Passport Stamps

Why I Don’t Plan To Visit Every Country In The World

Derek Perspectives, Travel Tips & Advice 119 Comments

Every Country In The World - Passport Stamps
As excited as I am when I first step foot into a country I’ve never visited before, I must not deny the fact that there is also a part of me that, these days, just wants to travel to countries that I’ve already been to, countries that I can’t get out of my mind because of the life-changing experiences I had during my first, or in some cases, second visit.

But it’s not always easy to do that because human beings love competition and when it comes to traveling, the most common competition (even if it’s not a formal one) tends to revolve around the ‘country count’, the overall number of countries that a traveler has visited. This number is brought up in many a conversation while on the road and of course, the higher the number, the more impressive a particular traveler appears (or thinks they appear).

After all, how can you call yourself a traveler if you’re not on a mission to see every country in the world before you die? Right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

I don’t now about you but I’m not on that mission at all. I personally don’t care if I visit every country in the world and I’m certainly not about to bounce around every continent, spending a day or two in most of the places I visit, just to say I’ve been there and to check each place off of a list.

That’s just not my travel style or goal. If that happens to be your goal, I have no problem with it at all of course and I certainly wish you success with your journey. I’m sure you’re going to have some amazing experiences wherever you go. It’s just not for me.

I’d much rather spend significant (or at least a decent amount of) time in fewer countries and even return to some of my favorite countries over and over again. To me, the benefit of travel has nothing to do with the number of different stamps in my passport, and if that means my final country count does not reach the official United Nations number of 193, or that I’ve visited fewer countries than someone who has been on the road for less time than me, then so be it.

As I was sitting on the subway in New York City the other day, traveling from the Upper West Side all the way over to Clinton Hill in Brooklyn, I noticed an advertisement on the subway wall. The ad was for the country of Iceland and there was a beautiful photograph of the Blue Lagoon. Looking at this photograph immediately brought back memories of my own visit to Iceland several years ago and it made me realize that I definitely want to visit this country again one day.

That got me thinking even more and before I knew it, there I was on the subway, wedged in between a guy who I swear might have been Samuel L. Jackson and another guy in red suspenders who seemed quite content licking stamps and placing them onto his pants, creating a mental list of some other countries I’ve already been to and that I’d really be interested in traveling to again.

Every Country In The World - Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The countries that came to mind are…

South Africa – Back in December, I was simply blown away by this country and less than twenty-four hours after my arrival, I had already promised myself that I would return soon. And I intend to keep that promise as there is still an abundance of cities, wine regions, wildlife reserves, townships, adventure activities, natural wonders, and more left for me to experience.

Mexico – Another country that one could travel around for a long, long time without ever getting bored. It’s as diverse a destination as there is on this planet and despite having spent almost two years there already, I’ve barely touched the surface.

Fiji – When I was 19 years old I visited Fiji while on my way to study abroad in Australia and I had such a wonderful time. This is why I was super-excited to return this week on the press trip I had been invited on. Unfortunately, that press trip was canceled but now I’m even more determined to return to Fiji as soon as I can.

Slovenia – It’s no secret that this is one of my favorite countries on the planet and despite it’s small size, I absolutely plan on returning for several more visits, at least!

India – All I can say about India is that I will never get tired of traveling to this country. And if I decided to spend the rest of my traveling years only wandering around India and nowhere else, I’d still be a very happy man.

Most likely, I will indeed visit these countries again, as well as several others that I’ve already spent time in. After all, I’ve already been to India nine times over the years, Thailand eight times, Australia five times, Turkey five times, Italy four times and I’ve been back and forth to Romania three times in the past five months, and on and on.

Had I wanted to, I probably could have seen every country in the world by now, but again, that’s just not my travel style. Spending more time in less countries has worked perfectly for me and brought me infinite rewards in terms of the connections I’ve made and the education I’ve gained. And I see no reason to change at this point.


What are your thoughts? Do you want to see every country in the world? Or do you prefer to spend more time in fewer countries as well?

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Comments 119

  1. Jim

    Everyone assumes that by visiting every country you have to race through them or if you are in a country for just one day, you can’t experience the country…well if that is the case, how much time does one need in a country to “experience” it. I lived in the UK for 5 years, Germany for 6 years, Singapore for 1 year, Iraq for 1 year, Macedonia for 6 months and HK (China) for a year. Sure ,I may know more about London than most Americans (I am American) or Germany but I could have learned quite a bit in a much shorter period of time. I think the excitement of new countries is what drives people and it is the excitement of new places and new cultures and new people that drove me to travel. I may not see every country but I do think it is indeed a worthwhile goal…in the end how would you know if it is a place worth revisiting (point of article and many comments) if you never visited it in the first place…

  2. Dave

    Hallelujah!!! At last a travel writer who is not trying to tick every country off his list. The reason for travel is not to be able to brag about the number of places you have been to, but to gain something from the experience.

