Trek Talk - ElderTreks Blog


Are You a Country-Collector?

"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." - Susan Sontag

You know who I am referring to. This is the guy at a party who proudly boasts how many places he's been to or that couple who just returned from a trip and boldly announced that they had now been to 50 countries. It's the person who would rather touch down in a different city for 1 hour in transit than miss the opportunity to add another country to their bucket list. What are we to make of these types? Are they guilty of not traveling in a proper fashion? And what truly constitutes having been to a country? Is visiting the capital city enough or do we suggest that there be a minimum percentage of territory covered to qualify as having visited somewhere new? I was in Yugoslavia back when it was one country. Does that mean I can add 6 more countries to my list now that the original Yugoslavia has dissolved? What about autonomous territories and disputed zones? Do they count too? At the end of the day who's to say what is right or wrong. Each of us travels for our own personal reasons. I once met up with a guy in Vietnam who told me that he had spent 3 weeks in a town in the Mekong Delta in order to try and 'experience' what their life-style was like. He looked down his nose at me when I told him I was trying to see the highlights of the entire country in 3 weeks! For each of us it is a matter of trying to find that perfect 'balance' between seeing and experiencing a place. For some, 2 days in Istanbul is enough. For others a month would be too short. For many of us we only have one chance at visiting a particular place. Could it be intent that counts? When you have a genuine interest in seeing a country and learning about its culture, history, people etc.(and would explore further if given the opportunity and time) that perhaps should be more of a determining factor rather than touching down in a country for 24 hours without a care of where you are. In the end I suppose what is right is what works for you. So go on people, keep counting. And for those who are keeping score, I have been to over 100 countries myself!

David Roth - February 17, 2011

"Dear David,

I gathered you travel quite a bit, and it appears you've formed some opinions along the way.

I've been guiding Worldwide TREKS since November 1964. I could sit a tell folks all day where I've been and where we are going, However, I don't because it's much more fun to take them there and let them form their own opinions.

An old man in Kunsan Korea told me that if a person has really been there he'll know what it "Smells" like. He was correct in many ways. Many people only see places in Books, Magazines, TV, Computers, and of course Brochures in Travel Offices, However, I doubt they could relate the Smell. That's how I sort out the "Bear from the Buckwheat."

Nice blog, Happy TREKS, Gary Kluge, SR. February 23, 2011"

Mr. Gary Kluge, SR.

"@Mr. Gary Kluge, SR,

You raise a valid point, namely the smells one associates with travel. I can be anywhere and catch a 'whiff' of something that throws me straight back to a location I was in many years ago. It is always the first thing I notice when arriving in another country or destination. It is also interesting to note the strange looks I get when I do mention the smell factor to those who have not really traveled much."


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