blogger) who basically dissed me for visiting Italy so much when there were so many countries out there to see. My country count is “only” 17, but I’ve revisited countries I loved numerous times!! It made the experience deeper, richer, and given me lifelong friends. Spain is actually one of those countries! I went to Barcelona 3 times in one year, the last visit extended to nearly 2 months, and I wouldn’t change a thing! I agree with all of your points. I don’t want to simply “see” a place for the heck of ticking it off on my counter. To each his own!

    • Hi Francesca! Thanks so much for commenting. It hasn’t just been online comments – other travellers can be the worst for it and I’ve had people poke fun or at least give an obvious “look” when I’ve said how many countries I’ve visited. It’s so stupid – my way of travelling works for me and my blog, and that should be then end of it. There seems to be a tendency among certain travellers to look down on other people who don’t travel, or who don’t travel in what they think is the right way – which is awful because travellers usually tend to think of themselves as more open minded people!

      At least after having so many positive comments on this post I know I’m far from being alone. Keep on travelling exactly how you want to – forget about the numbers 🙂

  19. Love this! It’s hard not to feel competitive when others seem to have been to 10x as many countries, but I know that is not what truly matters. What matters is our personal memories and experiences gained during our unique journeys.

    • Exactly! Thanks Amy – it’s so nice to be getting so many positive comments on the post, because now I know it isn’t just me. Some travellers seem to let it go to their heads a little and start looking down on other travellers or newbies, which is really sad as surely travelling is all about being open minded! Not everyone wants to travel in the same way and we shouldn’t be made to feel inadequate just because we have’t achieved the same as some other travellers yet! It’s never about the numbers, but the memories 🙂

  20. Go your bad self. You know I am pioneering this slow travel business since we arrived in Canada. I will be a repeat offender for Barcelona come 2016 too, it’s such a warm and welcoming city, who wouldn’t! I’ve never been to Wales or Ireland, our neighbours, can I be in your gang?

    • Thanks Gemma! Definitely you can join the gang – how much fun! I’ve still not been to Ireland or Wales either, and I’ve barely been north of London in England. I am getting to be a bit of an expert on the Channel Islands though so maybe that counts for something 😉

      Repeat travel and slow travel are both awesome. I get the argument for visiting new places and I love to do that too – but I felt it was important that I stood up to those travel ‘elitists’ who like to scorn on anyone that doesn’t do things their way!

  21. You just hit the nail on the head. Ok, if I had to count, I’ve seen about 35 countries, in the last 20 years, I counted The Canary Islands and Spain as one.. Except for the small ones like Vatican City, Monaco, Luxemborg and Lichtenstein which you can ‘see’ in a day, I walked clear across Monaco, twice in the same day, those are ones that I intend to re-visit because no matter how small a place is, there is often something you miss.

    I guess I’m more of a quality over quantity kinda guy, which is probably why I enjoy Belgian beer so much!

    • Thanks so much Sean! You’re exactly right; no matter how small somewhere is, you still can’t see everything really. I’ve been living in Guernsey, which is pretty tiny, for several months now and I’ve not been everywhere yet. And places are different in different seasons and things, so there’s always something new to be learned from a return trip.

      I love visiting new places too, and it feels nice to grow the list of places I’ve been, but for me quality is so much more important in travel and it’s really nice to hear that so many other people feel the same 🙂

  22. Eugh stupid trolls- ignore them! I have the opposite problem as you in that I have FOMO and if I’m anywhere near a border I’m like “oh let’s just pop over”…but I think that’s because I’m from Canada and our country is SO FAR AWAY FROM ANYWHERE ELSE. That being said, a bit of slow-travel would be great!

    • Haha, I love your excuse! And it’s a good one – Canada is SO far away. I’ve been wanting to visit for years but never make it because it’s so far away – short haul flights are always so much more appealing to me.

      It’s not that I don’t want to grow my passport stamp collection, nor that I think anyone else should avoid short trips in favour of slow travel. It’s more that I hate when people travel JUST for the sake of racking up the numbers, which seems to happen a lot (like the 52 countries in 3 months guy), or write off a whole country as ‘done’ after just visiting one city for two days. Nothing wrong with hopping across a border just to see what’s on the other side, though, as long as you’re travelling for your own reasons and not thinking solely of the numbers 😉

  23. Hi I love reading this, I have always been a tour person and have finally decided to travel solo and slower. I was passport junkie, get another stamp rack up another country. I have come to the conclusion that you miss so much and remember less as time goes by. I am planning on going to South America in a couple of years. I am hoping to spend a year on the continent then move on to Central America. I am hoping to never stop traveling but have only recently started my blog i am still learning the ropes. I hope to develop an income that way and also to teach English perhaps.

