Several years ago, I heard about this group called the Travelers’ Century Club, whose members all have visited 100 or more countries. Since I don’t stand much of a chance of ever being eligible to join the most awesome Lois Club (a group for people named Lois; they even have a groovy theme song), I set my sights on the Century Club instead.
Turns out, however, there’s apparently no universal agreement as to how many countries there are in the world at any given time–the U.N. has 193 official members, the U.S. State Department recognizes 195 sovereign nations, there are over 200 independent states with de facto diplomatic recognition, 204 Olympic nations, 209 countries eligible for the FIFA World Cup, and 249 country codes in the standard specification of codes published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). And that doesn’t even count places like Taiwan and Puerto Rico, any of the 6 uninhabited territories, or any of the countries that have ceased to exist due to wars or other political shifts. So, the Century Club just decided to make its own list of places for eligibility, which includes 321 various countries, territories, islands, archipelagos, and other geographically separated places. They also keep a list of retired countries and territories, that have been absorbed into other countries on the list, and as long as you were there before the listed retirement date, you can still count it toward your total; it’s grandfathered in. Nifty, huh?
To be eligible to join the Century Club, you have to have been present on the ground–even if just for a layover or airplane fuel stop–in at least 100 of the places listed on the Century Club’s roster of countries and territories. You can qualify for provisional membership if you’ve been to 75 countries/territories, and there are special elevated memberships for folks who have traipsed across far more than 100 (silver=150+; gold=200+; platinum=250+).
What do you get once you have achieved membership? Well…nothing, really. The right to say that you did it, I guess. The Century Club website puts it this way:
“Why would a frequent traveler want to join the Traveler’s Century Club? The benefits are more self-satisfying than anything tangible.”
Well, that’s not quite true. There is the Centurion Newsletter, and the special personalized membership pins. That’s practically incentive enough right there, right? And they do plan social events around the globe, that would be attended by other fellow world travelers. That would be fun. Apparently, they plan some charter trips and stuff for members, too. And the local chapters sometimes have special travel-related presentations and speakers. And there are also some good information resources. But mainly, it’s the bragging rights. Just like in the Lois Club. That’s good enough for me!
I told my friend Yvette (of Korean Sauna Slumber Party fame), who is also a travel buff, about the Century Club, and she thought it sounded like a fun goal, too. So, we have embarked on a friendly competition to see who can get there first. I was ahead for a while, but then she took a very tricksy trip to Southeast Asia and hippety-hopped across three or four countries in nothing flat, and left me in the dust, the minx. We both still have a long way to go, though. Although, now that I re-read the eligibility roster, I get an extra point for Berlin, because it is on the retired territory list with a retirement date of October 2, 1990, and I was there in 1985! Ooh, and I get another point for Vatican City! That brings me up to 32! Watch your back, Yvette, I’m comin’ for ya!
I’ll keep y’all posted. Watch the ticker in the margin!—–>