But what and where? In this post you may read more about the bright future, be it World Wonders, the competing lists for “tickers” and some thoughts about the shortcomings of such lists.
In 2007 there was a widely disputed but equally acclaimed poll called the “New Seven Wonders of the World“. They presented a list of 21 finalists and ended up with 7 winners and an honorary place to the Giza Pyramids of Egypt, the only remaining wonder of the Ancient World. Here is the list of all 21.
(W) means one of the winners, while (F) means finalist. Apart from that the lists are in alphabetical order, with links to my first entry from that site.
- Alhambra (12th century) – Granada, Spain (F)
- Angkor, Cambodia (F)
- Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (W)
- Coliseum, Roma, Italia (W)
- Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (F)
- Great Wall of China (W)
- Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey (F)
- Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan (F)
- Machu Picchu, Peru (W)
- Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany (F)
- Petra, Jordan (W)
- Pyramids of Giza, Egypt (FW)
- Red Square, Moscow, Russia (F)
- Statue of Liberty (1886) – New York City, U.S.A. (F)
- Stonehenge, England (F)
- Taj Mahal – Agra, India (W)
Left to explore
- Acropolis of Athens (450 – 330 B.C.) – Athens, Greece (F)
- Chichen Itza – Mexico (W)
- Statues of Easter Island (10th – 16th Century) – Easter Island, Chile (F)
- Sydney Opera House (1954 – 73) – Sydney, Australia (F)
- Timbuktu (12th century), – Mali (F)
Although this list may be discussed, the places on it deserve a place on any list, in my opinion. The same organisation’s 2011 competition, nominations and winners for a collection of new Wonders of Nature was much more questionable as I see it. The first list was a great success, even commercially. Subsequent commercial branding has destroyed the serious base of this concept.
World’s Most Important?
There are many lists on the net, and on print. I have quite a few books about the topic myself. Inspired by two of them I made in 2009 a couple of videos and published them on YouTube. They were both based on photographs turned into films on given themes.
This first I called “The World’s Most Important destinations”. The inspiration was a book from Norwegian travellers/journalists Jens A. Riisnæs and Ragnar Hatlem containing 229 major destinations in the world. The video shows my first 50 of them.
The next I entitled “The World’s Most Important Cities”. In another book by the same authors they presented 52 magical cities in the world. These were my first 31 of them.
The World Heritage List
Lists like the above are highly subjective. Other lists are, or have an intention of being, more objective.
The most important is the World Heritage List. It is organised by UNESCO and contains about 1,000 places worthy of taking care of for future generations. The heritage site may be cultural (often a building or group of buildings) or natural (a reef, for instance). Visiting a place on this list is meaningful, it gives content to the visit to a much larger extent than just ticking off another country.
I have become increasingly aware of the List over the years. I would have a long way to go if I was to visit each and every site on this ever expanding list. Presently I have visited 13%. As far as I know, no one has seen them all. My website has descriptions of all my visited sites.
The competing lists for country collectors, the “tickers”
The World Heritage List is about cultural and natural sites, not countries. For that purpose there is another, highly official list, that of the United Nations members. The UN has 193 member states for the time being. To some, the UN membership list is not enough. It omits territories, overseas dependencies (colonies) and islands removed from the mainland country it belongs to.
There are various traveller’s clubs or organisations competing in setting up “country” lists of places to go, and ranking lists of their most venerable members. One of them is called Most Traveled People (MTP), another is The Travelers’ Century Club (TTC).
The MTP include 873 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces. Some of their definitions lead to conclusions of doubtful seriousness: The tiny central European country of Switzerland has 26 places on that list, presumably because of the semi-autonomous cantons. Poland has one place.
The TTC list is more sober and consists of 321 countries or territories. You may become a member if you have collected more than a hundred. This organisation accepts port-of-calls, airport transits and airplane refuelling as a country visit. I have my doubts about that, but have in fact succumbed to the fascination of it. For this reason alone I have added the United States on my list: I had a two hour refuelling stop in Alaska many years ago.
Despite this I have been to only about 20% of the places on their lists. To me a visit to new country is interesting only to a certain extent, as it adds no real meaning other than to remove it from your bucket list. I find that visiting a new World Heritage site, and more of the sites I referred to in the beginning, much more rewarding and intriguing.
Read the update about these people and organisations: Ticking places off a bucket list.
But how do you count countries?
Check out this video by CGP Grey, found in a Matador article.
What about all the rest?
Still, anyone can set up a list and gather a group of followers aiming at visiting whatever type of sights you’re pinpointing. Why not set about visiting all 1,587 active volcanoes in the world? I have been to three on that list, Villarrica (Chile), Santorini (Greece), and Etna (Italy).
One may argue that getting to the destination is not the most important purpose of travelling. The Trans-Siberian Railway is not at all about visiting Moscow or Beijing. The process of moving yourself between the cities of Moscow and Beijing is the whole point of making that famous journey. No rail or road journeys as such are included on country lists, and almost none on the World Heritage List. (To be fair, and to the delight of railway buffs there are actually two railway lines included in the World Heritage List: The Semmering in Austria and the Mountain Railways of India. There could have been more, as discussed here. My point is however not about the railway as a technical construction, but as a process.)
Some people are content with ticking off a new place, country, territory or whatsoever, on a list, and tell the world about it. Here is an article about an American claiming to be the world’s most travelled man, and here is another rather famous “ticker“. This guy likes to put up lists.
I am not a collector of places but I rarely return to places I have visited. There is always something new to discover. I have never had a round the world (RTW) ticket and only a few of my travels have lasted more than the ordinary summer vacation of 2-4 weeks. Several entries are even describing short weekend trips. I do not foresee myself taking a sabbatical year or two, or live off my website on a perennial voyage of the seas and lands of the world.
My world map (2018 update) shows that I have been to many places, and the statistics behind the map shows that I’ve travelled almost 490,000 km (300,000 miles) to more than 80 countries for almost 1,250 days. Still, as the map below illustrates there are many countries and regions on this planet I have not visited. Like Oceania and most of Africa.
Been there, done that… I said in the heading. That’s true, but travelling is about a lot more than just ticking off the places you have been. There is SO much left to explore…
It may also be put this way:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. (Marcel Proust)
One may travel, so to speak, through the senses of others. Check out the blogroll to see some of the large number of travel bloggers who inspire me.
There are several levels to complete in understanding this website.
- “About” page, the one you are now reading.
- “Destinations” page, introducing the world regions with links to all photo galleries and articles.
- “Special articles” page: Travel related and based on my own experiences and views, but no specific travel accounts.
The article you are now reading is a freestanding Level 4. I published this post in March 2012, and have made some minor changes since then. Almost five years later, in December 2016 I elaborated on some issues. Read the update called Ticking places off a bucket list.