There are a group of people who count countries, countries that they travel to. Of course, what's counting? How do you count?
There are many different ways of counting, there are many clubs and groups separating the world to a number of regions ranging from 193 to 1281. 193 is the generally accepted minimum taken as the standard as it is the number of UN countries. There is no argument in that number, which is also what Guinness counts for “travelling the world” records as in first American, youngest black etc.
Jorge Sanchez, -who is #1 traveller on Nomad Mania, a site that lists the different categories,-
likens countries to books and says “You have to read the books, it's not enough to have them in your library.” That's a very good point. He is criticizing, albeit indirectly, those country “collectors” who just step a foot across a border and say they've been to a country. However, there is still a big point he misses too. And that is:
What people call countries are artificial borders, the real countries are people.
7 Billion Countries
So we have 7 billion books to read now. Ok, let's cut out the children, but perhaps not even them. They may have had short lives, therefore short stories but their stories might be amazing. Some books are long but boring. Yet even those ones have something interesting in them. Maybe just a line. A line worth reading. Some books invite you in and you may enter with caution, others grab you by the hand and drag you in, yet others take time to get into but once you do, you lose yourself in them. Or you just get to see a reflection of yourself in them.
As we cannot read all the books, books in the literal sense, i.e. published books, or all the people in the world, we have to choose. Travel exposes us to books which we won't be able to find at home or books that we may not pick out of the shelf ourselves but may find interesting and worth reading if we find it in our hands. Or we at least get to read a chapter of those books.
By passing through the lives of people in unknown far-away places you get to get a glimpse of a cross-section of their lives.
Nowadays you get to read about many books online as we have the chance to learn about so many people through their blogs. The downside of the internet is that it is mostly dominated by the “Western” world and mainly to the “haves” who get to tell their stories and put out their opinions. The “have-nots” do not have much of a say in this world. They are too busy trying to survive. They don't get their voices heard. Their voices are so weak. If ever, it's the foreign agencies who speak on their behalf. Or rarely, a few remaining real journalists out there give a voice to them.
So to me, travel is perhaps getting to find the real stories. But travel is not an
imperative. There are wonderful books that can introduce you to the “culture” of a place. I'm not saying reading a book replaces seeing and experiencing things for yourself. However, it is important to keep this point in mind: Someone having travelled to a country, even be it for a long time, DOES NOT necessarily mean he knows the “culture” of a place or has gained a lot of insight. Travel is an important part because of first-hand knowledge, however it's not of the greatest import as some people try to make it be.
Travel is creating your adventure, travel is making yourself open to serendipity to whatever may come your way, travel is learning and growing through interactions that you would not get at home living your routine life. Travel is “on the road” education. But it's not the ONLY way nor the foremost to be revered. There are many ways of experiencing and acquiring knowledge. Even knowledge is not enough, wisdom is what we should aspire to acquire.
There are other essential traits of paramount significance that should accompany travel: like the capacity of logic and reasoning, like a good-heart, like a deep and intense care for the world, for people.
There are, -I might say many- petty people who are only obsessed with themselves and their exploits, not caring about the world they claim to have seen extensively. So reading the 193 books, or even the 7 billion ones is not enough. The important thing is if we can live in harmony, or at least without hurting others, and add some value to the world we all live in as we pass by.
Hear it from a social outcast ;)
7 Billion countries is an impossibility. So let's try a different approach:
To look at it from another point of view:
As in the dictum of the Baha'i faith, THE EARTH IS BUT ONE COUNTRY.
Then, of course, that would leave people without any competition at all as everybody on earth has been to that one country ;)))
As for the fastest to having been to that one country... Well, we'll need to decide if it is the shortest birth counting from the start of the contractions to getting out of the mother's womb -sorry, any Cesarean sections are disqualified for this category- or the shortest gestation period. The poll is out on that ;))
Counting to 193+2
Counting to 193 (or +2) is the worst definition of a country. Think of it. How are borders defined? Either by bloody wars or by bloody politics. As Manny Neira puts it:
“To be recognised by the United Nations, all that matters is that a government hold power: it doesn't matter how it is held. Indeed, so non-judgemental is the UN that should a coup d'etat replace one dictator with another, after a reasonable delay to ensure that the new thugs are securely in office, they too can join the club. The UN doesn't ask embarrassing questions about how you came to govern. The currency is pure realpolitik: if you rule, you're in.
In fact, United Nations is a cartel for the world's ruling classes...”
It's all about power, not upsetting the big thugs. What's the fault of poor Somaliland that not a single country recognizes it even though it's been running a rather peaceful place for about what, 27-28 years now? UN is a club of thugs.
Yeah, I'm using these thugs' definition as a guideline too, but it is only to spotlight the idiocy of this antiquated and anachronistic belief or faith in borders. It is to ask for the abolition of statehood/citizenship as we know it.
We need a new political organization.
Oh well... Until then, we enjoy this game we are playing. I wonder what future generations will think when they look back at us.