Travel rant: ‘Doing’ a country

“I’ve done South America, China and India. Where have you done?’

DONE.

It’s just a tiny four-letter verb. It’s just a word. It’s inoffensive and means so little so why does it wind me up so much? ‘Done’ can’t offend anyone but when it’s used in this context it makes me cringe.

How the hell can you do a country?

You can do a crossword, for example, because once you’re finished it’s done, it’s completed, you’ve accomplished something and it’s unlikely you’ll do it again. You can do a marathon for similar reasons; once it’s done, it’s done. Finished (and hopefully never done again!)

I can almost understand if a person visits a country, spends some time there and didn’t enjoy it and then says they’re ‘done with it’. Fair enough; you won’t like every place you visit in the world and may decide you never want to go back.

I don’t know about you but when I visit a country that I love, the last thing I feel like it that I’ve ‘done’ it. This would imply I’ve seen every sight, heard every sound, visited every restaurant, spoken to every local, taken photographs of every historic monument and tried every local delicacy there is. I spent 18 months constantly travelling around Australia and even now I feel like there are things I’d like to go back for.

After spending a few weeks in a country I usually feel the exact opposite and the more I see, the more I realise there is to see. By this point you will have covered all the usual tourist hot spots and you’ll want to see more. A conversation with one local will open up a whole new world of possibilities and you’ll have even more tips and advice on what to see and do.

This will inevitably lead to another chance encounter with a backpacker, an expat, a local shop owner, a taxi driver or a tourist and before you know it you’ve got a list as long as your leg of must-see sights and it could take you a lifetime to ‘do’ them all.

Does anyone else feel like their to-do list or bucket list just gets longer and longer with every country they visit? I really wish I could cross places off as I visit them but I find myself drawn back to them again and again while discovering new places that make me want to explore every inch of the globe.

Ok, rant over. I’m done. 

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33 Comments

  1. January 7, 2014 / 1:23 pm

    I’m with you. I’ve not travelled a lot, but the places I have been (and fallen in love with) I want to go back. Once is never enough!

    • January 24, 2014 / 11:53 am

      So true. The only place I didn’t want to go back to was Java in Indonesia but that was years ago and now I want to go back and see if it really was as bad as I remember!

  2. January 7, 2014 / 2:04 pm

    Monica, we couldn’t agree more!!! Our top destinations are popular because you can’t possibly get it “all done” in one trip, giving you all the more reason to go back!!!

    • January 24, 2014 / 11:54 am

      Yes. Sometimes I love going back to somewhere I’ve been before because you know your way around and end up seeing more and having more fun each time you go back.

  3. January 7, 2014 / 6:02 pm

    I totally understand where you’re coming from with this one! The more and more I research a country the longer I want to stay- I want to experience it all…and I think that’s a key word “experience”…not just get the typical tourist picture and then be on my way after a nice 5 night stay (although, even then I’d consider myself lucky). Wish I could get off work for large amounts of time– hopefully freelance is in my future!

    • January 24, 2014 / 11:55 am

      You’re so right, it’s all about the experience, not just ticking the box!
      And I hope freelance is in your future. It’s so much fun!

  4. January 8, 2014 / 10:27 am

    I think you’re totally right talking about something that many of us agree. I loved the post. thanks

    • January 24, 2014 / 12:47 pm

      Thanks for your comment Antonio and I’m really pleased so many people agree!

  5. January 8, 2014 / 10:17 pm

    Ha ha, rant away! I’m so with you in this one, just recently I realised that although we travel a lot, we often go from one familiar place to next. And for a reason. There’s so much to see, and the more time I spend in each place and get to know the people, the more time I want to go back there. Another thing I don’t quite get although I do kind of understand why people do it, and that’s counting how many countries you’ve been to…. But that’s coming from someone who shuffles between the same old places with something new thrown in the mix every now and then 😉

    • January 24, 2014 / 12:49 pm

      Yea, I hate it when people ask me how many countries I’ve been too! I do understand why people count though. You want to feel like you’re achieving something and counting helps I guess.

  6. January 9, 2014 / 9:20 am

    I’ve done Dubai…

    …well the airport.

    Unfortunately it’s usually people who use travel to somehow boast about themselves, a little bit like those people who go somewhere just to say they’ve been. Ticking the box as we call it.

    People often feel compelled to tick off all the major attractions of a city to say they have “done” it… But what they’ve done is just see things that perhaps they’re not that interested in just so they can tell friends that they’ve been there and done it. Rather than actually visiting or experiencing things that they actually genuinely enjoy.

    There is no such thing as “done” when experiencing a place.

    • January 24, 2014 / 12:50 pm

      Definitely. Sometimes I wish there was such a thing as ‘done’ so I can start exploring new parts of the world but I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘done’ with any country!

  7. January 9, 2014 / 9:27 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Well said, and your rant get’s 2 thumbs up from GettingStamped!

  8. January 9, 2014 / 7:55 pm

    I know what you mean!
    I’ve visited Italy but so want to go back and see more. I am never “done” with a place unless I really disliked it in which case it would be one town or city rather than an entire country.
    I am heading back to Venice and this time bringing my sister because when I find a country or a city I really love I feel the need to share it with those I love. So no, absolutely not! Never “done” a place.

