My mother likes to tell me I’m well-traveled, in the way only a mother can: with a bit of admiration, wonder, and pride combined with a heavy dose of “You-should-be-grateful-do-you-know-how-lucky-you-are-I-didn’t-travel-nearly-as-much-when-I-was-your-age-are-you-sure-you-can-afford-all-those-trips?” guilt.  Once I started reading others’ blogs, though, I knew my travel range and frequency couldn’t hold a candle to many people’s. But still, I figured I was decently traveled for someone with a full-time job, a mortgage, a spouse and a pet, and sundry non-travel-related hobbies and interests.  And also – and this can’t be discounted – for someone stuck in the Midwest, for whom jaunts across the ocean are not as affordable, direct, or swift as they are for someone stationed in, say, New York or L.A.

Recently, I read a blogger’s post about her goal of reaching 30 countries by age 30.  It made me wonder how many countries I’ve been to.  It’s not that I haven’t counted before.  I have.  It’s just that it’s been a good long time.  So I made a list, checked it twice, and counted up the countries.  16.  What?  Only 16 countries (including my own!)?  That’s, like, only 8%!

For a brief moment, I felt inadequate, like I didn’t measure up.  I mean, I’ve just set myself up as a travel blogger, for crying out loud.  But I quickly realized the problem, if you can call it that.  As a teacher, I am constantly struggling to find the right balance between breadth and depth in my subject matter.  In other words, do I cover a greater number of topics in a less thorough, more surface way, or do I cover fewer subjects in greater detail?  (You’d be amazed at how deep you can go with, say, adjectives, even at the upper elementary level.)  This ends up being an apt metaphor for travel, as well.

The thing about my travel history is that it’s a mix of both.  Like most people, I love to see new places.  It’s just that sometimes those new places happen to be in a country I’ve already visited.  An even more extreme example of “depth” is when I return to the exact same place for pretty much the exact same experience (think favorite resort in Jamaica).  These things don’t help my “country count” much, but they’ve never detracted from my enjoyment of whatever place I was in.

Jamaica 1
Love you Jamaica!  You don’t really expand my horizons, but I love you just the same. XOXO

The breadth versus depth question applies to my travels here in the U.S., too, because I can’t seem to stop traveling out west.  I pine, literally pine for Colorado when I’m not there.  Southern Utah is starting to become a major object of my affection, too.  I mean, my God, the scenic drives alone…

books.jpg
Evidence of an obsessive adoration

So anyway, I thought I’d use my blog as a place to list and detail the depth and breadth of my travels in and around the two – that’s right, only two – continents I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.  That makes five continents I haven’t visited.

Yet.

North America

USA: I could list all the states I’ve set foot in, but I think that misses the point.  A map gives a better idea of my American travels.  Solid colored states are places I intended to go to, to see, and to explore (or, in a few cases, that I’ve lived in).  Striped states, on the other hand, I’ve been to, but not as a destination.  Most likely I was just passing through on my way somewhere else.  For those states I’ve been lucky enough to visit more than once, the red number indicates the frequency.

USA
Can you guess my favorite state?

Belize: honeymoon

Canada: Montreal, Quebec City, Banff-Lake Louise region

Jamaica – 5 times – twice as a young child and three times to the aforementioned resort where I go to experience the welcoming, laid-back vibe and revel in the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” feeling it provides.  Though getting there has sometimes been fraught with stress and difficulty, I never regret returning.

Europe

England – 6 times

France – 4 times

Belgium – 3 times, including a one-month student exchange

Germany – 2 times

The rest have been, so far, single-visit countries:

Austria

Italy

The Netherlands

Scotland

Spain

Or, seen another way:

Europe

So do I lament that returning to some places over and over has prevented me from seeing other parts of the U.S. and the world?  Sometimes.  But actually, I think, I’ve stumbled upon a nice mix of depth and breadth that works for the husband and me.  England, where all of my in-laws live, will always be a “depth” country for me.  I don’t mind.  Even after this summer’s visit, I have a rough outline of our next two trips there sketched out in my mind… and I’m excited about that!  Same with France.  Brittany, Normandy, Bordeaux… I’m coming for you.  It may take me several years, and two or three separate trips, but I’m coming!

A quick peek at our upcoming travel plans reveals a continuation, however unintended, of the breadth + depth travel equation… a satisfying mix of new hits and old favorites.  Heck, even our Dust-Farm-Pail List contains some new experiences embedded in retreads.

But what about growing my country count, you ask?  Well, I think I view it the same way I view getting blog followers.  More is always nice, always welcome, and I feel confident that growth will continue.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited watching the numbers tick upward, be they on my blog or on my travel tally, but it’s not the primary motivation for what I do.  The primary motivation is the fulfillment I get while I’m doing “it”, whether “it” means traveling, writing, or pretty much anything else, and that’s all the validation I need.


