Everyone has their academic strengths and weaknesses, but almost all of us would say we’re not very good at geography.
There are just so many countries in this great, big world of ours and it’s hard to keep track of them. Truth be told, most of us can’t even recite all the U.S. state capitals no matter how much it was drilled into us in school.
Here’s something else most of us don’t know — there are countries out there we’ve never heard of because they don’t exist — and one man has made it his mission to visit them all.
Unless you’re an experienced world traveler like the late Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern — that guy whose job it is to find the most disgusting foods on the planet (“Of course I’ll try your local specialty, sautéed dung maggots!”), you’re probably like me…
…I know the continents and the names of larger countries, and I may have heard the names of a few others in passing, but have no clue where they really are.
I mean, there’s only so much room on a desktop globe with a circumference of 12 inches or less. And no map in the world is large enough to print the names of every single town or city.
Yes, it’s a big world, parts of which are probably still undiscovered by man.
But for places that actually think of themselves as “countries,” you’d think they’d be recognized by some globalist agency somewhere. We know those bureaucrats have their hands in everything, right?
Put on a map somewhere, mentioned in some esoteric travel guide, or visited by Zimmern who likes to eat horse-rib-and-rectum sausage. (Yes, he ate that. Yes, I looked it up.)
So it comes as a surprise to hear there are countries out there that exist – but don’t officially exist.
Where in the world is Guilherme Canever?
The answer is, no one knows. He may not even know, because he visits countries that don’t really exist.
Canever is a world traveler and author of Unrecognized Nations: Travels To Countries That Do Not Exist.
Wait a minute. Doesn’t a place have to exist in order for us to visit? Did we discover some wormhole that hasn’t been reported on by CNN as a way to travel to a safe-space Utopia?
Yes, and no.
Canever has traveled to dozens of nations that don’t exist. They’re actual places, but as governments around the world try to tell us, “You don’t exist unless we say you exist.”
There are several complex reasons why a country exists without “existing.”
Under international laws, an official country is only recognized as such if it meets certain criteria. And we know there are always a gazillion criteria we all have to meet to exist in this day and age.
To become a legitimate country, a place must have a permanent population, defined borders, and its own independent government. (Big surprise – it’s not like humans can function without government keeping us alive).
They usually have some sort of tourism, trade, or relations with other countries.
Then, of course, they must kiss the ring of the Globalist King – the United Nations.
Even if a country knows it’s a country, and other countries know it’s a country, it’s not allowed to be a country unless the UN says so.
These countries may be perfectly functioning, self-sustaining nations with their own laws, languages, and currencies.
But without actually existing, this is all they’ll ever hear from the UN: “Don’t come crying to us if you need anything.”
Canever’s interest in countries that don’t exist started during a visit to Africa a decade ago. He stumbled upon a little place called Somaliland – a place that doesn’t really exist.
Somaliland is not recognized as a country. It’s not recognized by any other country. And they’ve never sought audience with King UN to plead for recognition.
This does have its downside. The little country-that’s-not-a-country has faced major economic problems, has no beneficial alliances and not many opportunities.
Canever describes it as a “parallel universe,” one in which locals know they’re on their own, but they make do.
They depend on each other instead of a government. Is it easy? No, but they make it work.
What is true independence?
And what is existence, for that matter? Now, I’m not trying to get all philosophical on you, but it’s an interesting concept.
Eighteenth century philosopher George Berkely said, “To be is to be perceived.”
You know, like “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
After his trip to Africa, Canever was inspired to take a grand tour of sorts to other non-countries he had been researching.
Some were independent territories that were partially recognized as existing; others were pretty much unknown mavericks, doing their best to self-sustain.
One of the recognizable names on his trip was Kosovo. We’ve heard about that one on the news, at least, after a tumultuous split from Russian-backed Serbia.
While Kosovo is not recognized by the UN, it does meet some of the other “criteria.” That is, it is recognized as a country by other countries and draws tourists. And, most importantly, it’s recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
Sorry, United Nations. There are loopholes.
Since most non-countries don’t have tourism industries or a strong economy, there aren’t any hotels or a McDonald’s.
Canever found accommodations on social media in local rentals or through Couchsurfing, an app that allows travelers to stay in private homes and connect with local communities.
The major takeaway for Canever is that locals in these non-existent countries are, by far, extremely welcoming. They don’t have much, but they share what they do have with visitors.
Locals in these areas don’t see tourists. They aren’t used to strangers, and don’t treat them as such. They’re intrigued to meet and learn from someone in the outside world.
You know, a world in which they’d exist.
Canever says the residents of these areas are friendly, curious, and very proud. They’re well-aware they’re probably better off struggling alone than being under someone else’s thumb.
Then he traveled to Cyprus, another one most of us have heard of.
But Cyprus is not recognized as Cyprus. And if you’re lost, you’re not the only one. Turkey recognizes a small part of the island as the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” But the rest of the island is “Turkish-occupied territory.”
This makes it very difficult for residents of the island. Some have family in Northern Cyprus, a recognized “country,” but they live in the unrecognized part of the nation and cannot cross the border.
Then Canever traveled to countries that don’t exist that none of us have ever heard of, like Abkhazia on the Black Sea.
Now, I don’t know exactly which countries border the Black Sea — some travel writer I turned out to be huh? It’s somewhere near Russia and I do know where that is, so it’s a start.
But Abkhazia is an ancient and beautiful place that doesn’t have much of the criteria needed to “exist.” But Russians know it’s there and flock to the beaches on vacation.
So, they do at least have some tourism. They even sell souvenirs — “My Russian grandmother went to Abkhazia… I’ve never heard of it… But I got this lousy t-shirt, so it must exist.”
And Abkhazia is in much better shape than places like Somaliland. They don’t exist to the rest of the world, but they’ve done well as a sovereign nation.
And they want to keep it that way. They actually require visitors to apply for an official entry permit, with authorization given by strict appointment only.
Canever says they, too, are very proud of their independence and success. And they don’t give a hoot that the UN doesn’t recognize them.
He visited several other unrecognized places, finding a complex pattern of peaceful unity bordered by other countries in conflict.
There’s Nagorno-Karabakh, an independent non-country sandwiched between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (Woo-hoo, I’ve heard of those!)
It’s a beautiful and peaceful place whose residents just want to be left alone — but they’re surrounded by warring nations. They may be minding their own business in the town square as gunfire erupts on opposite sides of their borders.
In some of these areas, Canever found much of the “country criteria” of borders and currencies and institutions like mail service, if not official existence.
They have everything under control and aren’t looking to change that.
Most of these would-be countries have one thing in common: They weren’t always independent. And that lack of independence didn’t work too well for them.
So, what’s the answer?
Now, it’s not all wine and roses for these countries that don’t exist and don’t really want to.
Canever has seen the downside of countries being granted existence, and he doesn’t think establishing borders and existing in the eyes of the world are always good things.
Sometimes, a territory has declared independence from a mother country to protect their minority interests. But the break causes an inevitable need for leadership within, creating new minorities of citizens who lose their independence all over again.
It’s a pretty interesting cultural and social experiment on the effects of government control versus communities working things out amongst themselves with no one really in charge.
Maybe we can learn something from these countries that don’t exist.
The United States declared her independence from a tyrannical king centuries ago. We meet all the criteria and have all the recognition as one of the greatest official countries in the world – including the blessings of King UN, the Great Protector.
But how independent are we, really? It’s an interesting question to ponder.
And Guilherme Canever has definitely made me think about it. I think I’ll grab a copy of his book and question the whole concept of existence.
My husband loves when I do that.