Friendly banter among travel enthusiasts can quickly become competitive. The conversation may start with “where were you last?” progress to “where else have you been?” and then escalate to “how many country have you visited?” Well, here’s some good news for country counters — you know the types who collect passport stamps for bragging rights. There are two new countries on the scene: Curacao (pictured above) and St. Maarten.
Perhaps you’re thinking that you’ve heard of Curacao and St. Maarten before and that they don’t sound new at all. Well, until Monday they were two of the five island territories of the Netherlands Antilles, a group which has now been dissolved. Now they’re autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a status that Aruba has enjoyed since 1986.
What this really means is that Curacao and St. Maarten can fully reap the benefit of taxes brought in and invest in their infrastructure. It also means that they will each have their own prime ministers. Curacao’s first Prime Minister, Gerrit Schotte, is just 36 — pretty cool.
In case you’re wondering what happened to the other three members of the now-defunct Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, have become autonomous special municipalities of the Netherlands.
So if you have plans to go Curacao or St. Maarten, then you’ll be able to include them in your “countries I’ve visited list.” If you took your trip back when they were island territories, I’m not sure that counts. You’ll have to ask someone like John Rheinberger, the Minnesota resident who’s made it to 192 countries since 1974. At the very least, you’ll have bragging rights that you got to swim in that turquoise Caribbean water.