Should You Set a Goal to Travel to Every Country?

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I was six when I realized I was unusual. On my first day of school in my hometown, I instantly became The Popular Girl when my schoolmates heard my Australian accent. As the only one on the playground who had lived overseas, my new friends wanted to hear my stories about places they’d never been. Wonderful places.

In my twelfth summer, the immigration officer put a British stamp in my passport and a dream in my heart: I want to travel to every country in the world.

But how do you do that?

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Travel to every country? What counts as a country?

Visiting every country in the world isn’t easy to define. The world has grown smaller, thanks to mass media and the internet. Over the years the concept of what constitutes “a country” has morphed and grown in our minds. It began with the countries on the Replogle globe you knew as a kid, grew to the list of U.N. member states, and (for some) is the 321 countries and territories that are currently on Travelers’ Century Club’s list.

While the U.N. might disagree, Travelers’ Century Club (TCC) decided to list some regions separately because they are removed from the parent country, either geographically, politically or ethnologically. This makes sense.

Think about it: If only U.N. member states were included, those hard-to-get-to destinations that are on every ambitious traveler’s radar wouldn’t count. We’re talking destinations like Greenland, the Azores and Antarctica. Now, not only does every emirate in the U.A.E. count separately, TCC has divided the continent of Antarctica into seven regions of its own.

What counts as a visit?

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Dan and I constantly debated just what constitutes a “visit.” At what point can you accurately say you have “been to” a country?

Should we count our 4-hour layover in Bangkok, Thailand? What about frantically running from one gate to another in Dubai Airport?

One guy counted a bus ride through Albania. He never got off the bus. Is that stretching it?

After a lengthy consideration as to how long one must remain in a country or territory to qualify, TCC finally decided that even the shortest visit would suffice — even if it is only a port-of-call or a fuel stop on a runway. They reasoned that it would greatly widen the field and give travelers a better chance to qualify for one of the most unusual clubs in the world. Anyone who has visited 100 or more of the places on their list is eligible to join.

Since TCC and Dan agree, I’ll happily give in and cross a few more countries off my list. Heck, we’re that much closer to membership. 🙂

Is visiting every country realistic, or not?

We have friends who have set grand goals like visiting 30 countries by the age of 30. That’s good and all, but at the rate of one new country a year, it would be impossible to visit every country in one lifetime.

Unless you’re Methuselah.

Kick it up a notch to one country per month, and it’s possible to scratch them all off,. However, it will take over 26 years to do it.

At an average of one country per week it would take 6 years and 8 weeks to visit every place on TCC’s list. Not counting the country you’re currently in, of course.

Though it may appear that few besides ol’ Mr. Methuselah could check them all off in their lifetime, not so. In reality, quite a few have managed to qualify for and join TCC. I would suggest that it’s because they set out to do it. Something like that is unlikely to be accidental.

On her journey to travel to every country, Linda looks at the pyramids in Egypt.

Everyone has a dream. Sometimes, more than one.

The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark. So why not try for something really impressive, like 100 countries in five years? Or set a different type of travel goal. Here are some ideas:

  • Set foot on all 7 continents
  • Drive through all 50 United States
  • Have dinner in every county in your state/country.
  • Explore every French province and territory by train
  • Photograph all of your country’s UNESCO sites
  • Visit every country in Central and South America

It’s healthy to have dreams and goals, but even healthier to work to achieve them. They don’t even have to be about travel. Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson showed that in The Bucket List.

What your goal is doesn’t matter, really, as long as you have at least one. For as Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

What about you? Do you have any goals like that, or do you think travel to every country is pointless? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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19 thoughts on “Should You Set a Goal to Travel to Every Country?”

  1. Absolutely great blog and inspiration on Bucket List Travel. I actually started my company from this exact idea. I was running a successful headhunting firm for years and travelling with my family every chance we could. We ticked off so many bucket list items that i wanted to add more and more. And then it came to me. I love travel, i love helping people and realizing goals. Why not put a company together that allowed me to do what I love and help others do what they have always wanted. So Blaycation Your Bucket List Vacation was formed. we help people realize their dreams and put amazing experiential travel adventures together and I love every minute of my new career. The journey is only the beginning.

    • Totally agree, Mark: The journey is only the beginning. Checking things off a list is fun, but the real enjoyment comes once you’ve had a chance to experience it. On As We Saw It, we like to give people a taste of what a place has to offer and then let them expand from there. As wonderful as it can be to spend a day or two in a place, the true enjoyment comes when you get “down and dirty” in a place.

