How many countries have you traveled to?, is one of my interview questions. I stop and think. Not only do I not know the answer, the whole question strikes me as odd. Why would that have anything with my book or with my ability to travel if you can call it such? Does a higher number mean you are a better traveler? Apparently so and since I am the supposed expert here my number should be up there. I count and don’t get very far.
I presume that I have been to Switzerland as a child though I can’t remember. I know I have had dinner at Alsace or at least three-night think so, it may have been Luxembourg (in my defense I was 7!) which would add a country to my list. Is Vatican City is a sovereign country? I have also been to Canada for a grand total of four days but has that made me a better traveler? I guess I can recommend an excellent liquor store in Vancouver and do know that Canadian immigration can be a pain in the ass. And do I get double points for living in South Africa for seven years?
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
There has been a lot of press in recent months about Cassie De Pecol, the fastest woman in the world to travel to all 196 sovereign countries and has a record of it. She did all those countries in 18 months and 26 days, giving her two to five days in each.
While her claim to fame of being the first woman was heavily debated and questioned (she wasn’t, she was the fastest recorded one), I honestly just didn’t see the point. Mind you, I was never fascinated with world records unless they show that you can do something truly heroic. Like eating 41 lobster rolls in 10 minutes. Spending almost $200.000 in sponsorship money to spend an average of 3 days in each country doesn’t seem very heroic to me. In fact, I think it is pointless, I don’t know if it sends the right message, I don’t know if that can be considered meaningful travel.
Then again, I don’t know her and what she learned from it, what others learned from meeting her. Maybe she is actually Superwoman which would make her a true heroine.
When I was in college I took a class called World Affairs. Before we spoke of anything of interest we were given a blank map and had to learn where every single country was and its capital. Our professor said that in order to know what was going on in the world we needed to know where places were first. While I quickly forgot the map once I had aced the class I always liked that sentiment.
Today I sometimes do an online quiz with a blank map. I usually suck at it and maybe Cassie doesn’t. Maybe she knows not only how to spell all the Stans but also where they are. Maybe she knows where Bahrain, Burundi, Brunei, and Benin are respectively. And maybe she can find her a way through all the different Pacific island nations. I don’t, I have only been to 39 countries allegedly (still not sure about Switzerland) and am always surprised when I find at least one new country after the quiz that I never even knew existed (Suriname anyone?!).
Have you done Neverland yet?
Back when I was a bit younger, me and my girlfriends kept a list of the guys we had slept with (didn’t we all? Please tell me you did too!). Eventually, I lost track and I also lost interest because what did a number say about me or about the quality of the sex I was having? Not much at all. After you have sorted out some basics I believe that quality matters so much more than quantity whether it is men, age or traveling.
For me, a country count is an equally irrelevant number. How many countries have you done? I cringe when I hear that question. I don’t like the phrase of doing a place any more than I like the idea of doing a person. It seems rude to both a country and a person. And while the phrase of doing a person is usually a bit more clear cut, what does doing a country actually entail? Can you do a place in three days or do you need at least three weeks? And what if you spend those three weeks hurled up in a Club Med?
I think Cassie did countries and literally crossed them off a list on her website. I am actually trying hard not to judge, ’cause I guess in the end people need to travel how they want to travel. But I personally I don’t care to do a country whatever it may entail.
I like the concept of meeting places. Of falling in love instead of having yet another one- or three-night-stand. I want to see the whole world but since I know that it impossible, that even a Cassie has not done that, I don’t want to rush trying. I don’t want to miss out trying. Missing out on falling in love, on going deeper rather than further, on stopping and smelling the roses/frangipani/jasmine/alang alang/ orange blossoms.
So with that, I have decided that in the future I will refuse to answer those questions. My numbers of men, my age, and the countries I visited have no bearing on who I am and are nobodies business. I rather make sure that whether I kiss or travel that I have a damn good story to tell afterward because to me that’s what it’s all about.