Counting Countries in Ethiopia


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Africa » Ethiopia » Addis Ababa Region
December 23rd 2018
Published: December 24th 2018
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Trinity ChurchTrinity ChurchTrinity Church

Haile Salassie is buried here
Probably every traveler who has been outside their own country more than once has discovered that counting the countries they have visited is another way we humans have found to rank ourselves amongst our peers. Travel is not really a competitive sport but people will always have a necessity to compare themselves to others, no matter what the endeavor.

Eventually, most travelers will come across websites with a list of recognized countries and what they have determined actually constitutes an official visit to a country. Like rules to any game we have created, we must set requirements to actually keep score. Some sites suggest that you must spend at least one night or must spend money or must at least leave the airport, cruise ship terminal or transit facility to get credit. Some sites make an effort to give credence to the farthest regions of the world, or just attempt to balloon the possible total, by adding territories into the count. Perhaps they suppose people who are lucky or intrepid enough to visit Bora Bora, which is officially still France, want to get some extra credit over their friends who visited Paris on a pensioner bus tour of Europe.
CoffeeCoffeeCoffee

Coffee is originally from Ethiopia

While nothing may feel better when telling stories in some far off corner of the globe than to fit in your latest country count, it is not really considered polite to directly brag about how many pins you have put in your world map. I guess it's similar to bragging about how much money you make. However, like people who wear designer shoes, make upscale fashion choices or drive an expensive car to subtly remind you how much money they have, travelers usually find obscure ways of displaying our country count without being overly blatant. Our Instagram or Facebook pages no doubt feature pictures of ourselves standing in front of several of the obvious iconic representations of places we have traveled. Surely we are hoping to cause a little jealousy amongst our fellow competitors, without outright bragging.

So that I don't come across as hypocritical or a wiser-than-thou smug, we have our country count clearly posted on this blogs "about" page. We even have a handy map posted that shows graphically how much of the earth we've traversed. Because we wanted to get credit for countries we had visited prior to starting this blog, we even conveniently color-coded the
Lucy RestaurauntLucy RestaurauntLucy Restauraunt

A favorite of our ancient ancestors
map for your easy use. We are not better than those we write about.

Like any competitive game, fudging or cheating eventually comes into play. When we had just started this journey we were sitting in a tiny cafe in a tree-lined park in Guanajuato, Mexico. A couple set down next to us and we started up a conversation. They asked how long we had been in town. Although we had only been there for three weeks, we claimed 4. They were duly impressed, so I guess it worked. I don't know why we did it. It just sounded better somehow. As we have continued to travel we have formed a better bond with the truth, but still find ourselves tempted to color our travel history with exaggerations occasionally.

In truth, ranking ourselves as travelers by country count is really counterproductive to the real goal of travel. One's age, financial state, fitness and current life commitments probably have a more to do with our country count than the pugnacity, lion-heartedness or daring with which we pursue our travel dreams. If you really want to rank yourself as a traveler think more in terms of movement. That's actually what travel is all about. If you are in any stage of the journey, whether it is dreaming, planning, actively traveling or just reflecting back on where you have been then you can consider yourself a successful traveler. The beauty of travel is all about stimulating your imagination. It's probably beneficial to focus on how many places you haven't been if you really want to be considered for elite status.

All that being said, the purpose of this blog is, in the simplest terms, to brag about visiting our latest country, Ethiopia. We stopped here on an overnight layover from one country to another. To be honest we thought it sounded cool to say we had been here and wanted it included in our list of places we have been. Also, it puts us over the milestone of 50 countries since we left on this trip. Like when you turned 20, nothing really changed, but it still felt good to not be a teenager anymore. Passing this milestone just separates us into a little more elite grouping.

What did we see? Not much. How much can you see in 16 hours?

Our first flight on Ethiopian Air was
Haile SelassieHaile SelassieHaile Selassie

At the National Museum
not as scary as it sounded to our western ears. The plane was new and even though it arrived 45 minutes late, the flight was pretty good. Our welcome to Ethiopia was not quite so enjoyable. Anyone who has a long layover in Addis Ababa qualifies for a transit visa, free hotel room and transfer to the hotel. Sounds great in practice but the lines for this perk were unbelievably long. We booked our own hotel and were only interested in the transit visa. We found out that was not possible. If you don't take the free hotel and transfer, you don't get the transit visa.

The airline ran out of hotels in town and the lines basically ceased to move. It took us several lines and a few hours to find someone who could authorize us to just obtain the transit visa. We estimated we would be in the hotel by 11 PM but didn't arrive until 2 in the morning. Not a good start to our short stay.

We cut our sleeping time short so we could get the most out of our 7 hours of exposure to the Ethiopian culture. We grabbed a cab and attempted to make an express tour of the city on our own. First stop was the National Museum. A little rough around the edges the museum still did a good job of explaining the history of the country and explained some of Ethiopia's contributions to the world.

Known human history begins in Ethiopia and thus the country has the elite status of having the oldest human ancestors remains ever found. Nicknamed "Lucy" by the archeologists who discovered the remains, this tiny set of bones is located in the museum. An interesting exhibit that made the price of admission worthwhile.
We also made a brief visit to the Trinity Church, an ornate structure whose claim to fame is the tomb of Haile Selassie's tomb. We found that many of his family members, as well as other leaders of the countries, are buried in the adjoining courtyard.

We returned to our hotel for a break before our transfer back to the airport. We retreated to the shady veranda to watch the adjacent busy boulevard and all the interesting passersby. Ethiopia is the home of coffee and we couldn't let the opportunity go without sampling our favorite drink in its homeland.

