From the UN to TCC and SISO – All About Country Collecting

While the articles on are usually about taxes and various aspects of flag theory, today I want to take a look at the more personal side of perpetual traveling: “collecting countries”.

As everyone knows, I plan to visit all the countries in the world by the age of 30 – from January 2020, I’ve only got one year left. But what even makes a country? What are the different definitions of a state, and therefore a flag?

The answer is complex and highly relevant to flag theory. After all, its teachings are by no means limited to officially recognized UN member states; they also apply to autonomous federal states, overseas territories, non-recognized states, and even certain exclaves. As long as such countries have a certain degree of sovereignty over their own legal systems, they offer a myriad of opportunities to resourceful entrepreneurs and investors.

As my degree in public administration taught me, a modern state is made up of three key elements: national territory, a national population, and state authority. Flag theory is only concerned with territories that have all three of these aspects (at least to a limited extent), i.e. territories with autonomy over at least some areas, such as their legal or tax system. However, this doesn’t mean we should forget about other parts of the world; they’re always worth a trip and might even open up investment opportunities or other prospects.

“Go to the places you’re treated the best” isn’t just an empty slogan; it’s waiting to be brought to life. We often find the best places aren’t the ones which are hyped, but those which are almost unknown. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of hype – the sudden explosion of land and real estate prices is music to the ears of global investors – but careful flag theorists try to beat the hype artists when finding and exploiting new locations.

This is the idea that has driven me, Christoph Heuermann, founder of, since the start of 2015, when I started my journey as a perpetual traveler. This article will give you an insight into the excitement of “collecting” various parts of the globe and “pitching flags” along the way. I’ll explain my own heuristic approach to dividing the world into various autonomous regions. Where possible, I’ve included links to my blog, where you can find my travel experiences and lots of illustrative pictures. My blog is updated every few months, and my last post was uploaded in February 2020. However, I’d like to start by dispelling a hypothesis that is often used against me.


Fast and slow traveling

Those who are against me – be it through envy, resentment, or (a)morality – say that I’m “on the run” from the state and taxes, as was recently claimed in the German weekly business news magazine, WirtschaftsWoche. That couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, this blog has covered all the factors that make you qualify as a habitual resident in Germany, and we’ve already established that I could easily spend six months in Germany every year. Problems would only start to arise after 183 days. But who wants to be there between October and May anyway (except maybe at Christmas)? And my parents and other relatives can always come and visit me abroad.

By contrast, the situation is nowhere near as critical in many other countries, where I can happily reside for many months – sometimes even for a whole year. There are still over 70 states around the world that are completely tax-free for global entrepreneurs and investors (for more information, see my encyclopedia for aspiring emigrants). Perpetual traveling is one way to reduce your tax burden, but it’s certainly not the only option. Permanent emigration is another possibility – and it even makes many things a lot easier (e.g. compliance).

Many people say, “traveling broadens your horizons”, and I’ve certainly found that to be true. If your child-like inquisitiveness and open-mindedness haven’t been completely erased by the education system, you can learn so much by traveling around the world with your eyes open. This is also what makes traveling a sort of healing process to overcome our inevitable lack of freedom. If you only take a one-year trip around the world before returning to your old job, only a fraction of your experience will remain with you. You can only shake the shackles for good by traveling with a certain regularity over many years.

Your sense of freedom will truly blossom when you constantly have to overcome sticky situations and learn to “survive” in dangerous countries – and when you’re forced step out of your comfort zone on a weekly basis, as you have to face canceled and missed flights, car breakdowns, and disorientation. These challenges don’t tend to come up in a run-of-the-mill life.

Many people think I’m traveling too fast, and yet I don’t understand how people can stay in the same place for months on end. They always go to the same co-working spaces, restaurants, and bars, and they know next to nothing about the country and city in which they’re living (with the odd exception). During their stays in places like Medellín, Cape Town, Bali, or Chiang Mai, they find out less about the region in 3 months than others do in 3 days. Of course, they’re more than welcome to do that. They might not need the intellectual stimulation to be gained by exploring your surroundings, preferring to settle in their familiar bubble. But as the famous surgeon Alexis Carrel rightly pointed out:

“The quality of life is more important than life itself”

Like everything in life, new places have a certain marginal utility. This is perhaps best expressed as a U curve, which declines steadily over the first few days and months, as life returns to normal and the highlights become fewer and further between. At some point (usually after a few months), it slowly starts to rise again as you gradually develop local friendships and knowledge that the average newcomer can’t just discover online. You have to weigh up both poles of this marginal utility when planning your travels. There is no standard answer, as the ideal length of stay heavily depends on the location – but 3-5 days are usually enough for a first impression, and you can even get a good idea of a small island nation by taking a day trip in a hire car.

