Upon Being Deported from Eritrea


I always knew it would happen one day.

Having successfully arrived in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Angola without the necessary visas, I had been pushing my luck.

Having challenged Belarus to a blogging duel, complete with a response by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was no stranger to difficult countries.

But last weekend in Eritrea, the luck ran out.

Let’s be clear: I’m not interested in taking unnecessary risks. In each case where I’ve had to take my chances on traveling without a visa, it was because all other options had exhausted themselves. I would have much preferred to have the necessary permission instead of trying to pull off an East African wedding crasher routine. Nevertheless, sometimes the best laid plans fall by the wayside, and that’s when you have to make a decision.

In Saudi Arabia’s case, the New York consulate came through with the visa at the last possible minute—and then promptly mailed my passport back to Portland, instead of holding it for local pickup on my way out of the country as agreed. Angola just kept the money and returned my passport without a word—and without the visa.

Eritrea, however, was the worst offender of all. Having paid for the visa a total of three times and waited a full 90 days with my passport at their Washington, D.C. embassy without results, I was in a quandary. With only 15 countries left on my list and 13 months to go, I couldn’t keep putting it off.

I decided to go for it and travel to the country anyway. What choice did I have? Passive resistance wasn’t getting me very far.

I managed to obtain my Egypt Air boarding passes in Madrid with only minimal subterfuge. Airlines are responsible for ensuring that passengers have the necessary approvals before traveling, so I knew there would be an interrogation of sorts. I decided I wouldn’t lie if directly asked about something, but I wasn’t above leaving out a few key facts if necessary.

It wasn’t that difficult; the agent was bored and had already printed the boarding passes when she remembered to check on the visa. I showed her my paperwork with a smile (but without the visa) and she wished me a good trip. So far, so good.

After a four-hour flight to Cairo, I powered up with an espresso and chocolate muffin. While sipping the coffee and preparing to board the final flight, I thought about the possible outcomes for the night ahead, based on ten years of experience in convincing random countries to allow me to visit.

Outcome 1: It would take some doing, but I’d get the entry visa upon arrival after pleading my case to various higher-ups. Predicted odds: 50%.

Outcome 2: I would get the entry visa upon arrival without any trouble at all, and my whole concern would be for nothing. Predicted odds: 25%.

Outcome 3: I would have a serious problem, would not get the entry visa, and would be thrown out of the country or thrown into jail. Predicted odds: 25%.


We landed after 2am and I was wide awake with nervous excitement. What would happen? How would the night end? Do Eritrean prisons have WiFi?

The plane parked on the tarmac and I rode a shuttle bus to the terminal with all the other passengers, most of whom were Eritrean. I began to feel relieved as the bus made the short trip; despite the late hour, everyone was smiling. Some of them caught my eye and said, “Welcome to Eritrea!”

“Welcome home!” I said in reply. The friendliness was a good sign, I thought.

Upon arrival at the first immigration blockade, however, I quickly realized that Option 2—the easy entry without any trouble—was definitely out.

“You don’t have a visa?” the first guy asked, seeming genuinely surprised.

“Not yet,” I said, projecting confidence and wearing my only nice shirt of the trip. (I had even made sure to tuck it in before landing. When crashing a country, you only get one chance to make a first impression.)

I had no visa, but I was not without ammunition. “Here is my landing card, my passport photo, my hotel reservation, and my return ticket,” I said, presenting the papers with a flourish. “How much does the visa cost?”

This ruse often works. Four years of arguing with numerous government leaders in West Africa followed by another six years of frequent international travel has taught me the power of paper. If you don’t have the right piece of paper for the job, bring lots of other paper instead.

Unfortunately, the paper-pushing trick didn’t work on the first guy, and the second guy I was referred to didn’t even look at any of the printouts. I kept getting passed off higher and higher until I finally ended up in the office of the Chief Immigration Officer. It was here I would make my last stand.

Alas, this final challenge didn’t begin well. In another ominous sign, the Chief Immigration Officer was not nearly as friendly as the smiling Eritreans I had rode in on the bus with. I tried some light banter: “Wow, I’m really excited to be here. Do you guys have a hop-on, hop-off bus? Any theme parks I should visit?”

Despite my brilliant attempt at making friends, the boss didn’t seem very interested in getting to know me. An offer of a complimentary Turkish Airways amenity kit from a previous flight was also swatted away.

I sat and waited, feeling optimistic (“60/40 odds,” I told myself. “Maybe even 70/30”). Calls were made. Officials were dispatched to check the records to see where I had previously applied for visas at the embassy in Washington. Long conversations about me were conducted in a language I didn’t understand, although naturally I assumed that the phrases “bestselling author” and “popular Facebook page” were spoken.

The longer I waited, the more the odds improved—or so I thought. Another rule of these situations is that if you keep sitting around patiently, eventually they’ll get bored and let you in. Unfortunately, every immigration rule has an exception. All of a sudden, the waiting shifted to action, and the action wasn’t good.

In Which It All Comes To An Abrupt End

I couldn’t believe it, but after two hours of making new friends while gently pleading my case, I was going out on the return flight to Cairo… which now left in ten minutes. No way! But indeed, that was the plan, and I had no vote in the matter. I was assigned a handler, marched outside the airport, and guided around to the departure area in front. I was disappointed and sleep-deprived, but as I was given a hand-written boarding pass, I remembered to ask the all-important question: “Can you add my Frequent Flyer number?”

Yes, if I was really going to be deported, at least I’d earn miles for it. It’s 1,130 miles from Asmara to Cairo, plus any special “last minute deportation” bonuses that happen to be available this week. Lesson: never pass up miles or points when they come your way.

Everyone else had boarded and the plane was ready to go. My handler, the Egyptian Airlines station manager, and a couple of hangers-on walked me back out the tarmac and up the steps of the waiting plane. Inside the cabin, the station manager handed my passport to the purser and instructed him to return it only upon reaching the transit desk in Cairo. I never like to be without my passport, but such was the price to pay for being deported.

The plane took off and I dozed against the window, looking down at Asmara as we prepared to leave Eritrean airspace on the way back to Egypt. Exhaustion was creeping in after staying up all night, but the whole time I was thinking about one important question: does this count as a country visit?

Ask the Readers: Does This Count?

People often ask what my criteria is for visiting a country. Long story short, I don’t really have any. My one rule is that I don’t count airport stops—I can’t just be in transit somewhere. I’ve been on two flights that have touched down in Khartoum, for example, but since I didn’t get off the plane, I still can’t say that I’ve been to Sudan.

This case is trickier, though. I’ve paid to go to Eritrea on multiple occasions. I did make it to the airport, and even outside the airport. I had an extended interrogation session with several interesting people. It wasn’t like going on a tour of the interior and stopping by a few villages, but it was certainly a story-worthy experience.

Even if it probably shouldn’t count as a true visit, the honest truth is that I really don’t know if I’ll be allowed back into Eritrea, at least anytime soon. After 90 days of pestering the embassy and paying the fee three times, they still returned my passport with no visa.

The Eritreans I talked with have all been very friendly, much like the Ethiopians I know. But the government has a reputation for being hostile and highly secretive. Eritrea is in a long-standing conflict with Ethiopia, and the U.S. government is on the side of the Ethiopians. I’ve never held any position in the government and don’t have anything to do with politics, but when it comes to immigration and travel restrictions, these things matter.

When I visited Angola last year, I also had visa problems and wasn’t expecting to be able to enter the country, instead planning an extended transit. After much stress with the embassy and repeated payoffs, I had finally made my peace with accepting that the Angola visit might need to have an asterisk next to it. Much to my surprise, however, when I went there I was actually allowed free reign of Luanda—thus obviating the need for the asterisk. I’m tempted to put this visit in the same category, but I’d like to know what you think.

For those who are still reading, have I officially been to Eritrea, or will I need to regroup yet again and make another plan?


Image: Mike

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  • John Mw/D says:

    Chris – amazing story. I would say that you should continue to try to gain entrance to Eritrea up until the deadline.

    I would also say that you shouldn’t let the governments of these countries keep you from reaching your goals. At the end of this experiment, I would definitely list Eritrea since you have been there. I’d just put an asterisk.

    If you have a similar situation with another country, I’d do the same thing. Show up and ask them why you can’t come in.

    You made a best-faith effort and went to meet them in person, face to face, eye to eye, and ask them for entrance. So long as you actually enter the country, even if it’s the airport, I would count it.

  • Eric | Eden Journal says:

    I’ve been following your progress for a while, and this is a tough call. In my mind, a visit to a country would at least involve getting outside of the airport. On the other hand, who the hell cares, you had a heck of an adventure trying to crash a country.

  • Scott says:

    I think you should count it. You made it outside of the airport and made serveral new friends. Sounds like a win win to me.

  • Dorothy says:

    If you count experiencing the culture as a visit, I think you experienced two prominent cultures of the country. The first was that of the people: welcoming and friendly. The second was that of the government: unwelcoming and unfriendly (but thankfully not hostile). I think you did as well as you can expect and would check it off the list because I highly doubt you would want to parachute into the island on a covert mission to visit. And if you did, I don’t think that would go so well.

  • Michelle says:

    I’m really sorry to say but I don’t really think I can count it.

  • Jenny says:

    I think the asterisk is a good idea. I also think it’s important to have standards for success that are a little flexible, to account for, um, exceptional places like Eritrea. So, yeah, for your current project, Eritrea counts.

  • Kris says:

    Oh yes! You’ve been there. I sat in the Immigration office in Juarez, MX one night while they decided my fate. I had been presenting a workshop when two uniformed men walked in the door. The 10 people in attendance left, one of them drove me to the Immigration office and went home to call a lawyer. The officials let me stew in an office for a while and then said I had to pay $150 because I didn’t have the papers to be working in Mexico. I’m sure the 3 men who were conversing in the office next door (with glass windows) split the money and let me go. You had the only experience available to you at the time. I vote yes, you were officially there. Love your adventures.

  • Jason says:

    Totally counts – you were on Eritrean soil. And not just for a fly-through. I say, check it off, no asterisk needed.

  • Suzanne says:

    How disappointing, but I’m glad to hear it didn’t result in the other possibility of Outcome 3: jail! Is this the first time you have been officially deported from a country? I’m thinking that if Eritrea holds that distinction for you, it may well count for the unique experience.

  • Kim says:

    Ok, I’m giving you a pass on this one. A man can only do what a man can do, right? I think being in conversation for hours with the Chief counts. You made me look a country up on a map so I’m gonna say yes. Eritrea’s loss.

  • Michael Roberts says:

    It totally counts! Any time you get to visit a place and come back with a story like that, you should definitely mark it as a country visited.

  • JH says:

    I would say it counts – but continue trying to get a visa so there’s no doubt left in your mind – just in case. You were in Eritrean territory, you talked with Eritrean people, got a small glimpse of the land. Technically, you experienced it. The little area in the airport where you’re not “really” in a country is just a convention, anyway.

    However! If you are considering your visit to the DMZ a visit to North Korea, I say that does not count, and that’s the one you should focus on – even though it’s impossibly hard.

    Keep going, Chris!

  • Jeff Carroll says:

    You have officially been to Eritrea. I think your over-arching goal is to experience travel to every country in the world. In this country, you’ve been through the range of travel experiences that they will allow someone from outside their country right now, so it counts.

  • Gabe says:

    You paid for a visa (even if you didn’t receive it), and you were in the country, outside of the airport. I say it totally counts.

    Glad you’re not writing us from Nakura prison!

  • Michele DeVries says:

    You’ve given it a solid effort, and on Eritrean soil. I’d cross it off the list.

  • Leo says:

    “I had an extended interrogation session with several interesting people.”

    This should count as a visit!

  • Leigh says:

    If I were in your shoes (which, most of the time, I wish I were!), I would count it as a legitimate visit. You did indeed make it off the plane, onto Eritrean soil, and – as you pointed out, yourself – you had several interesting conversations with locals of varying backgrounds. It sounds like the recipe for a visit to me. Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t keep trying for the visa so that someday you can make it past immigration and go visit the little villages you missed out on this time.

  • Josh says:

    Chris, you can count it for the purposes of your goals since they marched you out of the terminal. I bet you’ll try to get back one day just to be 100% thorough!

  • Alex says:

    I love your work, and it pains me to say this, but you have not visited there. Formally, you were never given access to the country. But on a more important, personal level, your quest to visit every country in the world would be cheapened if you rest and let this count. I will guarantee you that a man of your drive will never rest well if you consider your mission accomplished with an asterisk here. You are better than that, and you know it. The asterisk is the easy way out. It’s because your quest is hard that it is great.

  • Emily says:

    Yes! For all of the reasons listed by others above. The only “no” posted so far gives no reason. The only reason to say no I can think of would be the technicalities that are a natural part of travel, which is by nature not a black-and-white, yes-or-no experience. You are one of few people to have tried to visit all the countries in the world; you haven’t shied from danger or difficulty; you understand the geopolitical reasons you might have been denied a visa. “Yes, asterisk” is a real-world outcome for a real-world undertaking, and by no means a failure.

  • Mari Huertas says:

    Perhaps count countries visited in passport stamps? If your book is stamped, you were there.

  • Sam Breach says:

    Of course you have been to Eritrea. And what a great story you have to share!

  • Deanna says:

    You paid for a visa (multiple times). You intermingled with the natives. And you set foot on the ground there. I’d say that counts!

  • Aine says:

    I would completely count it. You were there, on Eritrean land, and you had a life experience.

  • N says:

    Nope, doesn’t count :(.

  • Ray Gulick says:

    Count it.

  • Zoe Elizabeth says:

    An amazing and effort, but it doesn’t count as a visit. This is an awesome and amazing quest you are on and I agree with Alex that this would cheapen the tale if you counted this one as a visit.

  • Heidi Howes says:

    100% hell to the yes it counts.

  • Luke says:

    You can’t be escorted out of a country you never entered. My qualifications have always been out of the airport, interacting with locals. You did that. Count it as offical, and add it to the list of countries that you didn’t get to do everything you wanted to do, but you sure did more than you planned.

  • Jackie says:

    I think it counts. You did have a genuine experience there. But I’d keep trying just in case you can go back for a longer visit 🙂

  • Sojourner says:

    I think your adventure most definitely equals a visit. You made it past the airport and interacted with locals. You made it to Eritrea! Great story.

  • Chris says:


    Greetings from Chad. Thanks for all the input and opinions.

    I’m totally open to contrary views on this one… as you can probably tell, I feel a bit conflicted myself. But of course, if I can count it (even with an asterisk), I will. It was a tough nut to crack.

  • Rex says:

    Yes, you should count it… as a short, short visit… and a good story.

  • Anne Walsh says:

    I think that yes, it definitely countths a visit…and the other thing that occurred to me was what a pity you don’t have an Irish passport (we are everywhere) and congratulations on your long and prosper!

  • Henrik says:

    Of cause it counts…. You will remember this experience much better than many of the other countries you visited…the memory matter more than an outside-the-airport tickmark 🙂

  • Maia Duerr / The Liberated Life Project says:

    But of course! An effort like that deserves to be counted.

  • AVCESQ says:

    If you got a good story out of it, you should count it.

  • Betti says:

    Great story, as always. But, sorry, no. Counting it as a proper visit would be cheating – and therefore devalue the whole effort.
    Maybe leave it till last and then go as high up as you possibly can – or get an Eritrean newspaper to plead your case. Or whatever…. If Eritrea is the last country in the world left on your list to visit, surely there must be a story in it for someone!?

  • Susan says:

    If visiting a country means sightseeing and staying a while, then it wouldn’t count. However, since you made every effort to follow protocol and they were hostile to you, then I would count it as a visit.

    You landed on their soil, spoke to the officials, were in the airport, so *technically*, yes, I would count it.

  • Susan says:

    Absolutely Yes. It counts. You connected with some of the friendly, welcoming people (and some not so welcoming people) of the country on their soil, spent a couple of hours off the plane, and have a great story to share. Works for me.

  • Norma Watkins says:

    I say yes, you’ve been there, and with that welcome, they don’t deserve you.

