The names “Visit50″ and “50 and 50 by 50″ refer to my travel goal. I want to visit all 50 states, and 50 countries, by age 50. That’s right. Visiting all 50 states and 50 countries by age 50 seemed nearly insurmountable when we made this challenge.
Lots of people say “I want to travel more,” but that’s not a goal – a goal needs to have 5 things. Goals need to be specific, ambitious, attainable, measurable, and have a time limit.
A bunch of friends are keeping track of their progress as well. Feel free to play along!
Keeping Score: For those of you keeping score at home, I’m at 25 states and 34 countries as of July 2012 (just added Denmark!). For a full list of Where I’ve Been, head over to the Keeping Score page, with the countries listed by region. I’ll also link to posts about each as I add them to the site.
Strategy – considering only 5 of my countries were in Europe, and that’s where countries are most clustered together, I’m in decent shape to get there.
What constitutes a visit? You can play by any rules you’d like, but mine are that I need to leave the airport or the highway and actually do something in that state or country for it to count. Have a meal, take a picture of an attraction, etc. Do you have a good answer if a friend asks, what did you do in that country? Do you have stories from your experiences?
The surprisingly more difficult question is…
What constitutes a country? I don’t have a universal guideline for this just yet. It’s more challenging of a question than I thought. If you visit London, spend a few days in Wales, then over to Ireland, and finish in the Cayman Islands, how many countries have you just visited? Does Puerto Rico count as a country? You can’t just go by UN’s list of 193 countries, because Taiwan’s not listed and the world recognizes them as a country. Is Palestine a country? Are the Cook Islands a country or part of New Zealand? If you visit mainland China, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong, how many countries have you visited? [that last one's a real example, as I've now visited all 4].
For now the best single source I use is the the Wikipedia List of soverign states, which includes 193 member states of the United Nations, two states that are not UN member states but are either a UN observer state or a member state of a UN specialised agency (Vatican and Kosovo), and nine other states (includes Taiwan, “Palestine”).
Until recently I was largely relying on these 3 sources:
- If the US State department lists them as a country (righthand column of page). I like the US’ list but part of it is political.
- If they have their own Olympic team (there’s 205 National Olympic Committees). It sounds ridiculous but this shows that the international community recognizes them as a distinct country so it’s worth considering.
- If they’re recognized on the list of countries by the United Nations - there’s 193 of them. This seems like a fairly official list, but again, like the US State department list, politics often play a role. Either way their list of A-Z countries and regions is a great resource.
Two key factors make me want to include a destination as a country for my list:
- If they’ve declared independence and are often regarded as having control over a permanently populated territory
- If other sovereign states recognize them as a soverign state (Taiwan’s recognized by 23 nations).
Do you have a suggestion here? I’m open to feedback here.
Other ways to measure your traveling prowess:
UNESCO World Heritage Site List - includes 936 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. These include 725 cultural, 183 natural and 28 mixed properties in 153 States Parties. As of June 2010, 187 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention.
Wonders of the World – I always thought there was one agreed upon list, but there’s dozens of lists. By definition they’re subjective, and I disagree with many of them. For the New 7 Wonders, locations were selected by voting, thus are certainly biased by political and economic factors (if it’s internet voting, that hurts places in countries with poor internet access). For example, Mexico’s Chichen Itza is an interesting site of Mayan ruins, but not even on the same level as Teotihuacan. Chichen Itza is near Cancun so many more people have been exposed to it, thus swaying votes.
How many have you visited?
Mapping your progress: There’s a bunch of decent sites that will map the countries you’ve visited. I set mine up using TravBuddy.com. See my map here (still need to add Denmark). World66 has a decent one as well. Leave the link to your map in the comments.