    Some travel to relax and others travel to learn. Everybody has different reasons. I personally travel because I am passionate about history, culture and geography. I read a blog from someone who claims to be the most travelled person in the world and although I congratulate him on his efforts – I can introduce him to more than one person who has travelled far more extensively than he has. In my opinion the bloggers claim to ‘greatness’ is in fact an indication that in his travels he is yet to learn humility.

    Earl, this post is one of the best lessons in travel you could teach…. Thanks!

  3. Bern

    Great post. Your way is the correct way to travel, it is in fact the REASON we travel. What has always mattered is the JOURNEY not the “goal”, and what the people who place upon themselves the goal of “seeing” every country (as if staying 48 hours in a country was the same as “seeing” it, lol) are doing is playing the game “travel” for score. But travelling for score is not the reason people travel. Only autists travel for score — real human beings travel because travel is for them a pleasurable activity in itself.

    You are right in saying that it’s the autist’s competitive streak that pushes them to keep track of the countries they visit. Their problem is that they’re competing on the wrong activity. You can visit all 190 or so countries in the world and still not have really travelled or know anything about travel. Because tourism is NOT travelling. Travel is exploring, getting lost, interacting with strangers, having everything NOT go according to plan, etc. etc. Travel is placing your own life at risk — but what risk is there in going to a couple museums, taking some pictures of coconut dehusking machines, paying a tour guide to ramble for hours about some random historical facts nobody cares about, sleeping in 5 star hotels, etc. etc.? It may even be the case that a guy who never even left his own country has already a better understanding of what we mean by the concept “travel”, than an autistic imbecile who fancies he’s “seen” half the world.

    But what do WE care about autists? Let them have fun with their little collections of stamps and numbers — what is most important is that we do not confound ourselves with them — and that we set our priorities straight and stay true to our instincts. And it’s awesome that even after (or perhaps precisely because of) your 14 years of travel you have managed to remain true to yourself.

  4. Pingback: Why I backpack (and you should too) | Man vs World

  5. Shivya

    It’s taken me some time to make peace with the fact that I can’t see everything or go everywhere in the world – not in terms of countries, but in terms of ‘everywhere’ in a country. I identify with your travel style, and can’t wait to go back to the countries I’ve absolutely loved, Italy being one of them. I live in India, and could practically spend an entire lifetime exploring my own country’s shores!

    1. Earl

      Hey Shivya – Out of all the countries I’ve ever been to, India is definitely the one that would take the longest to explore! Every state is like its own country. And I agree with you, we just have to accept the experiences that we have because in the end, it’s impossible to see ‘everything’.

  6. Ali

    I certainly have no interest in visiting every single country. Some just don’t appeal to me, and I have my own set of countries I love going back to over and over again. That said, I am a bit of a geeky list ticker. A friend of mine found a top 100 list she likes so we sort of have a competition going to get to them, although there isn’t a deadline or anything. And there are a few places on the list I have no intention of traveling to because they don’t appeal to me in some way, even if they are on the list. For me I guess it’s just silly fun.

    1. Earl

      Hey Ali – As long as you have your own set of favorite countries to visit (for your own unique reasons), then there’s nothing wrong with visiting those countries over and over again. And there’s nothing wrong with silly fun! Silly fun is an absolutely important part of life…we are here to enjoy ourselves after all 🙂

  7. Ayelet - All Colores

    Well, it could be fun to see all countries of the world and experience all the cultures and landscapes our planet has to offer, AND I enjoy traveling slowly and already want to return to the few countries I visited and explore my own country further, so I’m fine with not seeing all countries.

  8. Lyuda

    I completely agree with what you’re saying. The point of visiting a new place is to experience it’s people and it’s culture, and you can’t really do that if you are just racing, trying to get the most stamps in your passport.

    That said, if this was a competition [that you were taking part in], compared to almost-travelers, like me, or any average person, you win. By a looong shot. :]

  9. Merlin

    I was stumbling around on google searching for some good ideas on where to go live as an expat and hopefully find a job capable of paying rent and survival expenses. I’m glad I found your blog because it gives me hope in my search for a way to get back on the road. My last adventure took me to China on an unforgettable adventure from Hong Kong up to Shanghai and for a weekend trip to Guiyang. I’d like to go back because I miss my friends, but income is a problem. I dont think I can find work there, so I’m considering other countries that could be equally affordable and offer better chances at a job (or cheaper living on a small income from work-at-home gigs). I made the mistake to go to China with only 2 years of college under my belt, so now I’m taking online classes to finish. I have a little over a year left, so I’m trying to find a place I can go to get my foot in the door and act as my step up towards my present goal to get back to Shanghai. Also, as a final note to anyone, I advise against expiring a visa in China. I’ve done it, did some time in jail, and was welcomed back after they took all my money.

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