  • Matthew Block says:

    I’d say count it as half. Consider it 2 deportations = 1 regular visit. Give it one more try to get in and if that falls through, call it. I wouldn’t give a return trip precedence over any of the countries you’ve yet to visit though.
    In the end, do what feels right, but if it were me I’d want to know that I gave it one more try. Especially since you went in with the assumption that you had a 75% chance of getting in.

    If you don’t want to go back, it’s probably because you had a full enough experience to move on. If you give it one more try, you’ll at least know you didn’t simply fall on the wrong side of chance. Whatever you do, be confident in your decision.

  • Momekh says:

    Without a doubt, no-questions-asked, a resounding “IT COUNTS”!

    You went there. You talked to them. You met them. You were IN Their country. And if someone asks, were you in transit, what would you tell em? No, you weren’t! So, if it aint transit, it DOUBLE counts! Heck, you didn’t just visit the country, you EVEN GOT DEPORTED FROM IT!

    This is your as-sure-as-a-priest-on-Sunday reader hereby granting you permission to count it in! 🙂

    Cheer up man. Only a few more left. Goooood luck!

  • wildbuffalao says:

    Persistence is the key for success – so I would suggest to you to keep trying. At the same time, I think its OK to consider Eritrea as done.

    Have you tried contacting their government, i mean immigration minister and others too perhaps? I suggest make this a big issue, keep sending fax and letters to all those in their government. They should know that they are losing tourist income because of their ridiculous rules.

  • Karl Staib says:

    Heck yes that counts. You did more talking with locals on that trip then most people do when they go to some big resort. Your feet were on the soil and you made a lasting memory. I think it’s case closed.

  • Sam says:

    Sorry, Chris. This one’s an asterisk… until you’ve visited more of the country. Loved your story, though. You should try again…someday.

  • Anthony Quaglieri says:

    First of all, it’s your experiment so you get to do what you want. If you have an asterisk and someone doesn’t like it, too bad. Let them try to visit every country on the planet.

    Think of all the asterisks we have to put up with in our future. Asterisks that are made for us by people who control purse strings and other strings. Spoken and unspoken asterisks.

    A whole book can be written about the phenomena of the asterisk and how it’s used to control people. So, as I go on and on here: it’s your asterisk, so you can define it’s conditions and intentions. Contemplate what your asterisk means in terms of honor, effort and intention.

    No one who reads your blog should define your asterisk.

  • Felipe Zoio says:

    I would risk off of the big plan of visiting every country by 32. But it’s not like the world is gonna end or something, you can always try to go back even after your birthday, right?
    You’ve done it, but a proper visit is still to come, and I believe this goes for a lot of countries you went by right? What is it gonna be after visiting every country in the world? The best beer in the world? The best sunset? You’ve done an awesome job already dude, don’t beat yourself up for this one, you’ve done it =)

  • Becky Blanton says:

    I dunno. Is it sex if you never actually gain entry? Can you be a little bit pregnant? Is biting the chocolate muffin and then immediately spitting it out the same as eating it? Are you feeling frustrated, angry, ignored, and pissed off in general? Probably. Put a damn asterisk beside it and try again, make it your last country or something. I’d much rather be telling the story about how you FINALLY got into the place than repeatedly telling the story about why it’s an asterisk. Or, find another country and have a secondary list…the asterisk list. We play like we practice. Do you want to train yourself to try hard or to overcome?

  • Chris says:


    Thanks. I’m not sure I can go there again, but the first part of your comment made me laugh.

  • deanna degaetano says:

    is there a place to have a secondary list of “attempted visits”. the asterik list!
    something you might not have anticipated in your original intention to visit all

  • Tom Pinit says:

    Hi Chris, I’d say keep trying to gain lawful entry 🙂 Maybe I’m being naive, but have you checked out the visa services like Travel Visa Pro in SF? They’ve got an Eritrea visa application on their website, and an office in DC to pester the embassy on your behalf. Anyhow, maybe you’ve already tried that route.
    Looks like you’re still in Chad, so maybe I won’t see you at the Nomading Film Fest this weekend. Or maybe I will? Safe travels!

  • Tom says:

    Here’s why I think it should count: if someone asks you where you are when you’re in transit, sitting on a plane on tarmac for instance, or the airport lounge, you really have to say you are in transit. If someone asks where you were for those hours arguing your case/sitting, ‘in transit’ is the wrong answer.

    In my youth, we’d go to Mexico to surf for 2 hours, then back to San Diego. If someone asked where we were, ‘Mexico’ was the right answer.

    You were doing an interesting pivot that might’ve gone either way; it’s the lack of certainty (diametrically opposed to the certainty of ‘in transit’) that made it a visit, imo.

    Good luck Chris.

  • Chris says:


    Yes, I worked with a service on this one (VisaHQ). They were unsuccessful.

    I’ll be traveling homeward during the Nomading Film Fest — have fun!

  • Kellie says:

    It counts! Great story.

  • Andy Traub says:

    Landed on Eritrean soil. Check.
    Met and had conversations with several Eritreans while on Eritrean soil. Check.
    Passport stamp. Check.
    Frequent flier miles counted. Check.
    Cultural experience. Check.
    Legitimate attempts to enter legally. Check. Check. Check.

    Count it and add a * because the story is awesome and it’s true.

  • Joe Sweeney says:

    I would definitely count it with an asterisk (*awesome story)

    Given the odds of re-entry, perhaps save it for last on your list after successfully entering the remaining countries on your list.

    Barry Bonds is still the single season homerun leader (with an asterisk).

    Were you on any performance enhancing drugs other than caffeine? 🙂

    Great story & safe travels…..

  • Pawan Gulani says:

    When you tell it to your grandchildren – you would say – “i went to eritrea” and was deported” what an experience to share for posterity. My thumbs up !

  • Cheryl Thompson says:

    Chris, I don’t get your quest. I like to travel but not into situations where it feels imminently dangerous. You have alot to accomplish. I don’t think the angst was worth it. But as I’m writing, maybe I do get your quest. You get your thrill from the pursuit of the quest. The PURSUIT is why we all read your blog. You’re doing the things that most people only dream of.

    Maybe that’s why I’m stuck in my own business…because I’m playing it safe after a 7 figure failure. I’m going to ponder your journey a bit.

    Glad you’re not in prison!

  • Jenna says:

    I’d keep on the list and have one more go at it. I like Betti’s idea about getting it in the newspapers. You may get help from an unexpected source. Don’t write it off just yet.

  • Greg says:

    Very interesting to read the first-person perspective on being deported.

    And thanks too for the geography lesson of the day, I didn’t even know there was a country called Eritrea

    Regarding whether it counts: I doesn’t really matters what we readers say, it’s how you perceive it, and that will take time to solidify in your mind and memory. My guess is that it will stay an open loop for you, and even if it counts towards achieving the complete set before the deadline (with or without the asterisk), that this isn’t the last we’re going to hear of your efforts to get to Eritrea.

  • Angela says:

    This definitely counts! You left the airport and interacted with locals! However, I wouldn’t stop trying to work on the visa, if the opportunity arrives go for it!

  • Todd says:

    Mark it 0!

    I hate to be a contrarian, but I don’t think this visit counts.

    If I try go to the bank but can’t get in because it’s closed and the door is locked, it doesn’t matter that I was in the parking lot or put my hand on the door. The fact is that I didn’t get into the bank.

    I would put it on the list of countries that you “visited”, but not the list of countries that you visited. It’s really up to you, but I would keep trying to get in there.

  • Chris Bacon says:

    Tough call. But out of respect for the art of travel, I think it’s a slippery slope if we start counting airports (no matter how interesting) as having “been to” a country.

    Maybe just ask yourself if you met another traveler with a similar story about a country you actually visited: He got deported at the Saudi Arabia airport, but feels it was an interesting experience, so he’s “been to” Saudi Arabia. Now compare that with your Saudi experience having actually made it out of the airport. Was his experience equal to yours? Do they both fulfill the “essence of travel” according to your values? Or would you nod politely at this guy, but in your heart know he’s off base?

    Out of respect for what you’ve been trying to do here Chris, and the amazing things you’ve achieved, I don’t think you want to start bending your rules or putting “asterisks” by countries. There’s no shame in moving Eritrea to your “inhospitable government” list (like North Korea). That way, you can still fulfill your goal.

    But ultimately, I think your “goal” all along has not been crossing an arbitrary number. Rather, it has been to travel by your own standards and values–so that’s what you’ve got to stick to.

  • Deirdre Fay says:

    A definite yes! For all the reasons people wrote above but most especially for the great story and experience. You were awake the whole time, you interacted with a range of people. Visiting a country isn’t just about seeing the external landscape. This was a psychological feast and you had it in abundance!

  • Geoff Hall says:

    Normally I’d say ‘no’ it doesn’t count, but I think being interrogated means for me a ‘yes’ on your countries visited list! It takes it far beyond a transit stage for any visit. You’ve got to get something from your time there! At least they were interested in you.

  • Ethan says:

    I’m gonna have to side with the ‘no’s on this one. You get major points for effort, but it’s hard to say that you’ve experienced Eritrean culture without a little walking around. If you end up not making it back, it is by no means a personal failure. But that asterisk would be a unwarranted blemish on your adventure if it has to stay…

  • Kevin Kane says:

    Definitely counts. You met some of the local folks — albeit on the plane and the airport shuttle bus — and had a chance to interact with “officials” of the country. (Still, if you get a chance to go back for a slightly more extended/expansive visit, take it!)

  • LaRonda says:

    It’s yours! Claim it.

  • Jen says:

    I’d keep trying but in the end if it is the only one left then count it. My sister got into Eritrea with Rotary a few years ago… maybe see if your local club will “sponsor” your trip in exchange for you writing about a Rotary water project or something. I have a contact with the past President of the Portland club … email me if you need it.

  • Paul Alisauskas says:

    Kind of weird that you haven’t developed your OWN criteria as to what constitutes a “visit”. But as you seem serious about getting input on the question, my vote is ‘no’.

    I’d surmise the purpose of travelling to these places is to experience them in some meaningful way. However artfully you’ve described your airport encounter, it’s no more descriptive of Eritrea than, say, Pearson International Airport is of the Toronto experience.

    What’s the deal with this “deadline” anyway? As a dedicated non-conformist, isn’t an (artificial) deadline to complete this task kind of reality show phony?

  • Chris says:


    I do have criteria – I’ve never counted airport stops before. In this case, I may need to make an exception, but I understand that some people will feel differently.

    Re: deadline, it’s important to me. Without a deadline I would have never made it this far.

  • Michael Justice says:

    Yes, count it. High on adventure, low on sight seeing

  • Benedict says:

    What’s your motivation behind visiting every country in the world? If I were to set the same goal, I think it would be so that I could experience the unique culture of each place, so I would count this deportation the same as just stopping in an airport. I guess it all comes down to why you want to visit every country. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story – I’ll be keenly watching your progress over the next 13 months!

  • emily says:

    Dude, you got this. You’ve been there. IMHO you don’t even need an asterisk. Think of it this way… your goal is to visit every country. You can’t get deported from one without visiting it!

  • Lance says:

    Chris! Amazing story and good try! I’d count it. Sure it wasn’t as long as you’d like but you were outside of the airport, you had a significant life experience, and you got to see part of the country only a few people ever get to see, the office of the Chief Immigration Officer. (Sure it wasn’t pretty, but who can say they’ve been there?) I’d say count it and I would encourage you to try again. I think we’d all love to hear about it if you make it in. But, in the end it’s up to you.

  • Heidi says:

    I say it counts….you have limited time and funding for this project, they’ve pocketed a nice amount so you’ve even contributed significantly to their economy. On to the next one!

  • Esther says:

    It’s your call if it counts or not, you call the shots, your fans will accept you and your decision either way. Eritrea is a dangerous place. You got away with it easily this time.
    Having lived behind the iron curtain for 18 yrs I learned that in order to survive, in a dictatorship, in a totalitarian country (i.e. not a democracy) you don’t play it cool with indifferent officials or else you might wind up in places you might not want to see.
    Instead, windup someplace nice or exciting, I mean exciting, in a positive way. 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Great story! I say it definitely counts. I mean, you have to have officially been in the country to be deported, right? 🙂

  • Karen Talavera says:

    Having been through enough immigration points to feel your angst, I say f*** ’em and count it, asterisk or not (your call).

    I have to add that if I were in your shoes though (and I suspect I “know” you well enough from your blog to venture you feel the same) I’d be compelled to try entering Eritrea again at some point in the future just to satisfy myself. Were it me, I couldn’t leave this stone unturned. I’m guessing as for the remaining countries on your list, if there are others you ultimately can’t gain access to, they will mildly nag/haunt you until you do.

    Hey, you’re young, there’s plenty of time.

    But as far as counting Eritrea in your current quest, I agree with the majority: your visit definitely counts.

    BTW thanks for sharing the details. Very informative to know how the deportation process goes should I ever encounter it.

  • Alan Sweat says:

    Yes. You did what you could to gain entrance, and were ushered out. I say “Count it and don’t try to go back.

  • Ann says:

    Yup, put it in the “visited” column.

  • jr cline says:

    I think you should count it. You went there. Had an adventure. Count it and be thankful you didn’t go to jail. Great story!

  • Cheryl says:

    You have time to try again. Figure out this asterisk problem later. You may find that you won’t need it.

  • Riley says:

    Definitely counts, no asterix. It was a travel experience, and you ARE crossing countries off a list and they were inhospitable. Maybe it’s not “as good” as having been there for a week or longer, but are you here to make comparisons to other people’s experiences or to have your own?

  • SueVit says:

    Of course you can count it. Your feet were on the ground and your mind was engaged with everything around you. Being forcebly deported simply replaces the “I had coffee at the local stand.” It’s still people, a story and memory. I’d count it

  • Rick says:

    COUNT IT – leave the asterisk, and maybe you have a couple of other *s by the time you’re done. Go back and write the follow-up book on “filling in the asterisks”. Great story either way – and I think that should be the criteria along with presence within the borders.

  • Jennifer says:

    I vote yes. You did leave the airport. Also, if they didn’t want to let you in in the first place, I think your odds of getting in a second time are really worse/nondoable now after being deported. A re-do is probably not possible.

  • Susan T. Blake says:

    To me it’s simple: You can’t be deported from someplace you haven’t been. So you’ve been there.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying to go back for a more thorough visit. 🙂

  • David says:

    Count it. You got off of the plane.

  • Nico says:

    While I am not a fan of your tactics – i.e., disregarding rules, “playing dumb,” creating chaos and more red tape for other people – I do enjoy your blog. On this occasion – the Eritrea decision – I guess you have the right to give yourself a half-point. I think Angola, since you visited the area, gets a full point.

    If a country doesn’t want you in it, even if it IS just due to bureaucracy, then sorry, just don’t try going… at least not illegally. So what if you don’t make your quota. You’re still having an adventure nonetheless.

    My advice: don’t create difficulty for people, don’t stress them out, don’t bother them with your petty wish for some sort of status. Woops, that came out harsher than I meant. But you get the point.

  • Chris says:


    No problem, and I respect your view. But even if my quest is just a “petty wish for status” as you put it, I’m committed and I won’t give up.

  • John Cordeau says:

    Chris, why are you putting such demands on yourself? For a nonconformist, you sure are conforming to your self imposed goal. I would say, count it then return someday when you have less pressure to perform. I think you are losing the care free life of a drifting traveler. Being denied a visa and getting kicked out of a country is all part of the quest. I mean, what an interesting story you have to tell. Chill out!

  • Andrea Ballard says:

    Oh yeah, it counts.

  • JSpoon says:

    Count it! I agree that airport stops in general don’t count, but I think any country you’re deported from or strip searched in should make the list. I would keep trying to get a visa and an official visit though.

  • Mark says:

    Of course it counts! Boots on the ground, count it. If you were not in that country for those 3 or 4 hours, where were you? You have to be in some country every moment you are alive, right?

  • Elisa says:

    If you have to ask the question, you already know what the answer you feel is. Reinforcement or challenge won’t change what you know inside yourself.

  • Kerrie says:

    I think it should count, but that you should keep trying to get a visa and go back so that it counts MORE. 🙂

  • Lorraine says:

    Vote: count it with an asterisk! Airport life is a taste of the culture from my perspective. I’m trying to reach 100 countries by the time i’m 70 (not long from now). My criteria is having an overnight in a country!!

