Stop Bloody Counting the Countries You "Do"

Stop Bloody Counting the Countries You “Do”

If you’ve left your home country at least once, there is a very high chance someone has asked you “How many countries have you visited?” I typically have to swallow the vomit that’s crept up into my mouth before I can respond with a meek, “I’m not sure, actually.”

Nine times out of ten, this answer absolutely bewilders people. Even right now, I can’t tell you how many countries I have visited. This is not because it’s a particularly large amount, but simply because I don’t give a fuck. And neither should you.

I am seldom impressed by how many countries someone has been to.* I don’t give a flying fuck how many countries Simon, 25, who has just super-liked me from 14km away, has been to. Judging by his Tinder pictures, it’s pretty obvious Simo and half his footy team went on a filthy Euro-tour that took them to 27 countries in 13 days. He’s not alone, either. People put flags in their bios, brand themselves a ~traveller~, and list where they’re off to next. Unless you’re offering to take me with you Ben, 23, I don’t care.

I’m more diligent about keeping track of my sexual partners than I am about the places I have visited. I have a running document about the former, including their full names, and when and how we were involved. This list is purely for health reasons, and is not an ego-stroke (believe me). I know people who keep similar lists for countries they have visited, except the difference is it that it’s precisely for an ego-stroke. A list to whip out in bar in the hope that maybe, tomorrow morning, I will be adding their name to my list.

But this counting of countries isn’t just peacocking; people don’t do it just to attract a partner. Oh no, this goes well beyond courtship. I’ve heard horror stories of people smacking their nation number on their resume, and dropping it (casually, I am sure) into job interviews. At the start of the year, a tutor of mine bragged about his passport stamp collection in his introduction. I’ve also been told that I’ll really like so-and-so because “she’s been to 46 countries!” or “he’s done South America too!”

For the record, I never did like either of those people.

Another gripe: you don’t “do” countries. Can we all please remove “do” from our vocabulary when discussing travel? You didn’t do Nepal. You’re not going to do Laos. And you sure as hell haven’t done Europe. The verb “do” and its past participle “done” are not how we should be describing places on Earth (or people, actually). I lived in Buenos Aires for months, and do not believe I “did” Argentina. I didn’t even do Buenos Aires. I barely did Recoleta, the sweet little suburb I called home. I know certain parts intimately, from the budget pizza joint to the fruit shop just over the road, but I barely scratched the surface. I’ve not “done” my own hometown in Australia, nor my closest city. So how can you ever “do” a country? Does that mean you’re done with it, never to return again?

We’re part of a generation who are privileged enough to travel on a whim, even if our finances don’t really allow it. Spinning a globe, sticking a finger out, landing somewhere in the world and saying “there” isn’t actually that far off how some of us plan our next destination. We’re lucky folk; there’s no doubt about it. But don’t confuse our good fortune with righteousness.

I am all for being intrepid, broadening your horizons, stepping out of your comfort zone and just about every other cliché (unless it’s bloody wanderlust), but let’s stop doing places and counting our countries.

Otherwise, you’re really putting the “count” in countries, aren’t you?

*If you have been to all 193 UN member states, I’d be impressed. If you’ve been to Palestine, Kosovo, The Holy See, Tibet and Taiwan too, even bloody better.

Cover by Slava Bowman