Addendum: I’ve pondered how to update this blog since I wrote it.  Making those maps was kind of a lot of work, so instead of redoing them each time I travel, I thought I’d use this space to update where I’ve been since:

  • Colorado (yet again)
  • England (yet again)
  • Wales (country #17)

51 thoughts

  1. Great post and perspective! We love to travel to new places and revisit our favorites, too. We’ll be traveling Colombia in more depth this year and going back to the exact same condo on Roatan where we stayed last year because we loved it so much.

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  2. You’ve still been to way more countries than me and many other people (not that, as you say, it’s some kind of competition) but I’m leaning to the depth aspect of travel. I would say that though because I’m living ‘abroad’ but I’m beginning to see and understand so much more by being here and not constantly looking for the next photo opp. I’ve actually started understanding myself better through it too (which I think is a good thing 😂)

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    1. So I’ve got a homework assignment for you. Actually, it’s the opposite of homework. It’s travelwork. Living in Thailand, you are so close to so many other countries. Just a hop, skip, and a jump, really. (Says she who has never been to Asia.) You must, must, must visit them. You MUST! I’m living vicariously through all my fellow bloggers who are stationed over there for work and take advantage by seeing all the nearby countries. You have to do your part!

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  3. I like that you made the distinction between states you’ve been to on purpose versus those that you’ve been to on your way to elsewhere. I went through NYC and LA to elsewhere years before I got to the cities/states on purpose. Your list of countries to visit is inviting. Best of luck getting to all of them.

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  4. Lovely! Yes, I imagine it’s hard to get anywhere from the Midwest? But still, you’ve managed to get away from it all and explore so much. Kudos to you. My fav spot happens to be Jamaica too, but never a resort (hubby is an explorer by nature and like a cruise, he feels shut in and claustrophobic). Mind you, we’ve never done a cruise for precisely that same reason. 🙂 We too go back to England each year as my family live there; for the past few years, we take a side trip to other parts of Europe when we’re there. This year we’re headed to Sweden first and then England. Oh the possibilities!! Great post!

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  5. You have had some amazing adventures! By the way, you have me beat by two countries, so no need to feel inadequate. It’s the quality of the adventures that count 😀

    Your map of US visits looks a lot like mine. Very heavy with visits out West (can’t blame us because it’s gorgeous out there), but swap Colorado with Utah. I can’t get enough of Southern Utah.

    Such a wonderful read, as always. Thoughtful and inspiring!

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  6. I lament how little time I’ve spent exploring the US. I have a hundred excuses, some of them valid (do you know how much cheaper lodging is nearly everywhere else in the world compared to the crappiest of motels in the US?), but when I think about planning a trip, US destinations invariably get bumped in favor of where we actually go (and the brief moments I’ve spent in the American West DO make me want to go back for more).
    One of the ways we’ve started to look at destinations and trips is that we don’t want to take any trips now that will be more or less the same as when we’re older and perhaps less eager to rough it or less able to do strenuous activity. So while it seems that recently everyone keeps asking me, “have you been to Croatia?” I have to remember that while it looks beautiful, it doesn’t look taxing, which means I should postpone it until I am unwilling or unable to be taxed.

    As for returning to favorite places, it’s a toughie. With so little vacation time, it’s stopped making sense to do repeat visits, despite there being places to which I desperately want to return.

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      1. Ooh, yikes. I was talking more about some of the easier Colorado 14ers (we’ve done a few and plan to do more), as well as Machu Picchu. Also, the husband wants to trek to Everest base camp. What’s climbing Kilimanjaro like? Wait, I won’t make you write it in a tiny comments box. I will search your blog for a post – I may have missed it. 🙂

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  7. I always have a tough time returning to a place instead of going to a new state or country. While there have been some states I’ve returned to several times, I usually choose new places now. The world is such a big place and I want to see as much as I can! I also don’t do whirlwind tours where I just spend a night in one place before moving on so that limits the travel count. Slow travel is my favorite way to travel.

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    1. Whirlwind tours are so taxing on the brain as well. I’ve always come home thinking, “Now what did I see??” I made the mistake of doing that on our last road trip (3 weeks, 5500 miles). It was a great trip, but because there’s so much to see out west and everything’s so far apart and you don’t know when you’ll have a chance to get back and see the things you missed, I had us moving constantly. For some reason this didn’t bother us the first time we did (a version of) this trip a decade ago, but it did this time. I learned my lesson and in the UK this summer we’re staying at each locale 4 days and nights.

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  8. I love your maps! I’ve got one of those scratch maps (which I haven’t done yet – I’m waiting until we’re living in a proper place) but I think I prefer this way, haha! I know what you mean about returning to places instead of seeing new ones. I did loads of travelling last year, but all in countries I’ve been to before, and half the travel plans on my list involve returning to other countries. I’m hoping to see a lot more of Europe this year, at least!

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    1. Thank you. I realized I shorted myself on some of the numbers on the US map. If I were any good with tech, I’d have done something digital that I could just go in and change with the click of a mouse. Instead, if I want it to be accurate (and I do), I might have to reprint the map, recolor it, and rewrite in the numbers. Old school can be such a pain.

      I look forward to reading about your European (and other) travels.

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  9. My dream for US travel has always been to rent an RV (ridiculous idea: terrible gas mileage) and start in New Orleans, then drive up along the East coast visiting lots of scenic and historical places, all the way to New England. So much history! As for Utah, you can have it. It’s dry and starkly beautiful, but living among these extreme religious cultists has been excruciating and lonely, and I can barely wait to begin my move back to Colorado this coming spring. If you’re someone who’s only passing through, you might not understand.
    As for breadth & depth, I’ve been to the Caribbean 5 times (3: Jamaica, 1: Domenica, 1: St.Lucia)
    This past fall I went to 5 countries on a motorcycle tour of the Alps: Germany, Austria, Italy, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and then to Paris’ Latin Quarter for several days. I’ve also been to Cuba, which was fascinating! I’ve also long been interested in the Amazon Basin, and am starting to warm up to the the idea of an African safari. What a world we have!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The American west is so RV-friendly. If you ever do that dream trip out east, I’d be curious to hear if they’re RV-friendly, too. Have you looked up the cost of an African safari? My research has been far from exhaustive, but from what I’ve seen: $$$$$$

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      1. Nononono! Also to @feistycat. You can totally do an African safari for less than you think. I’m not saying it’s peanuts, but it’s not the mortgage-destroying, maybe-when-I-win-the-lottery trip it’s made out to be.

        Doing a self-drive safari in Kruger National Park and staying in the camp lodging is a really cost-effective way to see the big 5. And the infrastructure in the park is on par with US National Parks.

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      2. Ah that’s right. I do remember reading your great post about that. After I read it I looked up some “traditional”safaris (I think you mentioned that many are in Tanzania) and found the prices jaw-dropping.

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      1. Having grown up in Mozambique, a mere 2 hour drive from Kruger National Park I can attest to self driving safaris being far from expensive. Seriously, we didn’t go often but I had friends that would even go for a day trip! its not expensive at all. Sure in your case you would have to add the cost of renting a car but even thats not expensive!

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  10. Traveling is traveling… to foreign countries or the neighboring town. It’s all good! My husband has traveled the world while I’ve only been overseas once. It’s not about the miles but the experience…
    😊

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  11. Fantastic read. If you’re only ticking off countries you’re probably missing a lot of that country along the way. Coming from England, if I decided I was only visiting the USA once it would either have to be a long trip or I’d miss an awful lot of the country. It’s nice counting the countries you’ve been to but it shouldn’t be the motivation for traveling 🙂

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      1. London, Newark to visit family, with a day trips to Skegness (see my first ever post for more details on that) and Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Museum, Shropshire Hills area, Peak District, and Snowdon area in Wales. Can’t wait!!

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      2. Wow, sounds like a fun trip! You’re going to some beautiful places too. I’ll look for that Skegness post too, haven’t been since I was a kid so overdue a return.

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  12. I tell people I’ve been to 30 countries and they are amazed. But to me, that number is so pathetic compared to the total number in the world. I definitely have an obsession with watching that number tick up. It’s very hard to convince me to spend my precious time and money on a repeat trip. But you’re right – the enjoyment is all that should matter.

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  13. I might have to direct all my acquaintances, friends and family to this post next time they ask me about my plans for the coming year. Seriously, great post.
    As you know, I’m planning a 14-month-long trip across Asia and so far I’ve narrowed it down to 11 must-visit countries. 5 of which will be repeat visits, albeit to different parts of the country. If I’m honest I feel like those 11 countries are already too much to do in the allotted time, however, there also so many more I still want to visit that inevitably I spend more time trying to balance out the depth vs breadth equation that I would like.

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  14. Excellent post! I often disregard the places I’ve been to because I’m so keen to visit new places. I definitely shouldn’t make myself feel guilty about going back somewhere that I enjoyed. I think I always have the worry that it won’t be the same but I suppose that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also, I burst out laughing when you referred to your mother speaking with such pride but with a an undertone of disapproval. I know it well!

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