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The Road to 193: Visiting Every Country in the World Ricky February 16, 2021

The Road to 193: Visiting Every Country in the World

Many years ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Road to 193”, in which I somewhat nebulously outlined my plans to visit every country in the world over the course of my lifetime.

Like many of you, with my travel plans having ground to a halt and life progressing at a slow pace these days, I’ve had the chance to reflect on my past travels and daydream about future adventures. And there’s nothing like a black swan event like a global pandemic to remind me that unexpected things will always come up in life, and that if I don’t take active steps to make my goals a reality, they may simply never happen.

And so, I feel it’s the right time to revisit and reiterate my aspirations to eventually visit all of the UN-recognized sovereign states, and to plot out a strategy for progressing towards this lofty goal over the coming years and decades.

Cape Town, South Africa

Why Visit Every Country in the World?

Whenever the idea of visiting every country in the world is floated in conversation with fellow travellers, it’s usually accompanied by a debate as to whether this goal is something worth pursuing in the first place. After all, shouldn’t travel be about more than tallying up a list of countries and checking items off a list?

No doubt, there are many cities around the world where not even a lifetime would be enough to fully absorb the place, let alone a country, let alone all the countries. That’s part of what makes travel such an enrapturing pursuit in the first place – knowing that there’s an endless world out there to explore, an endless series of new adventures to look forward to.

I think there’s a subtle distinction to be made between aiming to see as much of the world as possible, and visiting all the countries purely for the sake of it.

I’ve always championed the belief that every place on Earth has something unique to offer to the discerning traveller, and I do feel that no single definable objective captures that spirit better than visiting all 193 recognized countries.

Sometimes, I hear about fellow travellers on the Road to 193 doing things like stepping across a border into a new country, only to return immediately and check it off their list. My aim will be to avoid doing this whenever possible, and ideally spend at least one night, if not a couple of nights, within the borders of each nation in order to get a proper taste of the place.

And if that isn’t possible, and I don’t feel I’ve done a place justice (as is currently the case for, say, Bosnia & Herzegovina, where I stopped briefly in the port town of Neum on the bus ride across Croatia to buy something at a convenience store) – then the country will be added back to the end of the list, so that I make sure I pay it another visit if and when I complete my goal on paper.

141 Countries to Go…

I’ve visited 52 of the UN member states as of February 2021, which leaves me with 141 countries to go on the Road to 193.

Written out like that, the task appears just as daunting to me as you might imagine. If I estimate that I’d be able to visit 10 new countries per year on average, this is a task that will take me the next 14 years, until I’m 40 years old, to complete.

It’s important to set actionable and measurable goals, after all, so I think that’s a fair barometer to measure against as I aim to make slow but steady progress towards this goal year after year.

Now, obviously, some countries will be easier than others to visit, especially since many of the 52 countries I’ve already visited count among the “easier” countries for Canadians to enter without a visa.

I was fairly young the last time I discussed the Road to 193. Now that I’m a bit older and have clearer sense of where life is going, it’s important to lay out the logistical considerations that will be essential in making this goal a reality.

Jaipur, India

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

I think it makes sense to tackler the more challenging countries sooner rather than later. Some of my more adventurous trips over the next couple of years are going to be focused around more distant destinations like Africa, the South Pacific, and Central Asia.

Africa will be the biggest challenge, with no less than 52 countries left to explore after Ghana and Egypt (and plenty of reasons still to return to both of those).

Besides the sheer numbers, though, there are many more factors to consider: the costs and efforts required to obtain visas, the high cost of travel within the continent, and not to mention the greater risks that remain associated with travelling in many African countries.

It’s all part of what we’ve signed up for as dedicated travellers, but there’s no denying that the risks of visiting, say, Mali or the Central African Republic do bear some consideration.

It’s another reason to focus on travelling to this part of the world in the short-term future: I’m more comfortable taking on a daring travel style these days than in the future when I have a young family that depends on me. 

The islands of the South Pacific have been a source of longstanding fascination for me. Having completed a journey through Micronesia on the United Island Hopper, I’m looking forward to exploring more of these remote, rarely-visited islands further south across Melanesia and Polynesia.

(The threat of global warming means that the local way of life on these islands may be radically different in a couple decades’ time, as some of the islanders are already facing the prospect of being forced out of their homelands by rising sea levels within their lifetimes. That’s another reason for me to prioritize visiting these countries before it may be too late.) 

Central Asia and its environs, like Iran and the Caucasus, will also be a big area of the map to tackle. Thankfully, quite a few of my friends have expressed interest in exploring these places, too, so I look forward to bringing a few travel buddies along in this part of the world.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Speaking of which, I’ll also have to give some thought as to which new countries to visit on my own or with my friends, and which trips bring along Jessy as my travel companion.

As much as we’ve enjoyed extended journeys along the Trans-Siberian Railway in the past, as Jessy embarks on a career of her own, she’d probably be less enthusiastic spending her precious vacation time accompanying me to places like… the Guineas: Bissau, Equatorial, Papua New, or the regular one. 

Instead, I’ll be saving the more traditional tourist destinations that I haven’t visited yet, such as South Africa, India, Peru, or French Polynesia for trips that we’re able to go on together, while saving the more audacious trips for my own agenda.

(Okay, French Polynesia isn’t one of the 193 sovereign states, but an aspirational Bora Bora trip is definitely something I’m aiming for, too.)

After tackling some of these gaps in my travel map, I’ll leave the “easier” destinations, like Europe, Central America, or the Caribbean for the more distant future, which are more feasible to visit with a young family in tow. I also envision spending lots of time in Asia, so the remaining Asia-Pacific countries I’ve yet to visit should also be pretty easy to reach.

