Where have I been?

My objective is not to visit every country or territory on this planet, but I do keep a record. There are places, and countries, I have no interest in visiting, and there are places I like to revisit. Interacting with locals is my preference, but in places that have seen the worst of tourism, that poses some challenges. 

I do like to visit spectacular sceneries or historical localities, but mostly I’m drawn towards plain, sometimes boring places to see how ordinary people live. As I’m getting older, I need some basic comfort as sleeping on a pebbly beach in some far away land no longer attracts me. I could, however, draw up a list of odd sleeping arrangements from my younger days.

I have been travelling for nearly fifty years, and have been lucky enough to enjoy the solitude of the streets of Venice, being alone with the full moon over the Taj Mahal, and sleeping on the Kalamari beach in Santorini for three weeks enjoying the island with mostly other islanders. As travelling becomes more commonplace, which in isolation can be seen is a good benefit, the damages that masses of tourists can do are also becoming more evident.

Apart from the most popular tourist cities in Europe—like Barcelona, Venice, and Dubrovnik—even places like the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, Halong Bay, and a host of other UNESCO World Heritage Spots are now victims of their of their own success not being able to sustain the hordes of humans eager to get their digital confirmation of Kilroy’s statement with their selfies—or is it spelled selfish ...

How do you define a country? There are countries in the world that are not recognised by any other country but ticks all the boxes of statehood–like Somaliland. There are territories–like Taiwan–that are claimed by another country but where the claimant has no power or control. Then there are countries that does not exist any longer, like the Soviet Union, and then there are countries that was part of another country but now are independent, like Kosovo. We have sort of semiautonomous areas that are a part of another country but where there are a movement for independence, like Tibet. And then there are areas that are under certain jurisdiction, but an integrated part of a country–like Svalbard. And; if you have visited the Falkland Islands but not Great Britain proper, have you been to UK? Or does a visit to Greenland count as a visit to Denmark, or Hong Kong as China?

According to Wikipedia a country is a region that is identified as a distinct national entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated people with distinct political characteristics. Regardless of the physical geography, in the modern internationally accepted legal definition as defined by the League of Nations in 1937 and reaffirmed by the United Nations in 1945, a resident of a country is subject to the independent exercise of legal jurisdiction.

However, most of the countries I have visited only once or twice, but some countries I keep going back to. I have been to Nepal 30 times, to Laos 22, India I have visited 18 times, and Bangladesh 12. Thailand, and in particular Bangkok, is a useful hub when travelling around eastern and southern part of Asia; I have more than 100 stamps entering Thailand. Furthermore I have been eight times to China, have five visits to Myanmar and four to Pakistan. Numerous visits to Greece and the Greek Islands, as well as many other European countries, and as I lived three years in England I have naturally visited many parts of the British Isles – from the Isle of Sky to the Scilly Isles.

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EUROPE (31): Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the Vatican. 

MIDDLE EAST (7): Iran, Iraq, Israel, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Turkey. 

ASIA (19): Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam. 

AFRICA (5): Ethiopia, Morocco, Somalia, South Africa, Tunisia. 

PACIFIC (1): Australia. 

AMERICAS (7): Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Paraguay, Uruguay, USA. 

COLLAPSED COUNTRIES (4): Czechoslovakia, East Germany, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia. 

AREAS NOW INDEPENDENT COUNTRIES (4): Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia. 

NON-RECOGNISED COUNTRIES (2): Somaliland, Taiwan. 

SPECIAL AREAS/TERRITORIES (11): Ceuta, England, Kashmir, Hong Kong, Macau, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Svalbard, Wales, West Bank, Tibet.

I started on the journey all alone
Alone had I resolved to reach my goal
But as I went along people came man after man
And the lonely march became a caravan
Urdu poet Majrooh