Visit50 Travel Challenge

Visit 50 Travel Challenge – 50 countries by age 50

Visit 50 Travel goal: 50 countries, 50 states, by age 50

The name “Visit 50” refers to my travel goal.  I want to inspire you to visit 50 countries, by age 50. That’s right. Visiting 50 countries by age 50 seemed nearly insurmountable when we made this challenge.

Lots of people say “I want to travel more,” but that’s not a goal – a goal needs to have 5 things. Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic/attainable and Time-targeted with a specific have a time limit.

A bunch of friends are keeping track of their travel progress as well. They want to visit 50 countries by age 50 as well, but ask how. Feel free to play along!

How to measure your visit 50 travel goal

Keeping Score: For those of you keeping score at home, I’m at 26 states and now 50 countries as of July 2018 (in the past 5 years added 13 countries in Europe, Turks & Caicos, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, and now Iceland). For a full list of Where I’ve Been, head over to the Keeping Score page, with the countries listed by region. I’ll also link to posts about each as I add them to the site.

Strategy — considering I still haven’t visited much of Europe, and that’s where countries are most clustered together, it made getting to my Visit 50 travel goal much easier. Try to visit one country per year. There’s plenty of inexpensive countries – Central America, Southeast Asia, and eastern Europe all have interesting places that are values.

What counts as a visit?

You can play by any rules you’d like, but mine are that I need to leave the airport or the highway and actually do something in that state or country for it to count. Have a meal, take a picture of an attraction, etc.  Do you have a good answer if a friend asks, what did you do in that country? Do you have stories from your experiences?  If you can tell me about that time that you visited ____, you visited, even if it was just for a day.

The surprisingly more difficult question is…

What counts as a country?

There’s 198 countries according to…me!  Here’s how I got to that number:  I count all 193 UN member countries in the world, plus both (2) UN observers (Vatican and Palestine), plus another 3 additional countries that are recognized by most countries (Taiwan of course, plus Kosovo, Western Sahara).

The below summary has exceptions and there’s really not a neat list that’s all inclusive. It’s more challenging of a question than I thought.  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, even though officially it’s a US Territory?  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 (they have their own Olympic team!). Is Palestine a 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].

Strong source: 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 specialised agency (Vatican and Kosovo), and nine other states (includes Taiwan, “Palestine”).

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. 

– 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 countries by the United Nations – 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. Either way, the US State department’s list of A-Z countries and regions is a great resource.

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

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

– If 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. (Taiwan’s officially recognized by 23 nations).

Indicators – States often have their own immigration/visa policies, which differ from the nation that claims them.
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.”
Conclusion:  For now I’m counting 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.

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!


2 thoughts on “Visit 50 Travel Challenge – 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!

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Visit 50 Countries & 50 States by Age 50