When planning my itinerary over the past few years, my aim hasn’t just been to visit all the countries in the world, but also to explore future opportunities. That’s why I like to return to cities with attractive long-term perspectives – sometimes even several times a year – to avoid losing my connections (e.g. Panama City, Buenos Aires, Tbilisi, and Bangkok). But if you’re looking for the right place in the long term, you’ll first need to experience a whole range of different things.

After all, life isn’t over at 30; it’s only just begun. It’s all about the quality of your experiences, and not the length of your stay.

But there are even more reasons why I want to see every country by the age of 30. I expect a huge and inevitable economic and financial crisis by 2025 with over 80% depreciation. This will also have a significant impact on the world of travel, as many connections will be suspended and local conflicts will emerge on an unimaginable scale. That being the case, I’d like to watch everything unfold from one of the crisis-proof business locations I’ve managed to develop around the world.

But first and foremost, being a frequent traveler is a great pleasure – and it’s also a personal challenge that earned me quite some ridicule in my early years. That’s why I’m so motivated to reach the finish line, so I can rub it in the face of my doubters. And that’s not my only goal – not by any stretch of the imagination. I also want to develop a successful company, which many believe is impossible if you’re not confined to one area for several years. However, all you need is discipline and motivation – and frequent traveling is a great way to train these skills. You have to jump out of bed and catch flights at ridiculous times, and it takes a great deal of discipline to be productive as you try to resist the alcoholic temptations in business class. Airports and airplanes have been some of the most fruitful places for the Staatenlos blog; after all, I want to actually explore my destinations instead of spending too much time in front of a computer screen.

You could even simply describe my constant country hopping as a passion. And a passion doesn’t need justification, because you know what it means to you. It’s a kind of eccentric hobby – just like others collect stamps or coins – but it’s certainly better than doing something mind-numbingly boring, such as watching football. My hobby is all about collecting, and this article will present various country lists to bring you a little closer to my passion.


193 UN member states

There are 193 states that mutually recognize one another in the United Nations (except for a few political and historical exceptions):

  • Europe: 43 States
  • North / Central America and the Caribbean: 23 states
  • South America: 12 states
  • Middle East: 17 states
  • Central Asia: 6 states
  • Africa: 54 states
  • South and East Asia: 24 states
  • Oceania: 14 states

Not all these states are fully recognized on a mutual basis. This is most commonly the case with Israel, which is not officially recognized by 32 Arabic states within the UN. There are 15 states that don’t recognize the People’s Republic of China in favor of Taiwan, but this number has been slashed in recent years and continues to fall (Panama changed its stance in 2018). Meanwhile, Turkey refuses to recognize Cyprus, and Armenia isn’t recognized by Pakistan due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moreover, North and South Korea refuse to grant each other mutual recognition.

Virtually all these states have full sovereignty over their national territory and their own foreign policy, and they most importantly have their own legal system and enjoy full authority over taxation issues. That’s what makes them the core nations in flag theory, but they’re also joined by several partially autonomous territories. However, these regions are always subject to the whim of their mother countries, as proven recently by an unfortunate turn of events for the offshore islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and the British Virgin Islands.

Even many of the official UN states are completely unknown to the average person. Have you ever heard of Tajikistan, Kiribati, Guyana, Comoros, or São Tomé and Príncipe?

In the eyes of the inexperienced traveler, other countries seem so dangerous that they should be avoided like the plague. The fact that you can survive there is reflected by some of my adventures in the world’s crisis-torn states:

Staatenlos has so far visited 160 of 193 recognized member states. Most of the empty pages in my collector’s album are in East Asia and West Africa. The last countries I plan to cross off my list are Mauritius and Seychelles in January 2021.