    If you adopt my criteria, you certainly had an overnight!!

  • Carol Steinfeld says:

    Why don’t you put this stuff out to your network before going? My cousin-in-law does work in Eritrea and adopted a daughter there. This sort of letter or mention could help with Visas.

  • Chris says:


    Good point. Long story short, I didn’t know it was going to be this difficult until I was already in the extended waiting period for the visa. At that point I did ask for help from a few different sources, but I also wanted to be careful about not drawing too much attention to myself.

  • Kate says:

    I’d say this trip counts. It may not have been the typical trip but you were there talking to people. You were not sitting in the airport reading a magazine. What an amazing adventure!

  • Will says:

    I am reminded of my college history course on the American Revolution. The professor made a great observation, stating that the Framers of the Constitution were making up the new rules as they went along. Sure they leaned on existing structures of other governments and avoided regulations they saw as egregious but they were designing a new system. I think in the case of your quest, you established the rules and we are virtual passengers. Chris, you know better than us if the visit counted as you dreamed-up the project from the start. Good luck and I always enjoy your positive view on the most challenging circumstances.

  • Clare says:

    I weigh in with the asterisk crowd. You visited the limboland of “almost.” What I’m curious about is all the commenters here who cite “paying for a visa” as criteria. You can buy a visa, have it in your passport, and never go within 1000 miles of said country. Why should paying for a visa count? You can’t buy the actual experience of being in a country (though it sure sometimes greases the wheels)
    And I do hope for your sake that you make another attempt, and get in this time. Eritrea is a fascinating contradiction and I’d love to read your blog if you actually make it in.

  • katy says:

    Great post! First, I do think that this counts as a country visit to Eritrea. Second, this post is an advertisement on the benefits of having a second passport. Might be worth considering 🙂

  • Paul Carlson says:

    They told you “Welcome to Eritrea!” didn’t they? 🙂

    Yes it counts.

  • Dave says:

    I think it counts even if you are conflicted over it. You aren’t pretending you didn’t go there, so then you must have been there! You had an experience in Eritrea and now you have a great story to tell about that trip.

    You could make another attempt before your deadline and who knows, maybe you’ll be able to say “The second time I went to Eritrea….”.

    Thanks for sharing the story.

  • Nico says:

    Then again, could the guy that “The Terminal” (film) was based on count THAT trip to the airport as a country visit? I think yes. But I still don’t want you to get off so lightly. (How many hours in total was your adventure there?)

  • hy says:

    Two thumbs up!
    You tried all possible ways to get in, got off the plane, have a great story to tell.
    Email the embassy and ask them, ha!
    Way to go, Chris!

  • Red says:

    It counts, based on the effort alone! For the purpose of your quest, check it off your list. Many years down the road, you can try again (probably not so soon, I doubt you are in their good books now). Countries are like that, some open and some will close.

    You definitely got further than I did. I tried at the end of 2009 to get the visa in Cairo, then made three attempts at the consulate in Khartoum. Same experience, everyone was friendly, but no visa. I will try again this year from Beijing, and from Yemen. Cross fingers…

  • Emily says:

    Totally counts. Heroic effort and time served = +1 country.

  • Jackie Shelley says:

    I vote for “HELL YES, it counts!”

    My 2c 🙂

    133 days 18 hours 30 minutes to #WDS2012


  • Sid says:

    Totally counts man. If non conformity were a battle, I’d say that you should go against the government and make it there no matter what. But non conformity is an art and what’s the point if it doesn’t allow for improvisation…

  • Tim says:

    Sorry Chris, but I don’t think it counts. You visited an airport, not a country. Did you meet the locals in their own natural environment, or just at the airport (no one’s preferred environment, and definitely not natural)? If you can’t get back there before your goal is up, I wouldn’t sweat it. You definitely gave it the old college try (the AONC college that is), so the effort was there, but I wouldn’t say you visited the country.

    On a separate note, I have taken many of your recommendations and philosophies to heart and may be reaching out to you for tips and advice, so keep up the good work.

  • Steve M says:

    I hold the same criterium: if you don’t leave the airport grounds, you can’t count a country or city. I know this case is slightly different. You spent a good deal of time there and had an interesting experience. In the end, do you feel like you got a good sense of the country? It’s people? If so, perhaps you can say yes. My gut tells me no.

    However, one reason I enjoy your work is because of the creative solutions you create out of your circumstances. I’m sure you’ll figure out something here, too.

  • Joe Leyba says:

    You have to be in a country to be deported from it so count it with an asterisk. There’s three other airports that have paved runways in the country. If you have a chance to visit again, I’d aim for another entry point.

  • cary says:

    Count my vote in the “Yes” category! And another yes from my husband to whom I just read your entry.

    Oh Chris, what a fabulous story! I had a similar situation at a land border crossing between Aranyapathet,Thailand and Poipet, Cambodia (I was living in Phnom Penh at the time). In frustrating situations like those, its great to have an example of how to maintain humor and goodwill. In spite of your deportation, I think you might have helped Americans gain some points in the politeness category while in Eritrea.

    Please keep up the fabulous writing and entertaining stories!

  • Nate says:

    Fun article. You have to count it!

  • Paul Alisauskas says:

    If you haven’t counted them before, you shouldn’t this time, either. You’re starting to rationalize based on the deadline issue, which, when all is said and done, just a milestone tool that has substantially accomplished its purpose.

  • Chris says:


    Yes, I agree that there could be a certain amount of rationalization here — that’s probably why I feel conflicted.

    On the other hand, I’ve never actually been deported before. 🙂

  • Bill Bell says:

    If there had been a jetbridge – I’d say no, but who owns that soil? Certainly not anyone but Eritrea! However…asterisk it and try and get it for your own peace of mind, because we all know it would bug us forever. Same…for North Korea.

  • Bob Burke says:

    It’s your quest and your story, so you make the rules. I have many life goals, including travel goals, and I make those rules rather than someone else.

    In my life, this would be the equivalent of a basketball shot swatted away and certainly not a score. However, this isn’t my game, court, or ball.

    Count it if you like and enjoy the journey! Thanks for sharing the adventure.

  • gary s. chapman says:

    I normally only count country visits if I spend the night. But, in this case…COUNT IT! Your extra special effort has to count for something!

  • Leah McClellan says:

    I think I would count it even though I don’t count airport stops as a visit either. But in this case, you’ve had so much involvement and experience with the people and the country that it comes awfully close–more of a visit, really, than a lot of people have in a week of doing the usual tourist thing somewhere.

    Then again, it would probably bug me, and I’d probably keep trying. When the final count has to be made, though, I think I would count it with a tinge of regret but not feel like I hadn’t reached the goal.

    Great story! I was thinking “crazy American” at the end (as I’ve been called a few times 🙂

  • Laura Lee Bloor says:

    I saw definitely go ahead and count it. You made every possible effort and you did stay in the country and go past the airport. However, it could be counted as a layover, in which case it wouldn’t make your criteria. It counts, but go ahead and give it an asterisk to denote it didn’t quite meet the full criteria…or just to note that it’s the first country to deport you!

  • Doug Terpening says:

    Did you feet land on the Eritrea soil for the purpose of visiting the country right than and there. If yes, than it counts.

  • Laurie Ann Silberman says:

    I don’t think anyone could have tried harder. There are some things outside of human control. So unless you’ve been deified and I missed hearing about it; HELL YES IT COUNTS!

  • Doug Stewart says:

    Since you likely won’t be allowed back in – count it! Probably a better story than for some countries you’ve been in anyways…

  • Brian says:

    Asterisk – You were there, but tossed by the goon government and unable to have your “usual” country visit experiences. I think your opportunity to make successful entry will only happen after some sort of coup d’etat. Chasing goals is great, however I don’t think you should risk years in an Eritrean prison in order to achieve it. If you were at fault for the denial of entry would say no, but you went beyond good-faith efforts to enter and visit.

  • Paul Alisauskas says:


    Count it or not, the only person who’ll ultimately decide on legitimacy is you. (Isn’t that one of your principal tenets?)

  • sheri says:

    Damn right you should count it because you really tried!

  • Carol says:

    Yup, I’d count that as a visit. No, it didn’t meet your usual criteria, but the exception necessary is not due to lack of effort and Yes, effort counts.

  • A.T. says:

    This case is obviously ambiguous.

    However consider this comparison: what if you had crossed into Eritrea illegally, say from Djibouti, without ever obtaining a visa or being formally allowed in? Of course you never did anything like that, but just for the sake of a thought experiment. I think nobody would seriously claim that you didn’t visit Eritrea in that case. Therefore the criterion of “visa being granted” or “legally allowed in” is not really that important.

    I think what is more important here is the fact that your visit was rather brief. Still, several hours in a country would certainly count say in the case of Liechtenstein, so why not Eritrea?

    To be complete, I am also not 100% sure if the soil onto which you stepped was legally Eritrea – I think there are special rules regarding jurisdiction over airports. I found some illuminating info here which seems to suggest that once the aircraft doors are open, you’re under the jurisdiction of the country in which you have landed.

    So to sum it up, I would say you did visit Eritrea.

  • Cherie Brush says:

    Well, my husband and I have a goal of visiting every state (inspired by you, actually) and the rule there is that we have to spend the night. But I’m sure you have your own “rules” about what counts. I’d say to try again, but if the government makes it impossible, then yes, I’d count it. As said above, if you were within the borders of the country, then technically you did visit it. The government not letting you go any further isn’t your fault.

  • Tom says:

    Absolutely, yes!
    You went through all the hoops, paid your way and got off the plane.

    The deportation is a cherry-on-top of a story.

  • Joeann Fossland says:

    I vote yes! My, you have a bunch of picky folks…for heavens sake, you were there and tried your best. I love the adage of asking forgiveness rather than permission and like you have found, most of the time your willingness to risk will astound and work. Love reading your articles

  • Jeff says:

    Makes for a helluva good story.

    If it were me, I’d call it a YES. But in re-telling it, I’d hope for verification with every next listener.

    “Yes.” And be strong about it.

  • Staci Blunt says:

    I think it should officially count because you did step foot in the country, even if it was just the airport. You had interactions with some of the locals too, and also really made a concentrated effort to get there–it wasn’t just a layover on the way to somewhere else.

    Now, personally, you may want to keep trying if you can fit it in your schedule out of curiosity sake, but since the government is not cooperating with you and you may now be blacklisted for a while, you may not be getting back there anytime soon and there’s really not much you can do about it…

    Good luck!

  • PoemCatcher says:

    Good effort. Hats off for that.

    I think this one will keep you awake long after completing all the others. You are going to have to find another way, another time.

    I suggest applying for the visa when you are in johannesburg or Nairobi – anywhere but the USA(if there’s a consulate)

    in the mean time, chin-up, score the half point and crack on.


  • Fushin Eva Vava says:

    Chris, first off, I’ve just discovered you and I can’t thank you enough. On Monday I start my new career as a full-time writer.

    In its 2010 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders classified the media environment in Eritrea at 178 out of 178, the lowest possible rating, and below that of totalitarian North Korea at 177. Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately-owned news media. Not a single foreign correspondent now lives in Asmara. State-owned news agency censors news about external events. Independent media has been banned since 2001. Several human rights violations are committed by the government or on behalf of the government. Freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and association are limited. Thousands are arrested if they rebel against any rules held by the government. **Those that are arrested are held in prison indefinitely and are not legally charged.** Prisoners are not well cared for. Domestic and int’l human rights orgs are not allowed to function in Eritrea. -Wikipedia.

    To visit Eritrea in greater depth would only advertise how lucky you are in the face of all their trouble. So I’d count this one, and keep them in your heart.

  • Steven says:

    It’s not up to us to make that decision for you. It’s how you feel in your heart. Do you feel satisfied with how things worked out? Do you regret not being able to visit the country outside of an office? Will it haunt you, I guess is what I’m getting at. If you feel a nagging feeling inside of you, it doesn’t count.

  • Chris says:


    Great to have you around.

    Wow, 178 of 178! I didn’t know that… but after last week, I’m not too surprised.

  • Katherine Cassidy says:

    I have been just to 43 countries, but my standard for keeping count is this: you can count the country only if you’ve been on the ground for 24 hours (this means beyond the airport) or more; or else if you had a “truly significant local experience.” For example, my car broke down in transit to the airport in Botswana, so I sold it on the spot and boarded the plane. Wasn’t a full 24 hours there, but I had conversations and transactions with locals. I vote yes for Eritrea, for sure.

  • Marie says:

    Yes, it counts. You experiences a taste of both the social culture (the friendly people on the bus) and the governmental culture. I probably wouldn’t call it your most worthwhile visit, but I would call it a visit.

  • Chassis says:

    I say yes, count it. Why? because you got off the plane and non-official Eritreans welcomed you and you were gracious enough to say, “welcome home,” to them. Genuine smiles, you were on their soil, you had every intention of staying. I’d say maybe when things are so dicey you could strike up conversations with people on the plane to talk about entering, ask for help—a contact in the gov’t perhaps? I have no idea. Maybe there was someone one the plane who works for immigration? People love to hear about your project. Anyway, it wasn’t a stopover, it was roundtrip, even though it was super short. Best to you!!

  • Darryl says:

    Your hours of interrogation should suffice as a visit … not sure that I’d be inclined to spend a whole lot more time in a place that has such a hard line on entrance. I loved the story and although I say ‘count it’, I would be shocked if you did not give it a few more tries in ’12. Good luck and thanks for all the enjoyable stories and information!

  • Kim says:

    Yes, absolutely count it. You were there. You tried.

  • Amos Nyaka says:

    Interesting story. I would not count it as a visit for my expection of finding out how your quest to visit Eritrea would be fullfilled.

  • Barb Chipperfield says:

    I say yes.
    People stop off in countries while on a cruise ship and are bused off on little tours and they say that they have been to that country. So they have been there but probably not talked to any one who lives there or they are exposed to some Disney version of the culture.

    You had an experience of the country, met the people and being deported is such an exceptional experience.
    It took you more effort to get to Eritrea than it did to go to Canada and it counts.

  • Nicole says:

    Great story! I didn’t even know this country existed until you spoke about it, but I think you need to keep trying. Stick to your guidelines on when a country counts. Consider this an ” Oh, so close” moment and try again. Plus if you try again and fail you have another great story to tell us.

  • Amy says:

    You’ve come this far. Keep trying until it’s your last country. Then try one more time. As a reader, we’re with you every step of the way!

  • Etsuko says:

    Thank you for sharing this story and I also enjoyed reading what other people think what you should do.

    Before making up my mind about whether or not you should count this one, I was wondering whether you have done absolutely everything you could to gain proper access before taking this trip, and I saw Carol’s comment. In your reply, you said you didn’t want to draw too much attention to yourself. Is it because of security reasons, or more about bothering other people for your goal? Now that you know how difficult it actually is to obtain a visa, would you do something differently in terms or asking for help in your network for this process? I think this “should I count or not” might actually be posing a deeper question to your quest and reason why. Where do you draw the line?

    One thing is for certain, at least for me, this story and your conundrum helps me engaged in your quest. I’m curious to know what you’d do after reading these small number of commenters representing the silent majority of your followers!

  • susan says:

    Wow, I enjoyed reading this article. You’re lucky, they could have thrown away the key! Their rationale for their treatment of you is suspicion that you did have a visa and then illegally gave it to someone else. For all we know, there are now 3 illegal visas floating around with your name on them. So your innocent charm did pay off, even if you weren’t allowed to stay – the authorities probably believed that it was stolen, not that you were a collaborator, and those authorities know that this happens all the time.
    As far as whether this counts as a real visit – my (subjective) criteria has always been – it’s a real visit if I was able to steep myself in the culture of wherever I was visiting. So I’d say yes, it counts as an experience, a taste, of what it’s like to live under that kind of rule.

  • Brett says:

    I found myself in a similar predicament a couple years back, as I unexpectedly found myself crossing the border into Kazakhstan from Russia without the appropriate visa. After lengthy questioning with border guards carrying machine guns, a bribe was paid (only three dollars more than the actual visa, I might add), and I was allowed to enter and exit promptly one hour later through a checkpoint that luckily didn’t do much checking. I most certainly count Kazakhstan as a visited country, and you should most certainly count Eritrea on your list. Life experience FTW.