The Magic of Miles & Points

Being able to earn and redeem points for flights and accommodations won’t necessarily bring you to every country around the world in a straightforward manner, but it can certainly give you a leg up in terms of planning out the trips.

Say I wanted to plan a trip to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Well, the fifth-freedom flight by Royal Air Maroc would cost $518 one-way in economy class… or alternatively, with Royal Air Maroc joining Oneworld now, only 9,000 Avios in business class.

The same principle applies all over the world, not only with Avios but also with Aeroplan now that the latter is distance-based, too. Throw in Aeroplan’s ability to book stopovers for 5,000 points on a one-way, and the possibilities grow even more numerous.

For the hardcore traveller who wants to see as much of the world as possible, credit card welcome bonuses and loyalty program sweet spots are the ultimate secret weapon.

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

I will say, though, that they can also offer a different temptation of their own. Indeed, over the past few years I probably would’ve gotten to visit quite a few more countries if I hadn’t always been so focused on flying the “perfect” itinerary with new business class and First Class experiences at every turn. 

Now that I’ve been fortunate enough to complete most of my aviation-related bucket list items, I’d like to focus my travel efforts more consciously on exploring new destinations as the world opens up again over the next few years.

Conclusion

The idea of travelling to every country in the world is something that every kid has thought about when staring at the world map.

I myself vividly remember spending long hours gazing at the map on my wall, wondering what life was like in all the different countries out there from Afghanistan through Zimbabwe, and it’s a real privilege to be in a position to pursue this goal in earnest in my adult life.

Being grounded by the pandemic has definitely brought this objective into sharper focus for me, and I’m looking forward to getting started on exploring the remaining 141 countries once things start to get better – and to document the journeys here over the years and decades to come. 

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12 Comments
  1. Avatar
    YVR – Char

    Travelling to every country is fun dream to plan and work on especially considering exciting countries like Tuvalu, Seychelles, Lesotho and Dominica. Would you consider ‘Kosovo’ or ‘Palestine’ to be sovereign countries? How about the Vatican? How about SMOM or the Sovereign Military Order of Malta,? The SMOM has its own seat at the United Nations and diplomatic relations with 110 soveriegn states (and whose postage stamps are recognized by Canada). Good luck on this achievable dream!

  2. Avatar
    Kendrick

    Awesome write up Ricky! I’ll make sure to invite you when I plan trips to dangerous countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and what not 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Sarah S.

    I always look forward to email notifications about your blog post.
    I think one thing pandemic taught us is that we need to enjoy this planet of ours as much as we can cause you never know when you are not able to do so anymore.

  4. Avatar
    jessalyn watt

    I’m with you, Ricky!
    I’ve had the goal of ‘experiencing’ every country in the world for a while now. Do I think I’ll really make it? No. I’m 44 and have 87 countries under my belt. But this hasn’t stopped me from trying.

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      You’ve got this, Jessalyn! It’s a lifelong journey and I believe in you.

  5. Avatar
    Peter

    “If I estimate that I’d be able to visit 10 new countries per year on average, this is a task that will take me the next 14 years, until I’m 40 years old, to complete”. Spoken like true millennial. Trust me Ricky there is life, and a great life after 40. Enjoy your journey…even if it takes you until you’re 50:)

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Oh, absolutely. I just think it’s useful to have some kind of target to track my progress through the years. I fully expect there to still be some of the more “daring” countries left that I’ll have to save for my 50s when the kids are all grown up.

  6. Avatar
    sherry

    While I agree with Ricky that if the mission is successful to actually visit every single country and not stop short then it may be a tremendous, once in a life time achievement. I am actually more concerned about the people who spend hundreds of dollars on visas and thousands of dollars on travel just to go to random countries to put their “foot into the boarder” for a check list. To me this 193 goal is “ALL OR NOTHING” because if you do spend your time and money planning to visit random countries and stop short say at 113 out of 193 then all that random visas and money you spent just to step a foot into a country is absolutely wasted.

    I would have to agree with Max on the fact that the amount of people hoping to get to 193 and those who actually succeed do not align, and for many people it will end up in financial disappointment and wasted effort.

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Yeah, and that’s why I don’t think the “foot over the border” criterion is very meaningful at all.

      If I only made it to 113 out of 193 countries, but did so having spent some meaningful time in those 113, interacting with locals, and learning some of their stories, then I’d still consider it a worthwhile effort. It’d be a different story if I spent hundreds of dollars on a visa just to step foot over the border and back.

  7. Avatar
    Max

    Judging by the lack of comments I will speak for the people that trying to visit every country in the world is got to be one of the most unrewarding opportunity costs of all time. The amount of effort, money and time required to accomplish this task falls far short of the yields earned achieving it. This task is a perfect ideal beautiful definition of “opportunity cost”.

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      I happen to completely disagree here – I think the sheer satisfaction of seeing the world and the lifetime of memories would be far more rewarding than anything else. I guess that’s why I’m going for it.

      1. Avatar
        Lisa

        Everyone has its reasons to travel. I have memories of sites I have visited but my dearest memories are of the people I have met (an old Brahman and his wife on a train in India, a young girl selling dates in the streets of Cairo, talking international politics with our local guide in Yazd on a rooftop restaurant over a cup of tea and watching sunset, etc.) This is what I love about travel. I couldn’t care less about the stamps in my passport. This is my own personal view and not a judgment on people who think otherwise.

Ricky

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