Visit50 Travel Challenge

Visit 50 Travel goal: 50 countries by age 50

Take the Visit50 Travel Challenge! I named this travel blog after the “Visit 50” travel goal.  I want to inspire you to visit 50 countries, by age 50.  It sounds ambitious, but you can do it!

First we’ll define the Visit 50 travel goal. Next, we’ll explain what counts as a country, and what counts as a visit. Finally, strategy tips on how you can visit 50 countries.

What is the Visit50 Travel Goal?

Lots of people say “I want to travel more.” However, that’s a desire, but that’s not a goal.

By definition, a goal needs to have 5 things. Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T.  That stands for Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic/attainable and Time-targeted. That last part means it has a specific have a time limit.

Hundreds of travelers are keeping track of their travel progress against this Visit50 travel goal. They want to visit 50 countries by age 50 as well, but ask how how it works. Feel free to play along!

How to measure your visit 50 travel goal

To measure your Visit 50 travel goal, you need to determine two things. Firstly, you’ll need to decide what counts as a visit. Then, you’ll need to decide what counts as a distinct country. To get started, below are how it works, and hopefully answers the most common questions.

Visit 50 Travel Goal: What counts as a visit?

A visit means you had an experience in the destination.

You need to leave the airport or the highway. You need to actually do something in that country or destination for it to count.

As a simple guideline, can you tell people a story about the time when you visited this place?  Do you have photos from your experience there?  Can you tell us about that delicious or terrible meal you had there?

Do you have a good answer if a friend asks, what did you do in that country? If you can tell me about that time that you visited that country, you visited, even if it was just for a day.

There’s no minimum amount of time. I’ve had lots of experiences in countries for just a day. For example, I visited Guatemala on a day trip have all

Also, there’s no minimum amount of the country that needs to be visited to count in this game. There’s something amazing that I missed in nearly all of the 50+ countries that I’ve visited. Some I just didn’t have time for, while others I didn’t know about until I left. In a few rare cases, the amazing thing wasn’t discovered when I visited (for example, Rainbow Mountain in Peru).

These are my rules, but it’s your game too. You can make play by any rules you’d like.

The surprisingly more difficult question is what counts as a country. This seems straightforward I’ve already had to recount along the way. Here’s how you count what’s a distinct country.

Visit 50 Travel Goal: What counts as a country?

Use the Visit50 country list! There are 198 countries according to…me.  Here’s how I arrive at that number.

Firstly, let’s count all 193 United Nations member countries in the world. Next, let’s add both (2) UN observers (Vatican and Palestine). That brings us to 195. Finally, we include the three (3) additional countries that are recognized by most other countries (Taiwan of course, plus Kosovo, Western Sahara) even though the UN doesn’t.

The above summary has exceptions. Some examples:

  • For example, if you visit London, spend a few days in Wales, then over to Ireland, and finish in the Cayman Islands, how many countries have you just visited?
  • Does Puerto Rico count as a country? It’s officially a US Territory, although many people treat it as its own country.
  • Are the Cook Islands a country or part of New Zealand?
  • If you visit mainland China, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong, how many countries have you visited?  That last one’s a real example, as I’ve now visited all 4. I count Taiwan as a country, and the rest as part of China (including HK & Macau).

Which list to use for what’s a country:

As you’ll notice, there isn’t really not a comprehensive and credible list that’s all inclusive. It’s more challenging of a question than I thought.

You can’t just go by UN’s list of 193 countries, because Taiwan’s not listed and the world clearly recognizes them as a country. For proof check they have their own Olympic team, so clearly the world recognizes them as their own country.

Wikipedia’s List of sovereign states.

It  includes 193 member states of the United Nations, two states that are not UN member states but are either a UN observer state or a member state of a UN specialized agency (Vatican and Kosovo), and nine other states (includes Taiwan, Palestine).

3 more sources?

Until recently I was largely relying on these 3 sources:

– If the US State department lists them as a country (righthand column of page). I like the US’ list but part of it is political. Again, Taiwan is clearly a country. The US State department’s list of A-Z countries and regions is a great resource for other info too.

– If they have their own Olympic team (there’s 205 National Olympic Committees).  It sounds ridiculous to use this as my official list, but this shows that the international community recognizes them as a distinct country so it’s worth considering.

