How Many Countries & Have I Been There?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Nikola Tesla 270I’ve bumped into assorted people who have made ‘I’ve been everywhere’ into a major challenge. Well I haven’t been everywhere and I’m not working on it. On the other hand I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get to at least one or two ‘new’ (for me) countries every year. In 2015 the two new ticks I added to my list were:

◄ Serbia (Nikola Tesla, the most famous Serbian – OK there’s also Novak Djokovic)  &


Sofia - Red Star - 270


Patrick ‘Ask the Pilot’ Smith has recently blogged on the ‘How Many Countries’ question and, like me, he’s a bit of a purist. If you’ve only been to the airport or just stepped across the border you’ve not been there as far Patrick is concerned. Or me.

What does constitute a visit? You could say staying overnight, but how many of us get to stay overnight in the Vatican City? Gazed up at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, stood in the middle of St Peter’s Square? I reckon you’ve been there.

IMG_0977 - Monaco GP poster - 1970 - 270Ditto for Monaco, I’ve never spent a night in Monte Carlo, but I have had a number of meals there, parked my car and put money in a parking meter there, I’ve even seen a Grand Prix there (winner Jochen Rindt, classic Monaco GP in 1970), I reckon I’ve been there.

Monaco Grand Prix 1970 poster ►

What constitutes a country is as divisive a topic as what it takes to say ‘I’ve been there.’ Last year I wrote a blurb line for Albert Podell’s book about visiting every country on earth, Around the World in 50 Years, but he’s a lawyer so he has a legal take on what it takes to be a country. I’ve been to a bunch of countries (by my definition) which don’t qualify for his list.

At the other extreme Graham Hughes made a TV series about his mission to visit every country on earth at ground level. A noble cause (lots of countries I’ve visited I only got there by plane), but some of his visits wouldn’t qualify for the Patrick Smith definition of what it takes to say ‘I’ve been there.’ So who knows!