    • Thanks so much Tammy! And it’s awesome that you’re going to South America – my absolute favourite continent. A year is a really good amount of time, too. I only had five months (only) and it didn’t feel like enough at all. Although I did manage to see and do a lot!

      Good luck with your blog and your travels – and welcome to the world of slow solo travel 🙂

  24. Very very well said! Ignore all those haters, they’re ridiculous! PS I’m a huge Spain lover too, and I as I plan to go back for the fourth time I had that same train of thoughts (“shouldn’t I be seeing other countries”?). Thanks for a very well stated and relatable post

    • Thanks so much Michelle! I’ve been so thrilled to be getting lots of support for my post – especially after some of the negative comments I’d had. I guess a lot of people feel the same as me, which is really nice:)

      Revisiting countries you love is never a bad idea – you can never see it all in one trip anyway, and there will always be so much more to go back for.

  25. I bumped into this article thanks to Bunch Of Backpackers and I think you’re absolutely right! Traveling is not about (and it shouldn’t be) a high number, it’s about the experience and the feeling you get while travelling in those countries. I can’t imagine travelling in such a high pace “5 countries in 3 weeks”. I already have troubles with fitting part of everything I wanna see and do in one country in a 3 week trip, let alone “doing” more. I think it quit ironic, people who “do” more countries in one trip, but I don’t think they have the time to exactly DO something in the differenties cities and regions. Please don’t let such awful and jealous comments get to you and keep on writing you stories about YOUR experiences, that’s what matters. (to yourself and your readers).

    • Thanks so much for commenting Lotte 🙂

      I’ve been getting negative comments for a while so this post was a long time coming. In the end I felt like I had to defend myself a little bit – but I’m so glad I did. The amount of supportive comments I’ve had on the post and on Twitter shows that I’m far from being the only one who feels this way. If you’re travelling fast and packing in dozens of countries to one trip, you can’t possibly say you’ve “done” those countries – as you said, there wouldn’t be enough time to actually do anything!

      Thanks so much for your kind words, it really means a lot 🙂

  26. Hi Emily

    Thanks for posting this. I love your statement “Travel isn’t a stamp collection – it’s an experience!” and completely agree with it. I have personally never quite understood the competitive aspect of traveling or the need to tick off as many countries on the list as possible. Perhaps someone can explain to me what the gratification of it is? You don’t have time to actually see and experience anything in one country before you’re off to the next, do you? I’m not saying it’s not right for some travellers, but to belittle those who have another agenda with their travels, seems to me to be quite unnecessary. See as many countries as you want in as little time as you can OR take your time and explore a fewer number of destinations. You are a traveller one way or another.

    • Thank you so much Gitte. You are absolutely right – if people want to travel fast and tick off lots of countries, that’s up to them, but why disrespect other travellers who don’t want to do things that way? There’s no need for it!

      However you choose to travel, you’re still a traveller as you’ve said. And travellers should stick together and support each other I think.

      Never mind, I suppose – each to their own 🙂

  27. I don’t count countries, either, and neither am I attempting a “collection” anyway! I just want to visit places I want to visit – my blog is as much about the journey as the destination. So do I count Luxembourg where I spent one night on my way to Switzerland? Well, yes, I must, for I went for a walk there and bought a drink in a bar! I slept there and had breakfast there. I am about to return to Switzerland for a third visit but if I were collecting countries I’d move on. There will be a swift visit to Italy while I’m there – but I could already count that as I changed trains there once and bought an espresso on the train before crossing back into Switzerland = I had to pay in Euros so it must have been in Italy. But Italy is on the list for a proper visit later.

    • It’s an interesting question. Personally, I count a country on my measly list if I left the airport, had a meal, and went outside there. So I don’t count China, where I spent something like 8 hours inside an airport once en route to Vietnam, but I do count Sri Lanka, where I spent one night on the way to somewhere else. I took a walk on the beach, had a meal, and chatted to some locals while I was there. However, although I count it as a country I’ve been to, I don’t really think of that as a proper trip. So it’s still on the list for a return visit so that I can see Sri Lanka properly at some point.

