If we go to Greece will we have been to Greece?

Fiona comes from a family of enthusiastic and accomplished travelers. So much so that, every once in a while, they circulate a spreadsheet where everyone marks down how many countries they have visited.

We’re currently staying with Fi’s uncle who is the clear frontrunner in this competition. With a career as a gold-mining geologist he has cause to go places no one else would (where is Mali, anyway?). We’re staying in Izmir with him at the moment and I recently declared we might consider taking a trip across the bay to a Greek Island. I love the novelty of new countries, I said, and another point in the sweepstake wouldn’t go amiss, either. His, not unconsidered view, was that lunch on a Greek Island did not a visit to Greece make, and was certainly not worthy of a spreadsheet point.

All this leads back to a very important question which I want to address once and for all: what standard do you have to meet to have been somewhere. There are a range of schools of thought, some legally or time based, some experiential. I have my own views which I will dress up as authoritative in a later post. But before I do I want to crowdsource the intuitions of my esteemed blog readers. Let me know what you think of the scenarios below.

 

7 thoughts on “If we go to Greece will we have been to Greece?

  1. Homogenising different sorts of travel experiences in the one league table is ok as a mild form of amusement, but is meaningless beyond that. For travel to be more than just self indulgence, it should be learned from, and the learnings shared with others.

  2. I had similar musings when I stayed in the Basque country in Spain, and visited a small town in France for lunch. There was no passport control and we crossed the border by driving over a bridge – did I go to France?

  3. I tend to think you have been to a country/state/town when you have stopped over a minimum period of time and interacted with the local economy through the exchange of a good or service or completion of some activity. So clearing immigration and transfering, no. But once you’ve had a meal, sure.
    For curiosity value you may be interested inhttp://media.unwto.org/en/content/understanding-tourism-basic-glossary.

  4. My view is that it requires some interaction with the country beyond the confines of the airport or train station. For example, clearing immigration at LAX to go to another terminal doesn’t count, but leaving the airport for a quick dinner on Venice Beach would.

    I also don’t think it requires an overnight stay. Otherwise, how many people could say they’ve been to places like the Vatican City or Monaco? But I also think an overnight stay doesn’t necessarily mean you have visited a country either – bunking up at an airport hotel I don’t think would count.

    Could Tom Hanks / Viktor Navorski notch up a visit to the USA while living in JFK airport in ‘The Terminal’? Obviously an edge case, but I’m going to say no he couldn’t.

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