Travellers have a tendency to set up a bucket list, meaning a list of things to do or places to go before they die, or “kick the bucket” as the idiom goes. The to-do list may involve doing a bungee jump, sail around the world, or hike the Camino de Santiago. I will here concentrate on places to see.
In a post I wrote almost five years ago, “Been there, done that… There is SO much left to explore…” I introduced several lists with place-names on. These lists have become sources of enlightenment for thousands of travellers. I will present them in a little more detail and also include my checked-off standings – poor as they may be.
There are many who would consider paying all member countries of the United Nations a visit the ultimate challenge. True, with 193 member states this is definitely a challenge and I would suppose not many have visited them all. As of writing this post I have visited 66, and have 127 to go – if I was to attempt checking all of them off.
This list may rank as the nearest “official” list you can find but it is not perfect. For instance the Vatican is not a member, voluntarily. Palestine is recognised by many countries and even some UN agencies, but has not been accepted as a member of the UN General Assembly.
World Heritage Sites (WHC)
UNESCO is one of many organisations under the United Nations. Their list consists of 1052 properties with outstanding universal value, as part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. However, the sites may physically be located in a country, but the country or even place itself does not count.
Such a cultural place or natural wonder may be very narrowly defined but in essence relates only to these types of phenomena – culture or nature, or the combination. My score by year-end 2016 is 144 and I will never stand the chance to visit the rest – because of the sheer numbers and also because there are several new properties being listed every year.
My score of visited places on five different lists as of year-end 2016.
Most Traveled People (MTP)
Now here is a list of a more private kind, or rather made by an open member organisation called Most Traveled People. Their list of 873 sites (or 875) grew in 2005 out of a desire to create a club for travellers who aspire to go “everywhere.” Everywhere is defined as UN countries, territories, dependencies, states or provinces of large countries, island groups, isolated islands, or enclaves and exclaves.
The club seems to consist of 16,000+ members and their scoreboard looks like this. My score is 176 making me a Senior Ambassador. But I’m not a member.
|Hall of Fame
||(400 or more visited)
The Travelers’ Century Club (TCC)
Here’s another organisation who has set up a list of places to visit. Membership in the Travelers’ Century Club (TCC) is limited to people who have visited one hundred or more territories. It was first organised in Los Angeles in 1954 by “a group of the world’s most widely traveled people”.
The list consists of 331 places of which I have visited 85. By that I would not qualify for a membership in this club.
The Best Travelled (TBT)
The last list I will introduce is this one, called The Best Travelled. This is the most populous list with 1281 places, or as they say “27 megaregions and 1281 regions”. My score is 222.
A final word
Why do the lists differ so much?
The case is that countries vary so much more than the rather uncomplicated list of United Nations member states would imply. You may have visited Gibraltar, but does that mean you have visited the United Kingdom? The answer is yes, but not the other way round. You haven’t been to Gibraltar if you have had a weekend trip to Manchester, but they are both part of the United Kingdom. Overseas territories are so diverse and so varied in legal status. Alaska is a state in the United States, Puerto Rico is not.
Bouvet Island is a desolate little island in the southern Atlantic ocean with no permanent inhabitants. It belongs to Norway. Then you have the very large number of enclaves and exclaves that are parts of a country set inside another country. Wouldn’t it be nice to say you have been to such places as well? There are often more or less autonomous regions within a sovereign country. Large countries like Russia and China consists of several administrative regions all of which have been added to the club lists.
On the map below it looks as if I have been everywhere in the United States. The fact is I have only visited New York and made a fuel stop in Alaska. This raises another question.
How do you count a visit?
This varies a lot too. TBT differentiates between a ‘good visit’ and a ‘minimal’ visit. “In the interest of intercultural understanding, we urge all travellers to aim for a ‘good visit’, which would imply experiencing at least one recognised highlight of a particular region – whether natural, historical, cultural, gastronomic, entertainment or other. In order for a visit to qualify as valid for thebesttravelled.com, however, a ‘minimal’ visit is required of a traveller.”
So, what is a minimal visit? It is not really minimalist. For instance if you are on a train journey through several territories a visit will not count unless you step out of the train and leave the station. The MTP has basically the same rules. In contrast the TCC accepts ports-of-call and plane fuel stops.
In my view the point of counting is not in itself so interesting. I am more like TBT, that intercultural understanding is the main issue and that a visit should let you dig deeper into the culture and nature of a place. That is why I have become so interested in visiting the UNESCO sites when I’m out travelling.
This map has coloured in blue the countries that I have visited. By the way, why do you think that Greenland looks so incredibly large, and Canada too? Could that be right? Read about The true size of countries. You may also find it interesting to read the post called Counting countries or the art of exaggeration.
Finally, do I have a bucket list?
Yes, of sorts. I present them in my annual updates. The one for 2016 is found here.