      It’s possible to travel slowly on a short trip (I have a post about that coming soon), as long as you make the effort to really see a lot in your short time. I love what you’ve said in your comment, though – “I just want to visit places I want to visit”. That’s my attitude too, and it’s a good one I think 🙂

  28. This is a really thoughtful, well constructed argument. I agree that travel shouldn’t be about tick lists, but I do try and keep the number of countries I’ve visited higher than my age. That gives me plenty of time to explore!

    • Thanks Katie! I do like to visit new countries so I’m by no means saying that’s not a good idea. But I felt it was important to say why it’s not all about numbers!

      Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  29. I think that is one problem with travelling from New Zealand. The cost of getting on a plane to the other side of the world is quite high and the travel time is really long. When I travelled to Europe 20 years ago we had six weeks off work and we crammed in a lot of countries. In past trips I have done a mix of old favourites and new places from my Wish List. On my next trip I am away for four weeks and I am only visiting four cities – all new. I think we get a bit caught up in the ‘competition’. I smile when people say they are ‘travellers’ and not ‘tourists’. I think everyone works very hard to have a holiday and if they’re happy sitting on a beach for a week, or climbing a mountain, or visiting 8 countries in 7 days, then so be it.

    • Thanks so much for commenting Kristin. I totally agree with you, people should travel exactly as they enjoy and stop worrying about what other people think. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since writing this post – travelling how I see fit and not worrying about my country count or what others make of it! It’s not a competition 🙂

      When a trip takes a lot of money and travel time, I can see why it would be tempting to make the most of it and try to see and do as much as possible. But, for me seeing and doing as much in one or two places is as good as seeing a larger number of places. It’s all down to what makes us happy individually I think. And that’s what I was trying to show with writing my post – that my travel style suits me and that’s all that matters. Enjoy your next trip 🙂

  30. I love this so much. I’ve felt the exact same way at times – you know, when people make me question how I can call myself a travel blogger (even if it’s just a side hobby) if I’ve only been to a dozen countries… sadly, it tends to be individuals who’ve just crossed another country off their list who appear the most judgemental. But that’s by no means a definitive statement – lots of travel bloggers who count countries are totally awesome and don’t use it to deem their value to contribute as an individual/traveller/blogger!

    Everyone has different travel styles and, like you said in your last comment, it’s not a competition! I’m as eager to learn from someone who’s only been to two countries as I am someone who has been to a hundred. Every single person who has travelled anywhere can be a great resource 🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Thanks so much Courtney! I totally agree with you – regardless of the number of countries someone has been to, they can be a really helpful or interesting resource.

      It does tend to be the people who are travelling almost exclusively for numbers that are more negative about other travellers. I think some people make it a competition and that’s really sad – travel is all about the fun and the experience 🙂

  31. This is a great post Emily. I’ve had people tell me they’d never go to a country more than once and I simply don’t get that mentality nor country-hopping for the sake of racking up numbers. Your comment about meeting someone who had done the same trip as you in a fraction of the time definitely rang true!

    Although I have been to quite a few countries (over 60), a large proportion of them I’ve either been to two or three or more times or have spent a month or longer there getting to know it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why the rush and the competition hey!?

    • Exactly! I can’t understand this competitive-ness amongst some travellers. It’s so silly – and rushing around just thinking about passport stamps seems silly too. I really prefer to travel when it’s a valuable experience – and the less time spent on transport the better!

      Thanks so much for commenting Natalie 🙂

    • Your blog says different, 60 countries and counting.. and says it everywhere!

