The Traveling CIO

As CIOs begin to log significant international miles, I thought I would help you answer that ever-present question, "How many countries have you been to?"

This is not an easy question to answer because it's complicated by many shades of meaning. How do you define "country"? Do territories count? What about Hong Kong? Is an emirate a country? Is the U.K. a single country?

And then, how do you define "been to"?

When I was running our international division, we decided to establish some rules on how to count countries. Since I was in charge, I decided to make this the only dictatorial portion of my job. I would listen to any appeal, but my decision was final.

Often, I was accused of making decisions based on my own experiences, but that is totally bogus.

The first question that has to be considered is the definition of a country. The U.N. lists 192 members, but it doesn't include Vatican City, Kosovo and Taiwan. The U.S. State Department counts 194 countries, with Taiwan the lone exception. In addition, there are many territories that are not officially considered countries, such as Guam and Bermuda.

For our nonpolitical purposes, we will count 195 nations and all noncontiguous territories as countries. In addition, there are several special situations that I have addressed.

So, here are my rules. Of course, I'm retired now, so with someone else in charge, they probably have changed.

1. You must leave the airport* in order to count the country. One exception to this is if you stay in the airport hotel overnight. In that case, you may count the country. A quick trip in a taxi just to count a country violates the spirit of the process and will not count.

*The hijacking corollary: If you are the unfortunate victim of a hijacking, you get the hijacking bonus: Any airport that you stop at counts as a country visited.

2. You can't count a country if it was not a country when you visited it. So pre-2008 Kosovo, for example, doesn't count.

3. You can count a country if it was a country when you visited, even though it is no longer a country, e.g., Hong Kong, the USSR.

4. You can count a country if you take a train or car through it, even if you never leave the vehicle, e.g., an auto trip through Monaco.

5. You can't count a country if you travel across it by airplane, balloon, dirigible or other airborne conveyance.

6. If you take a ride from the airport into the city center, you may count the country, even if you don't stay overnight.

7. You must be ex-utero (outside the womb) to count the country. And if you were, you may count it even though you have no memory of the visit. Special Situations:

8. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England are considered countries, as are the Palestinian territories and Gibraltar.

9. The United Arab Emirates is a single country with six emirates. Antarctica is considered a country even though it is a continent.

10. Islands around the world have special relationships with various countries. Some are obviously part of a country, such as Bali and Hawaii. Others are considered separate countries, e.g., Greenland, Puerto Rico and French Polynesia.

I'm sure there will be some disagreement. I'll listen, but be ready to have your argument rejected. This is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. So when you have an idle minute or perhaps a six-hour flight, count your countries. Once you reach the 50 mark, you are officially a traveling CIO.

By the way, I visited my 75th country last year when we went to New Zealand in December. What a beautiful place!

Paul M. Ingevaldson retired as CIO at Ace Hardware Corp. in 2004 after 40 years in the IT business. Contact him at

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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