It’s a question that can incite heated debate: when can you count a country among those visited? Does an airport stopover count? A few years ago I had every intention of visiting Switzerland and some might even say that I did. We landed in Geneva after taking a flight from Venice and we sat ourselves down in the arrival lounge to book some accommodation for the evening. We were only planning to stay a couple of nights. Browsing through booking.com, expedia and numerous other sites it became clear that accommodation in Geneva was expensive. We were willing to cough up the money for a hotel but we were determined to find the cheapest accommodation possible.
We decided to grab ourselves a coffee before booking anywhere and it was at that point that we changed our mind. Coffee was 6€ (I mean even for airport prices that’s ridiculous). We suddenly realised that we just weren’t going to be able to afford to stay in Geneva – we were both students at the time so money was pretty tight.
Geneva had beaten us with its sky-high coffee prices and a couple of Melburnians weren’t about to go without coffee for two days. Defeated, we headed to the buses and got on the next one to Annecy in France – where we were planning to go later on anyway. The bus we got on took us via the city of Geneva before crossing the border to France. By the way I’m pleased we spent a couple of extra days in Annecy. If you haven’t been to this little town, you really should go.
Now we spent a few hours in Switzerland, we left the airport (in a bus) and drove through the city. But at no point did my feet touch Swiss ground (other than at the airport) and to me it just doesn’t feel right to count Switzerland among the countries I have visited.
So when does visiting a country really count? I suppose it is subjective and we are all free to decide and make our own criteria. But for me, it certainly requires leaving the airport in more than a bus and it needs to involve some element of exploration and engagement.
Let me know what do you think: when does a visit to a country really count?
Coming up: I’ll be heading up to Byron Bay, NSW in a few days so stay posted