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Whenever I tell someone I want to visit every country in the world, they usually just give me a blank stare and say something about North Korea.
It doesn’t seem to be overly appealing to the average human, yet it’s become my main goal and driver of my life trajectory.
In this post, I will answer why that is and the logistics of accomplishing this lofty goal.
What is my motivation to visit every country in the world?
It’s driven by curiosity. I grew up on an island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean (Newfoundland) and spent most of my younger years looking at maps and dreaming of faraway places.
As far ago as I can remember, I’ve had a strong desire to see as much of the world as possible. It’s fascinating to me to see the differences and similarities in how people live.
Even after a decade of travel, I still love it. Crossing borders, meeting new people, learning languages, trying new foods, navigating a new transport system – It’s an addiction. But hey, there could be a lot worse things to be addicted to, right?
I believe that every country in the world has something to offer, and I want to discover what makes each place special. Not just the most popular tourist places. There’s no single objective that captures this spirit better than visiting all recognized countries!
More to that, I want to show people that the world isn’t as scary as the media portrays it to be. There’s kindness everywhere.
Most people think it’s too dangerous to travel to many countries, especially solo, and I don’t believe that.
My travel experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, and I want to share that with the world to encourage others to visit these places.
I also hope to empower women to travel solo. The list of people who have traveled to every country is made up of predominantly white men, and I would like to change this.
Every time someone tells me it’s too dangerous to travel the world solo as a female, it just motivates me more.
How many people have visited every country in the world?
According to Conde Nast Traveller, there are probably only 400 people throughout history to have visited every country in the world, which is insane to me. To put this in perspective, more people have gone to space.
However, as travel becomes more attainable, the number is growing every year.
What counts as a country?
What counts as a country is one of the most debated questions in the community, and there are a few different commonly accepted answers.
One of the most widely accepted definitions of a country is the United Nations (UN) member states.
The UN has 193 official members, but this number does not include Taiwan, Palestine, and the Vatican City – which are all generally considered countries in their own right.
This is the definition I have chosen to go by, although I will include Taiwan, Palestine, and Vatican City, bringing it up to 196 countries.
Another widely used source is the Traveler’s Century Club (TCC). It started as an organization for people who had visited 100 or more of the world’s countries and territories.
They list 329 countries and territories as of 2019, as some places are removed from their home country if they are distinctly different. For example, an island owned by France in the Caribbean.
I like the TCC separation of country and territory and would love to eventually visit each of these 329 places, in addition to the UN list.
Most Traveled People (MTP) breaks the world into 891 places, including countries, states, provinces, and island groups. They have an app that keeps track of each place you visit which is fun to use, but 891 places is a lofty goal – even for a lifetime.
How many countries have I visited so far?
Out of the 196 countries, I’ve visited 60 across six continents as of September 2021. In the last two years, I’ve slowed down a lot because of the pandemic. I’ve embraced the joys of slowmading and revisiting some of my favorite places.
As the world opens up more, I am probably going to speed things up. The regions I’ve spent the most time in so far are Central America, Canada, South America, and Western Europe. In 2022, I plan to travel more of Africa and eastern Europe.
How long do I have to spend in each country?
This is a tricky question. I can say with certainty that airport layovers do not count and neither does stepping foot in the country and stepping out.
I haven’t put a specific time frame on how long because that really depends on the place.
For example, a day in Vatican City (the smallest country in the world) is a considerable amount of time there, where the two months I spent in India felt although I barely scratched the surface.
Ideally, I would like to spend a few weeks in each country, making my journey take significantly longer than it could.
Of course, as I start traveling to more dangerous countries I’m going to need to put my safety first and may not be able to spend as much time as I’d like.
With all these considerations, I don’t see the point in putting a specific number on the amount of time I need to spend in each place.
Essentially, I want to try to ‘feel’ the country before leaving. It’s not a box-ticking exercise for me; it’s about experiencing what makes the country unique.
Do I have a timeline to visit every country in the world?
Not really. There are so many headlines of people racing to be the fastest person to visit every country, or the youngest person of x nationality to do it, and I don’t understand the appeal.
I’m not doing this to achieve a title; I’m doing it to gain a deeper understanding of the world. Why would I want to rush through these incredible places for the sake of ticking a box?
That’s why I haven’t been overly motivated to put a time constraint on this goal. However, there are a few reasons why I would rather accomplish it sooner than later.
For one, the future is uncertain. After watching my dad pass away the year after retirement, it solidified that there are no guarantees with life.
It’s why I refuse to spend my life working a 9-5 and travel during retirement. That has to be one of the biggest scams in society.
I’m a young, healthy adult now and I hope that continues throughout my life, but anything could happen. So I’d rather travel as much as possible now while I know my body is capable.
Plus, traveling is exhausting. I’m tired all the time in my 30’s so I can’t imagine how I will feel when I’m older.
That said, I’ve met plenty of incredible humans in their 70s and 80s throughout my travels, hiking 3000m+ mountains and doing all kinds of amazing things. I hope to be one of them.
Aside from my physical limitations, there’s also the question of what the world will look like in the future. As much as I love to be an optimist, there’s no denying we are in a climate crisis.
It’s terrifying to think about the natural disasters that will happen in our lifetimes. Some countries are at risk of disappearing completely in the coming decades because of rising sea levels.
The world is constantly changing around me and some things are out of my control. The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly made this goal more challenging, with many countries still keeping their borders shut.
I also need to consider my safety. For example, last year Afghanistan was an achievable country to visit but after watching the horrifying events of the last month unfold, I don’t know when it will be possible to go there again.
Considering all of this, I am going to travel as much as possible in the next decade but don’t have a specific date or age that I need to accomplish this by.
How am I going to fund this?
I’m not even sure how much I’ve spent so far on pursuing this goal because my life is travel. I don’t have a permanent home base, so my living expenses have become my travel expenses. Do you know how much you’ve spent living in the last decade?
If I weren’t working remotely and just spending my savings traveling the world, I would be much more concerned with this question.
Fortunately over the last few years, I’ve managed to find a way to make a living creating travel content for myself and others which now supports my travels.
And the best part about working for yourself is there’s no limit on how much income you can make.
Is visiting every country in the world something that appeals to you?