  • Mindy says:

    Absolutely, this counts! No asterisk needed, you arrived, you met people, you had an adventure. Secretly, I think we would have been disappointed if you hadn’t been booted from at least one country. As you near the end, your recent posts about the project have been tinged with a bit of melancholy; this is the shot-in-the-arm you and your story needed. Even though you’re at the end, there are still adventures to be had. And when you reach the end, be sure that new adventures are just around the corner.

    But please, don’t get arrested. We’d miss you, were you to be incarcerated, and you’d miss good coffee and the internet.

    Cheers, Chris! Thanks as always for sharing with us.

  • Tim Grover says:

    Yes, it counts! Considering you’ve paid for your visa three times, you were at least able to land in the country and have a bit of interaction with the locals & the bureaucrats. Scratch it off the list and aim for the next country!

  • Susan says:

    Hell YES. For all the many fine reasons listed above. If you are conflicted, maybe move it to the bottom of the list and try once again at the end of your ‘world tour’.
    Perhaps the fact that you have been in every country on the planet will then be the tipping point. Wouldn’t denying entry to a man who has bravely visited every country in the world be a nasty scar on their global reputation when the word gets out? Perhaps you could enter and tour around with an Eritrean chaperone/guide? On the other hand, since Eritrea’s human rights record is considered poor, why needlessly risk your impossibly wonderful freedom?
    You must have been there if you were actually deported!

  • Chris says:

    Are you kidding me? After reading the story, I was EXHAUSTED! I can’t imagine actually going through what you did. It counts, brother, it counts. Seriously!

  • steve says:

    Close, no cigar. But you may yet hit your goal of visiting 100% of countries which would let you visit. It takes two to tango, after all.

  • Rose says:

    I think it counts. You were there. But I would definitely try to visit a part of Eritrea that outside the airport after all the other countries on your list are checked off!

  • Rebecca says:

    I say it counts… and this is why.

    My Dad visited East Germany quite frequently back in the 80’s for business. Every time that he went, he was assigned a special government official who escorted him everywhere. Literally.

    He was never “free” or alone, but, he still went to East Germany.

    Just because you were not “free”, as one might expect, while visiting a country, if you got out of the airport, you can cross it off your list, in my book.

  • Kelly Graham says:

    You’ve definitely been to Eritrea. Coming up against the entrenched bureaucracy in a third-world African nation certainly counts as an introduction to that country’s culture. Welcome back from Eritrea!

  • Nicolette Croucamp says:

    I was going to say you’ve only visited a country once you’ve had a meal there. But I think a couple of hours in detention counts too. So yes, Eritrea – tick!

  • Donna Fuller says:

    Oui! Oui! You landed in this country on solid terra ferma. An asterick would be a nice addition because it is a terrific story line!

  • Angelika says:

    This should totally be counted, I mean you’ve still been to the country, you’ve had the hotel bookings – it wasn’t intended to be just a transit, and there is nothing you could possibly do in that situation to make the migration officers let you in the country. You still got a lot of experience and a great story to share about Eritrea. So, 100% yes!

  • Nancy Boyd says:

    Yes you got there — it wasn’t your fault that the authorities did not allow you to proceed past the entry point. You set foot on the soil. In my book it counts. Especially given how hard it was to get that far — and safely out again.

    Good luck!

  • Rachel says:

    Definitely counts! Up above in the comments, someone mentioned that you experienced the government and the culture. Probably a little more government than you wanted and a little less culture than ideal – but you experienced it.

    Asterisk away man.

  • Sarah O says:

    I say a definite YES. You interacted with several Eritrean people, sat there for hours pleading your case. There’s really nothing you could have done about setting foot beyond the airport. You’ve been there!

  • Nirvana says:

    Dorothy nailed it, “If you count experiencing the culture as a visit, I think you experienced two prominent cultures of the country. The first was that of the people: welcoming and friendly. The second was that of the government: unwelcoming and unfriendly (but thankfully not hostile).” So, Eritrea gets an asterisk. And given your mastery of non-conformity, let’s launch an “Eritrean Asterisk Tour” contest. Some kick-ass prize for the Eritrean that successfully invites you to Eritrea and hosts your visit!”

  • Chris McCooey says:

    If your feet touched Eritrean land (or pavement), you were there. No asterisk required!

  • Signe says:

    I’d say that it counts.

  • Anne Adams says:

    Yes, I say this counts, Chris. And its a great story besides.

  • Ricardo Bueno says:

    I don’t know man, I say it counts. You got a bunch of “Welcome to Eritrea’s!” which to me, says it counts. (Ok, so that’s a crappy criteria). But really, based on your experience thus far, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be any easier to get there any time soon.

    Sure, I’d take another go at it. I’d love to hear the story about how “you finally made it w/out getting deported.” But if efforts are unsuccessful, as it relates to your list, I’d say this totally counts.

  • Paul says:

    I would count it too, but try again in 12 to 18 months. How strict do you want to be with yourself, since you didn’t really make it out of the airport, but you had the intention to do it?

  • Peter says:

    Personally, I think that you cannot count it as a visit. You can definitely count it as a serious attempt, and maybe that’s as good as it gets. “I visited all countries in the world except one…” doesn’t sound as impressive as what you are aiming for, but look at it this way:

    You have a policy of not counting airports, and even if you did leave the airport, you were not walking around sightseeing. Let’s say you do count Eritrea, then you will definitely have a good story to tell about your trip there, but technically you haven’t seen Eritrea, and the question is whether this is something that would put a small cloud over your achievement (albeit an amazing achievement)?

    Seriously – it is your project, and you can set the rules. If I was in your shoes, I would probably keep trying to get the visa and try to get a real trip to Eritrea happening before the project deadline.

  • Neal Peterson says:

    Tough Call. Being outside, oddly, seems to give this stop cred. On the tarmac, did you kiss the ground or pick up a handful of soil like in the book “The Grapes of Wrath?” Ground kissing can go a long way in my book.

    Maybe your effort would be best spent visiting the actual embassy in DC and speaking with them face to face.

    Best of luck! This was my favourite post of yours.

  • Jeff M says:

    I have done my fair bit of traveling as well and have been challenged with this same question.

    When I was in the DMZ in Korea and I stepped to the North Korean side of the UN negotiation room for 10 minutes, does that count?

    When I stepped across the border from Thailand to Myanmar and shopped in the border-side market for an hour, did that count (no visa, just surrendered my passport until I returned to Thailand).

    Heck, what about the time I took the train from St Petersburg to Helsinki, Finland and spent the night in Helsinki before flying out the next morning to London, does that count for a visit to Finland.

    I think it all comes down to what is the goal. Quantity. If the goal is solely to check a country off a list much in the way we would check “tomato paste” off a shopping list of 100 items, “yeah, I have it in my cart, but I bought the cheapest brand and don’t even eat food with tomato paste in it”, then this visit would count. You were there. You got off the plane and spent some time on the ground.

    Quality. If the goal is to go to a country, meet some people and experience the culture, then I would say this visit doesn’t pass muster.

    If your goal is the latter, then I would release the strict time frame goal you have set. If you’re going for quality, then putting a strict time restraint on your goal, is incongruent with your ultimate goal. If you goal is quantity, then CHECK, you’re done with Eritrea!!

  • Toni says:

    I say it counts.

  • Patrenia says:

    After reading Fusion’s comment above, I’d say it definitely counts. You did your best to get in the right way, probably God working in your favor. Don’t argue with him…I think he knows best:-).

  • Tara says:

    You went above and beyond in your legitimate attempts to visit Eritrea, and you had your feet on the ground and spent several hours there, so this definitely counts.

  • Aaron says:

    İ don’t know, are you a smart guy just because you have a piece of paper with the “Master Degree”
    written on it, or because you’ve proven yourself in life? Were you’re feet on Eritrian soil? No astrik! İn fact it would seem a bit hypicritical to me to suddenly allow the ‘gatekeepers’ as it were to determine your success. İt would feel a Little anti-AONC to me. Rest easy and enjoy the rest of your trip.

  • Shelley says:

    I’d say yes, have officially been to Eritrea. Kelly Graham and Rebecca have described perfectly the reason I think you have been there.
    Good luck in getting back for a more satisfying visit.

  • traveljunkie128 says:

    Sorry, it does not count until you have a stamp in your passport and you have left the airport. You said that transit stops do not count, and this should be considered a transit stop since you did not get a stamp in your passport, nor did you leave the airport. I admire your spirit and wish you luck officially getting back there!! 🙂

  • Jennifer Hilton says:

    You get an A++ for effort but according to your own “rules”, this should not count. You will have to pull out all stops on “creative-means” even though it appears you already have done so! the asterisk is very important should you choose to list it! Bon Voyage and Bon Chance on your next attempt to visit Eritrea!

  • Joel says:

    Good Rule of Thumb:
    If you come away with a good story (say, for example, being deported), it counts. 🙂

  • Matt says:

    On the US Medical Licensing Exam, you need a score of 188 out of 300 to pass, and become a doctor.

    Hypothetically, if you scored exactly a 188, and just barely passed, would you feel compelled to put an asterisk after the M.D. in your name, and tell everybody that you just barely passed?

    You passed, Brother.

    Maybe just barely, but you passed. You scored a 188. Maybe you even scored a 189 or 190, since you even walked outside the airport.

    P.S. What do you call someone who scores a 188?

    …Doctor 😉

  • Joe Caldow says:

    I would say it counts because you did experience some aspect of the country and you were not in transit.

    Interesting blog post. Thanks for that!!

  • Deborah says:

    YES. They walked you out of the airport in order to walk you back in. That totally counts.

  • John Morrow says:

    Chris, It counts. If you get to all the countries, you will have set a record. More important, you will show readers that it was all fun. I bet this one will be “in your heart” more than some of the stan countries. They start to run together. Right?
    My Space A (retired Army) is to a place (no time limit) or go anywhere (time limit). You are doing it the hard way and at your costs. Good for you. I enjoy the posts..a lot.

  • Zuwena says:

    Count it. You’ve been there and you got a good story out of it.

  • Tracy Kohler says:

    It absolutely counts. You made every possible effort to do everything correctly, and you did spend time in that country outside of the airport.

  • Brian Downes says:

    I would say yes it counts but if it were me I’d still be looking to visit Eritrea again. I had a similar experience in Ghana except I got arrested and detained for 24 hours!

  • Bobbi says:

    No need for an asterisk in my thinking. Part of your adventure is having great stories, and you defintely have one here. You landed, you made it out of the plane, and you stepped on Eritrea soil. I would say this gets the “done” checkmark.

  • Susan says:

    Yes – it counts! Especially since you’ve got a great (albeit short) adventure to show for your visit there. 🙂

  • Lindy says:

    Sorry, if you don’t make it out of the airport it doesn’t count. I’ve spent many many hours in Changai Airport but haven’t stepped outside it, so don’t count it as having been to Singapore.

  • Estella says:

    I, also, don’t really have hard and fast “rules” to make a country visit a real visit, but one of the things I like to do is get off the plane… 😉
    After that, I like to breath the outdoor air and hear local people speaking the language. And I like to have a good story to tell when I leave. If I get that far, regardless of *where* it takes place, I find myself pretty tempted to count it as a country visit. If that’s all I get, then I make sure to flag up that it wasn’t a truly comprehensive visit, and that I would like to go back. But heck, I was within the boarders experiencing the country in some way!

    So yes, I’m for the “count it with an asterisk for the story, and an attempt to make it back if possible” approach. There’s nothing wrong with minimalism!

  • reese says:

    Count it!
    Deportation implies *importation* so in my book, you’re good to go 😉

  • Sarah says:

    Count it.

    My rule: Did you have an experience you would never forget? Could that experience only have happened in that place? Then you’ve been there.

  • Dr. David Powers says:

    I’d say your visit counts. As a metaphor, consider the golfing rule that if you swing at the ball and miss completely, but the ball still moves, it counts as a stroke because your intention was to strike the ball.
    You made it to Eritrea. You made it off the plane. You spent several hours in a place other than the transit area of the airport. I mean, how many Americans have gotten to spend so much time with the top immigration officer in his office?
    You nailed it man. Eritrea counts! You know what’s gonna happen now though. There’ll be an Eritrean visa sitting in your mailbox within a week.

  • Marion says:

    Yes, it counts! You were in the country. After that experience, it is not worth trying again. I enjoyed reading your account of this (mis)adventure!

  • Liz says:

    Chris, who’s adventure is this? This is the only person who can decide what counts as success.

  • Brad Long says:

    Yes, count it! What an amazing journey!

  • James Schipper says:

    You’ve been to more of Eritrea than I have! 😀

    I would count it, but keep trying to get in. I don’t know what you normally count as having been there (overnight?).

    I don’t consider my layovers in other states as having been in that state. No matter how many times I’ve stopped in Denver, I still haven’t been outside the terminal.

  • Kevin Hylton says:

    I have been following you for awhile but have never posted. This is a tough one.

    However I would count it with an *!

    You interacted with people and had a hell of a time while you were in the airport. I think you should try to go back however so that you can remove the *.

  • Debra says:

    Absolutely count it! Listen to Fushin, and also many others who support you in counting it. The goal and mission you’ve set for yourself is fantastic, but becoming a slave to it is not! Especially when safety is a real concern (I know a Eritrean-Canadian with stories). You were on Eritrean soil, mixing it up with nationals, having an adventure and experiencing some ‘culture’, you’re good-to-go, done, safe, and have the T-Shirt/stories to prove it! Celebrate and move on.
    End of the day – it’s what YOU think…don’t let anyone dictate the outcome.

  • Brigitte says:

    It depends on the definition and goal of your project.

    If it is purely about going to all countries of the world, then you did visit Eritrea and could only go as far as was possible.

    If you had any further intentions behind this goal to visit all countries in the world, then you probably know yourself if you can cross it off your list or not.

    Best wishes to you and thank you for all the great updates and articles!

  • Thomas says:

    Not super surprising they wouldn’t let you in, but I’d also agree that it counts as a visit – good country story as well.

    Look on the bright side – the Eritrean refugees we resettle here in Los Angeles and other US cities have to pay for their own tickets out of the country, you got a free ride to Egypt.

  • Alice says:

    My opinion as to rather your visit to Eritrea should ‘count’…
    Well I would have to say YES. You definitely landed in the country and experienced some of their customs and tolerances for a visitor attempting to visit their land without the appropriate papers. You did definitely experience this. You did not however get to explore or visit the places you may have had on your itinerary. So I’d say your use of an asterisk is appropriate.
    I do not think they should hold this particular visit against you in future applications to visit though, although I’m not at all familiar with foreign policies. I hope you will keep trying to complete your goal in visiting and exploring what you had in mind for this place of interest, Good Luck!

  • Jenny says:

    Yes, this counts. You earned it AND made me laugh!

  • Chris T. says:

    I think once you get off the plane and put your feet on the soil/land/tarmac of the country, you’ve been there. Maybe the word “visit” isn’t quite correct, but “been to” works! So I think you can claim Eritrea and Sudan. I would!

    It’s a shame there are countries in the world that consider it prudent to deport non-political visitors, for whatever reason. Paranoia raises it’s ugly head. My other thought when reading your post was Eritrea must be a wealthy country that doesn’t need visitor’s income. But somehow I doubt that.

    On the other hand, considering how many places you’ve been to, I guess being deported was bound to happen at some point. But on the positive side, it is yet another travel experience, and an interesting one to report.

    I traveled several times in and out of the UK last year. I wasn’t deported but they asked a lot of questions about length of stay, place where you are staying, what you do for a living. On the last visit in, after being there almost six months (the max on a visitors visa), they wanted to know the date I was leaving for the US, what flight, which airport I was leaving from and which one I was arriving to in the US. I’m surprised they didn’t ask for the flight number (they did ask which airline). And this interrogation happened in Calais, France, as I was preparing to board the auto train under the channel. I’m glad my papers were in order!

    What’s interesting to me is that, with so many people having internet businesses that can be run from anywhere, the immigration question of “what do you do for a living” and the implied question of “what country do you work in (or pay taxes)” becomes moot. Many people can live outside the US and still “work” with a base of operations here.

