Friday, April 5, 2013

By the Numbers

Makunudu, Maldives, March 30, 2013

OK, I admit it.  I’m a terrible blogger, completely devoid of the tenacity required to keep up with regular posts.  In fact, I owe my few faithful readers a number of backdated posts, on Newfoundland (three years ago!), several posts on my last year and a half in Leysin, last summer’s mountaineering in Central Asia, my Christmas swing through Togo and Benin, this trip to the Maldives, and a few assorted posts from here and there.  With my energy somewhat restored by a few days of sloth, diving, good food, snorkeling and general relaxation here in the Maldives, I think it’s time for an update, but I’m going to start with a very brief one.

The Maldives, where Terri and I arrived a few days ago in an almost last-minute decision to flee the dying winter and unpromising ski touring outlook, is the 112th country I have visited in my life, not counting my home country of Canada.  Of course, exactly what constitutes a country is a bit slippery.  My well-travelled friend Natalya Marquand holds that the only objective list is the 193 permanent members of the UN.  Others hold that these countries, plus the non-UN-member Vatican City, make up the 194 canonical countries of the world.  I think the reality is a bit slippier.  When I visited Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia, despite the fact that these countries aren’t universally recognized, I had to get a visa to visit them and cross at a border post manned by people in uniform who stamped my passport.  Somaliland not only has its own consulates and border guards, it even has its own currency.  And, to take an extreme example, anyone who claims that Taiwan isn’t effectively an independent country isn’t really recognizing what’s been de facto the case since 1949.

So my list of independent countries is a bit bigger than 194.  It’s about 204 countries; the number may fluctuate a bit, and it doesn’t include three countries (Western Sahara, Palestine and Tibet) with pretty legitimate cases but without their own border guards.  One of the many lists of countries on Wikipedia lists 206 entries that either are recognized by at least one other state as being independent, or effectively control a permanently populated territory, but they include Western Sahara and Palestine which are at the moment illusory pipe dreams, to the distress of the people who inhabit them.

Anyway, without further preamble, here’s my list of the countries I have visited, arranged according to the date I first visited them.  The non-UN/Vatican members of the list are coloured red; there are eight of them, so if you’re counting by the UN+Vatican list, it’s 104 (out of 194).  I would make it 112 out of 204.  Whichever way you count it, I’m now over half-way to my goal of visiting them all, and my to-visit list is now down into double digits.   

1. US

2.  France
3.  Switzerland
4.  Liechtenstein
5.  Germany
6.  Netherlands

7.  Tanzania

8.  Norway
9.  Italy

10.  UK
11. Vatican
12.  Greece
13.  Hungary
14.  Austria
15.  Czech Republic (Prague, then part of the now-defunct Czechoslovakia)

16.  Belgium
17.  Monaco
18.  Poland

19.  Australia
20.  New Zealand
21.   Fiji
22.  Cook Islands

23.  Egypt
24.  Turkey

25.  Spain
26.  Kenya
27.  Uganda
28.  Democratic Republic of Congo
29.  Japan
30.  Singapore
31.  Indonesia

32.  Philippines
33.  Malaysia
34.  Thailand
35.  Cambodia
36.  Nepal

37.  India
38.  Sri Lanka
39.  Pakistan
40.  Luxembourg
41.  San Marino
42.  Andorra

43.  China
44.  Portugal
45.  Morocco
46.  Tunisia
47.  Jordan

48.  Israel
49.  Syria
50.  Lebanon
51.  Chile
52.  Argentina
53.  Peru

54.  Bolivia
55.  South Korea

56.  Mexico
57.  Brunei
58.  Laos
59.  Taiwan

60.  Kazakhstan
61.  Kyrgyzstan
62.  Tajikistan
63.  Uzbekistan
64.  Turkmenistan
65.  Iran
66.  Bahrain

67.  Vietnam
68.  Burma

69.  Mongolia
70.  Palau
71.  Bangladesh

72.  Bhutan
73.  Cyprus
74.  Northern Cyprus

75.  Kuwait
76.  Azerbaijan
77.  Georgia
78.  Armenia
79.  Nagorno-Karabakh
80.  Iraq
81.  Bulgaria
82.  Serbia
83.  Kosovo
84.  Macedonia
85.  Albania
86.  Montenegro
87.  Bosnia-Hercegovina
88.  Croatia
89.  Libya
90.  Malta

91.  Ethiopia
92.  Somaliland
93.  Djibouti

94.  Denmark
95.  Abkhazia
96.  Russia
97.  Ukraine
98.  Trans-Dniestria
99.  Moldova
100. Romania
101.  Slovakia
102.  Belarus
103.  Lithuania
104.  Latvia
105.  Estonia
106.  United Arab Emirates
107.  Oman
108.  Qatar

109.  Slovenia
110.  Togo
111.  Benin

112.  Maldives

The next country in line is Iceland, set up for this summer.  I’m hoping to clean up my European to-do list over the next 18 months:  Ireland, Sweden, Finland and (I hope) South Ossetia.  Then Madagascar awaits a long, leisurely exploration, and my long-awaited African road trip should polish off almost all the outstanding African countries and take me into the 150s.  A couple of more trips, through Central America and northern South America, and another one through the Caribbean, would finish a lot of the remainder.  Then comes the hardest part:  finishing off the stragglers, many of them either dangerous (Afghanistan), expensive and annoying (North Korea) or hard to get to (Pacific islands).  But what would be the fun if it were too easy?