There is an ongoing controversy among avid travelers as to how exactly to count countries and what constitutes a country. Organizations such as the Travelers Century Club list 324 “countries and territories” that qualify you for membership. According to their website, “they have been included because they are removed from the parent country, either geographically, politically or ethnologically.” Even more shocking, they continue, “after consideration as to how long one must have stayed in a country or territory to qualify, it was decided that even the shortest visit would suffice — even if only a port-of-call, or a plane fuel stop. This greatly widens the field and will give the traveler a better chance to qualify for one of the most unusual clubs in the world.”
I disagree on both counts. Currently there are just under two hundred countries in the world, and counting Alaska separate from the United States seems a bit of a cheat. Further, my rule is you must be in a country for at least twenty-four hours in order for it to count. How can I justify being in Fiji if my plane simply touched down to refuel on its way to New Zealand? I can’t.
For those of us who are more purists, there is a simple [and free] app that can assist you in keeping an ongoing track of your country count. While this app is also not without its faults from a travel purist standpoint [i.e. it lists Wales separate from England. News flash: they are both part of the United Kingdom], it is the closest I have found to something accurate.
Developed by Swedes Martin Johannesson, Elin Karasalo, Johanna Tuuf, and Hanna Karasalo, the app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and is available in English, Bokmål, Norwegian, Catalan, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Swedish. According to the app information, it keeps “track of countries and US states that you have visited. The app visualizes the visited countries both as a list, along with a ratio for each continent, and as a world map. The list is synced across devices using iCloud. The map can be shared on social networks, such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, using the standard iOS sharing functionality.”
A simple and user-friendly interface allows you to select which countries you have been to, and then displays them as a list and on a map. By selecting the percentage, you can toggle between the percentage and the country count for the entire globe or by continent. The newest version of the app also displays a spinning globe with the countries you have been to highlighted. There is a separate page for the United States so you can keep a track of how many states you have been to – including Alaska. Importantly, Antarctica is also included.
The maps are colored orange so if this is not your color, hopefully newer versions will allow you to change the color. Otherwise, this is an easy and free way to keep track of your country count.