Taking you beyond the guidebook

Inspiring you to live your best life through travel

Why I Don’t Know (Or Care) How Many Countries I’ve Been To

globe

Photo courtesy of Mysi.

As someone who’s on the road at least once per month, I’m often asked how many cities I’ve been to.

“I have no idea,” is my response.

“Well, how many countries then?”

“Not a clue.”

“Aren’t you at all curious how many places you’ve been to?”

Not really. Obviously I could sit down and map out all the places I’ve been in my lifetime, but in all honesty, it’s not something I care about. For me, traveling is about quality over quantity, as my focus on having enriching experiences and immersing myself in local culture.

I remember being at a BBQ with my friend Joe, a guy who has studied abroad in Korea, volunteered in Guatemala and spent three months living with a family in Buenos Aires. In my eyes, he’s had some culturally-immersive experiences abroad that have enriched not only his photo albums, but his life. He thought this too, until he met a friend of mine who’d visited over 150 countries.

“He’s done so much! I’ve barely skimmed the surface,” Joe complained.

The thing is, this passport stamp-collector may have not “done” very much at all. Sure, he’s technically crossed the border into over 100 countries; however, who knows if he even sampled the local food, took a tour with a local guide, experienced the landscape through a scenic hike, or learned a single syllable of the local language. In my mind, Joe’s experiences living, working and going to school abroad — especially in places much different from his home of New York — were more enviable than having a thick passport.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to visit many countries or rapidly traveling from city to city on a backpacking adventure, as I’ve done this numerous times in my life. What I am saying is there is a very real benefit to slow travel, or traveling at a slow pace and gaining a deeper understanding of a place.

Personally, I’ve gone to school in Australia, volunteered abroad, done homestays in both Thailand and Ghana, and spent a month hiking through Argentinian Patagonia. I can honestly say these trips offered certain rewards my more rapid trips didn’t. For example, living with a local in Ghana for a month I was able to not just sample local dishes, but learn how they were cooked. I didn’t just see the way people dressed, but had a baroque print garment handmade for me by a local seamstress so I could attend church with my house mom. I literally had goats walking into my bedroom, had to fetch river water to take a shower and was awoken every Monday morning at 3am but the local women of Achiase singing hymns in my living room. This is the difference between visiting a place and really feeling its pulse. It’s what makes seeing a destination and experiencing it two completely different situations.

So do I care how many countries I’ve visited? Not particularly. Sure, it might be a fun little piece of trivia to know, but for me it isn’t about how many places I can knock off my bucket list, but instead how strongly I can create a connection between myself and where I’m traveling.

Do you have an opinion in the subject? Please share in the comments below.

Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

travel funsheets

Want to live your best life through travel?

Subscribe for FREE access to my library of fun blogging worksheets and learn how to get paid to travel more!

5 Comments

  1. vanessa on June 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    One doesn’t stop the other. You can travel slowly and still have over 100 countries on your list. I agree wholeheartedly about living as a local and experiencing first hand customs and whatnot, that’s the best thing there is but let’s not assume that people with a three digits country list travel fast and by thus ‘badly’, sometimes quality and quantity go hand in hand.

    • jess2716 on June 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      @Vanessa: This is true. I guess what I’m referring to is a type of traveler. The kind of who throw their three digits in a bragging tone. My goal with this post is to also let people who have only traveled to a few counties but had amazing experiences to realize that it’s quality over quantity when it comes to travel.

  2. Devlin on June 4, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! I know the traveler you speak of, hell I’ve known some who just fly into certain airports – never leaving mind you – just to say they’ve been there. Now if you’ve been to 100+ countries over a span of say 10-15 years, maybe you’ve actually had some meaningful experiences. If on the other hand you’re just country hopping every day or so, you’re really just doing it for your ego.

    • jess2716 on June 5, 2014 at 3:08 am

      @Devlin: Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Leave a Comment





map

THE NEW STRATEGY FOR PROFITABLE TRAVEL BLOGGING

Short on time but eager to learn how to REALLY grow your blogging business? This FREE 5-day email course was made for you.

travel funsheets

Sign up for my email list and get FREE access to my library of fun blogging worksheets and learn how to get paid to travel more!

Success! You'll be receiving your resource library login information soon.

free email course

Short on time but eager to learn how to REALLY grow your blogging business? Sign up for my email list and get this FREE 5-day email course was made for you.

You have successfully subscribed! Check your inbox for your course welcome email. Make sure to add jessie@jessieonajourney.com to your contacts so it doesn't go to spam.

free email course

You DON’T need a partner to explore the globe. Learn how to feel confident while mastering the art of traveling by yourself by signing up for my email list and getting this FREE e-mail course.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

travel funsheets

Sign up for my email list and get FREE access to my library of fun blogging worksheets and learn how to get paid to travel more!

Success! You'll be receiving your resource library login information soon.

free email course

Short on time but eager to learn how to REALLY grow your blogging business? Sign up for my email list and get this FREE 5-day email course was made for you.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

multi-season packing list

Want to add more travel to your life? Sign up for my email list and get these resources to help you plan your trip smart, pack light and go beyond your guidebook.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

free email course

You DON’T need a partner to explore the globe. Learn how to feel confident while mastering the art of traveling by signing up for my email list and getting this FREE e-mail course.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Explore NYC travel guidebook

I'm a native New Yorker, licensed sightseeing guide and curious explorer. Sign up for my email list and get my FREE Explore NYC Like A Local Guide and I promise to take you beyond the Empire State Building.

You have successfully subscribed! Check your inbox for the FREE Explore NYC Like A Local Guide. If you don't see it in the next few minutes, check your spam folder for a message from jessie@jessieonajourney.com. Hint: Replying to the welcome email you'll receive helps ensure my emails to you go to your inbox, and not to spam! :)

Read previous post:
My Humorously Painful Story Of Obtaining A Visa In La Paz, Bolivia

I decided to write about my experience trying to obtain a visa in La Paz, because I know it is...

Close