When I first decided that I was moving abroad on a budget, I had already been to many countries. While I had already been to plenty of countries, and on occasion had indulged in country collecting, I never thought of it as a competitive sport. But when people are bragging about travel, it often comes up that they are also country chasing. As a traveler, this type of behavior involves collecting passport stamps at as many countries as physically possible. This often encourages travelers to put in the least amount of effort in each individual country that they can. According to that logic, we should have gone to Belize and Costa Rica instead of spending two weeks in Guatemala and exploring all of its little intricacies.
But that often doesn’t make for good travelling. Developing surface-level relationships with a country is a surefire way to learn nothing from your travels. In fact, looking at travel as a commodity is probably the worst way to travel. But while country collecting can easily happen while traveling among the smaller countries in Europe, it certainly doesn’t have to. If you give yourself the time, you can actually spend more time in one place and not start country chasing. This will allow you to actually gain more from your experience and have thoughts and opinions on where you traveled to, such as my experience after leaving the Southern European countries.
Fortunately, the more you travel the less country collecting matters. While new travelers are likely to want to go country chasing all over a different region, they’ll quickly find that this approach leads to burnout. While many travelers have a limited amount of time, country chasing will also break your budget. The more and quicker you move around, the more headaches you will cause for yourself. This is often caused by a ‘go, go go’ attitude. But the world doesn’t move as fast as you do. And instead of trying to see the world before 30, its better to enjoy the travelling you actually do accomplish.
At the end of the day, the only person that sees your passport is you (and immigration officers). Nobody is going to care about your country chasing antics except for you. While a plethora of passport stamps can itself become a collectors item, that doesn’t mean that you should also be country collecting. The number of countries you’ve been to is irrelevant to your travel experience. Rather the connections you forge with different cultures is what makes travel worth it. And besides, a country chaser isn’t exactly the life of the party anyway.