If you're up for adventure, you can probably make it to over the course of a few years.
Practical traveller: 50 countries as your travel target
Chris Guillebeau, 33, is on a five-year mission to visit every country in the world. He is currently on number 164.
Here's a fun idea: count up the number of countries you've visited. Ever taken a work trip somewhere? What about summer holidays? Did you ever cross a border, or stop off somewhere en route to your real destination? There are 193 member states of the United Nations and most people will never visit more than 10. But if you're up for adventure and you don't mind a bit of planning, you can probably make it to at least 50 countries over the course of a few years.
Yes, it's possible, and here's how you do it.
Your main approach will likely be regionalism, or taking advantage of nearby countries whenever you find yourself in any particular location. Before you go to a new place, spend some time with a good map and familiarise yourself with travel options to nearby destinations. The website wikitravel.org is often helpful in figuring out options; look for the "Getting in and out" section of any particular resource page.
The classic continental tour of Europe involves all the usual stops: Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal. You can upgrade this tour by heading over to Belgium, and then taking the train down to tiny Luxembourg for a day (there's not much there, but be sure to try the chocolate milk). When in Zurich, head to the bus station and ride to tiny Liechtenstein for another short visit - you get the idea. From Barcelona, hire a car for the three-hour drive up to Andorra. When next in Rome, drop in at the Vatican; it's not among the 193 but it does have non-voting status at the UN.
Heading east, you can tour the Balkans in a variety of overland transport options - buses, trains, hired cars and, sometimes, ferries. From Bosnia, travel south to Croatia and over to Montenegro. Keep going through Albania and on to Macedonia, before turning north to Serbia. Another six countries! Nice work. You can do much the same thing in northern Europe - visit Sweden from Copenhagen, and Russia from Helsinki. Lithuania and Latvia are easily connected by bus or train.
When in Singapore, a popular hub city served by many airlines, you can hop a ferry over to Batam Island, Indonesia. On another day trip, you can bus up to Malaysia and back - three countries for the price of one.
Hong Kong and Macau are "overseas" Chinese territories, not countries in their own right, but if you're passing through one, you might as well visit the other by the hour-long ferry. Get up to Vietnam, and Laos and Cambodia are a long bus ride or short budget flight away. International flights to Asia often pass through Japan or Korea. If flying through, arrange for a 48-hour stopover to see the sights before continuing on.
A lot of countries are also islands, and Caribbean cruises are the best opportunity to visit many of them at once. Cheap departures sail every week from Miami. On any given week, you can visit the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica and Antigua. Go the other direction and you can add Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala and Mexico to your list.
From Jordan, you can visit Syria and Lebanon. In the UAE itself you can visit Madha, in the small Omani enclave of Musandam.
The US and Canada are big countries, and most travellers make it there at least once in their lifetime. If you can't make it to the US mainland, consider visiting Hawaii, Guam or Puerto Rico. Every country in South America is connected by land, and most have lax entry policies. From Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, you can catch a ferry to Montevideo, Uruguay.
When you get to Africa, the process becomes tougher, but you still have options. From Johannesburg, catch a short flight to Lesotho or Swaziland. Longer flights lead to Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mauritius. If you're travelling elsewhere on the continent, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia and Kenya will likely be stopover points for flights. As with visiting Asia, take advantage of your stopovers and see a bit before moving on.
So far, we've considered at least 40 countries, perhaps more, depending on how many islands you make it to, and how much of South America you're able to visit. Now you'll need to get a bit more creative.
With limited flight schedules and usually only one way in and out, island hopping in the South Pacific is a bigger challenge than the Caribbean. Visiting the "stans" (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and five others) is worth your time, but requires visa applications to be completed in advance. Speaking of visas, you'll run into obstacles throughout much of Africa and parts of Asia as well. But, hey, by this point, you're a pro.
Along the way, you might find yourself wishing you could have more time in any particular place. No problem: you will never forget a place you fell in love with, and you can always go back again later. There's just one thing to be careful of: after visiting 50 countries, you probably won't want to stop. You have been warned. The next 50 will be more of a challenge, but when the time comes, you'll be well-travelled and ready to step it up.
Next week: Chris Guillebeau on the joy of flying.??