I enjoyed watching the Tokyo Summer Olympics 🇯🇵 earlier this month and seeing athletes from countries around the world. With my ‘50 States’ challenge complete, it’s time to focus on my next travel goal: visiting 50 countries.
I’ve been to between 32-35 countries already. Why a range? Because it is seemingly difficult to assess what actually constitutes a ‘country’. There is no broadly agreed to definition. Depending who I am talking to, several of the ‘countries’ I’ve already been to may not be considered countries.
Take the ‘Little Town’ of Bethlehem for instance. We went there on a trip to the Holy Land a few years ago, but it’s sovereignty is a bit in dispute. Broadly, you might say it is in Israel 🇮🇱, but Israeli citizens are not allowed to go there. It is a big walled city controlled by the Palestinians. Is Palestine 🇵🇸 a country? You’d better go to the United Nations to figure that out.
We’ve had a couple experiences like that. We either went to or weren’t in Syria 🇸🇾 on that same trip. We were in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. We’ve also been to both the Dutch & French sides of Saint Maarten/Saint Martin. The Dutch side is listed as a part of the ‘Netherlands Kingdom’, but they have their own autonomous government, laws, and taxes. The best I can figure, the ‘Kingdom’ is kind of like the British Commonwealth.
Another twist is Puerto Rico 🇵🇷. It’s a territory’ of the United States, but also quite independent. Many of their citizens have been opposed to statehood as they have their own legal system and pay no Federal Taxes to the United States.
The challenge is there is no single source of authority for defining countries. The 193 United Nations 🇺🇳 member nations are most often used, but not all ‘countries’ want to be members of the UN. Several of them, including 🇻🇦 Vatican City, refuse to be called a UN member nation, because they don’t want to get involved in the global politicking.
I noticed watching the Olympic Games, that they recognize 206 countries in their opening ceremonies. Palestine 🇵🇸 & Saint Maarten have their own Olympic Teams. The CIA World Facebook – another possible source – also goes with 267 “National Entities”. countries. Despite being a part of the US government – the CIA lists Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 and American Samoa🇦🇸 as separate countries.
The ‘lowest form of recognition’ I could find is the emoji’s on my phone. There seems to be about 250 flags included in that set. The strange part is that they include Scotland 🏴 and Wales 🏴 – both formerly sovereign nations – but, not since at least the 1700s. Emojis don’t include the Texas or California flags, which might warrant similar treatment and are much more populated than Scotland or Wales. I’m starting to sound like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, aren’t I?
I guess I will have to come up with a ‘Consensus List’ that includes a few different sources. Maybe 3 out of 4 using the UN, Olympics, CIA, and the emoji list is good enough. Using that, I would feel pretty good about this list below – with the questioned places in parentheses. On the right are possible future places I could see visiting. Maybe if I can hit enough of these additional places, definitions simply won’t matter so much!
Have you counted how many countries you have visited? How many? Any of them not universally recognized?
Image Credit: (c) Pixabay