Wednesday, 29 August 2012
USA...Tick! France...Tick! Azerbaijan...erm...
On a recent flight, I was surrounded by a party heading to Slovenia to...erm, party. One of the group, exclaimed to the others a few minutes after we took off, "when we land, this will be my 50th country! And, all before my 30th birthday too!" The milestone birthday, it turns out, was being celebrated in Slovenia, so the girl in question made it to her target by a whisker! This little story got me thinking...do we travel to put a notch on our proverbial hostel bedpost or is this just a satisfying byproduct of a wide and varied travel diet? For those of you that were wondering, I have made it to 24 countries - so long as you count Monaco and the Vatican City as independent states. I think that is pretty impressive for someone who has never taken a gap year that wends through a number of South East Asian and South American countries or is that flush with cash.
Some people take this tick-listing of countries visited to an extreme. Take, for example, Kashi Sammadar, who has visited all of the countries of the World. Or even our own Queen Elizabeth II who has visited 116 countries to date. You can compare your travels to Liz's on this BBC News website - 'Have you been where the Queen's been?'
Though, sad to admit it, I quite like seeing where and how many places I have visited. I love updating my travel map on Facebook; putting virtual pins into a map to highlight the cities and countries I have trampled with my size nines. I look at the gaps on the map and think, 'I really must visit ... or ...'. I do this, not to ensure I fill in those gaps, but help me think about the places I would like to travel to, not the ones I feel I should visit simply to pin on my map. My travels this year have included four new countries and hopefully, a fifth before the year is out. I realised looking at my map, I had not really seen much of Eastern Europe, but for a short break to Prague a few years back. So, when I saw the flights to Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia at a reasonable price, I jumped at the chance to see these countries and cultures that had previously been virgin territory for me.
As for the girl at the start of the post, she may have achieved her 50 countries mostly via travel through her work commitments. For all I know, she could have been a pilot or stewardess; jetting all over the world on a daily basis. She might be filthy rich, with a purse deep enough to allow her the opportunity to travel lots and see a whole host of countries. It is easy to become cynical about such people - mocking their approach to travel. Besides, we all enjoy travel for different reasons. Either way, we all have something in common...we like to travel. Therefore, I am always in admiration for those people that are lucky enough to visit so many places. They make me want to travel more as I reason with myself, 'if they can do it, so can I!' I often fail to remember that they may have more time or cash at their disposal, but still the desire to travel remains. So, look to your tick-listers as inspiration, a source of ideas for future destinations and most of all enjoy the experience of travel, seeing it not simply as a chance to 'tick' another place off on a list of places you have travelled to.