197 states (incl. 4 mostly recognized states)

We could almost put 195 countries in the list of fully recognized states, as Vatican City and Palestine are official UN observer states with membership in 3 and 2 UN agencies, respectively. The Vatican is currently recognized by 183 states (of 197), while Palestine has diplomatic relations with 138 countries.

By contrast, there are only 14 UN states that remain loyal to Taiwan, especially many developing countries in the Pacific and South America thanks to abundant developmental aid. The small Himalayan state of Bhutan should also be mentioned in this context, as it doesn’t recognize either of the two Chinas. The list of 197 countries is rounded off with the Balkan state of Kosovo, which is still claimed by Serbia but has established diplomatic ties with 112 states.

When it comes to flag theory, all these countries are fully autonomous and relevant. For example, Taiwan and Palestine have territorial tax systems, Kosovo imposes a low flat-rate tax of 10%, and the Catholic Vatican is the greatest tax haven of all (although it’s almost impossible to move there).

204 states (incl. 7 mostly non-recognized states)

Seven other states are de facto independent satellite states that are practically only recognized by their protectors and fellow vassals and have nothing to do with the United Nations. Four of these states emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union; they fundamentally recognize one another and have even set up their own organization for this purpose. These are Transnistria (claimed by Moldova, sponsored by Russia), Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh (claimed by Azerbaijan, sponsored by Armenia), South Ossetia and Abkhazia (claimed by Georgia, sponsored by Russia). South Ossetia and Abkhazia are diplomatically recognized by Russia and four other client states (Nauru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Syria).

It’s also worth mentioning the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (controlled by Morocco), which is also known as Western Sahara or South Morocco. The government is exiled in Algeria; it’s still recognized by 42 states but hardly has any territorial control. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is claimed by the Republic of Cyprus and is only recognized by Turkey. The list of mostly non-recognized states is rounded off by Somaliland (claimed by Somalia). In the ongoing civil war, Somaliland has emerged alongside other de facto independent territories, such as Puntland and Jubaland, within the former Somalian state structure. However, Somaliland is the only territory to have achieved a certain degree of normality in its statehood.

In conventional flag theory, these countries usually only appear in the hunt for very specific flags. This is due to their lack of recognition, which makes it difficult to obtain citizenship or even found a company there. However, they can prove highly advantageous as server locations or for investments.

206 de facto sovereign states

There are also two de facto sovereign states that are freely associated with New Zealand. These are the Cook Islands and Niue, which are well-known offshore locations in the Pacific. Their citizens hold citizenship in New Zealand and have a common head of state, and the nation can enter into international treaties. The Cook Islands have diplomatic ties with 52 states, and Niue with 20. The Cook Islands are a very interesting – albeit often overlooked – destination in almost all aspects of flag theory.

Staatenlos has so far visited 167 of the 206 de facto sovereign states.

206 Olympic nations

The same number of states have also been granted clearance to participate in the Olympic Games, but they’re not the same states – 9 regional autonomous territories are preferred over the 9 de facto independent states. In addition to the 197 (mostly) recognized states, the Olympic nations also include American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, Aruba, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, and the Cook Islands.

211 FIFA states

The International Football Federation (FIFA) is a little more generous than the Olympic Committee, allowing 211 nations to enter into qualifying for the World Cup. In addition to the Olympic nations, the FIFA states also include the Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, Anguilla (all UK), Curaçao (Netherlands), and New Caledonia (France).

However, some of the states that are not part of FIFA include Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, the Vatican and Monaco, which are mainly replaced by the three additional countries in the United Kingdom (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). But even the Faroe Islands and French Polynesia have their own national football teams – there are a total of 211 states that can compete for the FIFA World Cup.

226 states (incl. British Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The next substantial contribution to the list is made by the overseas territories of various states. The United Kingdom has a lot to offer here and even consists of four nations itself (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). The three Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man are joined by 14 other overseas territories:

  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia
  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • British Indian Ocean Territory (especially Diego Garcia)
  • The British Virgin Island
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Montserrat
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • British Antarctic Territory

It’s also worth mentioning the largely independent overseas territories of other states, especially those belonging to the Netherlands (Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten), Denmark (the Faroe Islands and Greenland) and the United States of America (whose inhabited territories include American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam).

