Places to See Before You Die, Or Not

BW Ice

Robert Reid has a problem with the idea of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.


Awhile ago, I floated the question on Twitter about what it takes to say you’ve “been” to a place. Does walking across a border or an hour in an airport terminal “count”? Where’s the line?

Someone suggested using this definition: that you’ve only “been” somewhere if you had some experience there worth sharing. That, to me, seems like the ultimate point of travel. But too rarely do we hear of such experiences from bucket-listers’ jet-set cousins, what I call the country collectors.

Many of these folks wear the tally of the countries they’ve visited as badges of honor. Adding to the total in as little time as possible often means horribly ill-timed flight connections and a couple of hours spent outside the terminal, before moving on to the next destination. Guinea-Bissau? Check!

I’ve often wondered myself about whether some of the travel I do for work really counts as having seen a place. Frequently, the schedule has me arriving the evening before a training class starts, we train all day and I leave right out afterwards. Have I really seen the city I’m in? At most I’ve had dinner out a couple of times and that might be considered part of seeing a city, but it’s limited. As a photo buff, of course, I don’t really feel,like I’ve seen a city unless I get to take the camera gear and capture it, which I don’t get to do very often.

On the other hand, I generally get to spend a few days working with the people who live in the area. Certainly there’s something to be said for that, no? When I was in Norway last February, there wasn’t a lot of time to explore the countryside the way I might if I were on vacation, but I spent three days in a classroom interacting with a bunch of Norwegians. How many vacationers can say that? Maybe I haven’t sailed the fjords, and in February who would want to, but I’ve definitely experienced Norway. I have no doubt about that.

How would you define having seen something? Is getting out of the car, taking a glance, and checking it off the list any way to travel?

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