One of my goals is to visit every country before I die. At this stage in my life (44 years old) and travels (120 countries), it’s not something I worry about. In fact, I am utterly confident of achieving it. My other travel-related goal of being conversant in every major language? Probably unobtainable, but I’m going to try.
The life expectancy of a white male is 76 years. There are roughly 210 countries in the world. Start with the UN Member States (193), add in a few obvious places like Taiwan and the Vatican and Palestine, a few less-obvious places like South Ossetia and Abkhazia and some island nations like Palau and Tuvalu and you quickly exceed 200. So according to the actuaries, I’ve got 32 years to visit 90 countries – that’s three countries per year.
But I didn’t get to 120 by visiting three countries a year. Nobody does it that way. I traveled through ten countries in Europe after I graduated from university. Nori and I visited over 60 countries during our 2.5-year “Big Trip”. A Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise can easily rack up the countries in a few weeks. All the countries in Central America could be explored in a month.
Note: I have no doubt that someone will scold me for “collecting countries” like Star Wars trading cards. The truth is that I am more aware than you of how preposterous it is to “claim” Russia – the world’s largest country – as a result of two weeks visiting St. Petersburg and Moscow. But even though the world is getting smaller and access is getting better the truth is that we cannot possibly see anything close to this entire world in a lifetime. My father has spent the better part of 60 years exploring the mountains and lakes in North Idaho and there are still many places he hasn’t visited!
So where haven’t I been? Unsurprisingly, the biggest hole is in Africa (55 total countries), especially the numerous coastal states of West Africa. Island states in the South Pacific and Caribbean provide the next biggest haul, followed by several Middle East and CIS states.
WHERE I HAVEN’T BEEN
We’ve purposely NOT visited the Caribbean islands for a few reasons: 1) it’s so far to travel there from Asia, 2) at some point we will move back to the USA and be much closer and 3) I don’t see these places changing as rapidly as countries in Asia or Eastern Europe. Greenland isn’t technically a country (it’s a Danish colony) but I’m dying to go there. I’d also note that I’ve seen a PITIFUL share of the USA, Canada and Mexico.
- Dominican Republic
- Turks & Caicos
- Cayman Islands
- St. Lucia
- Antigua & Barbuda
- Saint Kitts & Nevis
- Saint Vincent & the Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
We did a very thorough job visiting South America during our big trip. Some would argue that I shouldn’t “count” Colombia since we only had a stopover at the Bogota Airport, but my principle is that if you were there long enough to do a #2 (“leaving a part of you in the country”), it counts. Nonetheless, Colombia is extremely high in my “must visit” list.
I’ve yet to visit several microstates and a few huge former USSR countries. I envision crossing Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Moldova in one go. I feel like it makes sense to explore Poland, Ukraine and Belarus on separate, longer trips. Places like Cyprus (Turkey/Greece), Corsica (France), Sardinia (Italy) and Sicily (Italy) aren’t standalone countries but I plan to visit them as well.
- San Marino
- Monte Carlo
We’ve lived for more than 20 years in Asia and traveled the continent extensively. And yet there is still so much to see. Indonesia has 12,000 islands; the Philippines 7,000!
- South Ossetia
I’m proud of how much we’ve seen already. And despite all the negative press, I need to tell you that the hospitality we’ve experienced in the Muslim world has been incredible.
This absolutely huge continent isn’t easy to explore. But we’ve loved what we’ve seen, from Egypt to Tanzania to South Africa.
- Equatorial Guinea
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Burkina Faso
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Sierra Leone
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Cape Verde
We’ve did a decent job exploring the South Pacific while living in Asia and Australia. But there is still a significant number of places to visit – in retirement!
- Solomon Islands
- Federated States of Micronesia
- Marshall Islands