My friend Ray Johnson did it. He’s been to 319 countries and territories. I’ve only managed to get to 102 countries. Ray and I met at his 65th birthday party in Chonburi, Thailand. We were members of the Pattaya City Expats Club. Eventually, I talked him into speaking to the club about his experiences. He accomplished the feat in conjunction with the Travelers Century Club (TCC). Membership requires that you have been to at least 100 countries. A handful of members, like Ray, have done even better and have managed to get to every country in the world. Some would say that it’s a crazy compulsive thing to do. Nevertheless, Ray is one of the few travelers in the world who has done it.The United Nations only has 193 members. As of January 1, 2016, the Travelers Century Club now recognizes 325 separate countries and territories. The Club has 1400 members and has chapters in major cities of the US and a few located abroad. They have monthly meetings, listen to each other’s travel stories, and run photo contests. Diplomats and international marketing types would have a natural advantage in earning membership. Their employers paid for most of their travel. In Ray’s case, he and his family have a successful building materials and ready mix concrete business. Obviously, it would take some deep pockets to finance all that travel. Ray told me he did it because once his business was successful, he was looking for a new challenge and he loved to travel.
Ray Johnson accomplished the feat several years ago when there were only 319 countries. If you go to the Travelers’ Century Club website, you can have a look at what they consider a country or territory. Many of the places listed are just tiny specks in the Pacific or Indian Ocean. In many cases, it would literally be a huge pain in the butt just to get to them and not too much to see when you got there. Some places are dangerous as well. But at least you got your ticket punched as far as the TCC was concerned. Included in the current 325 destinations are the seven regional claims to Antarctica. You have to visit all of them including the New Zealand claim as well as the Argentina, the Chilean, the Norwegian, the French and the American Territories plus the Falkland Islands to have bragging rights that you’ve been to every country in the world. It sounds exhausting. Clearly this is something you need to do when you’re old enough to have accumulated a lot of money, but young enough that you still have abundant energy.
If you consider yourself well-traveled, you can add up the number of countries you have visited with the Travelers’ Century Club Country List With my paltry 102 countries, I suppose I’m eligible to join the TCC. I don’t think I will, however. I have a feeling many of the members are ex-State Department types that I wouldn’t be comfortable hanging out with. I found from a couple of bad experiences overseas that a lot of State Department people are arrogant jerks. Being from the West and a retired college business teacher, I tend to be a bit conservative and very often my views are considered politically incorrect, especially by Northeast or San Francisco liberals. I have enough strife in my life arguing with my lovable but liberal daughter. I don’t need to add to the list. Having said that, it’s wonderful to look back at all the places I’ve been and remember all the kind people I’ve met. I don’t need to be in a club to do that. It’s been a life rich in experiences.
One caveat: if you do rack up a lot of countries in your travels, don’t become a “place dropper”. Many years ago when I had only been to 40 or 50 countries and thought I was very well traveled, I was accused of being a place dropper by a prominent San Diego businessman. You’ve met name droppers before. They are those annoying people who like to impress other people by mentioning the celebrities they’ve met. When a committee was interviewing me to join the San Diego District Export Council, Speck Barker, a local exporter, called me that. I hadn’t realized it, but I’m sure he was right. I am sure I talked a lot about the places I’ve been during the interview. All those years of travel and teaching abroad had done that to me. I was appointed to the Council by the US Secretary of Commerce anyway, so I guess being a place-dropper didn’t disqualify me, but obviously I annoyed someone unnecessarily.
Those of us who have the travel bug need to remember that a lot of people are content just to remain in the United States. They may be outright xenophobes and fear strange cultures, or perhaps they consider having to deal with passports and visas and all that strange money and those strange languages to be more trouble than it’s worth. Many times when you talk about some exotic place with them, their eyes glaze over. People gain their self-fulfillment in different ways. Travel is not for everyone.