The coffee was strong and delicious and the entertainment on the street filled the rest of our afternoon visit to Ethiopia. We struck up a conversation with a couple of guys from Holland and after a few minutes of swapping travel stories we mentioned that this was our 50th country visited since the beginning of our trip. They quickly countered with their total of 110 countries visited. Very impressive indeed. A good reminder that even when you think you have accomplished something remarkable by passing a milestone, there are plenty of others who have surely bested anything you have done.

We enjoyed our brief visit to Ethiopia and regret we didn't have longer to visit. Our journey continues. As everyone who travels knows, it is not where you have been, but rather where you are going.


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Haile SellasieHaile Sellasie
Haile Sellasie

National Museum
Kaleb HotelKaleb Hotel
Kaleb Hotel

Our home for one night in Ethiopia


24th December 2018

The beauty of stimulating your imagination
I love getting up in the mornings with a cup of coffee to read your blogs. They are thoughtful and pose meaningful questions.Congratulations on 50 countries! It does set you a part. I'm not sure any of us start out to count the number of countries we have been to but one day you think, huh, I've been to a lot of places... and it begins. Once you count you are pleasantly surprised and feel like a world traveler. We do not dwell on the number because we truly want the experiences. We don't rush but don't spend a month per country the way you generally do. We all have our own style. As for counting we use The Travel Camel method... you must leave the airport or train station and make a purchase of some kind. There is a group called Travelers Century Club for people who have been to 100 or more countries. They do have a provisional membership for people who have been to 75 countries... but I believe they just changed provisional membership to 50 countries so you would qualify. They have an odd way of counting... they count if you have landed in a country and never got off the airplane. Plus they count countries and territories. If the land mass is 200 miles from the country so the numbers can add up quickly.. example Alaska and Hawaii are counted separately from mainland USA.
24th December 2018

Imagination...
Thank you for the nice compliment! We both travelled quite a bit before we started on Travelblog. I was on a ship for quite some time and saw a lot of places doing that. I don't think either of us has been to 100 though. With the way we prefer to travel now(longer times in each country), I doubt we'll make it. I guess we could go faster, but our experience in Addis Ababa really took a toll. We followed it up with another crazy flight the next day and we are both exhausted. Oh, to be young again! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It really makes us feel like it was worth it. Happy Holidays to you and Dave!
25th December 2018

What counts?
I'm with you about how to count countries, and can get a bit smug about it. But what counts?My mother was born in Denmark, so I visited several countries in Europe when I was very young. Is it fair to count Sweden when I remember nothing about it except the ferry ride from Copenhagen? I got turned off the counting part when I met a guy who counted a country as visited when he had only changed planes there. And then it came to me that even if I had visited a place before, it is still a new experience. I'm not the same person I was, and countries and cities go through changes as well. Under that criteria it's a new country. So I've been a few places, but not enough, and I hope to keep moving and traveling and experiencing this big, crazy, beautiful world.
25th December 2018

Counts..
I suppose you can count however you want. We generally don't count countries unless we leave the airport, but that's only how we do it. I suppose if someone has only been to Disney World, then they could count the US, but it doesn't seem like you really saw the country. We have found that no matter how far you travel, there is always something just past where we went that probably warrants a trip back. So I suppose we will never be done. It is a big world and even though our count is high, we still have only scratched the surface of all there is to see. Thanks for commenting and Happy Holidays. Keep on travelling!
26th December 2018

A very insightful blog...
bragging without appearing to brag! Most travelers do brag in subtle ways. I'm not about to pay $75/yr to join the TCC which lists as a benefit bragging rights. And as to what qualifies as to a visit is a never ending discussion. For me it is physically touching the ground, but I recognize that I have not gotten to know the country at all. I like your approach to visiting countries for a longer period of time. As for what defines a country, I used the list provided at the TB website, which I hope Ali brings back.
26th December 2018

Bragging...
If we had spent as much of our life as you have travelling the world, then we would probably have something to brag about! I know you are getting close to the century mark. I don't think we would pay money to brag either. Probably like everything else in life, nobody really cares anyway (except yourself and close family). I also hope TB gets back to normal. It has become part of our lives and we enjoy it and hate to see it fall apart. Thanks for writing and Happy Holidays to you and your wife!
29th December 2018

No regrets
You say, "As everyone who travels knows, it is not where you have been, but rather where you are going." I like that Nanci but my take is, "It is not where you have been, but rather where your memories keep returning." I gave up counting when our children had passed our countries visited and disappeared into the distance! We have not added to the score by visiting any of the numerous countries in Europe. But we have travelled through Ethiopia north and south and in between...my number 1 recommendation of the dark continent. And we drank coffee in places an airport stopover could not imagine. Sometimes where you are going must be to return. May I recommend Ethiopia...a true jewel of Africa.
29th December 2018

Regrets...
A wealthy man is one who can fill the rest of his life with happy memories! We would have loved to have travelled longer in Ethiopia. Perhaps one day, but for now we must move on. I don't know if our children have picked up the travel bug as bad as we have it, but hopefully one day. Thanks for reading, Dave! Happy Holidays!
12th January 2019
National Museum

On Lucy and Haile
Do you know why they named the remains Lucy? When they discovered them they had a radio on and it was playing "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds". Funny that when we visited Addis Abeba we went to look for sights related to another Haile, the long distance runner Haile Gebreselassie. /Ake
12th January 2019
National Museum

Lucy....
Unfortunately, we weren't in Addis long enough to learn much more than we did. Interesting about Lucy! I just thought it was a good name and didn't know the history. Thanks for commenting, Ake!

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