196 Countries

May 30, 2021

Visited all countries in the world 

So you finally did it?

Yep. In May 2021, I went to my last unvisited country in the world — the troubled Central African Republic where I had a seriously challenging visit.

How many countries and how do you define "country"?

Visited all 193 members of the United Nations.

Plus visited the three entities with diplomatic recognition by majority of UN members: the Vatican (Holy See); Palestine; and Kosovo. [I previously wrote about 195 countries without realizing most countries recognize Palestine.]

Total visited = All 196.

What about Taiwan?

I have visited other places that, for better or worse, have limited diplomatic recognition, such as Taiwan (Republic of China), Transnistria (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But, to keep consistent criteria, I am not counting those because they are not widely recognized.

I'm also not counting my visits to countries that no longer exist — East Germany (DDR) and Czechoslovakia.

What counts as a "visit"?

Airport transits alone do not count. Most of my stays ranged from a couple of days to almost a month with repeat visits to larger countries like Brazil, India, Russia, Canada, and China — plus repeat visits drawn by infatuation with, for example, Sri Lanka, Italy, Cuba, Myanmar and all of Southeast Asia. Shortest visits were to a few micro-states like Lichtenstein, Andorra, and San Marino where a full day seemed reasonable.

What took you so long?

My travel addiction did not originally focus on "country counting." I visited many countries repeatedly, not always going to "new" countries.

As I started to venture off the beaten path, I discovered that I loved going to nontraditional destinations like Eritrea, Belarus, Laos, Algeria, Congo (DRC), to name a few. That encouraged me to undertake more unusual journeys to places that pushed me more out of my comfort zone (but were fascinating) such as North Korea, South Sudan, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

As I realized that exploring all 196 countries might actually be possible for me, then I forged ahead.

Why?

Love of diverse cultures, politics, history, cuisine, nature, animals — and people! Plus, the thrill of new and often unexpected experiences that provide the adrenaline rush that fuels travel addictions like mine.

Have many people done this?

No way to really know for sure. Three organizations attempt to keep lists (TCC, MTP, and NomadMania).

NomadMania has a process for verifying UN country visits (mainly using past passports). In June 2021, I became the 100th person that NM had verified so far and here is the cute resulting badge put by my name.

Using an honor system, MTP (Most Traveled People) now lists almost 80 people and, I'm told, TCC lists about 200 as visiting all UN countries.

A friend argues that people compulsive enough to count countries would have learned about these three sites over the years. I'm not so sure. So is the total 200 people? 1,000? I do not know.

Your Favorites?

Tough question. One measure is my most return visits:

  ● Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia, and Thailand.

But I really cannot pick favorites among experiences as widely varied as, to name just a few that jump out at the moment:

  ● mountain gorillas in Rwanda and in the Congo,
  ● the Trans-Siberian Express across Russia,
  ● fabled old Timbuktu in the Sahara,
  ● Castro's May Day rally in Havana,
  ● drift snorkeling in the Aldabra Atol,
  ● hot air ballooning over Bagan's many temples,
  ● a total eclipse over the Libyan desert,
  ● sunrise over Machu Picchu,
  ● the 2011 Egyptian Revolution in Cairo,
  ● hundred of thousand of penguins on South Georgia island,
  ● gigantic Iguazú Falls and crazy Carnival in Rio,
  ● working in an orphanage in Vietnam,
  ● seeing Mt Everest after hiking up to Namche Bazaar,
  ● teaching at the university in Kuala Lumpur,
  ● savoring chocolate croissants with my nieces on the Eiffel Tower as the sun set over Paris.

What now?

I eventually want to visit Western Sahara (the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) which Morocco controls but is the most widely recognized "country" (by 44 others) that I have not yet visited.

More important priorities include:
  ● Northern Lights after two failed prior attempts;
  ● Far western Australia for the 2023 eclipse;
  ● Back to the heart of Texas for the 2024 eclipse;
  ● Back to Egypt (or Libya?) for the 2027 eclipse;
  ● Brazil's Pantanal wetlands;
  ● More Greek islands;
  ● More of Pakistan;
  ● South and central Poland;
  ● River cruise across Europe;
  ● and more parks in the western USA!

Any regrets?

Only not starting serious traveling sooner.