  • Tom Klemens says:

    Check it off! But maybe it should be at the top of your “places I want to revisit” list.

  • Becki Weaver says:

    YES count it! In fact, you get EXTRA CREDIT for the gutsiness factor. Who else would pursue their goals as valiantly with so much heart, into a country that has just expelled its leader? (and these dictators view FB and “the west” as the culprits!)

    One day you’ll be welcomed in as a hero, and given a hero’s welcome.

    You’re ahead of your time, and don’t let anyone stop you.

  • Mike Chlanda says:

    I’d put this down as a no. I’d rank it up there with landing at the airport and staying on the plane. Keep trying…and if you don’t make it, count it and put an asterisk by it. Good luck!


  • Tony says:

    Count it, as you have stepped on the soil outside of the airport. If you had only been in the airport then an asterix would be needed.

  • erinn says:

    considering the effort and the experience I would check this country off your list. for now.

  • andrea says:

    I vote yes it counts!

  • Marcos says:

    You paid for the ticket, you made it to the airport, you speak and share a shuttle bus ride with eriteans. You also interacted with them, and you went back home with a story to tell. As for me, IT COUNTS!

  • Becki Weaver says:

    In order to be deported, you had to be inside the country!

    Keep us laughing, and dreaming about living life OUTSIDE THE BOX, on our own terms – until we actually take action, and start doing it permanently!


  • Theresa says:

    So disappointed for you. Are there other ports of entry in Eritrea? You might find easier passage. There are definitely “best” and “worst” ports of entry in the U.S. where a traveler is more or less likely to be hassled or denied entry.

  • Miss K says:

    It counts…you have more stories from Eritrea than other countries you’ve been to!

  • JoeSindorf says:

    Having been in Eritrea, and having the stamp to prove it, and some grubby currency bills to put in my scrap book… I for one will give you a break and let you count it. Not sure why it works for some of us and not for others.

    I’ve arrived at many borders without visas – and detained more than once – but I’ve always been given permission to enter every country I’ve wanted or needed to enter.

    If you’re going to take another whack at crossing Sudan off your list, instead of flying into Khartoum from Nairobi or Europe, first go to Juba (capital of new nation of South Sudan) and fly from there – it is easy getting permission to go in that direction. Whilst in Juba you can visit the Eritrea Consulate there and plead your case for wanting to visit Asmara since the Lonely Planet website has called it “Africa’s most beautiful city”, ranking first in the African continent and fourth at the global level for its beauty. Sudan and Eritrea have just improved border relations and flying from Khartoum to Asmara may be the way to go.

    But, hey, I give you the pass. Anyone who has spent hours dealing with Immigration officials in a developing nation has earned his stripes and can legitimately say they were in said country.

  • Rowan TwoSisters says:

    deportation = you were there. I vote it counts.

  • Indi Ferguson says:

    You can officially say you have been there, but do you “feel” like it counts? Myself, I wouldn’t be happy with getting kicked out and I would make it a personal challenge to get back in! It counts on your getting into all the countries category ……but later on, I would try again!

  • Daniel ONeil says:

    Definitely counts. You made it out of the airport and got a good story out the experience. You’ll probably talk more about this experience than many of the countries that you breezed through.

  • Laura says:

    Sorry, but I say it doesn’t count.

  • Julia Knier says:

    Oh this definitely counts. However, I think that instead of an asterisk you should put a plus sign. The plus sign indicates the special status of this visit and the positive spin you can put on even the most nerve-wracking of experiences. You’re my hero today.

  • Tracey says:

    Bravo for the guts & sheer effort!!

    It’s a tricky one : I would say continue trying until you’ve visited all your other countries; at that stage if you’ve still not been granted a visa, there is probably legally very little you can do but resort to The Asterisk…

    good luck, and thank you for sharing all your thoughts & experiences!!

  • Marci says:

    I say, you’ve been there. You landed, you were in thr airport, you spent many hours with the locals (granted not the most social or welcoming), you walked around outside — you tried and risked. I’m just glad you made it back safely — and got your miles to boot.

  • Charles says:

    If you have to ask, then you already know your own internal answer. 😉 I do not think it counts. You seem to have pretty solid standards, and from what I read, this would be a pretty weak asterisk trip at best. Good luck and keep trying!

  • Filio says:

    What an adventure! You landed, so in my books it counts as a visit. Though, not the kind of visit you were hoping for. It’s bitter sweet. There are many experiences in life that we have, but not in the way we hoped.

    I suspect your travelling adventures will not stop onced you’ve reached your goal of visiting every country in the world… My suggestion, include Eritrea in a list of countries you will visit for a second time. Though, from what I read in your story, you may have to wait a while to go back.

  • Ryan says:

    IMO, you can’t get deported unless you’ve visited the country. So… cross it off.

  • Wendy J says:

    Depends on how you define “enter”. According to most Customs legislation and protocols, if you did not leave the Customs-controlled area and enter the country, you were in transit.

  • Mel says:

    HELL YES! This totally counts!

    You got off the plane and experienced the country and it’s locals. Ok. It wasn’t as pleasant as you’d hoped but you WENT. And left in a hurry 😉

  • michael says:

    maybe they thought you were a new Mike Hoare

  • Jeet says:

    Yes, it counts – absolutely!

  • Cinta says:

    I liked Becky and Fusion’s comments. You definitely had an amazing Eritrean experience and I would add it to your list with an asterisk, but can you really say you visit a country until you see how the people live, walk the streets and eat a meal there? It would be great to be able to say if the Eritrean food is similar, or what is different to the Eritrean food back in your home town.

    Peace be with the Eritrean people and hopefully you will have an opportunity to have a proper visit in your lifetime.

  • Sylvia says:

    It counts because you had definite interaction with the locals…… (and I also like the idea someone stated that you should try to obtain a visa and try to go again until the end)

  • Steve Kilberg says:

    The fact you got to walk outside the airport, outside security, to me makes it count! Keep going Chris we won’t hold it against you!

  • Nan says:

    I’ve never commented on your blog, but have been intrigued enough to check in from time to time. Your headline grabbed my attention today and screamed “read me”.

    You can count the trip if you want to. I doubt anyone would judge you for the decision. Those that do, well…that’s their affair. Having read your blog a few times however, I get the feeling that you would never consider the job thoroughly accomplished without having visited the country as a welcomed guest. Your readers might also appreciate the moxy it might take to accomplish this. You could compromise for now and say you’ve visited it and once having visited all the countries on your list, begin “next steps once I’ve done it” or Phase II, or whatever you want to call it. Phase II could be facing the down-side, troubles-of-traveling woes, like going where one is not wanted sort of thing.

    Meanwhile, going back rings of needing a diplomat to intervene on your behalf in order to get back in.

  • Mohkev says:

    Oh, if you’ve been deported from a country, I would say that you had visited it.

  • Denise says:

    I say keep trying, but if you get to your deadline and haven’t made it in, then it counts.

  • Kate T says:

    It counts. This story is much better than an awful lot of “toured the great monuments of the whole country” experiences. If such an experience ever happens again I say swipe a pen off a desk or a rock off the ground. Then you even have a souvenir with a great story attached!

  • Patti Chadwick says:

    I think you should count your trip to Eritrea. You got off the plane, you spent time there, even if a confined area. I understand when you don’t count countries when you don’t get off the plane. But you got off the plane here. That is my 2 cents!

  • Dottie says:

    You were there, no doubt about it. As so many have said, you can’t get deported from where you weren’t. Get the other countries done, and then you can go back for longer. If you really want to…
    Joesindorf offered some good advice, I think.

  • Andrea says:

    In my book, it’s all about the adventure, and what a doozy that one was! You are so brave, Chris. I’m inspired to be more brazen about getting what I want in my travels, and in my life.

  • Margaret says:

    Chris, let this one rest as ‘complete’ in my view.

    After having been in the Immigration Holding Pen at Heathrow, with a child, for 24 hours—-
    And then sent back to Arizona, from where we had departed (and sold all of our household goods, because we planned a long time there!) treated like criminals the whole time, with little sandwiches and some water to drink, using a bathroom that had only half a door so they could see in there pretty much, sleeping on hard plastic benches with a small blanket, surrounded by cement block walls and glass where the officials sat watching us like fish in an aquarium!!!

    I had to keep my own cool while my child fell apart. I, of course, fell apart much later, after handling all of that crisis and re-starting the whole household–plus getting the kid dual citizenship in order to go back. The things I’ll do just to avoid Heathrow for the rest of my days!

    You have covered the intention and gave it your best shot–even though there may be a big CROSS-OUT in your passport like there is in mine! Where did they cross it out? In the country you VISITED! YOU WERE THERE! You did it.

    Thanks for sharing the story.

  • jkl says:

    i don’t think it “counts”, but put an asterisk next to it and try again in a couple years.

    great story regardless!

  • RainbowEU says:

    Oh yes it does! You have the miles, the tickets, the hotel reservation, not to mention the emotions. Granted they were probably not the same as when you walk and smell the streets of a city, mingling with the “natives”. However, they must have been rather intense!

    Many years ago, the plane from Sydney to Athens made a couple of hours stop at Singapore. We did spend sometime inside the airport, but I still consider having been to Singapore, only because I had such a difficult time breathing the hot, humid air!

    And to top everything else, I suspect that most people (including myself) don’t even know where Eretria is. At first I thought you had come to Greece. There is a holiday resort near the city of Halkida called Eretria.

    Good luck!

  • Joanna June says:

    Personally, I think it counts, and the tenor of most the responses agree. You had more of an experience there than many who visit foreign soil. I agree with the above that you have to be in a country to be deported from there.
    The important question is: do YOU think it counts?
    This is your mission, your objective — so in your heart of hearts if you didn’t make it back again would you feel fulfilled or would that asterisk haunt you?
    Thanks for sharing with us either way.

  • Lynn says:

    I’ve just started following you and am enjoying your adventures. This definitely counts as a travel adventure, but I don’t think it counts as a country visited. Thanks to everybody who commented too; very interesting to read all the reactions and different views. Good wishes for your journeys.

  • Harley says:

    Wow, what an EXPERIENCE.
    I get asked all the time after living in Buenos Aires for half a year, did you get to Brazil. The answer is always the same, Yep, just across the border. The story goes as follows:

    I was on my way to the infamous black market in Paraguay on a bus from Iguazu (the Argentine side), unfortunately that bus passes through Brazil. I was only going for a day and no interest in paying the border patrol 50 USD each way. The bus pulled up at the border and out of 20 people, mostly travelers, I found myself the only American, and the only person kicked off the bus. Stuck outside on a beautiful day, I found myself at the border trying to understand a very upset border patrol officer’s Portugese. I finally realized he would not let me slip through Brazil in Paraguay and worse, if he did, I may not get back into Argentina. I’ll never forget his conversation a few feet away in Portugese with a female border patrol officer who was a bit more lenient and spoke superior broken-Spanish. When they finished, we shared a coffee and he explained that another bus was headed back to Argentina in an hour.

    You went to the country and have a great story to tell. Period.

  • Matt S says:

    Boots on the ground – IT COUNTS! Bonus for being interrogated (without prison time) and making it out with your passport in hand (after landing in Cairo).

  • Finola says:

    Much as I’d like to chime in on the ‘yes’ side, unfortunately, you’ve only really entered a country when you cross through immigration … and out the ‘arrivals’ doors. I think you should pop back n get in to Eritrea for real – you have time, you can do it!

  • Juan says:

    Yup, it counts. You got there even though you did not have a visa, you gave it your best with their officials, and in the end it was not your decision to leave. You were deported. What else can you do if the government does not want to let you in? On to the next country.

  • Julian says:

    There’s a saying here in Latin America that says “A mi nadie me quita lo bailado”, it roughly translates to “Nobody takes my dance away from me”, what I’m trying to say is that this definitely should count!, you’ve already been to Eritrea (despite their government’s opposition) and there’s no reason to believe that you weren’t.

    Hell, you’ve done more to get there than most people and I’m sure your arrival was the most exciting thing those official saw the whole day!!

  • Katherine Bowers says:

    I think you should count it too. Great effort was put in to go there. You were on the ground and the ground was called Eritrea.

    I agree too that getting out and around is a true visit and I’m glad all your other visits met that criteria. After all, seeing the place is why you go. I would apply again, while you are going to the last group of countries, maybe there is someone at an embassy that has more power to get you that Visa and something would break through during your timeline to let you go again.

  • David Pederson says:

    Use the force Luke! I’d say if anyone has earned the moniker of Skywalker it is you. You’re a master now, do as you please. If you decide it counts, it counts. If you think it doesn’t, then persist. Personally, I think just spelling Eritrea was enough and writing about your experience WHILE YOU WERE THERE is proof, but I am not a Jedi. What the heck would I know?


  • Brett says:

    I say count this trip, but leave open the possibility for a more extensive return trip sometime in the next few months.

  • Dan says:

    My heart says it counts with all the effort, expense and time you put into it and you did touch ground and weren’t in transit. But that’s not the criteria it seems like you’re using for visiting a country.

    My head says it gets an asterisk. You weren’t officially recognized as being in the country (as seemed to be the criteria in your Angola paragraph). Even more reason for an asterisk is that you question it yourself. It’s kind of like if you have to ask yourself if something is wrong to do, it probably is. If you have to ask if it doesn’t count, it probably doesn’t.

    There’s an easy solution, though. Define the rules for yourself of what counts, as we’d all make different rules. If you say the only rule is you can’t be in transit, then it counts. If what it takes is touching the ground, then it counts. If it requires legally being recognized as entering the country, it doesn’t.

    Whatever you decide, bravo for the effort and for entertaining us with a great story!

  • Alain says:

    You did walk on Eritrean soil, so I’d say “Yes, it counts!”. All of your efforts there deserve a “+1”!

  • Julie says:

    Absolutely, it counts.

  • Bret Wirta says:

    It counts. Not because of effort (too subjective) but because you were in the country and had begun your visit. It’s too bad it began and ended with inflexible imigration officials. I admire your courage!

  • Susan B says:

    If the Pope can kiss the ground as soon as he gets off a plane and down the steps and have that count as a visit, then you can count a heated discussion, being able to be found outside of the airport and the country actually gave you frequent flyer points – the contacts you made also allowed you to make a conscious decision about returning – in my estimation – this counts as a visit. You may choose never to return but at least you have been there!

  • idelette says:

    You get my Yes. For the purposes of your goal, I think you made every effort to get in. Paying visa fees three times, plus getting a ticket, getting off the plane … Your sole purpose was to go to Eritrea; if it was a stopover, no. But the way you’d tried, you get my Heck Yeah.

  • Alphonso says:

    Did Cat Stephens get to say he visited America when they deported him after landing in Maine? I think not.

  • Rimfire says:

    Hi from Australia, Chris! You have 13 months left and you’re an ingenious Being- perhaps checking out the volunteer work or similar in the country, see if you can get attached to covering a story, contributing to a project or helping out in some way if at all possible. It would not only give you an in, but create an opportunity to make some connections, build some bridges (metaphorically, physically or both) and put some positive energy into an otherwise difficult situation. I’ve found it to work at times. 🙂

  • Kathryn says:

    I think you’ve EXPERIENCED Eritrea. You’ve been there long enough to get some feel of its people and government…. in fact more than a lot of other travellers who never get beyond generic stereotypes. But if you’re unsure enough to ask for opinions, for your own sake you should keep trying. Bottom line from me, if you don’t get in again (notice I said ‘again’) I think this visit counts as a “yes”.

  • Lisa says:

    I’d say it counts as long as you keep the asterisk. Keep trying, but don’t put all your time into this one country while neglecting the ones you have yet to make a story from.

  • Jason says:

    I have never been one for asterisks or close-enoughs or mushing the line between yes and no, so I’d say…save it for the last country, a triumphant end to a truly amazing, life-changing goal.

    I vote for doing it again.

  • nick holmes says:

    I think you should try again seeing how you landed in the airport and were shipped out right away. You need to sleep at least one night there so you can experience the culture and people there.

    I was waiting to hear about you running into a situation like this seeing how not every country in the world is a fan of the united states; and is shady at times. I am glad to hear nothing terrible really happened except for a few moments of uneasiness. I think you should try it again and see if you can take a lesson learbed from this experience and utilize it to your advantage. I am not sure how this would work but I am sure you can figure it out.

