North America

Dominated by the United States with 330 million people, this new world sharply contrasts to Europe with its modern buildings, fast pace of life and hard-driving business culture. (Ironically, European colonies morphed into an independent country in 1776, creating an Old World melting pot in the New World.) “USA, USA, USA” is one of the most prideful nations with extraordinary creativity and entrepreneurship. It has something for everyone, whether forests, mountains, glaciers, beaches of various colors or even swampland. The 50 states are quite diverse – Alaska and Hawaii could not be more opposite and Texas is like its own country – and major cities boast non-stop entertainment.

Of course, North America would not be complete without vibrant Mexico and laid back Canada, eh. Mexico is UNESCO recognized for its cuisine with one of the most colorful cultures in the world. Nowhere else can your car be chased by a band of musicians or restaurant patrons spontaneously sing at the top of their lungs. Canada, by contrast, is serene with amazing natural beauty. Ninety percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border, which means there is a lot of uninhabited land … largely under ice. North America also includes Central America, Caribbean islands and Greenland for a grand total of 23 countries.

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This string of large and small islands southeast of the United States includes 13 official countries plus 21 territories/outposts of other countries. The sunny sovereign states are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (sounds like a band), and Trinidad and Tobago. The islands otherwise include the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John, St. Thomas) and Navassa Island; British Virgin Islands (Virgin Gorda), Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands; Netherlands Antilles, otherwise known as the A-B-C islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao), Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten; Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin of France; Federal Dependencies of Venezuela and Nueva Esparta; and San Andrés and Providencia of Columbia. Phew! Clearly it helps to know several European languages if you’re island hopping.

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This often overlooked peninsula south of Mexico includes seven countries: El Salvador, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Costa Rica is the shining star of tourism with monkey- and zipline-filled rainforests, bungalow-laden beaches, salsa-dancing cities and some of the friendliest people in the world. Belize is a diver’s paradise with its famous Blue Hole and Guatemala is akin to Mexico with ancient Mayan sites and volcanoes. The rest have a history of political instability and safety concerns but they have made strides in recent years to attract tourism. Who knows, they could become new travel hotspots … look how Columbia turned around!

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Unlike Australia, Antarctica is only a continent, not also a country. That’s because it does not have sovereignty, a government, a political system, an army or a permanent population.