What did you learn today?


I met Dinesh at our hostel in St Petersburg, in mid-conversation about his ultimate ambition: to hit 100 countries before he reached 25.

I thought that was an interesting goal, because I’ve never had one when it came to travelling. I’ve got a list of things I want to tick off, but never a target number of countries I need to visit by a certain age. So I sat and listened to him, ready to tear my hair out and feel like an utter failure. I am, after all, past 25 and I’ve only done 32 countries.

“Africa was amazing- I hitched a ride with some guys in Tanzania and discovered halfway that they were drug smugglers! I mean, come on, that’s incredible. Then there was that time in Poland when I was chased for three blocks by this gang of skinheads, all carrying knives. It was insane!” he said, totally unprompted.

His girlfriend- or at least, the girl he was travelling with- smiled and nodded proudly.

“Russia is actually my 86th country”- he paused to sip his coffee- “and I’m turning 25 next month, so there’s no way I’m going to reach 100. Maybe I should hike that up to 120 countries before 30? You know? Now that’s an idea.”

That was a cue for the girlfriend to nod again.

I never know what to say at times like this. More than anything else, I find it amusing that some people think that the number of countries they’ve been to would impress others, when it has no bearing whatsoever.

Is it a big deal, that someone has travelled to 75, 89 or even 100 countries? It’s a great source of pride, yes, but does that make him a better traveller or person than someone who has only clocked up 25 countries? That doesn’t sound right.

I’m not convinced that it’s possible to learn anything from your travels if your quest is only to collect as many passport stamps as you can. I can’t imagine anything more tiring than thinking, “Just a few more countries till I hit 50, just a few more till I’m done, I can do this, I can do this.” It becomes a chore, a constant need to be ‘better’ than the next person, but without a real end.

Travel should open your eyes and make you appreciate yourself as well as your fellow man. Surely the lessons that you’ve learnt are more important than the number of countries you’ve been to. Is it possible for one to learn anything if all one is doing is merely zipping through borders and crossing out countries on a map?

I’m only saying  all this because I’m a traveller myself. I want to be inspired by people who know the true value of travel. It is to learn, to gather experiences. It is not to show off, which is why I find show-offs so tiresome. People who make statements like, “Yeah, this is nice, but the carbonara I had in Kathmandu/Rome/Prague was so much better.” You get the idea.

I am also a writer, which means I love reading about other people’s experiences. I believe in the power of words. But if all someone does is to brag and talk about how many countries he or she has visited, I switch off.

Either that, or I could go on listening quietly and write about you one day.


© 2013 – 2014, Anis. All rights reserved.

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10 Responses

  1. Dania says:

    Then there’s also the “Why (insert country/city/suburb/lost island)? I’ve been there, nothing there. You should just go (insert country/city/suburb/other lost island). Really..”

    Time and time again I wonder, is there really a place I find there’s nothing or is it just because what they expect a place to be is not what it is; therefore missing a whole other experience of what a place has to offer.

    I guess we all travel differently but it can be very exhausting to put up with people who wants to one-up the other. Like ok..I get it, you’ve been there, been everywhere in fact..just..let me experience it my own way.

    Then, when I get back to places they thought were boring or uninteresting – “Eh I didn’t know there’s such a thing? Oh you’re lucky you went the right time”..


    • Anis Ibrahim says:

      Essentially, people who impose their views on you. If they didn’t like it, then there’s no way anyone else will ever like it. That in itself means that they consider their opinions to be correct, which is a bad sign already. My best trips have been the ones where I go alone (if I screw up, I only have myself to blame, which is fine by me) or where I go with equally independent people where we just do our own thing.

  2. I wouldnt be bothered with having target on travel. I wanna do it on my pace, you know to enjoy it. You see, if im in love with that place, I might end up there longer. Having target will just restrict it?

  3. Hafiz says:

    I never thought to have a target when traveling either. More than anything i just want to get lost in somewhere interesting.

  4. M Kha Sha says:

    I am in my 40s now. I doubt that I will even reach 50 countries by the time I kicked the bucket.

    I have a plan though.. to go to as many countries as I can before I turn 50. After that, I plan to stay for a few months in the cities that I love or like during my first short visit. No more field trips ;p

    Will my plan becomes a reality? Only time will tell I suppose..


  5. Waida says:

    Too bad, he can’t visit the same country over and over again. Or else, the numbers won’t add up 🙂

    There’s always beauty in every place we visit. Either we find or don’t. Perhaps, getting lost is the way to do it.

    As for me, no numbers or target. Just seeing any part of the world keep me content already 🙂

  6. Clete Liedl says:

    I also met this guy in St. Petersburg! I think part of his purpose was to stand out. How many people in the world could make the claim of visiting 100 countries or even by age 25? Traveling to me is meeting people and learning cultures. But admittedly, I’m somewhat proud that I have been to 50 countries. Certainly everyone has a different travel style. People in the US think staying at an inclusive resort in Mexico for 4 nights is travelling. Well, at least they got out of their house.