I lightly touched on this in my last post (see: 21 Hours Later), but I feel it is a necessary post for us travel-hungry adventurers.

The question? Well…it’s kinda like “Where have you been?” followed by, “Well, have you really been there?” It all comes down to each person’s own definition of visitation and whatever they can sleep with at night…but I beg to ask, what does it really take to have been somewhere.

Does it simply require driving through? Must you get out and step foot on the ground? How about something as trivial as coasting through the airport on a 40-min stopover? Do you need to be there for a day to really experience that place? Do you need to spend a whole vacation there? Heck, can you just fly over it?

As you can see from my travel map above (go to TripAdvisor.com to make your own) – I’ve been to quite a few places in the US and Canada (and Greenland is marked as a place I’d like to go, I haven’t been there yet). My definition, as you might expect from looking at 530 mashed up dots (the website doesn’t have every little town – I’d probably be double that) is rather loose. All it takes for me to count a town or city (or even state) as visited is to drive right on through. I mean seriously, I’m in the city limits – that has to be good enough. Plus, who is actually going to stop at every single small town and spend and hour or two when got bigger fish to fry (as in more places to go and see).

Now this doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped to smell the roses (or asphalt, if I’m getting out of my car to refuel). I’ve taken numerous trips where I stop for hours, days and even weeks at a time at a certain place. Sure those are the memorable ones, but so is driving past the state border at Vermont or when anyone mentions Cobleskill, NY I would immediately remember being rerouted through the town as the Fourth of July festivities began. Sure, half the towns one flies through on any given road are forgotten as soon as one leaves, but you still get a sense of the drive on through and you can’t deny having been through town, whether you truly remember the name or one landmark in the vicinity.

The weakest definition of “being there”, for me, has got to be the airport visit. By simply visiting an airport (or sitting on a cruise ship during a port of call), has one really visited that area? Sure, an airport may be representative of the place it is located in (via gift shops or local food offerings), but is a short stopover really worth chalking up as a visit? To this I say probably, but with a word of caution. As I try to collect all 50 states (at 31) and 13 provinces/territories (at 6 and for my own adventurer’s sake I have to split Newfoundland and Labrador, so 14) I currently rely on this airport crutch. Why? The airport stopover has helped me pick up Georgia (Atlanta), Texas (Dallas) and Kentucky (Thanks to Cincinnati for putting its airport in Hebron, KY) as well as the Netherlands (Amsterdam).

Why would I include these? Well, I’m inside the state’s borders aren’t I? That can’t be denied. However, I had no intention of flying through these areas (does anyone really intend on specific stopovers just to see an airport) like a driver might control his path from point A to B. However, if I get any further opportunities to grant these state a more official visit, I will do so, if only to put to rest the arguments some people make that “airports don’t count.”

Here’s another one for you: Pittsburgh, PA. My only experience with the city came on an Amtrak train that rode through in the middle of the night enroute to Chicago from D.C. I opened the curtain on my window to see most of the Pittsburgh skyline and the rivers. I’m there, in Pittsburgh, seeing it with my own eyes. But should this be counted? I didn’t count any other town along the way (nor do I on Amtrak treks), but when I think of Pittsburgh, I certainly remember seeing it at night, all lit up. It’s a tough call for me. Would you count Pittsburgh if you flew over it (and I have seen Pittsburgh from the sky at night)? Of course not. But this is slightly different. I have yet to make a final decision and would prefer to one day just visit the Steel City and call it a day.

Do you have any specific requirements for having “been there”? What are your guidelines?


  1. I would count the airport in my definition. I mean your in the state just because you were in the airport doesn’t mean your not there. Of course the experience isn’t as good as going out among the people but you were still there. I have a similar issue I flew over the grand canyon on a flight from LA to Arizona. So I saw it but i wasn’t really there or was I? I’m not sure about it.

  2. I’m on the same boat with you in regards to Greenland, Sean. That’s a place I always want to see and flew over it from NY to Iceland (and then on to Norway) many years ago. I saw the snow-capped mountains and remember these vividly (wish I took pictures then) but I was only in Greenland air space.

    I think one has to almost be there at ground level when not controlling travel (either by boat, rail or bus) to get away with an argument of being there. I saw Pittsburgh as a human being normal would when passing through a place by typical means. I got a feel for how it looked. Now in your instance it is still tough. You saw the grand canyon, which still sticks out from even outer space. City lights can look like any other city lights from up high, but the canyon is different. I would say you were never there, but saw it nonetheless.

  3. Fun site. Just stumbled on to it via 12MC.
    If I have crossed the boundary line while conected to the ground, or landed in that space, then I count it as official on my state(44), county(999), or provence/territories(10+1) list. I count the county that the Atlanta airport is in, but do not count Atlanta as a city that I have visited, nor do I consider San Diego having been visited as I only passed thru the city limits many miles from the city center. I do count Portland, OR with a 3 hour bus lay over because I hit couple of art galleries and a pub; limited, but an actual “cultural” experience. Restaurant, bar, museum, attraction, hotel stay…must be accomplished to have “been” to a city. I’m not such a stickler on counties and states.

    • I’ll have another brush-in with Atlanta soon. I’m taking a three-day weekend trip to Punta Cana, D.R. On the return flight I get a short overnight in Atlanta. Theoretically I could stay at the airport even, but I have enough time to book an airport hotel for a short sleep, which I’ll likely do. My Georgia visits just don’t come nice and easy – but I can at least feel better about leaving the airport now…

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