The Century Club: Traveling to 100 countries or more

Traveling to 100 countries or more is a difficult task, especially when it is hard to define what counts as a nation. Photo: Flags of the world (www3fitnyc.edu)

CHARLOTTESeptember 7, 2013 – If someone asked you, “How many countries are there in the world?” how would you answer?    

It’s a simple question.  Or is it? 

A little research quickly reveals it is not as easy to determine as it might appear.

It has long been a personal quest to become a member of a select group known as The Century Club consisting of travelers who have visited 100 countries or more. But the task is more difficult than mere geography, because first, it must be decided what constitutes a country.

Tiny Nevis in the Caribbean (Nevis Tourism)

Random House College Dictionary defines a country is “any considerable territory demarcated by specific conditions; region or district.” 

Australia and New Zealand are “considerable territories” and both are countries. However, Australia is also a continent. But what about Antarctica?  Is it not a “considerable territory”? Yet, Antarctica is a continent, but not a country.

Is Vatican City a “considerable territory?”  There are snow banks in Antarctica larger than the Vatican. Yet Vatican City is a country, though it’s thousands of times smaller than Antarctica.

Today, Hong Kong is part of the People’s Republic of China. However, until China regained sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong was a British Colony. Because of its financial clout, many people deemed it to be a country and still do.

When Lonely Planet compiled a list of countries for The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World, the publishers faced similar difficulties. Rather than using political considerations, Lonely Planet based their results on popular travel destinations.  Therefore, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and French Polynesia, all dependencies of other nations, were given country status due to their travel reputations.

Rugged Scottish landscape (visitscotland.com)

Ultimately, Lonely Planet defined 220 places as countries.

The United Nations, on the other hand, officially lists 193 countries. That number changes as geographic boundaries evolve: consider the break up of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia or the reunification of Germany

When you look at the UN’s list of countries, it is easy to see why an accurate number is so difficult to manage. There are numerous variables. The United Nations says the U.K. and Northern Ireland are only one country. Try telling that to Scotland and Wales.

The United States consists of 50 states, though only 48 are contiguous, with Alaska and Hawaii being isolated. Since Hawaii and Alaska are also popular travel destinations, could they not be considered separate countries for counting purposes?

Take Puerto Rico, which is often discussed as becoming the 51st state.  If statehood happens, then PR falls into the same category as Hawaii and Alaska

Blue footed boobies, Galapagos (Galapagos Islands)

. For now, though, it is separate.

The Galapagos Islands are in Ecuador and Easter Island belongs to Chile. Martinique and Guadeloupe are part of France, as is CorsicaSicily and Sardinia are extensions of Italy.  If you visit the Galapagos, located more than 600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, should the islands count as a country or not? 

Along the coast of Sicily (italia/it/en.com)

Under strictest interpretations, it is fair to say Sicily and Sardinia are Italy or Corsica is France because of their proximity.  Martinique and Guadeloupe, however, should be individual destinations for no other reason than the distance between Europe and the Caribbean. Despite that fact, citizens of Martinique and Guadeloupe adamantly insist they are part of France

Several Caribbean island combinations are listed as pairs.  Do we count Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago or St. Vincent and the Grenadines as single countries or can they be taken as two for the price of one?

To truly count, the best rule is for a traveler should spend at least one night in a country, which would nullify refueling stops.

On the other hand, Ports of Call fall into a different category because they frequently offer access by ship to places difficult to reach. In such cases, a traveler should at least do a ground tour of the destination after docking.

Another provision is the “Pay Back” rule that allows travelers to count visits to retired countries (ie: a region previously recognized as a country) as a qualified listing. That rule states, however, that retired countries must eventually be replaced, or “paid back,” by a bona fide trip to a country that is currently listed.

Joining the ranks of The Century Club is a modern day equivalent of fulfilling the exploits of Phileas Phogg in Jules Verne’s epic adventure Around the World in 80 Days.  To be true to the quest, the ideal approach is to visit as many countries with no potential for controversy.

Contact Bob at Google+

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).

 His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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