Around the World in 80 Clicks: The Project
When I re-read the early diaries I wrote as a child about the journeys I did with my parents and sister, it strikes me that I had a drive to visit new places already back then. I even counted every "new" country whenever my parents took me there. For many years, whenever I was planning on travelling somewhere, the curiosity to visit a country I had not yet been to, oftentimes won against the ease of going somewhere I had been to before. But for a long time, this drive was just the will to see something I had not seen before. There was no planning behind it, and I visited one or two "new" countries every year.
Embarking on a project
Somewhere in 2009, this changed. I found myself at a turning point in my life, and I needed a new goal. It was in that year that I started dreaming about visiting all countries in the world. Now, the first issue that poses itself, is: what is the definition of a country? This can be a political discussion, and a tricky one at that. Many would say that Taiwan is a country - until you speak to someone from mainland China, that is. Martinique: a tropical paradise in the Caribbean; but is it a country? It is governed by France. Easter Island - a small speck of land in the immense Pacific, but formally part of Chile on mainland South America. The list of controversial "countries" is much longer, but you get my point.
To solve the issue, I opted for the obvious, easiest solution: stick to the list of independent countries as recognized by the United Nations. Even then, you might argue that, because of the constellation of the Security Council of the UN, the big powers of the world have a large deciding power. At the same time, that is the reality of the modern world we live in.
This list of UN countries is dynamic. When I was born, there were only around 120 independent countries on our planet - just compare that to the current number of ! New countries are still being born every now and then; South Sudan joined the list in 2011 and is considered the youngest country on earth. And there are more regions around the globe aspiring for independence. We will likely witness the birth of new countries in the years and decades to come.
Oh, and what about the number of countries shown on my site? In the countdown banner, I use the official number of UN countries I still have to visit. But for the sake of clarity on the site itself, separate territories like Vatican City, Kosovo, Taiwan, and others are demarcated as separate territories. At the same time, the countries I have already visited, but where I did not take pictures and are thus not represented on my site, are not included in the final count on my site, but are represented in the countdown ticker.
A matter of definition
The second question is: what actually is a visit? Is merely crossing the border a visit to a country? Or should it involve more than that? I decided that a visit should, as a minimum, involve an overnight stay in the country. Apart from some tiny countries like Monaco, I have so far spent much more than one night in each visited country. I am not one of those who "collect" countries, just to tick them off. I know of people who cross the border, and come back, and consider they have visited the country on the other side of the border. Instead, I am being led by my curiosity - which, if anything, is much stronger now than before. The more countries I see, and the more I meet people who tell me about places I don't know yet, the more I realize how beautiful our world is, how many places there are that I would still love to visit. My project of visiting all countries in the world now brings me to places that are very interesing to visit, as most of them don't see mass tourism. Sometimes, when I tell people where I am going, they ask me to point the place out on the map. Yes - there are still many places like that in our world! Socrates, or was it Plato?, once said: The more I know, the more I realize how little I know. The same applies to travelling: the more I travel, the more I realize how little I have seen of the world.
Curiosity is the driving force
As soon as I decided to make visiting all countries in the world my life project, I made a list of all the countries I still had to visit to complete the list, subdivided in the continents they are in. Back then, I still had more than 65 countries to go, and the list seemed very long. These last years, I have been fortunate enough to travel to many "new" countries in the world; visiting more than ten new countries every year since 2009. On June 3, 2017, I finally stepped across the last border on the planet I had never crossed: into Ireland, thus completing my long quest of visiting all countries in the world.
And now, what?
Many people ask me, what I plan to do now that I have visited my last country, and if I will just stay home after that. I love travelling so much, I will surely continue to travel now that I have completed my goal. For one, there are the countries that I already visited, but do not have pictures of on www.traveladventures.org. I want to revisit them, and complete all countries on my site. Then, I have a list of countries that I would love to see more of. Bolivia, Peru, Italy, Nepal, Fiji, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, the USA, Canada... and several more countries definitely will see me come back. My curiosity will be there to drive me around the world.