    Perhaps you can try again in another six months as the visa and customs process will allow a visit to happen without as much of a headache.
    I am sure you will find a way to make it happen. You are so close to the end of your goal.

  • Michelle says:

    I say count it! But boy I was surprised at all the comments that said not to. I thought it would be a resounding yes! I get it, but man-o-man the flights, the interrogation, the waiting… I’d say the penance has been done. Check it off the list! No asterisk necessary.

  • Barrett Brooks says:

    What I try to ask myself in a situation like this is: did I give this thing my best shot? Did I reach my full potential in pursuing the opportunity?

    In this case, I truly believe you did everything you had in your power to do, AND you stepped foot on Eritrean soil. Put an asterisk next to it for the awesome story, but don’t let it keep you up at night because you didn’t explore the villages.

    I believe you can make it back some day if you wish, but put this one in the W column.

  • Sharon Knight says:

    I’d try one more time, just because I’m stubborn, and would want to be sure I did all I could. But that said, you can only do what you can do, and if they won’t let you in…well. You certainly held up your end of the bargain.

  • Anita says:

    Hey Chris. I follow you because you are out having the adventure that some many of us are not brave enough to go and have (yet). I love this post – you are always so honest. That fact that you’ve asked us to decide this makes me love your work even more. Yes you HAVE visited Eritrea. Well done! 🙂

  • Tony Levelle says:

    Yes, it counts.
    1. You stood on the soil of Eritrea.
    2. You dealt with Eritrean citizens at the airport.
    3. You learned about Eritrea and how the government treats visitors.

    I’d say sure. It counts for me.

  • JASMIN says:

    Chris, I was honestly going to tell you not to count it because it just doesn’t meet the criteria you have set…however then I read some of the comments and this sentence stood out “In this country, you’ve been through the range of travel experiences that they will allow someone from outside their country right now, so it counts.”

    Count it – with an asterisk, then add it to the list of places you need to try going back to. Make it part of a life-long goal let’s say…

    Whatcha think?

  • Krishan says:

    Chris, nice effort! If there is a good story, then it counts in my opinion…

  • niel says:

    Count it. You made more than a good faith effort to visit and had more genuine interaction with the local culture in your short visit than most of us do spending a week in a new country. You have to enter a country to be deported from it.

  • Connie says:

    You have an interesting story about your visit to Eritrea. It’s not like you just touched down and waited in the plane for the next leg of a flight. It counts.

  • Renee says:

    I think the judgement is definitely yours, but for now I would put an asterisk next to it. It is different than a country with a hostile government in that you were deported. The government itself kicked you out of its country so if that isn’t a reason to count it as a country then I do not know what is. Good luck!

  • Stacy says:

    What I think is that it’s time define your terms, what constitutes the necessary and sufficient conditions for visiting a country? And, your definition should be related to your intention. That being said, you spin a great story, are generating engagement -see active commenting- and a chance for the vicarious travel adventure thrill. I’d say these all weigh heavily in your favor. Looking forward to your next tale.

  • Rob young says:

    I think it definitely counts! The best stories have a bit of difficulty in them! Count it and crack on!

  • David C says:

    Sure it counts….You were on their soil, experienced their hospitality, interacted with the natives…and certainly paid the price of admittance. And you can’t be deported unless you were there…and their actions define that you were there.

  • Marcel Best says:

    You should count it.

    Many comments here have already very good arguments for a yes. So here is my example, why you should count it: I can say that I’ve been two times in Greece, even if it was just on the way to the Kosovo in 1999 with the German Army. I made a few kilometers on the motorways and had to wait for cars to get ready on the way in and I had to wait again on Greek soil while getting out. It was even enough time to experience a very unpleasant Greek public and time enough to have some short discussions (wasn’t a nice time in that year). You have somehow a similar situation, you interacted with people and you’ve been there (and you got a great story, even if it wasn’t pleasant). If you want to experience the culture and people of the country, don’t count it and try again – same for me with my Greece visit.

  • Martin Gray in NZ says:

    Well, it’s ultimately by YOUR OWN criteria, Chris, and whether not having a stamp in your passport or such, is the true. self-authentic way you measure that.
    Personally I’d say ‘no’, not officially have you ‘been’ to Eritrea, but if you have a category for ‘*almost’ then use it for now and move on: your 3 applications and 90 prep will all surely come to another opportunity in the near future if it’s still your wish and goal, and within your time frame.
    And if not, then not. You did your best.
    Have a great day and thanks for continuing to provoke and inspire my own nomadic and creative sensibilities !!

  • MoneyMateKate says:

    I’ve always defined officially being somewhere as leaving the airport/train station + having a meal. I set that criteria to differentiate between a visit and a layover.

    Since Eritrea was your definition, I’m inclined to bend the above rule – it would get listed with an asterisk against it.

  • James says:

    Yes, count it. You made it there, and you experienced it’s bureaucracy. It may not have been a cultural trip, but you got there and back.

  • Kari Carlisle says:

    You got off the plane… it counts.

  • Patrick Hedges says:

    I count Angola in my list and all I did was hop across the river from Namibia. No stamp in my passport, no photos identifying where I visited, nothing. I also count my visit to Burma for the five day jungle trek I did but yet again, that was going across a border unofficially with no visa or permission. At least you tried to get these so count it!!

  • david says:

    nice try but it’s a no based on your own criteria.( I think you know that already, and on this one it’s only you that counts )

  • Shawn Tuttle says:

    Ooooh, tough one! While your argument is compelling: had good conversations etc, I think it might be pushing it. At least getting to eat at a tasty food cart should have to be a qualifier… The one argument that I do not buy is how hard it’d be to come back. While that’s true and certainly possibly a major bummer to the whole plan, I don’t think ease of access should be part of the decision-making process. In any case, glad you didn’t get to learn about the prisons first hand!!

  • Jade Dragon says:

    Yup, I’d say you made it into the country. You were off the plane, past the immigration desk (sort of). Have proof of flying in and out. You likely will never get a visa now because they have put you on the blacklist. Great story 🙂

  • David Stokley says:

    I would Count It. It’s a great story that is uniquely Eritrean. Definitely a fun read for me too.

  • Stevie says:

    Count it, but not until you’ve tried again for the visa and failed.

  • Monique McKellop says:

    Absolutely counts! You met, spoke with, bartered with, were “handled” by the nationals. What else makes a trip count? ( I haven’t read the initial journey specs, but this is such a no brainer to me)

  • Tristan says:

    Great story Chris (though unfortunate!). I love that you still asked for the Frequent Flyer points – haha.

    I’d love to say it counts as a true visit, but I think this is pretty similar to being in an airport. Without having gone and seen the country under your own steam & free will, I’m not sure whether that one should be counted…

    Hope the next ones are easier on you!

  • dahlia says:

    oooh, someone above had a great suggestion — contact whatever passes for media in eritrea, or better, whatever passes for public relations in the government, and pitch a story about your round-the-world quest and how the mighty and desirable eritrea is to be honored as your final stop, your triumphant landing, your lindbergh-in-paris moment, and see if they want a piece of that PR action. you have a year to set that up, right?

  • Mary H. says:

    Your list. Your criteria. I say count it. I also think you should hike the Appalachian Trail for your next adventure after you’ve seen all of the countries in the world.

  • judi says:

    You have definitely got out of the airport and experienced the culture of the country. Although a short visit, I think that you should count it. It was enough.

  • Julie says:

    If you count this as a ‘visit’ to Eritrea, what does it say about the ‘visits’ to other countries? I seriously thought that you were visiting in a meaningful sense, not just fly in/fly out. Suggesting (as some commentators here have) that an interaction about the requirements for a visa constitutes a cultural exchange, you know this does not count as a visit to Eritrea.

  • heeeman says:

    Next time wait until you get your visa. Eritrea is a Country with a very serious government and does not take any chances.

  • Lori Robishaw says:

    Absolutely it counts — because you got off the airplane and spent a couple of hours on the ground. Is it what you wanted or usually get? No, but I think “close” counts in this case. I’m guessing you’ll keep at it and keep trying to have a genuine experience in the country, but until then perhaps an asterisk will suffice. And hell, you got a great story out of it, so that legitimizes it even more.

  • Tera Wages says:

    Count it. You got to talk to someone most people who travel there never gets to talk to. You got to flirt with the system, it may have broken up with you…. but most never even flirt. Putting your feet on the ground breathing the air & making friends totally counts.

  • mike gothard says:

    I think you count it as having been there but continue to try to obtain a Visa between now and next year. If time runs out and you don’t make it back, I would still check it off the list.

  • Dave says:

    Close but no Cigar Chris. An old friend of mine used to say he lived in states he had merely driven through. While that’s technically true, he was in fact alive in those states, it wasn’t the common usage. Basically, you got to the fence but you weren’t allowed in the playground.
    You’re going to have to use some of the super skilz and get in and be there.
    Maybe you can get your net followers to bombard their embassy ala the SOPA thing we just went through here when Eritrea is your final country…

  • Jeff says:

    Chris, believe me I understand your frustration, but you cannot count this one.

    Last year when we exchanged e-mails re. touching base in Singapore, (unfortunately I was in Lisbon), I wish you you would have mentioned your plans for Eritrea. Having been there twice I might have been able to help; maybe next time.

    The Eritreans are, for the most part, a terrific people. They’re friendly, as you said, and they love kids. Demonstrated by the Eritrean currency…pictures of their children, which, I think, says alot about a society.

    You need to try it again sometime within the next year or so and experience this country and its people first hand, you won’t regret it!

  • Stephenie Zamora says:

    I would say put it on the list with an * and once you’ve made it to the other destinations, give it another go if you have the time remaining. I think it can be counted to a degree, but I also suspect you would be happier if it was an all the way yes. Doesn’t hurt to try again! xo

  • Jill says:

    It was a chunk of your life.
    You lived it.
    It became a blog item.
    You were not somewhere else.
    You were not invisible.
    It was reality.
    And answer this:
    If you were not in Eritrea –
    just where
    were you?

  • Cindy says:

    Well, at first I was going to say that you’ve been to Eritrea but you haven’t experienced it. But maybe you’ve experienced it, too, given that this kind of thing may be part of the culture. I’d count it.

  • moom says:

    I’d say you were more there than in North Korea (I also went to the DMZ since your trip there). You were outdoors in Eritrea. I can similarly say I was in Hungary – I was only at the airport also.

  • Jesús says:

    This is a really good one! haha! Congratulations!

    I would say that this one counts, I wouldn´t spend more money (three times man you paid the f*ck*ng fee!) Where is that money going? So, when you write the amazing book you will write in the future about your journey through the whole world, you should remark this one, and you will laugh at that, because actually, you were there. Even though an airport is “international land”, that´s only a “man restriction”, so, I say:

    You´ve been in Eritrea.

    Keep going on traveling!


  • Curt says:

    Yes. It counts. Lame but it counts. Since you’re not making this a habit, I think everyone will give it to you. Try one more time if you don’t run out of time. Put it on the bottom of the deck and if you get all the other countries, you can pressure them to get on board and quit being all uppity . . . and all . . .

  • Richard says:

    If it were me I would count it but it is not me. This is your journey and goal. If there is a question in your mind, and it seems like there is, than that question will remain. For that reason you should not count it. That asterisk will always bother you.

  • Ryan says:

    I’s say being deported makes a pretty good story… probably a better story than if you gotten in, eaten some food, slept in a hotel and gone home… COUNT IT!

  • Robin Christy says:

    This definitely counts! You landed, walked the ground, talked with the people. Unfortunately you didn’t get to experience more.

  • Kim Nathan says:

    Absolutely – it counts! It’s not like you did a touch and go on the runaway. Hours haggling with officials should definitely count for something.

  • cloudio says:

    I have a similar experience in Singapore. Arrived at the border with a night train from Kuala Lumpur. I had a fly ticket to Bangkok 2 days later and I was refuse access because my external cover of my passport was damaged (the color faded a bit because of the heat) No matter the same passport in the same conditions was good to travel in and out Malaysia twice, Indonesua and go to Thailand and come back to Italy. No matter I didn’t need a visa to get in Singapore as an italian. The officer just decided it was not my day.
    It made for a good story, but I don’t count it as a visited.

    I would say this can set up a new gran finale in Eritrea instead of Norway, trying to use all your creativit and connections to get in, but after I read FUSHIN EVA VAVA quote from wikipedia I reckon it’s going to be very hard.
    But I’m sure you’ll find a way

  • Eric says:

    I would say it counts as much as North Korea. You did what you could to make it work and touched Eretrian soil.

  • Brenna says:

    In this case, it is such an incredible story that backs up what we know of the government culture that I think it should be counted. I would still attempt a second try at a later date though, but you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself after such an adventure!

  • Hiten Amin says:


    As always, great story. Let’s look at the facts;

    1. You were on Eritrean soil.
    2. You communicated with real Eritreans (on the tarmac bus)
    3. You were served an Eritrean dish (albeit, a plate full of ‘goodbye’)

    Your cultural experience, shallow as it may be, should count as a visit. But a revenge visit should still be in the cards.


  • Linda G. says:

    HELL YES it counts! you were willing to risk even prison to get there and that takes guts and commitment.

    In a nutshell and a few hours you got the whole story of Eritrea: lovely people, sucky government. You walked the ground, had a genuine experience.

    Question: have you ever tried to request the help of a US senator, representative, or other gov’t official to write a letter on your behalf? I’ve used this technique working on international movies and it helps. that’s one of the things our elected officials are good for – representing the needs of the electorate. it’s part of their job. Maybe Eritrea likes SOMEONE in the United States, someone they feel is their ally. Perhaps worth checking into if you really feel you must go back. But I still say you’ve done it. Bravo!

  • Erin says:

    You made it there, and brought back a tale. Maybe if the situation changes you could try it again, if you felt so inclined, but you were in that country, and I say it counts.

  • Gail Cassidy says:

    Yes, Chris, you have definitely been to Eritrea, perhaps not as you had planned, but you were there!! It counts!!

  • victoria says:

    Leaving the country with that story – it counts!
    You can always try again, and if it gets better, then you can always change your mind about this time.

  • Harry says:

    It counts, but there’s another column waiting for you there.

  • Annie says:

    I vote yes BUT keep trying to get in anyway… you definitely had an adventure and isn’t that what it’s all about?? If you keep trying until the deadline and end up putting as asterisk it – so be it – you can feel good about your 110% effort… but if you accept it as a visit with an asterisk now and do not continue to try.. I promise you it will niggle at the back of your mind.. niggle niggle..

  • Bill Polm says:

    You got there and off the plane. It was a short visit, limited in nature, but a visit nevertheless. So yes.

  • Darren Rowse says:

    Hmm – I say no it doesn’t count…. only because I want to read Part 2! 🙂

  • monica says:

    Yes, I’d count it as a visit- given that you tried everything you could and the rest was not within your control. You also had first hand experience of dealing and interacting with officials within the country. Your brief experience of a few hours seems richer, more eventful and more meaningful to me than a few trips I have taken in the past.

  • alua says:

    Honestly, I don’t think any one of us can answer this question for you.

    What’s your gut feeling? What was the moment you got onto the plane to Cairo, what is it right now? I think you might also want to revisit the question in a few months, or once you have ticked off all the other countries still left on your list.

    You might feel exhilarated then. Or you might feel some little niggles. If the latter, I would say you’ll probably have to retry.

  • Kjersten says:

    The first time I went to Mexico, I swam over the Rio Grande while backpacking in Big Bend, Texas. I was only in Mexico for a few minutes, sitting on the far side of the bank. Then I swam back. I definitely count that swim as a trip to Mexico, even though it was only 20 minutes long at most. Why? For the most simple of reasons. I was there. It was a memorable experience. it was something I wanted to do.

    Some experiences are short. But meaningful anyway.
    Life is not always black and white. Sometimes there are grey areas.
    And I think it’s fine to define the grey areas as YOU wish; it’s your goal. And you weren’t just sitting on the tarmac or in the waiting room “in transit.” You were interrogated. And deported. Scary! Sweet! I vote that you count this one.

