With Erik, a good friend of mine, I have a lifetime competition concerning countries. Whoever visits the most countries wins. We expect to finish equal, after having visited every country in the world.
The only way to get ahead is to visit a country that will disappear before the other can visit it. One such country on my list is the German Democratic Republic, which he hasn't visited, and can now no longer. Unfortunately he visited Yugoslavia before it broke up, but I didn't.
But it is not all competition as we have met each other, sometimes traveling together for a while, on all the continents except Africa and Antarctica.
The countries in bold are countries where I actually lived, worked or studied. Other countries I visited while traveling. (Check out Erik's country list.)
† Country has ceased to exist since I visited.
¹ Although not officially a country it functions as such.
² Not internationally recognized.
³ Overseas territory.
Obviously such a race is also a cause for a good debate on definitions, of the term country and visit. A visit has been deemed to be doing a least one thing after having passed through customs (international stopovers don't count). But the definition of country has been more tricky, I think a country is a separate (this is not a synonym for independent) country if it has some of the following characteristics:
So by this definition, Hong Kong under British rule, had its own government, currency, border and passports. Citizens of Hong Kong even needed a permit to live in the United Kingdom. Therefore Hong Kong was clearly not part of Britain and can be seen as a separate country. By contrast many E.U. countries have no border procedures and also use the same currency, but they are still separate countries.