What Counts As A Country Visited: Part Two

The first time I reflected on what counted as a country, I was sitting in an airport on Curacao with my mother and stepfather pondering on the nature of counting places that one visited like Aruba and Curacao that are constituent kingdoms under a personal union with other realms ruled over by the ruler of the Netherlands [1]. So far, at least, I have counted three sorts of places as countries. First, there are those sovereign nations that I have visited, which have seats in the UN and other emblems of status as nations. Second, I have counted non-self-governing territories and dependencies that have a separate identity that marks them as clearly not belonging to the integral territory of the nation that governs them and which are recognized as exterior territories by the supranational institutions that they are a part of.

But are these three categories sufficient to count as nations and countries, or can other areas be added as well. When one travels, of course, one can make all kinds of distinctions as to the areas one has been. One can make it a point to visit the internal divisions of a nation, to say that one has visited all fifty states (a task I completed in the summer of 2021 on a road trip with my mom), or all of the provinces and territories of Canada or Australia or something of that nature. One can make it a point, for example, to visit Tobago as well as Trinidad or Nevis as well as St. Kitts when one visits the other, to get as complete an idea about a nation and its constituent parts as possible. None of these would be adding a different nation to one’s visits, but they may enrich one’s travel and allow for different goals. One may have a variety of different goals in one’s travels and can accomplish different goals even while going to the same places multiple times.

At times, one may even visit countries that no longer exist but that existed during the time that we visited them. My stepfather, for example, fought in the Vietnam War when he was a young man and South Vietnam, where he spent a year in the Air Force, has not been a country since 1975, when it was forcibly unified into North Vietnam to form the nation of Vietnam that we know today. One time I read a book by an author who had spent his childhood as a citizen of the Free City of Danzig and had ended up World War II fleeing from the invasion of the Soviet Army. Examples such as this could be multiplied. My thoughts, are at least, that one can count those areas that existed as a country of some kind, whether partially or entirely free, during the time that one visited them, and that one can claim to have been to whatever state then in the future rules over that same area, but that one cannot visit a state that no longer exists after the fact, so as to keep someone from claiming that they had been to the Byzantine Empire or something of that nature.

There are other cases, though, that are less clear. Let us say that someone was an intrepid traveler in the 1980s after the death of Josef Tito and had made it a point to travel to all of the parts of Yugoslavia that existed at that time, with the thought that perhaps these areas were not happy as part of one nation and may actually be many potential or future nations. Let us say that they made a tour of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro. At the time that traveler would have spent all that time in one nation, the Republic of Yugoslavia, but over time, seven nations would spring from that one nation, and the traveler could then, with justice, claim that he had been to all seven nations and had quite accurately understood their true situation. The same would have been true of someone visiting British and Italian Somaliland and pondering whether their different colonial history would prevent them from becoming a functioning union, as has since proven to be the case, even if it took decades for those divisions to end up in separate de facto regimes.

Indeed, there are a whole host of unrecognized states that exist around the world. In none of my travels so far have I been to such a state, though I have written about them from time to time. Nevertheless, as these countries act like countries and have all of the internal behavior of nations, even to the point of having clearly defined and often defended borders, even if their status is not recognized by the world at large, I would consider these areas to be states of their own. Similarly, if one visits an area where there is a known desire on the part of its inhabitants to separate from the nation that they are a part of, and they ever obtain their freedom from such a union, I would also count that area as having visited the country while it was in utero, an unborn nation so to speak. Such travels invite stories of how one knew or had guessed of the feelings of an area’s inhabitants, and what it was like to visit such an area.

I will conclude this present discussion with one more example of the sorts of areas that could be counted as their own countries that do not entirely fit within the previous categories discussed. There are areas within countries that are counted as autonomous areas, however much freedom is given to those areas, as a recognition of their different nature from the other parts of a country. Frequently linguistic or ethnic minorities have such a territory to themselves in nations that are not highly centralized. For example, Portugal has autonomous territories in the Azores and Madeira, and Greenland and the Faroe Islands are autonomous areas of Denmark, to give a few examples. It is my considered opinion that such areas ought to count themselves, even if some sort of explanation of their status may be necessary. After all, if one visits French Guiana, has one really visited France itself, or French Guiana? If the latter is the case, it is worth noting as such.

[1] See the following, both for the discussion as well as for the updated list of what I count as countries visited:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, International Relations, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s