    I also think there’s nothing wrong with a few asterisks along the way, especially when you look at your larger goal with a wider perspective. When you finish you’ll be able to say you made it to every country, even though a few were a little iffy (Eritrea, North Korea), but you were technically there. That’s something. Especially when every asterisk you have makes for an interesting story.

    P.S. I’m wondering if people who think only passport stamps count would count their trips to Canada or through the European Union. Many countries don’t stamp all passports on entry.

  • Therese says:

    Sadly, from my perspective it’s a no. It’s a bit like having sex with all your clothes still on. You might have touched down, walked on the soil, had your passport stamped but you didn’t get out of the airport, walk around, taste the food, smell the land, interact with the people.
    Is there anyway to get sneaky with getting the visa through some friendly country?
    You were wondering what you were going to do after you had visited all the countries, here’s the fly in the ointment.
    Good try, good story, good luck. Go hard.

  • Marnie Joy says:

    Absolutely! Boots on ground and Eritrean interaction.

  • Jason Kallsen says:

    Yes. You had a cultural experience in another place. The politics of the geography defined the experience. Saying this doesn’t count is like saying a family reunion doesn’t count if your insane cousin arrives. Simple as that.

  • Michael Max says:

    Brother, you can only be deported if you were there. Count it.

  • Richard Bannister says:

    Yes, it counts. You walked on Eritrean soil, period.

  • Mark says:

    I hate to say this, but you weren’t actually “deported” … you were refused entry. That’s a pretty key distinction, and that’s the reason why this attempted visit absolutely does not count.

  • Kenny says:

    Course it counts I mean you landed in Eritrea and obviously you tried to go the official route of obtaining a visa. To ease your conscience you could always go back and stay the night once a visa comes through.

    I spent the night in Moscow airport once. I was interrogated by the KGB. And had an Aeroflot breakfast while in the airport lounge that consisted of a piece of dried cheese, a cracker and a glass of water served in a plastic see tumbler. Going Russian was a real experience including being sandwiched between a group of mobsters completed with necks and hands full of gold sovereigns. The journey of a lifetime. Any time anybody asks me I always tell that story. I thought I was going to end up in the Gulag instead they confiscated my passport and escorted me to the plane. I ended up in Thailand. 🙂

    As far as I am concerned I have been to Russia if only for 8 hours locked in a room with KGB in suits asking me all kinds of crazy questions. I was so happy when I got on that plane difficult to express but count yourself lucky we may never have heard from you again. 🙂 I do hope I get to see the real Moscow one day. I am sure after seeing those smiling Eritrean’s you do too.

  • Sarah says:

    It should count since you travelled all the way there and talked with local people, it was just a very short visit.

  • Lach says:

    Totally counts. You can’t be deported from a country without having first visited the country. Ipso facto: it counts.

  • Regina says:

    Totally counts. Cross it off your list guilt free.

    You rock!

  • Edo says:

    Yes, you did it. I would count it as a visited country. Sometimes politics get on the way and this should not keep you from visiting this country. The fact that you stepped in Eritrean soil and were turned back against your will gives you the right to cross it off from your list.

  • Theresa says:

    For all that you endured and paid, you deserve to check off this country. I hope you don’t give up on trying again someday.

  • brenda says:

    I would consider it a visit, you were there, you talked with some local folk, and some very high end officials…and you were on the ground, outside the building, certainly concedes that you were there, loved your story too! So Yes is my vote…but ata the end of the day…you will decide for yourself for sure! Have a great day!

  • Marti DeMoss says:

    Check it off unless you really missed something that you wanted to see. In that case, you’ll have to go back. Otherwise, you had a smidgeon++ of a cultural experience, and that counts. And way to go on the frequent flyer points!

  • Noni Kaufman says:

    What amazes me about all of your process of journeying is the dedication you have and the super high standards and deadlines you place on yourself. You are SO on a mission with yourself as the strictest judge! And now you’ve passed the baton to your community to rule in or rule out — does it really matter in the bigger scheme of things? It’s only what goes on in your grey matter about it after all. The bigger alchemy is how many lives you continue to touch as you go about your mission and share the hair raising stories of country leaping! You put Eretrea on a map for many of us who have never heard of it! Peace be with you on the rest of your journeys!

  • Fiona T says:

    Totally counts! You spoke to more people from the country and saw more of their culture than most travellers around the world when they travel somewhere!! It certainly was not for lack of genuine (and later creative) attempts to access their country. My parents have been travelling the world for 6 months each year for the last 10+ years. They visit sights but rely on other people’s opinion about any given country they see. You have experienced real time in another country. It counts!

  • vina says:

    what a riveting story! i agree that you have done your penance and this indeed counts. but i think the more critical question is the potential danger you could face if you did try again, or if you actually made in.

    would you get arrested? would your life be in danger once inside the country? it would be a tragedy if your safety is compromised only to scratch this country off your tick list. we would certainly miss your writing 🙂

    mind you, i am a big proponent of adventure and risk-taking to pursue something that is truly in your heart. but not at the expense of risking your life or safety.

  • Susan Sketers says:

    I’d like to say no but if you try again (as I think you will) and it doesn’t work out then count it because of learning who the people are and the whys of politics.

  • Giuseppe says:

    I would say no because my criteria is to have free reign of a country I visit, but then, that is just MY criteria.

  • ElleX says:


  • Tanya says:

    So you’re me and I’m you. My story is the same (and brilliantly written, natch, complete with bits like: “When crashing a country, you only get one chance to make a first impression.”). You have insight about my intentions, you know what I’m capable of, the drive of my goal, and a real sense of effort expended.

    Do I get your yes?

    Ps – for what it’s worth, you get mine, but you sure as hells don’t need it.

  • Craig A Smith says:

    If that was a fish story, we’d just call it a “quick release”!

  • Ian says:

    Here is a good idea for your Eritrean question.

    Find the city in the U.S, with the largest Eritrean population and host a cool get-together with them there.

    I think that combined with your visit would count (and be a very fun thing to do)
    You might even meet someone who could get you in!

  • Jorge says:

    Happened to me in Taiwan in 2007. Was trying to visit a good friend in Taipei and when I got immigrations, they politely denied my entry. Had to spend the night in a dark room with beds and one shower; however, there was wireless! I got the Taiwan consulate in Guatemala (where I am from) on the phone, but they couldn’t help me. I was then escorted to the next flight back to Hong Kong. Up to this day, I count the country and then I say, “well, thats if you count the time I was deported from Taiwan…”!

  • Anjelica says:

    Count it. It’s not your fault they were being difficult. You did everything you could. We don’t want you unexpectedly disappearing into their prison system. Your safety is also very important!

  • Wyman says:

    Count it a visit. It is as good as some others where you rode a bus, stayed a few hours and left. Some countries are closed to outsiders period. Don’t flirt with option #3. You sure got the group excited. 278 comments as I write.

    There are several good suggestions for a second try. Send your post the DC embassy and the Eritrea government and maybe you can shame them into letting you in. Some governments are just A_H___’s.Remember?

  • Don says:

    Oh yes, it counts.*** No question.* Rulebook says.**
    Rest easy.****

  • Janice Pridgen says:

    I think that it does not count as a visit because you did not get to see the local villages or anything entertaining. And as you said, Airports don’t count. It does, however, make for a good story and I enjoyed your tale. Perhaps in the future, maybe a year or two from now you will attempt again. There may be different guards there at that time or the world may be different. Don’t give up unless someone is trying to kill you.

  • richard says:

    I would say yes, since you have probably been put on their s___ list and won’t be allowed in till a new government takes over. But, give it another shot if the opportunity arises. I’m sure that you really want to experience the country not just a handful of its citizens.

  • Efrutik says:

    Chris!!! First of all that was a long and awesome reflection of your trip to Eritrea. Yes, maybe you didn’t get too far out there, but you did make it into the country and out of the airport!!!

    Reading the paragraph where you wrote that “Eritrea is in a long-standing conflict with Ethiopia, and the U.S. government is on the side of the Ethiopians. I’ve never held any position in the government and don’t have anything to do with politics..”. That said yes it is true, but you have ties to Ethiopia (charity) no? And in all honesty I think that was a factor in your deportation. Sad and very discouraging really, b/c I am Ethiopian and want to visit Eritrea someday but clearly it might never become a reality 🙁

    On being deported – are you banned from Eritrea from any particular period of time now, due to this incident ?

  • Niel Malan says:

    Personally, if I paid for a US visa, flew to New York with the purpose of visiting a jazz club, but were denied entry by immigration officials and deported, I would not count the visit a success.

  • David says:

    Well, did your passport get a stamp while the agents were deciding if you should be deported? If it did get a stamp, then you definitely were officially in Eritrea. If it didn’t get the stamp, I’m sorry my friend but you will have to try again.

    Sometimes the easiest way to get a visa is to apply at an embassy on a neighboring country. Just saying.

  • Helen says:

    It counts.

  • Anita Horton says:

    Absolutely count it, without reservation.

  • Nellie says:

    Doesn’t count, sorry. Could you enter another way – by land or sea? Don’t give up! You’ll get there.

  • Indi Ferguson says:

    Just remember Chris, everyone who has responded is all for your success, that’s the reason they are responding……… help support you…whether it’s something you want to hear or not……take it with love….

  • Andrea says:

    Left the airport; met some locals; stood on their ground and breathed their air; got a good story. I think it counts!

  • Marina Reede says:

    For sure count it! It’s a great story. You’ve done your due diligence and you experienced a bit of the culture.

  • Sooz says:

    Between the 3 good-faith attempts including fees x 3 to get the visa, the arriving and talking with friendly Eritreans, the several meetings re willingness to buy said visa and then final meeting for deportation experience, then being escorted around to the departure area and across the tarmac all comes together as you were there and deported. You could put the asterisk with “deported” on the list but I’d say it counts.

  • Nat Power says:

    It’s a unanimous vote of YES it seems. Your story counts for more than just a willingness to interact and engage with Eritrean culture, which in itself is commendable. It shows that you have a limitless supply of optimism and guts. It shows that you have a great sense of humour in the face of obstacles. Your mission is to travel to every country but the outcome, it would seem, is understanding your place in this world. These experiences and the way you deal with them is what makes you the person you are and the character that we all love to read about. Keep it coming Chris, I just really feel like I am beginning to know you!

  • David says:

    Yes, your visit to Eritrea counts. You walked farther from the airplane on Eritrean soil than Armstrong and Aldrin ambled from the lunar module. No one would say their visit to the Moon doesn’t count (except those who disbelieve they made it there). No asterisk required.

    Congratulations on a gutsy move, Chris. I dare say most of us would not have even tried what you did, including a multitude of naysayers and asterisk-mongers.

  • Di Morrison says:

    Love your work. Tremendous effort, great story, but no, sorry, I don’t think you visited that country.

  • Erin says:

    Although I normally wouldn’t count a stop in an airport as a country visit, in this case I’d say you had a very specific cultural encounter, both with the friendly Eritreans on your plane and the less than friendly immigration system. If you are unable to arrange a visa for a friendlier return trip by the end of the year, I’d say that it counts. After all, you do have a tale to tell!

    Thanks for the story.

  • Michelle says:

    You landed on the soil of the country – how far you ‘entered’ into the country is irrelevant. Count it.

  • Mark says:

    Yes it counts (barely); though you technically didn’t enter the country (i.e., passport stamp), you exited passport control, were escorted outside the terminal to the departure area before your forced exit. Though disappointing, it counts. I’m trying to decide if my stop in Auckland, NZ (and a couple other places), where I shopped and mailed postcards counts, (it doesn’t, I think). And my goal is to visit 100 countries before I turn 50 (2 years); your goal is far more laudable; I greatly enjoy your blog.

  • Anna says:

    It completely counts – you have to be attempting to visit or stay in a country to get deported from it! It’s not your fault you travel on a US passport and Eritrea doesn’t like the US Govt position on their conflict with Ethiopia. You earnt frequent flyer points in your deportation – one of the more unusual methods of travel hacking I’ve come across.

  • Lumi says:

    You made it outside the airport, that means Eritrean soil, so it counts! What an adventure 🙂

  • Deborah DeGolyer says:

    I say ‘yes’. You’ve made numerous attempts to get the visa; you’ve tried all your tricks. Politics intervened and made it technically impossible for a ‘real’ visit — although you did ‘visit’ in a way. If you still want to try again before your 13 months are up, go ahead. But don’t sweat it.

  • CJRADO says:

    Chris, no way. Saying you’ve been to Eritrea diminishes your other accomplishments on this quest. The fact you’re asking us to weigh in is a tell that you don’t believe it counts. (Neither does North Korea by the way … go do a proper tour using one of the tour companies based in Beijing. They allow US passport holders these days. We did it 2 years ago and had a blast) We all want to see you make your goal, but don’t get there with even the SLIGHTEST hint of an asterisk. Perhaps ask us to help you turn this around by petitioning the Eritrean government!?! I picture President Afewerki welcoming you at the airport in Asmara later this year! GO CHRIS GO!

  • Jaton West says:

    Definitely count it! You did everything you possibly could to get there and it wasn’t like you just changed planes there. I’ve been to Frankfurt countless times, but only to connect to a flight to Berlin, so I don’t count Frankfurt as a city I’ve visited. But that’s a stark contrast to your intent (specifically, to spend some time in the country), your efforts (applying for a visa multiple times, etc.), and your relative success (actually spending some time in country that was devoted to something other than waiting for your connecting flight).

  • Bonnie says:

    Definitely counts!

  • Christian says:

    It definitely counts. Awesome job. It would count twice if we knew by now, whether eritrean prisons provide WiFi access *g*

  • Matt Taylor says:

    It counts. It’s a good story too.

  • Dori says:

    If this were me I would count getting deported from the country as a visit. If your life goals include revisiting countries where you have not spent enough time, go back. The next visit should be with the proper Visas, etc. or you may be spending a lifetime “experiencing” the culture of their prison system. You are lucky that you were sent home this time as it sounds as if this country does not like journalists, writers and well read bloggers. Bad things do happen to good people so don’t push your luck. After all the credit being given to the internet for massive change in Egypt, etc. repressive governments are not likely to be fans of well known bloggers. You are young and 10 or 20 years from now this may be a wonderful easy country to visit. In the meantime your family will be able to enjoy having you around.

  • Wira says:

    Whether to cross it off the list is really up to you Chris. Is it good enough to have tried, reached, communicated with several locals in the bus although ended up deported? Or actually going into the country, tasting the local food and enjoy local’s way of spending time makes you feel that you have enough experience in Eritrea?

    Either way, feel free to cross out Eritrea, but make it a point to try going there again sometimes in the future. I kinda feel that you would anyways. So, the best of luck! 🙂

  • Tom says:

    You went, you saw, you’ve got a great story to tell. The story was worth the effort! lol. Count it!

  • Sonja Holverson says:

    Being in a country and having a cultural exchange is definitely a visit in my opinion. Yours was possibly more intense than for most people so you are even ahead on that criterion. Check it off and wait for a longer visit in the future. Best to you, Sonja

  • Misty says:

    Here’s a vote for counting it. Great story.

  • Tracey Eller says:

    Lots of great comments…I think it counts according to many…
    To me, you have an experience of the country so I think that is important and I believe it should count. If you need to really experience the culture then it’s more tricky. Also I believe once you have been deported from a country it’s hard to get back in so trying again could be quite difficult.
    Having said all that, I’d also have to say…Listen to your heart on this one…if it keeps you up at night you might have to chance it again…

  • The Frugal Hostess says:

    I think you have to try again. But I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.

  • Jodi Henderson says:

    If you’ve got a good story to tell about it (and I think you do), then it counts. So COUNT IT!

  • James B says:

    Sorry – doesn’t count in my book. I have been in transit for several hours in various airports, and I never count this in my personal count of countries I have been to. Big fan of your quest, and I’m sure you will get back to Eritrea for a full visit.

  • Pauline says:

    Chris, it’s a good idea to ask for other people’s opinions… But in the end, the choice of whether you visited Eritrea is yours, and only yours counts ! Good luck 🙂

  • Dean Johnson says:

    I say “No, with an asterisk”. Part of visiting the country is gaining some sense of the country during your visit, however brief. Talking to affable airport people doesn’t seem like something very distinct about this country, any more than talking to bored minimally talkative gas station attendants, in the middle of the night, means you learned something about that area. Let’s say that you drive though a state in the middle of the night, only stopping at gas stations to get fuel and caffeine. Does that count as having visited the state? I would say no. However, if you drove through a very picturesque state during the day and stop at a local restaurant or two, along with gas stations, I might consider that a visit because you got more of a sense of the state.