– If they’re recognized on the list of United Nations member states – there’s 193 of them. This seems like a fairly official list, but again, like the US State department list, politics often play a role. 

What makes it a country?

Two key factors make me want to include a destination as a country for my visit 50 travel goal:

– They’ve declared independence and are often regarded as having control over a permanently populated territory.

Other sovereign states recognize them as a sovereign state. In other words, it’s a country if most of the world’s countries treat it as if it’s a country. For example, Taiwan is officially recognized by 23 nations.

Indicators – States often have their own immigration/visa policies, which differ from the nation that claims them.
It doesn’t require your own distinct language, currency, or culture.

International law has 4 criteria

If you were wondering, international law has 4 criteria: the place must “possess[es] the following qualifications:
(a) a permanent population;
(b) a defined territory;
(c) government; and
(d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”


Count mainland China, Hong Kong, & Macau as one country, and Taiwan as a separate country. That brings the total to 198 countries. You’re welcome to count them anyway you’d like!

Do you have a suggestion on the best list to determine which countries count?  I’m open to feedback here.

Visiting 50 countries by age 50 seemed like a nearly insurmountable challenge, but I made it, and you can too!

Where I’ve been: For those of you keeping score at home, I’m at 26 states and now 54 countries as of June 2020 (in the past 5 years added 13 countries in Europe, Turks & Caicos, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, BVI, and Antigua & Barbuda). For an updated full list of where I’ve been, head over to the Where I’ve Been page, with the countries listed by region. I’ll also link to posts about each as I add them to the site.

Map of my visits

Here’s my map as of July 2018 after hitting 50 countries. There’s still so much more to explore!

map of the 54 countries I've visited
54 countries visited as of May 2020. There’s so much more to explore!

Visit 50 Travel goal – other ways to measure your traveling prowess:

UNESCO World Heritage Site List –

This includes 936 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. These include 725 cultural, 183 natural and 28 mixed properties in 153 States Parties. As of June 2010, 187 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention.

Wonders of the World

I always thought there was one agreed upon list. There are actually dozens of lists. By definition they’re subjective, and I disagree with many of them. For the New 7 Wonders, locations were selected by voting, thus are certainly biased by political and economic factors . Listed determined by internet voting often hurt places in countries with poor internet access).  For example, Mexico’s Chichen Itza is an interesting site of Mayan ruins, but not even on the same level as Teotihuacan (also in Mexico).  Chichen Itza is near Cancun so many more people have been exposed to it, thus swaying votes. Is it really just a popularity contest among those with strong internet access?

How many countries have you visited?

Mapping your progress:

There’s a bunch of decent sites that will map the countries/places you’ve visited. I set mine up using this site. Note, this isn’t a great source for counting countries.

Do you have a travel goal?

For a full list of Where I’ve Been, head over to the Keeping Score page, with the countries listed by region.

world map - visit 50 travel goal
visit the whole world!

Strategy to visit 50 countries by age 50

Try to visit one country per year for most years.  And plan a long term trip.

There are plenty of inexpensive countries. For example, take a look at Central America, Southeast Asia, and eastern Europe all have interesting places that are values.

The ultimate guide to help you travel more often here.

6 thoughts on “Visit 50 Travel goal: 50 countries by age 50”

  1. Todd,

    Thanks for sharing your travel site with me – I found your quest to very much mimic mine. I’ve long struggled with what defines a country. I’ve mostly settled on the Traveler’s Century Club, which increases the total to 324, but includes places like Puerto Rico as separate entities of sort. Under the strict definitions of countries, places like French Guyana and Montserrat are simply visits to France and the U.K. when they are wholly separate in culture, people and place. P.S. I love Montserrat, the most laid-back place you’ll ever visit!

  2. Thanks Philip, I’ll add the Traveler’s Century Club. I’d love to get to 100 countries some day!
    I’ve never been to Montserrat; will check it out!

  3. Interesting post! Its true about the lists being different. So I’ve been to Hong Kong but not China, are you saying I should scratch China from my map? It feels weird as there is a hard border, different flags etc.

    1. It’s complicated! Everyone can arrange their own rules, but legally HK and Macau are part of mainland China so I’m counting them as one country.

      If you’re coloring in the map by country that would mean a visit to Hong Kong would have you filling in all of mainland China.

      However, I view Taiwan as a distinct country.

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