Is Hawaii a country? How about Aruba? How about Taiwan? Puerto Rico anyone?
The answer should be followed by the question, “Why do you ask?” which leads to the answer because I want to spite all my friends on my country count list competition.
While bloggers are asked how many Twitter followers they have, weightlifters their bench, travelers are asked their country count.
You’re not a human if you don’t have a gazillion followers on social media, not a lifter if you can’t bench 225, and not a world traveler if you aren’t part of the exclusive Travelers’ Century Club (TCC). Per their website, “The Travelers’ Century Club is a nonprofit social organization representing world travelers who have visited 100 or more of the world’s countries and territories.”
I’ll spare you the suspense and say that I have not been to 100 or more countries and territories but my goal is not to travel to every country in the world because looking at the globe, there are a few places I’m not interested in visiting today or tomorrow. At the same time, I do want to be part of the club.
Which brings us back to the title of the post, “Is Hawaii a Country?” The TCC states that there are 324 countries and territories and Hawaii is one of them. This makes many people irate for obvious reasons. But, that is because they do not understand and appreciate the points of having such an expansive list in the first place. The TCC promotes global exploration and recognizes the difficulty of reaching far off islands, archipelagos, and remote peninsulas. For a place to be included on the TCC list it must be, per the TCC’s terms, “removed from the parent country, either geographically, politically or ethnologically.” From that viewpoint, it makes sense to me to consider Alaska (as they do) a country.
From there, things get trickier as what counts as a visit to check it off your list becomes a point of contention. Is transiting through the airport enough if you have a great visa story to tell? The TCC says, “After consideration as to how long one must have stayed in a country or territory to qualify, it was decided that even the shortest visit would suffice — even if only a port-of-call, or a plane fuel stop.” If that’s the case, then I can add Khartoum, Sudan to my list.
This leads us to why any of this matters in the first place; my spite competition with my friends. Initially, I had to inflate my numbers by including Ibiza (separate from Spain per the TCC), Puerto Rico (technically part but not part of the US), and Turkey in Asia (Turkey in Europe is separate) on my list. Naturally, I included Alaska and Hawaii as well.
As I have traveled more and more, I have not erased these countries from my list but have decided to create my own own list while keeping track of formal lists as well.
1. TCC List: I have stolen a page out of my friend’s website, Lee Abbamonte, who will be the youngest person to complete the TCC’s list by creating a permanent page of my country count, where you can track my progress. Again, I will probably never complete this list as I have no idea what or who Wallis & Futuna Islands are and don’t believe that Trans Dniester is a real place.
TCC Tally: 71
2. The United Nations’ List
Thank no one for the United Nations, an inept international body that does nothing but create traffic jams in New York and give crazy kooks an opportunity to showcase their out of touch beliefs to a group equally disconnected to know what’s going on in the world, much less how to fix it. But, they do have a straightforward list of 193 member states. Besides the 193, the UN recognizes two non-member permanent observer states, the Holy See (the Vatican) and Palestine.
The list seems reasonable with the exception that Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China that include Hong Kong and Taiwan are not considered member states. Hong Kong has its own currency, its own language, and its own history that is clear and distinct from mainland China so it is baffling as a traveler to not include it as a separate country.
Then there’s the whole situation with Taiwan that has its own military, surely the people of Taiwan consider themselves an autonomous country!
UN Tally: 57
3. ThePointsOfLife List
I can’t justify fuel stops regardless of visa headaches as visiting a country. For me, it goes against the reason why I travel in the first place- exploration. Sorry, Sudan, you are out of my list. Furthermore, because I am American I can’t say that Hawaii and Alaska should be included because my same crappy Sprint service still works there.
But, I will say that Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands should count because they do not have representatives that vote in Congress. Also, I do count Aruba even if it is Dutch because once colonized islands have substantial independence from the Queen. For that reason, I add in Bermuda and St. Maarten as well.
ThePointsOfLife Tally: 66
I have 520 Twitter followers, can do 3*10 @225, and have been to 57, strike that, 66, maybe 71 countries and I want more.
Note: This was written on June 8, 2014. Here is the latest tally of all the places I’ve visited.