Opinion: Travelers Who Count Countries Have Missed the Mark
Why I’m done with the count and you should be, too.
Some of us, including my former self, like to show off the list of countries we have checked off on our pursuit to see the entire world. We’re proud of where we have been.
But why? Who cares?
I don’t remember the countries I visited for three days while backpacking Europe. Sure, I remember moments. But none of those moments are relative to the country itself. I don’t have a greater understanding of a place after visiting for a few days.
Counting countries is common, and it is rewarding to see our lists getting longer and longer. But where does it stop?
That’s why I’m not counting countries anymore.
I want to be able to set my bag down and unpack it. Pull clothes from a closet instead of the bottom of a backpack. I want to have a favorite farmers market where I buy groceries. I want to go to dinner parties instead of eating fast food.
I want to do normal things in a different home. Like, find my go-to barbershop. Befriend neighbors. Get a job and learn my way around without a GPS.
It is all a part of a new wave of traveling. A more sustainable one.
I am exhausted from trying to see it all. I’m done with time restraints and schedules.
I want to settle down and learn all the in’s and out’s of that area before moving on to the next place. No matter how tempting it is to buy that cheap plane ticket to a country next door. To me, slow travel is the only true form of traveling.
So, when the day comes to make the move to Europe in a few short months, I’m going to make it with a permanent stay in mind. Each country I visit won’t be a visit. I’ll live there and find out if I love it.
I may not like a country for the first week, two weeks, or even the first month. But if I haven’t fully explored it, how will I know? I will stay until I get a sufficient taste of each place.
I went to Seattle, Washington last summer. I was there for a little under 24 hours on my road trip to the West. I rushed around doing as much as possible while it rained on me the entire time.
I couldn’t wait to get out of the city. I thought I hated it.
Fast forward a year and I found myself crossing through Seattle again. This time, on my way to Canada.
I took a free walking tour which showed me a lot of the parts I missed the first time through. I decided to stay a little longer. Still, my visit was only for three days. But in those three days, I determined I was severely misguided on my first visit.
That’s when I realized that first impressions are only first impressions. I won’t fall in love with every country I visit, especially when I don’t give it a proper chance.
Not everyone is in a situation where long-term travel is possible. Life gets in the way, and most of the time employment puts a restraint on travel.
Still, there are ways to beat the system.
I once met a man in Poland with a full-time job. Every weekend, he traveled to the same place until he felt as if he sufficiently knows the culture of said place. That is a brilliant solution.
But, I know, it’s not for everyone.
Many of us want the thrill of posting Instagrams in a new city every day while we are on the road. I was once one of those people. I enjoyed the fact that my friends told me they were envious of me.
But I realized I wasn’t traveling for me anymore. I wasn’t doing the things that’d make impactful memories to me. I was too busy running down the perfect Insta-photo.
If I didn’t change the way I traveled, I would have all the evidence to prove my globetrotting but no experiences to hold lasting memories.
That is not how I wanted to continue my pursuit of lifelong travel.
So, I changed some things and started doing it my way.
I choose to live where I travel. After all, having a home in a few meaningful countries is infinitely better than having photos in every country.
Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to call myself a resident of many countries. But, until then, I’m done being a tourist. I’m ready to lay my stakes.
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** This article was originally published at www.adamcheshier.com **
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