249 ISO country codes (or domain endings)

249 areas of the planet have their own two-letter abbreviations in line with ISO 3166, and so almost all of them have also been given their own domains. It’s interesting to note BV (Bouvet Island, Norway), IO (British Indian Ocean Territory), CC (Cocos Islands, Australia), and UM (United States Minor Outlying Islands, e.g. Wake or Midway). These domains are quite popular in flag theory (e.g. TO for Tonga and TV for Tuvalu), as they can offer protection against censorship and facilitate otherwise illegal practices like file sharing.

256 states (incl. partially sovereign populated territories)

Let’s return to the 206 de facto sovereign states and clearly list all other 50 partially sovereign populated territories. This can be achieved by sorting them by their governing state:

  • England: 20
  • France: 11
  • The Netherlands: 6
  • Denmark: 2
  • The USA: 5
  • Australia: 3
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Finland: 1
  • Norway: 1

The United Kingdom has the most to offer here and even consists of four nations itself (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). The three Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man are joined by 11 other inhabited overseas territories. We can note a total of 20 territories under the United Kingdom:

  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia
  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Montserrat
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Saint Helena Ascension
  • Tristan da Cunha
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

France has the following overseas regions:

  • French Guyana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • Réunion
  • Mayotte

And the following overseas territories:

  • French Polynesia
  • New Caledonia
  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Saint Barthélemy
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon

The Netherlands has six territories on this list:

  • Aruba
  • Curaçao
  • Sint Maarten
  • Bonaire
  • Saba
  • Sint Eustatius

Denmark holds two territories:

  • Greenland
  • Faroe Islands

The United States of America has five:

  • American Samoa
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico

Australia has three inhabited territories:

  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Norfolk

The same can be said for New Zealand, but the Cook Islands and Niue have already been included in the list:

  • Tokelau

Finland controls the autonomous Åland Islands, and Norway has Svalbard (Spitsbergen).

266 states (incl. 10 sovereign dependent territories)

We can now add another ten countries that are only marginally different from the other countries on the list. There are 266 countries on the official list of UN+ states, which is authoritative for

It includes some autonomous republics in Russia that were briefly independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union:

  • Autonomous
  • Republic of Ingushetia
  • Autonomous Republic of Chechnya
  • Autonomous Republic of Dagestan
  • Autonomous Republic of Tuva
  • Crimean Peninsula

It’s also worth mentioning that Puntland, which forms part of Somalia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina is divided into the entities of Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The de facto autonomous Republic of Kurdistan also gets its own point – just like the rest of Iraq. This also applies to the autonomous region of Tibet in China.

Of course, we can argue here about what actually constitutes sovereignty, as the Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic are not currently included in the ranking, and the UN+ also filters out micronations with no (or dubious) territorial claims. More on that later… But number 266 is an entire continent. Antarctica might not belong to anyone and might be controlled by several entities due to its sheer size, but it certainly deserves its own entry (and a trip as well).

This entire sense of flag theory begins and ends with this list, which even includes territories that don’t always have full autonomy over their legal and tax systems but almost always enjoy regional tax advantages. The most interesting locations are undoubtedly the overseas territories held by European states, especially Great Britain and the Netherlands.

Staatenlos has so far visited 199 of the 266 territories.


Plus remote areas

Remote areas are the largely uninhabited overseas territories belonging to many of the states named above; they are often used for military or research purposes. Some examples include Jan Mayen and Bouvet Island (Norway), Clipperton Island (France), Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Heard Island and the McDonald Islands (Australia), South Georgia Island (Great Britain), and the North and South Poles. With the exception of a few territories, these locations are generally only relevant to the “most traveled people”, as they are practically unreachable. There’s usually only one expedition every year – and it costs tens of thousands of dollars.


329 territories (Travelers’ Century Club)

The Travelers’ Century Club (TCC) is one of the oldest modern associations of frequent travelers. Its catalog is largely based on the list of 257 states (with the key addition of archipelagos and exclaves that are geographically separated from their mother countries). As a result, the catalog includes a lot more territories in Europe and America. The TCC was founded in 1954 by Bert Hemphill, a travel agent based in Los Angeles. It currently has around 1,400 members. John Clouse became the first man to visit all 325 countries in 1995 (before the addition of South Ossetia and the Austral Islands in 2019). While touching down at an airport might be enough to meet the requirements of the TCC, I’ve set myself much higher standards.