      Which is not to say that checking things off of a bucket list doesn’t have value. It absolutely does. How else can you do everything you’ve dreamed of?

  2. Great post! I am almost 30 and my goal was to visit 45 countries before then according to booked flights I will be at least at 47! As per every country, due to security and visa’s it’s almost impossible to do so for a lot of people due to their passports. Therefore, I made a list when I started travelling at 18 which covers about 75 countries however, the more I travel the more I realize that I haven’t seen all the places I wanted to see in certain countries, while other countries a few days or even hours is enough. While I love making lists and set goals I constantly change it and as long as you keep travelling well that’s all that matters!

    • You deserve a pat on the back. Most people don’t even set goals, and here you’ve accomplished quite an impressive one. I’m curious as to which countries weren’t worth visiting for more than a few hours?

      • I would say Andorra, Liechtenstein they are small… Also some Caribbean countries are similar to each other so a few hours would be enough while other cities will need at least a few days to discover…

  3. Love this! I have a vague intention in my mind of visiting every single country in the world but have never really thought seriously about it on whether it was possible. I have a world map poster on my wall at home which you can scratch out to show countries you have visited. I’ve done a lot of Europe but looking at the world as a whole, I’ve got a lot to go! Really enjoyed this post! All the best for your travels guys. 🙂

  4. I absolutely LOVED this post, Linda! It totally hit home for me. I will be getting a late start in life traveling outside the U.S. (I’ve been to Mexico, Canada and Hawaii) when I retire in a few years. And this post nailed it perfectly as to some of the things that have gone through my mind constantly. I just watched The Bucket List for the 4th time a few weeks ago, ironically. You mentioned visiting all 50 states and setting foot on all 7 continents….and that is great starting point for me. Thank you….this was just terrific. Safe travels to you! 🙂

  5. I like the fact that I can say I’ve set foot on every continent. For me it’s more about making sure I travel as much as I can and I try to go to places that aren’t on everyone else’s bucket lists.

    I don’t have a bucket list, I don’t like those at all. I think it makes people rush through experiences instead of really experiencing them. My goal was to learn a foreign language by living in a foreign country and I did it twice and I’m proud of that.

    I don’t think the idea is pointless, I would never say someone else’s goal is pointless. For some people just going to see one foreign country is a goal, and I agree with you that as long as you have a goal and it’s achievable, then it’s a good one.

  6. Sounds like an incredible goal! We agree that bucket lists are great for motivation and to push us forward, but we always try to remind ourselves that when it becomes just about checking things off the list instead of enjoying the experience then it is time to reevaluate. Visiting every country would be truly amazing though, if we had the time to do it! We tend to travel quite slowly, so I’m not sure we would ever have enough time! Good luck!

    • You’re right about that. The whole point of traveling is to enjoy the country … or at least I think so … but I couldn’t quite find the right words to say so in the post.

      Where to next?

  7. I think it would be amazing to travel. I really want to travel to Spain, Europe, and Australia. I live in the U.S. and there is so much I have not seen. So far where is the greatest place you have been? Which is one you wouldn’t want to go back?

    • wow, that’s hard to answer. The greatest place I’ve ever been so far would probably be Israel, because of the food, the people, the history … I’ve fallen in love with Jerusalem for the scents of spices and flowers, the shouting in the markets, the variety of faiths and the mix of cultures. As for which one I wouldn’t go back to, perhaps Grand Cayman. There’s nothing wrong with the place, it’s just that it’s a small island and not as interesting as the other places we’ve visited. Dan’s been to Cozumel, Mexico, twice. The last time he went there he was disappointed that the island has been so built up that it’s now too commercial for his taste.

      Now I have a question for you: What is keeping you from traveling yourself? I think you’d love it … and by the way, it’s cheap to go to Spain from the US.

  8. We have a goal to visit every European country. Also, I’d like to set foot on all 7 continents before I turn 35. Eventually I would like to see every country in the world.

  9. Being the one to do thirty by thirty (hitting #31 this winter), I can honestly say that I have zero desire to see every country in the world. My goal was to live abroad for a year, and I’ve been here for six. Living in Europe has major perks, one of which is having so much to see within a few hours on a train or plane. I’m beginning to slow down with travel as I start a business, but not before I hit Oktoberfest and go on a cruise with my family!

    Love your goals – you and Dan have accomplished loads already, so you have plenty to gloat about!

    • You’re right: Living in Europe you can see so many different places easily. Dan and I would love to be able to live there and take advantage of the variety of cultures. And foods. You are very, very fortunate!

      Do you have a particular cruise in mind?

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