    • January 24, 2014 / 12:53 pm

      Oh that’ll be so nice to share Venice with your sister and show her all your favourite parts. I hope you have a great time!

  9. January 10, 2014 / 11:36 am

    I feel you on this one! So many people are concerned with the amount of countries they have been to, like it’s an all important number. With the ease of budget flights around Europe, I sometimes feel a bit guilty only visiting a capital city over the weekend. At the same time it is helpful for me, because after I visit I can get a better idea if I want to spend a few weeks exploring the rest of it upon return.

  10. January 10, 2014 / 8:48 pm

    I’ve lived in Manchester for 14 years but I still haven’t “done” it! I’m with you completely on this one. Love a good rant.

  11. Passport Dave
    January 12, 2014 / 4:21 pm

    Such a valid point here. I think so many people are so interested in simply checking off the next country from their list that they forget to actually experience it at all. Hence why they are ‘done’…they can check it off the list. How someone can travel like this is beyond me. The first city that I decided to visit on my perpetual travel adventure was Chiang Mai, Thailand. After arriving in November of 2013… I am still here. It is hard to know a place in a couple of days and there is almost always a good reason to go back later on. Great Post!

    • January 13, 2014 / 3:08 pm

      I would love to spend a few months in Chiang Mai. You’re so lucky Dave! I think I could spend years just in Thailand and still feel like there is more to see.

  12. January 13, 2014 / 2:30 pm

    hahaha totally agree Mon – I also find the same kind of people who say that are also ticking off as many places as possible in the shortest amount of time.
    I’ve been to Ecuador 3 times now – it’s far from DONE. Australia twice – definitely not done. Spent 7 months in Thailand in the last 2 years – not even scratched the surface!

    Hell I lived in the UK for 23 years…no where close to finishing it!

    • January 24, 2014 / 12:54 pm

      Ha, I’m the same. I’m saving the UK for when I’m really old and retired!

  13. January 15, 2014 / 6:02 pm

    Oh man… this is just as annoying as country-counters! “I’ve been to 85 countries, how bout you?!”

    Like you said, it’s impossible to do absolutely everything a country has to offer. I’ve been to Australia 4 times and still have sooooo much to do – and even still.. I will never consider it “done”.

    Unless your name is Debbie and you’re an 80’s porn star… no one is “doing” anywhere! 😉

  14. January 16, 2014 / 7:59 am

    I completely agree! I’ve yet to find any place that I feel “done” with. Even a small place like Hong Kong, after nearly two years of living there, I’d hardly say I was anywhere close to being done!

  15. January 16, 2014 / 1:33 pm

    Absolutely. Completely. Agree.

    Love this! Saying you’ve ‘done’ a country or are going to ‘do’ a country implies you are simply going there to check it off a list. There is not enough time in the world to ‘do’ one city, let alone a country!

  16. January 18, 2014 / 12:24 am

    Ugh, yes, totally agree! You’re never really “done” with a place since the world is always changing and there’s always something new to see or experience. It really does seem like the people that use this term are the ones who like checking things off their travel list and don’t really care as much about experiencing a place. Admittedly I love to-do lists and the satisfaction of checking things off on them 🙂 but not when I travel, that’s totally different!

  17. January 27, 2014 / 7:02 pm

    Oh, I totally agree with this. Every time I visit a new destination my bucket list grows tenfold, and I don’t even feel like I know my own country. No-one can ‘do’ a destination, no matter how well travelled they are.

  18. February 1, 2014 / 10:15 am

    I’m with you on this too. I never get why some people are obsessed with how many countries they’ve been too. To them that seems more important than whether they actually get to know a place. I’ve no idea how many countries I’ve visited, I’ve never counted, and there aren’t any that I wouldn’t like to return to.

  19. February 2, 2014 / 4:00 pm

    Totally agree!

  20. May 8, 2014 / 5:30 am

    We always want adventure and challenges when travelling especially if it is to another country. My to-do list depends on the place I am visiting. We always feel like going back coz there’s still more that a place could give.

  21. August 12, 2014 / 2:51 pm

    Hilarious, Monica! So glad I’m not the only one bothered by this (judging from the comments above, seems like we’re in good company). I’d boil much of it down to maturity and whether you feel that travel is just something you do for bragging rights or something that fulfills at a deeper level. That’s the whole problem with Contiki-type tours in my opinion: it encourages people to treat travel as some kind of game to merely collect passport stamps while barely even scratching the surface of any one place. I try to keep an open mind about people having different travel styles, but for me, the whole idea of “doing” a country really commoditizes travel and strips it of its depth. Thanks for sharing, Monica!

  22. December 14, 2014 / 1:05 pm

    Have you started vlogging? A rant like this would be perfect for your video channel!

    Speaking of, I just spent an hour going through your list of fave travel vloggers. Great list so thank you!

    • December 14, 2014 / 3:18 pm

      No problem Sheena, I’m glad you enjoyed them.
      This topic would make a good vlog, definitely something I need to do soon!

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