Antarctica is divided into seven different territories (Australian, New Zealand, Chilean, Argentinian, English, French, Norwegian), some of which are the trickiest on the list and arguably the reason why only 23 people around the world have visited all 327 countries (as of early 2020).

Some of the additional enclaves/exclaves on the list include the Spanish territories of Ceuta / Melilla in North Africa, Nakhchivan in Azerbaijan, the Angolan province of Cabinda, the mainland part of Equatorial Guinea, the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, and the Indian regions of Sikkim and Kashmir. The TCC splits Russia into Kaliningrad, Europe, and Asia (as with Turkey), and it interestingly awards a separate point for each of the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain). The USA is also divided into a continental part, Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the partially autonomous archipelagos mentioned above.

Archipelagos are the main addition made by the Travelers’ Century Club, including two US military bases in the Pacific due to their historical importance in the Second World War: Midway and Wake Island. The Diego Garcia Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory) is another key location (and is generally considered the most difficult country in the TCC catalog). This is joined by other territories like South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Many other countries are also given their own archipelagos, including the additions of Lord Howe Island and Tasmania (Australia), the Chatham Islands (New Zealand), Margarita Island (Venezuela), San Andrés (Colombia), Zanzibar (Tanzania), the Bismarck Archipelago (Papua New Guinea), Rodrigues (Mauritius) and the Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles). The Malaysian states of Sabah and Saraw are given their own point in addition to the peninsula itself, and Indonesia is even divided into Java, Kalimantan, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Maluku Islands, Papua, Sulawesi, and Sumatra. South Korea has Jeju Island, Japan is given the Okinawa and Ryuku Islands, and India is also allocated the Andaman / Nikobar Islands and the Laccadive Islands. Canada has Prince Edward Island, Chile is supplemented by Easter Island and the Juan Fernández Islands, Brazil has Fernando de Noronha, and Ecuador is obviously given the Galápagos Islands.

The TCC has also assigned many additional territories to Europe. For example, French Polynesia is supplemented by the Marquesas Islands and Austral Islands. The Mediterranean island of Corsica has also been added to the list, just like the Spanish Balearic Islands and the Italian islands of Sardinia, Sicily, and Lampedusa. Collectors can also pick up more than one point in Greece by visiting Crete, the Dodecanese, and the Ionian Islands. And we shouldn’t forget the Canary Islands, Azores or Madeira.

All in all, the list is very much achievable and I still intend to complete it. Considering the lengthy and expensive nature of the expeditions, some of the greatest challenges will arguably be posed by certain areas of Antarctica.

A cruise on an expedition ship departing from Ushuaia (Argentina) costs around € 25,000 for two weeks – but you can bring the price down to around € 8,000-6,000 by sharing your cabin with others. While other cruises occasionally depart from South Africa or New Zealand / Australia, they rarely cost less than € 15,000-20,000 – even in the most affordable class – due to the longer travel time.

Staatenlos has so far visited 216 of the 329 territories.


434 quadrants (Know Your Earth)

The KYE ranking divides our planet into 434 equally sized quadrants, excluding areas consisting entirely of water. It doesn’t care about borders – only lines of latitude and longitude – making it the most “stateless” of the lists presented in this article.

Staatenlos has so far visited 192 of 434 quadrants.


949 territories (Most Travelled People)

MTP stands for the “Most Travelled People”, an initiative that was launched by Charles Veley in 2003 after he’d become the youngest person to complete the TCC list at the age of 37 (my aim is to beat him). In comparison with the even more extensive NomadMania list, the MTP is mainly focused on islands, listing almost every geographically independent island as a separate territory.

Certain countries seem to be favored over others, such as Switzerland, which has each of its separate 26 cantons on the list and is therefore somewhat over-represented. The deviations from the NomadMania list are summarised here. After many additions, 949 countries are now listed in the catalog. Unlike the TCC, you can only complete the MTP list by presenting photographic evidence, an affidavit, or a stamp in your passport.

