How Many Countries Have You Visited? Of twitchers, trainspotting and Toblerone

13 03 2008

A twitcher is someone who engages in bird watching. The really serious ones travel the world in search of particularly rare or exotic species and keep a log of all the feathered-friends they’ve sighted. It’s serious stuff. A trainspotter is someone who engages in trainspotting – of the locomotive sort, not the Ewan McGregor/Irvine Welsh sort. This used to be a popular pastime when people would stand on railway station platforms or on bridges over railway tracks and record the engine numbers of the passing trains. They’re also sometimes called anoraks. Then there are people who keep lists of all the flights they’ve ever taken, the aircraft and airlines they’ve flown on, or the countries they’ve visited.


The latter gets complicated. What constitutes ‘visiting’ a country? Does a change of flights at an airport mean that you’ve actually ‘been’ there?  I once nipped across a river in Africa so that I could touch the far bank – which was in Angola. I don’t really consider that I’ve been to Angola…but if I’ve had a few too many beers and I’m trying to ‘out-country’ a fellow traveller I might just pull that illegal incursion out of my hat.


If you’re being honest, then I guess you’ve only visited a country if you’ve properly entered it via a border point or through customs and immigration.  Honest, but also dull. I’m not suggesting that eating a Danish pastry entitles you to include Denmark as a visited country, but as far as I’m concerned that bar of Swiss chocolate I bought during the 15 minutes I spent in Zurich airport does justify the inclusion of Switzerland in my travels! 



Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008




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