      • Hey Ross 🙂 Thanks for your comments. Despite the title of my post (which in hindsight isn’t really that well worded), I’m not actually having a go at the actual act of counting countries. I myself keep a track of how many I’ve visited. This post was more about not travelling just for the sake of the numbers but for the sake of experiences. Natalie’s the same as me, hence why she’ll revisit countries sometimes or spend longer. It’s not about not counting at all, because counting how many countries you’ve been to isn’t really at all bad. It’s just about making sure you’re travelling for the right reasons, and not squeezing in a certain trip just in order to tick off a box! 🙂

  32. I only saw this post now and wish I could wack those trolls over the head for you! What idiots. I guess, however one choses to travel is right for that person, but when countries just become boxes to be ticked off a list, you are right – it lacks soul. Even the phrase bothers me – to do a country – phew. I sometimes think it is nice to go somewhere for a short trip to get an idea of a country because truthfully it does suck when you commit to spending a long amount of time somewhere only to realize that you really don’t click with a place. However, that shouldn’t replace experiencing a place in depth regardless of how much or little vacation you have. I don’t understand how people like that think….
    And yes, I agree with you also because I too have places I love too much to not go back often and I think my readers will agree that I rather give them sound advice on a few places have much knowledge about than nothing but fluff on everywhere.

    • Thanks so much Annika! Honestly, it bothered me so much at the time, but now that I’ve written this post I can see that there was no need to let it get to me. We should all do what works best for us. Some people prefer the kind of soulless, tick-box travelling – but for me that’s just not good enough. And I think part of my success as a blogger has come from how long I’ve spent in certain countries.

      I still love short trips too, and especially when I’m not too sure about a country. But if I only had a week, I would only go to one or maybe two cities. I think some people try to cram a lot into one trip and end up rushing – no matter what amount of time you have, travelling a little more slowly and seeing more of each place you visit is surely a more rewarding experience!

  33. I’ve done the 8 countries in 3 weeks tour. I don’t regret it because it was my first trip abroad and was a little like a tasting menu…it helped me decide where I wanted more of. After that, 2 weeks became the normal trip…better, but still not enough. Now retired, my husband and I have spent the last year or so each month in a different location. We’ve gone from pictures to remember the famous places we saw to stories about the locals we’ve come to know. I’d have to pull out pictures to remember anything about the 24 hour stop in Innsbruck, but I’ll never forget our neighbors in Provence…like Marie Jeanne in her gold sequined high top tennis shoes feeding the stray cats and telling tales on all of the neighbors! As the ad says “Priceless”. With only 12 countries under my belt, 5 of which were less than 1 month – I consider myself lucky – I know people who have never left their home state, or maybe only been to 1 or 2 others. As long as you travel with an open mind (and heart) any travel can enrich your life.

    • A tasting menu, I love that idea! Nothing wrong with a whirlwind trip at all and it is a great way to sample a lot of places and maximise your annual leave. But it’s so nice to have the richer experiences that come with exploring a place for a long time or over repeated trips.

      Love that you prize stories about locals over photos of places, too. I think if you rush through a place ticking off the big attractions, in the future you’ll only really be able to remember things from the photos you took. Whereas if you linger and take things slow and have a lot of great experiences, they’re more likely to turn into memories 🙂

  34. I like to count countries, I think for people with that mindset of collecting/lists (like me) it’s just a fun little thing to do. I do like the idea of adding a new country to the list, because it means I’m going somewhere new.

    But that’s it. I don’t think the number has any greater meaning or weight behind it. And it’s not the only reason for me to go somewhere. It doesn’t indicate the experiences you’ve had travelling, it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a better traveller or a better travel blogger. And I love going back to countries, because I know there’s plenty I’ve yet to see. Ideally I want breadth and depth, but if I have to pick, it’s depth. I’m not a fan of people who say that they’ve “done” a place with one brief encounter.

    Great post and discussion Emily.

    (I’m at 50 btw, and yes I have a list :p )

    • Haha! I think it’s cool that you have a list – I have a list too and obviously I do count the countries that I’ve been to, which is how I know I’m at 21 now! But like you said, the number doesn’t have any greater meaning. As long as it’s not the only reason you’re travelling, there’s nothing wrong with counting countries really.

      Thanks so much for commenting, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  35. YES! I’m so right there with you. I actually have a very similar post on my own blog! Whenever someone asks me how many countries I’ve been to, my answer is something like ‘Well, it depends….” because how do you count? Are England, Scotland and Wales one or three? Does Tibet count? Taiwan? And how long do I have to stay to say I’ve been there? And is it fair that I can only count China once when I’ve been there five times? The place is HUGE!

    And in the end it’s all about the experiences you have had anyway. That’s what counts, in my eyes. Great post!

    • Thanks Jenny 🙂 It’s so true. I mean technically, Sri Lanka is on my list of (22) countries, but I was only there for one night. I mean, technically I’ve been there, but I would never really say that I’ve been there or write about it – because I saw nothing. Just a beach near Colombo!

      And like you’ve said about China – I just spent three weeks in India, but the country is ENORMOUS and there’s so much variety there, so it doesn’t really feel like I saw India. I only went to four towns! What staggers me is when people say they’ve “done” a place, especially a huge country like India. “Oh yeah, I did India in 2014…” Annoys me so much that I wrote a whole separate post about it – http://emilyluxton.co.uk/travelrant/not-done

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment 🙂

  36. I confess, we’re total list crosser offers! Mainly due the world being so huge and wanting to see it all in our 26 days a year paid holiday! It’s become a bit of a personal challenge and even if we do start planning just spend time in one place it’s always “but x is JUST THERE…and y is JUST THERE!”. Yes we don’t even scrape the surface of each country but we consider it more of a taster “tapas” of countries and we know exactly where we want to go back and spend more time later in our lives when we want to slow down the pace a bit. That said, if time wasn’t an option we’d definitely give everywhere the time it deserves. It isn’t a competition as you say, and certainly no one should be slighting your blog just because you’ve only been to x amount of countries – I bet your stories are a lot more in-depth and you’ve discover things people would normally miss during a shorter visit. Ours is mainly about rushing around and missing various forms of transport!

    • I totally get your side of things – I like the idea of packing lots of places in as a taster. Buuut for me I always think, what if I don’t have time later in life?! I’d rather spend less time on transport and more time doing things in a few places. There’s no “right” way of travelling, but the rushed way isn’t for me! And I’m happy for everyone else to travel as they want – you’re right, no one should judge anyone else 🙂

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment! Happy travels 🙂

  37. I not only agree with most of your points; I also wrote my own blog post about it years ago! (I hate putting links to my own blog in other people’s comments, but my post was called “Collecting Countries” if you want to check it out). I’m a big fan of going deep when traveling, and I can’t help myself from going back again and again to my favorite spots. Nevertheless, as some others have noted, sometimes I also can’t resist popping into another country if it’s very close by and I have the extra time!

    • Thanks so much for commenting! So glad you liked the post, and so glad to know that I;m far from being the only one that feels this way 🙂 I’ll definitely go check out your blog post now. Thanks 😀

  38. Couldn’t agree more! Quality over quantity, always! Who knows more about a destination you think, somebody who went to the same place 5 times or somebody who spent 24 hours there? … Indeed! That’s why the guy who “did” all countries in the world, visiting somehow 19 of them in 1 day (!), is the opposite of a traveler to me!

    • Same here! It’s one thing to count the places you’ve been for your own self, it’s another to travel just to increase that number. 19 in one day? Impossible – you might as well look at 19 photographs of the places, because it’s the same amount of value!!!

  39. Hi Emily,
    I really enjoyed reading your article and I’m glad there are other travellers around who don’t really care about numbers, but quality travel.
    I’m sad about people who’s been in a country for a weekend and they tick it off from the map. ‘I’ve been in Barcelona and Madrid for a weekend. Spain is done’. When I read or hear things like that I think. ‘Spain is done? Really? You have no idea what real Spain is, dear’.
    I’m also of the idea it’s good to come back to places and see how they’ve changed. I’ve ‘only’ visited 22-23 countries and that doesn’t make me a bad traveller. The number might not be high, but I’ve lived in Saint Petersburg for 3 months, in Tallinn for 1 year, in Latvia for 2 years, in Ireland for about 2 years and in the UK for 5 years. And my knowledge of those countries make my content much more valuable than any ’24 hours in Rome’ articles.
    That’s my opinion :).

    • Definitely! I’d rather read “insider” tips from someone who spent a long time in that destination than from somebody who visited for a few days, did everything the Lonely Planet told them to do, then wrote a post about the “must do” things!!! It’s so great that you’re happy to keep going back to places and spend lots of time in places – and I’m so glad to keep hearing from people that feel this way 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting!