Staatenlos has so far visited 404 of the 949 territories.


1,281 territories (NomadMania)

NomadMania, formerly The Best Travelled (TBT), was founded by the frequent traveler Harry Mitsidis and, in my eyes, takes a more representative approach by dividing the world into 1,281 territories. This list also contains more islands than the TCC, but the focus is on creating a fair and representative division of mainland regions. For example, avid travelers have to visit all the federal states of larger countries like the USA, Russia, Brazil, and even Germany. Even smaller countries are split into 2 to 3 regions if they have certain cultural or territorial differences. NomadMania also requires travelers to spend a minimum amount of time or carry out a local activity before scoring a point in each country – this reflects my own standards.

NomadMania is currently undergoing a restructuring process to make several changes and additions to the list according to eagerly discussed criteria. If you’d like to find out how a new area is added to the list, you can check out this page.

Staatenlos has so far visited 520 of the 1,281 territories. The illustrated map offers a clear reminder of how small we are compared to our planet, especially when we consider the vastness of Russia, Canada, and China. You can create your own user account with NomadMania and MTP to gain access to similar maps and statistics.


3,978 territories (SISO)

SISO was created by Jeff Shea as the logical continuation of the ISO 249 list, outlining sub-lists of provinces for each country on the ISO list and adding official unlisted places to make a grand total of 3,978 areas.

You can see the complete list here. I’ve not counted the number of territories visited so far.



Micronations are unrecognized fictional states, some of which have been founded just for fun or to market projects, while others have been established with serious intentions. They might sometimes have a paltry “national territory” and “national population”, but they completely lack “state authority” and are often in conflict with the states within which they’re founded.

The problem is that the planet doesn’t really have any more terra nullius, a technical term used to describe a piece of land that is not claimed by any other diplomatically recognized state. This wasn’t the case at the turn of the 19th century, as many islands were still being discovered, but satellite imagery now enables us to explore almost every corner of the world from the comfort of our own home.

Nevertheless, there are still pieces of land that nobody wants, as reflected by the Liberland project, where settlers have laid claim to an island on the Danube that isn’t of interest to either Croatia or Serbia. Despite relinquishing its claim to the island, Croatia is attempting to prevent the project as much as possible, and not much has happened since 2015.

The most famous example of terra nullius is the Bir Tawil desert area, situated between Egypt and Sudan. As each country has laid claim to a much larger and richly mineralized area on the Red Sea, they have both relinquished their claim to Bir Tawil; if either of them laid claim to the barren Bir Tawil desert area, they would have to give up their other claim.

But Bir Tawil isn’t as barren and inhabited as you might think. I found that out for myself in November 2019, when I drove for 20 hours from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum – ten of which were spent off-road in the hot desert – only to be held hostage for 40 hours by a group of gold-mining Bedouins (thankfully with a happy ending).

You can read my crazy story here.

Although flag theory already facilitates the practice of regulatory arbitrage in over 250 states, further competition amongst states is obviously always welcome. That’s why the two realistic approaches taken by new, truly autonomous territories are to negotiate with existing states or to tap into the open sea outside an exclusive economic zone. Another possibility – and not as distant as you might think – would be to colonize other planets.

Although flag theory already facilitates the practice of regulatory arbitrage in over 250 states, further competition amongst states is obviously always welcome. That’s why the two realistic approaches taken by new, truly autonomous territories are to negotiate with existing states or to tap into the open sea outside an exclusive economic zone. Another possibility – and not as distant as you might think – would be to colonize other planets. actively supports both approaches: the idea of free private cities, whereby an autonomous special zone is wrested from existing states; and seasteading, where floating platforms are constructed in the open sea or off the coast (with the blessing of a host state). I’m heavily involved and invested in a real project in Honduras, which is already very advanced, and I should have some incredibly positive news in the foreseeable future.

The most well-known micronations, on the other hand, do not aspire to obtain full or even partial autonomy over their legal and tax systems. For example, the micronation districts of Christiania in Copenhagen and Užupis in Vilnius are more interested in drugs. The people of the Principality of Seborga in Italy and the Principality of Hutt River in Australia don’t want to pay taxes – and they’ve even had some success. The “subjects” of the “Kingdom of Germany” (Königreich Deutschland) could also be put in this category (despite our websites having the same name, has nothing to do with those lunatics).

