Why You Should Stop Counting Your Countries…

This post was contributed by Travis King.

It’s not the point of traveling is the simple answer, and whether you’re well-traveled or not, it generally makes you come off poorly; either “holier than though” and braggadocious, or unimpressive and like you’ve got the whole mission of seeing the world backwards.

Tell me stories, tell me memories, tell me the things you loved, tell me the people you loved, but don’t give me a country count. Tell me the WORST thing that ever happened to you. Tell me the best food you had, the worst injury you dealt with, and the moment of serendipity that made you fall in love with a place… just don’t tell me what number the place was on some list.

Don’t tell me your country count. I don’t care.

I’d much rather know what changed you, what you’re nervous about when your travels end, why you felt the need to leave in the first place, or the last time you had really bad food poisoning, maybe even a poop story – ANYTHING, before a country count.

We all travel to grow and rack up memories – to “get the picture.” I take regular old iPhone pictures when I’m exploring a new place, and I always say I’m “photo-journaling,” because I’m too lazy and have been gone too long to keep an actual journal. I think those images will have the power to trigger memories and even smells and senses when I see them in the future. In trying to come up with a metaphor for why the country count folks might be missing the point, I kept coming back to Instagram.

I photograph hard, and I gram reasonably hard – but it’s not my purpose of traveling.

A country counter would be like someone who knows how many new followers they’ve gotten in the last day, how many photos they’ve posted in the last month, and how many likes those photos have got. Just post for fun, it’s supposed to be fun. Just travel for fun, growth, learning, adventure, and all the things, because it is all those things – it’s not a competition.

Let me say before I get too far, if you’re reading this and thinking, “I know what number country I’m in,” that’s super normal, and I think it leads to a big differentiation to carve out here. There’s a difference between someone who knows how many countries they’ve visited and a “country counter.” I suppose it’s fair play to share your country count if it comes up in conversation and you know the number or have an educated guess, but please don’t be that person who introduces themselves with it or uses the number to brag.

That’s the basic difference between knowing what number country you’re in and a country counter.

I should also say here, I think this request will probably only ring true to other travelers. I imagine if you’re back at home and talking to someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to travel much and you drop your country count on them like, “I just passed 30 before 30,” it seems impressive – it certainly does. BUT, step back a moment, and it’s also just sort of shitty. Saying anything where the point is to make someone else feel jealous or less-fortunate is just innately rude. 

Sometimes it’s best just to say that you love to travel and to share the place you most recently visited through a few stories.

For myself, I’ve been traveling and working abroad for a long time, and I’m so grateful for the traveling I have done and excited for what there still is to see. I’m writing this from Italy, where I just arrived for the first time yesterday, and it’s Country number ___ … Actually, I really don’t know nor give a sh!t.

That’s the honest truth.

The last time I had an idea was when I made my CouchSurfing profile a few years back and they ask you to list the countries you’ve visited. I remember thinking it was cool that I was somewhere in the mid 20s, but then I just let that number go again.

Just don’t tell me about it, tell me a poop story instead.

It’s not why I’m out here, and it’s not something that I want to dictate anything about my travels. I just want to go where curiosity takes me as long as I’m able to and still enjoying it. Writing about this has been hard because I feel like I’m on a very fine line of sounding like a prick by saying that I think something else that I know plenty of people do, makes them sound like a prick. So, I’ll wrap this up by saying, if you like counting your countries, if it makes you feel good, if you’re just a numbers person and that’s why, then go for it.

Just don’t tell me about it, tell me a poop story instead.

Meet Travis:  Travis has been traveling for 8 years, the last 3.5 of which he’s been working for Remote Year as the Director of Community Development. Keep up with him on IG

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