A number of people are aware that I had a travel goal of qualifying to join the Travelers’ Century Club (TCC), not that I really had any intention of actually joining. This was more about motivating me to get out of a travel rut and visit some new countries than anything else. In November last year I finally hit 100 “countries” but it doesn’t seem all that significant. The TCC’s country and territory list is claimed to have 324 entries (although at least 329 entries appear on their list) compared to the 194 United Nations’ member (and observer) states. While I can agree that some places deserve to be recognised while not being a member state there is a lot to disagree with on the TCC list so it hardly feels like I’ve made it to 100 countries and territories.
So what’s wrong? I think the problem lies in their “Enclaves/Continental Separation” rule. It states:
Continental land areas having a common government or administration but which are geographically discontinuous either by reason of being separated by foreign land not under their control, by being located on separate continents, or by being separated by a natural body of water shall be considered as separate territories provided their population exceeds 100,000. Multiple fragments separated by the same foreign country shall only count for one territory.
There are places where this works fine but there are also a number of cases where it is plainly stupid. Joking aside, from an Australian context listing Tasmania as separate from the rest of the continent because of Bass Strait makes no sense at all. Canadians would also recognise the same situation with Prince Edward Island classified as being separate from Canada. This is potentially made worse than Tasmania because PEI is virtually surrounded by Canada and is so close that it’s connected via a bridge. Additionally Newfoundland-Labrador isn’t included separately (even though it was only admitted to the Canadian confederation in 1949) because Labrador shares a land boundary with the rest of Canada, and Québec is culturally different from the Anglophone part of Canada but that clearly doesn’t count.
Dividing Egypt, Russia and Turkey into two continental areas seems arbitrary and a case of padding the list, as is dividing Indonesia into island groups. Separately recognising overlapping Argentine, British, and Chilean Antarctic claims results in three countries from one landing but it doesn’t recognise visiting a base of a country that doesn’t have a territorial claim that predates the Antarctic Treaty.
It would be easy to just dismiss the TCC list and go with the UN one but then that would diminish places such as South Georgia, that while a British Overseas Territory is in another hemisphere to the UK.
In the end I think I’ve visited somewhere between 71 and 103 counties and territories so maybe I have at most 29 to go and I should just keep visiting new countries.