225 Countries Visited, 100 to Go

Israel was my 225th country by the Travelers Century Club list, and my 149th UN country.

The TCC list balances comprehensiveness without, for the most part, going to the absurd. Every list has its areas for debate, for instance, splitting Antarctica into 7 territories prompts completists to take a mega-expensive trip to the geographic South Pole to sweep them up on a technicality. I may never rationalize that.

I do love how the TCC list has gotten me to places  I previously never knew that turned out to be favorites. Bismark Archipelago, the eastern islands of Papua New Guinea, come to mind.

Yamamoto's Bunker Rabaul

Yamamoto’s Bunker, Rabaul, Bismark Archipelago

Here’s my final 100 (well, now 98, I went on to Palestine and Colombia’s San Andres & Providencia).

Pacific Ocean: only Pitcairn and Tokelau require a boat, while Midway and Wake depend on military commemorations that have a habit of canceling

  • Chatham Islands
  • Cook Islands
  • Fiji
  • French Polynesia
  • Juan Fernandez Islands (Robinson Crusoe Islands) – waiting for a great fare to Chile that lines up with the few flights over to the islands
  • Kiribati (Gilberts,Tarawa, Ocean Island)
  • Line/Phoenix Islands (Palmyra, Fanning, Christmas, Canton, Enderbury, Howland)
  • Lord Howe Island – need better Qantas award availability
  • Marquesas Islands
  • Marshall Islands
  • Midway – birds take over the runway during the day
  • Nauru
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Niue
  • Norfolk Island – hey Air New Zealand, award seats? any? ever? hello?
  • Pitcairn Island
  • Tokelau Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu
  • Wake Island – 74th anniversary charter in Dec 2015 canceled last minute, 2016 pending
  • Wallis & Futuna Islands

North America:

  • Alaska
  • St. Pierre & Miquelon – tentatively booked this June for their bicentenary

Central America: complete!

South America:

  • Margaritas Island (Venezuela) – on hold due to the political and economic chaos, this is a recent addition that was not on the list when I toured Venezuela in 2007

Caribbean: complete!

Atlantic Ocean:

  • Ascension – pending commercial flights from Johannesburg scheduled to start in May
  • Azores – will at some point take the SATA flight from Boston, then start a United award on TAP from there to somewhere in Africa
  • Falkland Islands – I don’t want to spend a week via the flight so someday will stop on a cruise
  • St Helena – pending commercial flights from Johannesburg scheduled to start in May
  • Tristan de Cunha – the upcoming Ascension and St Helena may make this even more isolated, no plan to visit

Europe: all will visit when convenient, Italy is my retirement plan

  • Corsica
  • Crete
  • Dodecanese Islands (Rhodes)
  • Greece
  • Ionian Islands (Corfu, etc.)
  • Isle of Man
  • Italy
  • Lampedusa
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Sardinia
  • Scotland
  • Sicily
  • Turkey in Europe (Istanbul)
  • Vatican City
  • Wales

Antarctica: no plan as yet, when I go it will be how I want to go, not to try to check them off

  • Argentine (Palmer Peninsula)
  • Australian Antarctic Territory South Pole (Mawson, Davis, Macquarie, Heard)
  • Chilean (Palmer Peninsula)
  • Falkland Islands Dependencies (British Antarctica, Graham Land, So. Shetland, So. Sandwich, So. Georgia, So. Orkney)
  • French Southern & Antarctic Territory (Kerguelen, Crozet, Amsterdam, St. Paul)
  • Norwegian (Queen Maud Land, Bouvet)
  • New Zealand (Ross Dependency)

Africa: I am looking at a big West Africa trip in March, many of these are difficult (visas, flights) and expensive

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Equatorial Guinea (Bioko Fernando Poo)
  • Equatorial Guinea (Rio Muni)
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Morocco
  • Morocco, Spanish (Ceuta, Melilla)
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Sao Tome & Principe
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Tanzania (Tanganyika)
  • Togo
  • Western Sahara

Middle East:

  • Syria – on hold
  • Yemen – on hold

Indian Ocean:

  • British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago, Diego Garcia) – unless someone in the military can legally get me to Diego Garcia, will have to wait for the rumored slight open to tourism in other islands
  • Christmas Island – will time some year with fall crab migration
  • Cocos Island – will pick it up with Christmas Island
  • Maldive Islands – may this March
  • Seychelles Islands – holding for Zil Elwannyen Sesel (Outer Seychelles)
  • Socotra – part of Yemen, the ‘Galapogos of the Middle East,’ pending resumption of flights
  • Zil Elwannyen Sesel (Aldabra, Farquhar, Amirante Islands) – Desroches Island will reopen late 2016 as a Four Seasons, until then only commercial option is ultra-expensive Alphonse Island

Asia:

  • Irian Jaya (Dutch New Guinea) – may go in April, Indonesia my least favorite country though will make one more try
  • Moluka (Moluccas, Indonesia) – same as Irian Jaya
  • Nakhichevan – on hold till Azerbaijan relaxes visa policy
  • Sumatra (Indonesia) – same as Irian Jaya
  • Turkey in Asia (Anatolia, Ankara, Izmir) – when I can spend a week or more in Turkey

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  • Ryan

    Surprised that they list Western Sahara as only one country. I’d have thought they’d split it between the Moracco ruled west and the independent /ungoverned east.

  • Alvin

    These ‘country lists’ always irk me– you can’t just call different islands countries. Soon enough it won’t be satisfactory until you set foot on every island of Greece, Indonesia, and the Bahamas.
    Can’t we just stick to the 193/195/199 country count?

  • Jay

    How do you get the time and money to travel to all these places? Seems like every travel writer is sipping Don Perigon in first class and staying in the presidential suite for $5, before heading off to a week of cave diving in Bali.

  • Congrats! Very impressive and it is neat to see the locations you have left to visit. You are right – some places on that list I never would have thought of yet will be interested to hear about them when you hit them. Good luck!

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Alvin – agreed on the islands, some I can see justified when they are more or less self-governing, for instance San Andres has their own immigration policy and checks, whole ones like the 7 for Indonesia I am not too keen on.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Jay – that model can work well with miles and points, destination served by major airline and chain hotel, although the miles and points bloggers, with a few exceptions, generally travel relatively infrequently. My challenge is getting from one West African country to another may be a multi-day land trip or a $500 flight. Time and money are the big challenges in travel. I use miles and points whenever I can to help with the money side, and almost always redeem in economy class to conserve for volume. Time is always tough, I use all my work vacation for this and apply it to business trip extensions when I can. Travel is my main expense other than rent and I spend on little else.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Jay – adding that I lived in China for 8 years that made it comparatively more feasible to travel that region, with their fewer, longer block holidays and relative proximity of other countries. I started out as a student traveling each province of China on train and bus and got the travel big then.

  • john

    I am really looking forward to hear about your West African plans and travels. I visited for the first time a few months ago and found it pretty difficult.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @john – I am heading to the Minneapolis Regional Passport Agency this morning to try to get a same-day second passport and then send off for visas to Guinea and Mali. Others I am counting on getting in Abidjan. The biggest issue is these crazy expensive flights and how much I should expect airlines to operate anywhere near their schedule.

  • William

    Just returned from West African countries of Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso (got through there prior to hotel attack), Niger, Nigeria, Cameroun, E. G. and Gabon. Have previously been to Benin, Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Senegal. Some of these are impossible to do overland due to security issues, so flying is the only option, however there are a few options in most countries.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @William – highlights? Liberia and Sierra Leone are coming up the most difficult for flights. Only land borders considering is Ghana – Togo – Benin. I will skip Nigeria for another separate time to deal with that visa unless there is a country where it is easy to get?

  • DaveS

    Fascinating to read your list, both for the places you’ve been and the surprise places you haven’t been. I’m going to guess you’re the only person in the world who has been to 149 actual countries with none of Turkey, Italy or New Zealand on the list. I like the TCC list for ideas, but don’t consider it particularly legitimate for any counting purposes. To the UN list, I’d add the permanent observers of the Vatican and Palestine (one or two?), plus Taiwan, which is still recognized internationally by a fair number of countries, certainly has its own government and acts independently of China, and has membership in some international bodies that nations belong to. Otherwise, to me, the rest aren’t countries, though they are often very much worth a visit.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @DaveS – saving some of the doozies for later. Many do a variation on your list UN + 3 of Vatican, Taiwan and Kosovo. Palestine is sch a hot potato even many counters shy away.