196 Countries

May 29, 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 found 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.

Favorites?

Impossibly tough question. One measure is my most return visits:
  ● Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia and Thailand.

But I really cannot pick favorites among great experiences as widely varied as, to name just a few:
  ● mountain gorillas in Rwanda and in the Congo,
  ● the Trans-Siberian Express across Russia,
  ● sunrise over Machu Picchu,
  ● Castro's May Day tirade and rally in Havana,
  ● a total eclipse over the Libyan desert,
  ● several hundred thousand penguins on South Georgia island,
  ● gigantic Iguazú Falls and Carnival in Rio,
  ● working in an orphanage in Vietnam,
  ● being at the Egyptian Revolution in 2011,
  ● seeing Mt Everest after hiking up to Namche Bazaar,
  ● teaching at the university in Kuala Lumpur,
  ● getting to fabled Timbuktu,
  ● 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;
  ● More of Afghanistan;
  ● South and central Poland;
  ● River cruise across Europe;
  ● and more parks in the western USA!

Any regrets?

Only not starting serious traveling sooner.