  • Larry Jacobson says:

    As we sailed up the Red Sea, we stopped in Eritrea without visas. We motored in circles while answering questions over the radio about who we were, where we hailed from, how many onboard, were they men or women, where were we going, and on and on. We were finally granted permission to dock and then to come to the port authority and immigration office where we were granted visas and welcomed to the country.
    However, I think sailors are treated a bit different than fly-ins–after all, we were “in the neighborhood.”
    As a circumnavigator, I believe my opinion is important here and I’m going to give you a thumbs up!
    There’s more of this story in my book, The Boy Behind the Gate

  • stephen q shannon says:

    Bigoted and biased I am in your favor I vote FOR an * asterisk so in case you are ever challenged by the gray lady (NYTimes) you touched their soil outside the airport and circumstances “cut your visit short.”
    Your advocate! sQs Delray Beach FL
    PS – My personal rule in claiming where I have been, it does not count to change planes in a locale where you only did that and failed to spend time “seeing” the land and its people away from airport air and ground transport, etc. ss

  • Elaine Masters says:

    I say that it’s an exceptional effort and worth the reward. The story, the lessons, your persistence, are all helpful for the rest of us. We could start a campaign and badger the Eritrean Tourism Bureau? Turn the future visit into a media event…but then I’ve not been to the region (yet) and only have a western perspective on such things. Keep going and mark this one off the list.

  • Carl Creasman says:

    My friend, of course it counts. Now, had you just planned to fly in and fly out, then no, but that wasn’t your plan. And you should add in the uniqueness of it being your own “deported” country. Later, when you create a list or biography, you can put an astrick next to it and explain that it was your only deported country. Heck, celebrate it. Maybe name your next pet Eritrea! 14 countries left to go.

  • Oune says:

    I think it should count. After the third return of your passport without a visa and being asked to leave in such a manner, the option of going back doesn’t seem to be in your near future. Good luck with the rest of your list.

  • Hannah Joy says:

    For the purpose of your project and because of your bold, defiant attitude, I think you owe it to yourself to cross it off the list for all the valiant efforts you made. After all, Eritrea not granting you a visa is not something you have any say in… Then again, perhaps the internet gods will smile upon you after this post and the situation will magically resolve itself? Meanwhile, well done you for never giving up in the face of bureaucracy. In short, if no further opportunity to visit Eritrea crops up, you’ve already been. 😉

  • Terri R. Munro says:

    Count it, but try to go back!

  • Kyle says:

    My requirement for a visit would be able to have unobstructed access to the internal country for NAY period of time.

    Ergo, if you snuck across the border undetected, did 10 jumping jacks, and ran back over- I would accept that.

    But that’s just me… 🙂

  • Krista B. says:

    Of course it counts, you experienced some of the culture and that is my measuring stick of a country.

  • Diana says:

    I say try to get back, but if at the end of your project you haven’t been able to get into the country then by all means put an astric next to it. There is only so much you can do, but to meet your tough criteria I say hold off making the decision until you have done all you possibly can. If you have done all you possibly can, then mark it off!

  • Shae says:

    As a proud Eritrean-Canadian I’m saddened that you were turned away at the airport. You would have had an amazing time in Eritrea (but I’m biased!) I would count it as a yes, but I do urge you to try going back. The people, weather and food by the sea side are worth the trouble and more!

    Much success next time!

  • Patrice Federspiel says:

    Yes, you were definitely in Eritrea, it counts. Yes, yes, yes. Congratulations. Of course, if you get another chance, definitely take it!

  • Diane says:

    Count it!

  • Matt Staples says:

    Put it in these terms if you must any.

    Would you honestly be satisfied, having already traveled the world, having visited 177 countries, getting out of their airports and visiting their rich, varied cultures, and then have a single ‘sort of visited’ sitting in a category by itself, standing out incomplete from the others?

    A niggling doubt of uncertainty of whether or not your dream has been accomplished, whether you could count it because you had problems with that one hurdle that bogged you down, or a fear that your dream will be forever tainted by a shrug of your shoulders followed by an ‘oh well, it’s only a dream. It’s not that important’.

    If you’ve got any of that, then you know more than any of the commenters to this blog that you have to go back.

    If you don’t have any of that, then you’re fine. You can count it.

  • Lise says:

    You left the airport, you have a story, it should count.

  • Jim Dee says:

    Great story, man, but you’re going to have to go back. I mean, when you complete the whole task, you don’t want any kind of asterisks or qualifications, right? You just need to befriend an Eritrean and get some help. I have to believe that, in a case like this, countries can set aside their stupid politics and help a brother out w/ his quest.

  • Karin says:

    What a great story – and what a delicious dilemma. Seems like you are looking for a way to check Eritrea off your list and feel good about it.

    When I was 14 I traveled from Zurich to Santiago de Chile. It was my first world trip all by myself. We had a layover in Dakar at 2am in the morning and had to cross the tarmac by foot and wait in the airport until our plane was refilled and cleaned. Although it only took two hours I will never forget this visit. Airport workers were sleeping out in the open next to plains covered with colorful blankets. People were as black as the night; the air was warm and lush. For me, it was a true adventure and I do feel that I visited Dakkar, at least a small part of it.

    So, I vote yes, cross Eritrea the heck off you list and go back later if you feel like it. I wouldn’t let bureaucracy or corruption stop me from reaching my goal.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures.

  • Gene says:

    Counts but with asterick.

  • Corinna says:

    Did they stamp your passport? No. Then it doesn’t count officially.

    Did you leave the airport and walk on the actual ground of the country. Then it deserves an asterisk.

    Should you try to get there again before your deadline? Absolutely!

  • Jean Layton says:

    Your story alone is reason enough to count this as a country visit. Congratulations on checking off one more.

  • Cindy says:

    Why did you create the rule of not counting airport visits? Was it because:
    – airport visits are too easy?
    – airport visits don’t allow you to experience the local culture?
    If those are the reasons for the airport rule, then I’d count Eritrea and feel great about it, because it definitely wasn’t easy and definitely gave you a taste of the local culture!
    If you travel, like I do, for the purpose of collecting stories and life experiences, then getting deported was one of the best things that could have happened! Not many of us have experienced deportation!
    Thanks for your work and the inspiration and smiles it brings me!

  • Gustav says:

    Wow, you are one gutsy man! Hats off to you for the balls to go without a VISA. For that reason alone, I say this counts as a visit. Perhaps this can be a one-off thing? Future countries have to be entered properly?

    Anyway, just to show how badly this could go, and because I am Swedish and it is a sore point, remember the two Swedish journalists now imprisoned for many years in Eritrea. They do mean business.

  • Timothy says:

    It counts, but with the asterisk. After you are done with the remaining 15 (or 14) countries, I think you should give it one more try. Bend the rules if you have to, change your identity or something, make a last push. If that fails then, you can count is as the only minor blot in your otherwise perfect record.

  • Sally says:

    You were on their soil interacting with the locals- yes I think it does count, but if you have such a heated desire to visit, try going by land next time or wait awhile for a change over of powers (ie immigration officials). Chances are there were no computor systems for you to be blacklisted on, but they will be telling their buddies about the American they deported for a while. Happy travels!

  • Viky says:

    Counts to me! If it will make you feel better, give it an asterisk.

  • Donna Manley says:

    I think you should make one more good effort, and if it doesn’t come through, you’ve earned an *.

  • Wes says:

    From a legal perspective, you’re trip probably doesn’t count. You were denied entry, which, in the eyes of the law, means you were never really there. That said, you touched down and placed your feet on Eritrean soil . . . er, concrete. If I were you, I’d count it, but provisionally. Chances are, if you try to go again, it’ll be even tougher . . . .

  • ben capozzi says:

    Great story, Chris! Only you can really answer if the trip counts to you, but you know there’ll be no bad judgment from anyone here. You’re not the guy anyone thinks of as coming up short; you’re the go long guy!

    You got a great story, definitely got a taste of the culture, but didn’t meet the criteria you laid out originally. I say it counts, with an asterisk, and certainly not for lack of tryin’!


  • Felix says:

    It’s a story, so I would count it and still try to sneak in somehow 😉

  • TJ says:

    (I guess just to be clear: I, for one, don’t want you to try again. That’s not answering the question of whether it “counts” or not, but that’s not a question that concerns me very much. You don’t have anything to prove to me. I know you’re brave, smart, resourceful, and resilient. Going back is dangerous, as Gustav points out, and…for what?

    The only reason for you to try again is if YOU feel like you have to. I would never want you [or anyone] to make such a risky decision based on the consensus of a mostly anonymous discussion board. Nor do I think our permission trumps that of the Eritrean officials. They’re provincial and arbitrary but so are we.

    Maybe the lesson from the whole Eritrea trip — the whole project itself? — is about things like gestation, process…risk, resilience… expectations, permission [Seth Godin says this is important; so, it seems, do the Eritreans]…maybe even that there are such things as borders, limits…and NOT so much about accomplishing a Great Big Feat that requires a Great Big List.

    You inspire me and I admire you. That’s what I can say “yes” to. Emphatically. The rest is up to you.)

  • Linda says:

    Yes, it counts! Your efforts to date are admirable. I suspect this is not the last we’ve heard of Eritrea.

  • Kelly Wagner says:

    My vote is that this one definitely counts (and sure, add an asterisk if for no other reason than to remind you of the story behind the visit – as though you’d ever forget!). If you end up being able to get there for a proper ‘tour of the interior’, I’d count that as a ‘bonus’ visit. Good on ya for having the guts to get as far as you did!

  • Mary says:

    Count it!

  • Greg LaRowe says:

    My wife and I actually argued about this. My vote is that it should count because you made 3 attempts to purchase the visa and had the courage to show up without it and tried to obtain it usually normally accepted methods. I am only an amateur compared to you having only been to 44 countries but if the immigration officials will not let you in there isn’t much you can do. This also isn’t a country you probably want to be in illegally as well….My wife’s vote is that this doesn’t count that you at least have to spend the night and leave the airport to visit some part of the country. Hopefully you’ll be able to make another attempt and get in just to be safe.

  • Vera says:

    Count it, but still try to actually get in and experience the country more.

  • Tamara Hoffbauer says:

    I say you can’t be deported from a country unless you were IN the country, so YES it counts!!

  • Angela Winters says:

    If you can count your walk to the north side of a room as a completed trip to North Korea, then this must certainly count.
    You did many of the things you do in most countries, though not under pleasant circumstances and you stayed in Eritrea longer than you stayed in some countries (North Korea again), so I don’t see why there is a question. Count it.

  • Nathalie wallin says:

    Count it in, it’s the experience that counts. We can all have different opinions about what “counts” of being in a country, but the only one that has the answer is you. Don’t be too hard on yourself

  • Arlene says:

    I think this trip totally counts as a visit! It wasn’t your fault that they didn’t let you go to the Eritrean amusement parks! It would be worth another try, if the visa ever comes through.

  • Tim says:

    Sorry, it doesn’t count, and I think you know it. Effort expended, journey made, but stopped at the gate. It wouldn’t be fair to the smiling Eritraens whose streets you didn’t get to wander to be represented by the bureaucrats who took your money and turned you around.

    That said, if your time limit expires and it’s as close as you got, I think you can be pretty happy that you did all you could.

  • Brian Lukowski says:

    You most definitely count this one. You got as far as any American can apparently get into this country. It may not be as far as other countries have allowed but it is still ‘in country’ with a great story to add.

  • Nikolaus says:

    Hey Chris – make it a draw! It is definitively no visit, it is no not-visit either, let’s take a look at chess.

    Chess was, hundreds of years ago, a very simple game, people had not been studying every possible move and there were no computers. But nowadays – most chess games finish in draws, some are won and some are lost. Why not apply it here?

    You were in the country, talked to the people, and spent some time breathing the air. But you didn’t really win it. If in the end you finish your experience with a 191 wins and 1 draw, you’d be a celar and clean world-champion, Chris.

    Good luck on the few missing countries!

  • Drew Jacob says:

    Chris, as much as I understand the urge to do everything all the way, it’s time to be pragmatic. You walked on their soil, talked with their people, probably even shook hands… you were there.

    I’d count this trip for the purposes of your every-country vow, but give it the MacArthur treatment: “I shall return.”

  • Matthew says:

    I’d say that you get to count it, no asterisk needed. You were in, met people, experienced various parts of the culture (friendly and the government), and left the airport.

  • Lois M says:

    Count it!

    You went above and beyond in trying to visit this country with the proper visas and other paperwork… it didn’t work out. Spend your energy somewhere else because it seems that this country doesn’t want to let you in for a proper visit!

  • Camille says:

    The story is good, but I don’t see that you can say you really have been to the country since you did not make it out of the airport. Sorry……

  • Rebecca says:

    Although ‘scarcely there’ describes the visit, I vote yes. You deplaned and spent several hours in other areas besides the passenger waiting areas at the airport.

  • Robin Dean says:

    I’d count it, you’ve made a lot of effort and the bad ending wasn’t your fault.

  • Lauren says:

    Hey Chris, you need to consider Eritrea DONE. Count it completed, no asterisk needed. You were IN the country and suffered enough for it.

  • John Mathews says:

    In the end, what matters is if you think it counts. But I’ll throw down some of my own bullshit here.

    To me, it sounds like, overall, your requirements for “visiting” all the countries in the world include gaining permissible entry. I’ve never read of you entering a country illegally, say by land through some open boarder, and then claiming you visited it. (Or maybe you have?) So it seems the key word is “visiting” versus say “invading” or “entering illegally”. Although that’s an idea – perhaps a land entrance might get you better results on this one.

    The fact that you ask the question shows you have some doubt about this, so I would recommend keeping it on the list and trying to finish it off anyway. But I also think, in the end, if it requires an asterisk, you can STILL attempt to gain entry for the rest of your life. It’s not like you’re going to die when your personal contest ends. There are going to be more opportunities. Good luck!

  • David says:

    Having done all you could, I’d say you should count your time in Eritrea as a visit.

  • Kevin Miller says:

    Trips are made by the stories that you make in country. In my mind, this more than qualifies as one hell of a story.


  • Jess says:

    I think this counts; you stepped outside the airport. Besides, as you said, you may not get another chance. Perhaps consider giving it another go if you get time, otherwise I’d just count it.

    On a side note, you seem way too dependent on your wifi, man. Every time I think about what you wrote about Australia it really pisses me off that you focused on lack of wifi more than anything else. Yes, we’re all technology addicts (or at least most of us) but there is more to life than the cyberworld. I don’t know why I’m writing this here, but there it is (probably because this is the first time I actually read a full post in ages).

  • Debbie M says:

    Yes, it counts. You didn’t refrain from going just because you couldn’t get a visa; you actually went. And you talked to Eritreans, and not just airport personnel. You learned a bit more about the area. And frankly, I don’t think you’ve gotten much more out of some of your other stops.

  • ATHIRA says:

    Chris, i think you should set this as a challenge to be legally in Eritrea… otherwise it doesn’t count ….

  • Neil Christie says:

    Great Story Chris but I don’t think it can be counted as a visit. Mitigating factors which WOULD favour counting it are –

    Stepping outside the terminal

    The fact that you returned from whence you came and so did NOT “transit” as such

    On balance, however, the point of the (fantastic) project is to pay a substantive visit and be permitted to enter.

    No-one said it would be easy…keep up the good work!

  • Tom K says:

    Count it! Sounds longer than the North Korea trip with just as many officials.

  • kabamba says:

    That is why they said “Welcome to Eritrea”. That is why they did not say “Welcome to transit”. Its because you were in Eritrea. To state a FACT, you were in Eritrea all that time. IT counts, unless you just decided not to count it.

  • MHA says:

    Love this sentiment! And I think that even though Eritrea might have an asterisk next to it on your list, it’s certainly got one of the best stories to go with it. And that’s what counts, right? It would be of no more value to have gotten into the country and then have seen / done nothing noteworthy, and left again.

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