Country counting. A topic that you think could incite WWIII amongst travellers and the travel blogging subset. Over lukewarm cans of €1 hostel beer worldwide there are mutterings of travellers discussing whether their trip to x, y, or z “counted”. The angry click-clacking of an opinionated blogger permeates through a reader’s screen when the words “country counters are assholes” are reached as you inanely scroll through a post. The hairs prickle on someone’s neck as they hear someone offhandedly comment “yeah I’ve been to Russia, only the airport but it counts”.
Opinions get formed rapidly and it leaves many travellers asking questions… Am I really an asshole for knowing where I’ve been? What constitutes me being able to say I’ve “been” somewhere or “done” something?
Who freakin’ knows. It all depends on your audience.
Hang on though –- slow down there: what actually is country counting?
It is a pretty simple concept really. Country counting is the act of knowing how many countries you have set foot in. Some people might keep it as a physical list and others might just know. Some people may count certain experiences whereas others may not – it’s all pretty fluid. It’s all just a number.
But the fact of the matter is that it really annoys some people that others choose to do this. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
Humans have an innate need to quantify. Whether it’s knowing your school leaving score, how much money is in the bank, or even how many likes you’re getting on Instagram, our brains seem to harbour such knowledge. Since the dawn of time quantifying has been a part of human life.
So perhaps it isn’t the quantification itself, but the manner at which it is presented that rubs people up the wrong way.
Being able to travel is a privilege – it really is. Some people convincingly argue that by flagrantly displaying your travel statistics it is bragging about a privilege that others cannot obtain. And to a certain extent, this argument does make sense. But I wonder if the same people arguing this point of view also get annoyed when people post about expensive dinners, new possessions, or even when people graduate from educational institutions? All of these could equally be argued as displays of privilege.
For many of us travellers, this lifestyle does not come easy. Most travellers do not have an easy pot of money or wealthy families from whom they acquire the ability to globetrot. Many people who travel the world have worked hard to do so. Some working extra jobs, hardly spending any money at home, or having very few possessions. Travel can often represent a lot of hard work and consequently people see it as something to be proud of. Knowing or showing this number is a way of telling others of an achievement.
But really the biggest thing is… who cares? If someone wishes to know or say how many countries they have visited, just don’t let it affect you. Each to their own. Just like if one of your mate’s gym ‘progress’ selfies are annoying you, you can remove your country counting friends from News Feeds, Instagram feeds and the like.
At the end of the day there are bigger things to worry about in the world right now (seriously) so it’s important to not let things like this get you down.