Perhaps the best example of seasteading is the Principality of Sealand, situated in the Thames estuary. While the platform in the North Sea was once used by pirate radio broadcasters, it’s now a profitable business selling titles, passports, and other merchandise.

There are also lots of joke projects that have often emerged from marketing strategies for the tourism sector and other industries. One such example is the Republic of Whangamomona on the North Island of New Zealand, where the mayor is a billy goat. Another humorous micronation is the Republic of Kugelmugel at the Prater public park in Vienna, and the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea has emerged out of the LGBT civil rights movement in Australia.

Other micronations shelter a serious business interest, such as “Islandia” in Belize, where I hold a small stake. The island was crowdfunded by the large base of young customers of a travel agency that has organized some of my trips to the countries mentioned in this article. The large pool of future travelers on the private island will ensure highly attractive dividend pay-outs in the long term.

Other serious yet failed micronations include the states declared by various guerrilla groups, such as the defeated Islamic State and the Marquetalia Republic in Colombia, which was controlled by FARC rebels for many years.

All in all, we shouldn’t take micronations too seriously, as they’re not overly relevant to flag theory. It’s better to spread the idea of “free private states”, which I actually do as an official ambassador – please feel free to ask me for more information.


ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress

I’d like to round off this article by mentioning two associations that are all about “collecting countries”. One of them is my very own start-up, the Flag Collectors Heritage Club. The other initiative was launched by the German adventurer Kolja Spöri, who’s been a great inspiration to me ever since I was given his book “Ich war überall” (…Got The T-Shirt) in 2011.

Kolja founded the ETIC as a way to bring extreme travelers together, organizing a conference in a new and adventurous part of the world every year. You can become a member as soon as you’ve collected 100 UN, 150 TCC, 250 MTP, or 350 TBT (NomadMania) points. For the elite few who have visited all 193 UN member states, there’s also a subgroup that takes a closer look at the person and their travels over the years.

I’ve not yet managed to attend one of the annual congresses that have taken place at intriguing locations like Sealand, Liberland, Grozny in Chechnya, or most recently in the FARC Marquetalia Republic in Colombia. I hope to attend the next one!


Flag Collectors Heritage Club

Last but not least, I’m delighted to announce the establishment of the “Flag Collectors Heritage Club”. As you can see, we already have quite enough lists and associations, but none of them integrate flag theory – it was time for a change!

It’s so much fun to visit every corner of the globe, but we sometimes have to know where to draw the line. I’m going to call it a day once I’ve ticked off all 327 territories on the TCC list – although you won’t catch me settling down anywhere. And my global diversification with flag theory is almost even more entertaining than traveling anyway.

Applying for residence in a certain country, exploiting a legal structure, and making local investments creates a connection to a country on a completely different level – something you’ll never get by merely traveling somewhere.

That’s why the Flag Collectors Heritage Club is as much about collecting flags as it is about collecting countries. A total of 300 points are awarded for collecting every single flag defined in the 13-flag theory. Each flag has a different maximum number of points depending on its difficulty – after all, there’s a big difference between purchasing a domain for € 30 and obtaining citizenship for € 300,000. At the same time, however, we want to stop multimillionaires from buying their way to the top, and so the maximum number of points for each flag is achievable for every global entrepreneur and investor.

An additional 150 points are awarded for collecting countries. We don’t give points for each country; the number of points increases as it gets more challenging to add even more countries to your album. The FCHC is guided by the UN+ list of 266 sovereign territories. Quite a lot of points are awarded for the last 15 countries on the list to reward frequent travelers and motivate them towards the finish line.

More detailed information on the club’s rules and eligibility requirements can be found in this document and on this website (as soon as it’s ready). You can join the club after collecting 150 points. It’s organized as a non-registered association in Switzerland, and we look forward to welcoming you as our latest member. We not only plan to hold an annual meeting, but also to constantly exchange ideas on flag theory in an intimate environment.

By the way, you can see an up-to-date list of the countries I’ve visited here: