I was just reading Drew’s post about country counting and the value of travel experiences.  I’m not sure he came down strongly on one side of the debate, enjoying a passport stamp just as much as I do, but valuing quality time in a place when the alternative is a 6 hour stopover on a cruise ship.  I completely agree.  If one side of the coin is to see the world via port cities on a cruise ship (the implication being you get to ‘check off’ countries but get little to no authenticity) and the other side of the coin is to spend months in full immersion in a place, even if your country count stays low, I think the quality argument wins.

But.

The above argument assumes two very specific things.  First, you cannot get an authentic experience in just a short time.  The second being that more time in a location equals higher quality.  With these assumptions, I’m not sure I agree.  In full honesty, I haven’t spent much time in many of the countries I’ve visited (one day to 7 days in general).  And sure, there are a couple trips I can think of where we pretty much followed the tourist trail, visiting the key tourist destinations and not much else.  On the other hand, I’ve had a couple experiences where I feel like I’ve really gotten a feel for a place in a very short time.  We were in Slovakia for literally three days but had a truly unique hiking experience with a local guide that felt authentic and immersive (not a real word).

The purpose of a checklist, or a travel goal or a travel quest (probably the best word for  Chris Guillebeau’s experience) is only partly about the places.  The goal of visiting all of the European nations is more about being curious and adventure-seeking than the physical passport stamps (which I do love, by the way…they never get old for me).  I’d also like to visit all of the US National Parks, all of the US states, 100 countries, all 7 continents, etc.  Those goals provide me inspiration and motivation above all else.

I think my goal for 2014 will be 10 new countries.  Maybe 12.  Totally doable.  We better get planning!

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  • December 15, 2013

    Interesting post. We’re doing something very similar to what you’re doing.. we’ve been driving around Europe for about 5 months now, and, in January, will be based in Spain, also trying to raise the country count while getting ‘quality’ out of the excursions. My thoughts are that it takes a week to get the main sites out of the way and get the lay of a city, then it’s best to take a step back, reflect on your experiences, then return for a second trip a few weeks or months later to catch things you may not have initially planned on seeing in your first trip. I’m sure you’d agree that the tourist websites and tourist books don’t always give you the best advice (and they certainly don’t lead you to see the most authentic sites.) Safe travels!

    • December 16, 2013
      Julie & Drew

      Interesting comment! I think that your approach of visiting a place more than once as the best way to fully digest both the tourist destinations and the ‘local’ flavour. Love your site – have a happy holiday!