  40. Travel isn’t stamp collection, it’s all about experiences. I agree with all the point you make in this post, and I relate to it too. If it becomes all about stats and graohes and numbers, travel loses its charm and the magic. And where’s the fun it that?
    Great post. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for commenting Aditi! I’ve been staggered by how many people have been able to relate to this post. You’re so right – there’s no fun travelling just for the sake of saying you’ve been somewhere! 🙂

  41. From the other travel bloggers who berated you for visiting less than 20 countries… With all due respect, it makes me wonder what type of over-indulged, self-entitled world the majority of travel bloggers tend to live in! I’m aware that as a travel blogger, your goal is to see different places, and this is what you’ll invest time and money into, but the fact that you can describe your country count of 19 as “measly”… You’ve been to more places than most people dream of, to be honest. And you’ve clearly had great experiences.
    Also, people who use the term “travel expert”. That says a lot about them. Can you be a travel expert? Sort of, but I can’t get past the fact that it doesn’t really require any skill, you just need to throw enough time and money at the problem. Sorry if that sounds a bit cynical!
    I’m aware people work hard and travel as a result, but it’s still a luxury that not many get to experience.

    Anyway, I should say I fully agree that country counting is ridiculous, and I can relate to your travel spirit, so to speak. I’m pretty grateful for the trips I’ve been on, but it’s all about the experiences. I like to go out and get lost in a new city, experience different culture, etc. I’m going on a long awaited big trip around the states this year, which will be amazing, but my country count will increase by zero since I’ve been before. Still think it might just be worth doing though!

    • Thank you Charlie – and sorry it took me so long to reply! Your comment on this post got me thinking about it all over again, which made me realise that I’ve become a bit of a hypocrite lately (see yesterday’s post) and have myself been rushing around from trip to trip, barely taking time to see the countries I’m in. It was a good reminder for me and forced me to take stock – and now I am planning to take some time off from the rush and start travelling slowly again.

      I totally agree with you about the term travel expert. Travel is a different experience for everyone and there are so many different ways to do it – nobody could be an expert in that. I never once called myself a travel expert, so I don’t know where that Twitter troll got that from!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a long and lovely comment. It really made me think again, and that meant a lot! Also – have a great time in the states, that will be amazing. Enjoy 🙂

  42. Quality over quantity 😊 The haters are just jealous anyway!

    • Haha you’re probably right! But you’re definitely right about quality over quantity. I’d rather see just one country really well than 150 for a day each. Each to their own I guess 🙂

  43. Yup people who tick countries off are pointless holidayerz and should have their passports taken away! Example- people going to loas to drink, people going to Peru just fir Machu Picchu etc

    But most people are holidayerz so they tick because it’s the right thing to do for them. Travelling is different as you’ve explained well I the post.
    Few people are travellers but we’re all tourists

    • Thanks for commenting Ross! Glad to hear you’re in agreement with me 🙂 Personally, I don’t really like making a distinction between travellers and tourists. I hate the way it can sound elitist (particularly because I’ve been on the negative end of that elitism). But I get the distinction you’re making. Someone taking travel more seriously and trying to really understand the places they’re visiting is definitely different to someone who just wants a holiday. There’s nothing wrong with either kind of travel in my opinion, everyone should do what’s right for them. But I personally hate when people head to a place just to say they’ve been there. For instance doing a daytrip to Montevideo from Buenos Aires and then saying they’ve “done” Uruguay. That drives me crazy!!

  44. Great post! It’s so true that counting the countries you’ve been to doesn’t matter, it should all be measured on the experiences you encounter along the way. Anytime you travel, it should be for yourself. Traveling presents such an amazing opportunity to broaden your perspectives on life and strengthen your understanding and appreciation for other cultures – so if this means travelling multiple times to the same country, so be it! You can experience an entirely different time each time you travel, based on who you travel with and your attitude towards it. Even school trips with an educational focus, creates an incredible way to bond and create lasting memories with friends and colleagues.

    • Thanks Jane! I agree. I’m all for counting the countries you visit along the way, especially if that helps you remember where you’ve been etc. I like to keep a list of all sorts of stats when I travel, including each new country I go to. But when people travel just for the sake of getting new numbers, or go to a place just to say they’ve been, that saddens me! As you said, it’s all about the experiences 🙂

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  45. I counted countries few years ago. But I stopped when I reached 40…
    On the other side it has no sense.
    There are plenty of Greek islands for example. Is visiting Crete same as being to Simi?
    Or – you’ve been to Alaska and to Florida, It is still one country…

    • Such a good point! You can visit two completely different states but they’re still technically one country – does that mean you should only visit the US once even if you only see one state?! Doesn’t make any sense! I just think travel should be about more than numbers!

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