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Why I’m Not Playing The Numbers Game

medium_14533630762          photo credit: vd1966

Don’t get me wrong, I love numbers. As a student of Finance & Economics, I couldn’t agree more when my professors said, “The numbers never lie”. But I don’t always like the way they’re used to focus on certain things. Very often, we’re focused on the wrong numbers and end up with a bunch of data that does not really tell you anything of relevance or significance. When it comes to travel, I don’t like the thought process behind questions such as, “How many countries have you travelled to?” or the even worse “How many countries have you done?” I’m not denying that it’s great to have traveled to many countries. I mean which traveler in their right mind wouldn’t want to see as much of the world as quickly as possible, right?


Over time, for me the meaning of travel has undergone a fundamental change from the time I only used to dream of it, spending entire days pouring over the writings of other bloggers and living vicariously through their stories.

There have been times when I’ve been so caught up in this crazy obsession to travel across an entire country in less than a week, just to feel that I’ve seen it all but ended up not enjoying or appreciating any of it. As I’ve learnt from my experiences, the travels that I enjoy most are where I can stay long enough to really connect with the people and appreciate the culture. I much prefer a long drawn romance rather than a quick fling so that I can truly say that I’ve experienced a place. And sometimes I long for the streets I’ve already wandered on, the markets I’ve already explored and the food that I fell in love with the first time around.

I’ve realized now that I don’t like keeping count and sometimes I’d much rather go back to a country I’ve been to before rather than some place new. Of course, I still want to see as much of the world as possible but there’s no rush because I know I’ll never see it all anyway. I prefer travelling slowly and getting under the skin of a place so I can truly get to know it. That would be so hard to do if I had a time bound country check list. I don’t ‘do’ cities, countries and regions anymore because really, what does that even mean?!

One of the reasons why I’ve quit steady well-paying jobs in the past was that I got disillusioned with the obsession with certain number related goals that weren’t too relevant for me personally. The disconnect made me realize that even though I was successful in achieving these goals, working towards them was not satisfying in the least. If I were to measure the happiness and satisfaction that travel brings me in terms of the number of countries I have or will cover in a certain time frame, then I suppose I’d become equally disillusioned with this rat race likening to something that’s so much more.

How can you put a numerical value to the sense of humility you feel when you make it to the top after a long strenuous hike, the warm tingling in your heart when a stranger goes out of his way to help you, the smile that lights up the wrinkled face of the vendor in the market when you try to bargain in broken Vietnamese, the absolute sense of awe and wonder you feel when floating across a cave that’s lit up by millions of glowworms or the explosion of flavors in your mouth when you first try that exotic dish in Asia?

You can’t. So you just stop keeping count, embrace it and let it change you.



Monday 2nd of March 2015

Thanks for this post. I've been wrestling with a few of the points you brought up in my mind for some time. While there are some people who attain satisfaction checking something off from their list, others, like myself, prefer to live in the moment and milk as much as possible from a particular place. This hit me on my recent trip to Iceland, where I pretty much decided that I would rather go back there, than travel to a new country. I also have a trip scheduled for Spain in a couple of months. I've been trying to decide whether I should knock off 8+ cities in 12 days, 'see as much as possible,' or pick a couple and really take the chance to understand them. The more I travel, the more I'm leaning towards the latter. I actually maintain a Destination Count on my website, but it's less to keep count, and rather remember specifics about the locations I've been.

- Greig


Monday 2nd of March 2015

Hi Greig,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think, as we travel longer or more often, we develop a better understanding of what works for us, something like figuring out what it is about travel that we enjoy most. For some it's seeing more and for some others it's about connecting to a place in different ways- through people, culture or food. I believe connecting takes time and that getting to know a place well is a richer experience than going on an 'Amazing Race' type of mission. At least, that's true for me and it seems like you share a similar feeling.

Shubham Mansingka

Saturday 7th of February 2015

'To each his own.' For me travel is about immersing myself so much into the place I am visiting, that I almost become a local. That's why I've been to the Himalayas forever and still get exposed to magical feelings everytime! And yes I don't 'do' places either :)


Saturday 7th of February 2015

That's a great and meaningful way to see the world. I'm yet to experience the Himalayas and I can't say I'm not envious ;)


Monday 1st of December 2014

I've gotten over the the whole passport stamp collecting mentality already ... I've been in Mexico for more than three months and I don't regret one second of crawling through this nation at my own pace ... I have my whole life to rack up big travel numbers!


Thursday 13th of November 2014

Couldn't agree more with the "how many countries have you DONE"-thing. Have you heard of that guy that "visited" every single country in the world recently? His only criteria was that he had to have set a single step in a country. To me this has nothing to do with travelling!


Thursday 13th of November 2014

I actually hadn't heard about him. Set foot in a country?! Well, if that makes him happy... Looks like he did 'visit' every country.

Sammi Wanderlustin'

Thursday 13th of November 2014

I'm a counter, but I don't think I've ever blogged about it. I agree with you, and my travel this year says so too, I spent a day in Split summer 2013 at the end of the tour, which led to me spending 10 days exploring Croatia this summer. I return to Spain every year, I just go to different cities each time. I returned to Prague this summer only to discover I liked it as much this time around as last time (read: not much). I want to explore new places, every place I can possibly get to eventually, and the fact that I've been to however many countries this year is a count I'm keeping, but for me. No one else.


Thursday 13th of November 2014

Hi Sammi,

There's nothing wrong with keeping count, I'd love to see as many new places as I possibly can too. But that doesn't mean that having a certain number makes me a better or worse traveler than anyone else.

Thanks for stopping by! :)

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