Meet The Stamp Collectors: Mar of Once in a Lifetime Journey

Meet The Stamp Collectors is a series of interviews with travelers who've reached the milestone of visiting 50 countries, hence they've collected 50 passport stamps. This elite group of adventurers share real-life insights about their love of exploring our precious planet. They are voyagers who seek out unique experiences and develop their own perspective through immersive travel experiences. I hope their stories and sage advice will inspire you to push your boundaries and continue to travel near and far. This is not a contest about who's been to the most countries but a reflection on what it's been like to visit at least a quarter of the world's nations.

Mar of Once in a Lifetime Journey is a luxury travel influencer and has been to an astonishing 93 countries and traveled at least half-time since since 2004. She is from Barcelona, Spain and has lived in eight countries and currently resides in Singapore. The first place she went to was a short drive away from her Catalan hometown–the ski-centric principality of Andorra. She doesn't chase numbers or try to visit as many places as possible. Instead, she re-visits the same countries over and over again and goes to parts that she did not see before so nowadays she only adds 5-8 new countries a year. She truly believes that a trip is measured in the experiences and the way it makes you feel which may have nothing to do with the place itself but with the people you meet, the experiences, the weather, the food. On her bucket list are Antartica and the Caribbean islands.

Which country cemented your love for travel?

The United Kingdom where I spent two months living there when I was 21. I had no money and I did not speak English very well but living there alone in the summer and being exposed to such multicultural society really peeked my interest. Spain wasn't a very diverse country when I was a kid so I was not exposed to other traditions or cultural background before that summer. 

Which was your favorite country for food?

I love food from all over. I recently returned from Azerbaijan and enjoyed their food very much. Food is at the center of my trips so I will always try to look for the best places to eat at, from street foods to Michelin starred places.

Which was your favorite country for nature?

Tanzania, a country I fell in love with when I started traveling in Africa. It has it all, from the highest mountain in Africa to a volcano crater, rivers, valleys and lakes, the coast and islands of Zanzibar and Pemba and all the wildlife of the national parks.

Which was your favorite country for architecture?

India comes to mind. The forts, temples, and palaces as so romantic, I could spend a long time exploring them. I am not so much of a city person so India is perfect for that

Which country exceeded your expectations, and why?

Lots of them do because these days I don't plan in advance so there is a lot of room for surprises and unexpected things to happen. I found Russia to be much friendlier and kind than I was expecting, and much colder! The food was nice, the people were very approachable, there was vodka for breakfast, and caviar at tea time!

Which country disappointed you, and why?

Tibet, the Chinese occupation has really changed this country for the worse. The culture is being suppressed and their traditions are changing fast. If you do not visit soon, you will not have much left of what it used to be to see. All the destruction that happened during the cultural revolution caused a lot of the key building to be rebuilt so not a lot is original.

Which country left a lasting impression on you?

North Korea, a very odd and claustrophobic place, enough for a few days. You are always in fear of what may happen so keep quiet all the time.

Which country was completely different than what you expected?

Guam, not really a country as it is a territory of the US, but it has a very unique culture. I thought Guam was all going to be about shopping malls and tax-free, but I found beautiful beaches, fantastic food, and wonderful people. I wish I could have stayed longer.

What country are you eager to get back to?

India, it is a huge country with a lot to see and do and I definitively want to explore more of it. One cannot go to India just once. I have been there a dozen times and I am yet to see 90% of what I want to see!

What's your favorite phrase in another language you've learned through your travels?

I have a few that have stuck with me throughout the years, mostly from places that I have lived in. In the Middle East, through travels, living and working there, I picked up the word insh'Allah, for God willing. But when you say in Arabic it has a divine intervention connotation, like a superior force, as if something will be done or will happen only if God wants, literally. 

What is your favorite travel quote?

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

What keeps you motivated to continue traveling?

Every trip teaches me something new, there is always a lot I have learned and my curiosity never ends. For as long as I have a huger to learn and bottomless curiosity, I will continue to travel.

What is your top travel tip?

Always travel in the right season.

What is the most prolific lesson you've learned through travel?

One should never be quick to judge another culture, people, tradition, or custom. It is paramount to be respectful and to try to understand another's point of view. I focus a lot of my travels on destinations that are visited by a few people. That includes a lot of the Middle East. But yet, no matter how I am seen or treated, I will always remain open-minded. If people were more respectful and chose to see a place for themselves, by visiting it and talking to the locals to understand their world through their eyes, the world would be a better place.

Where are you headed next?

My next trips are getaways to Iceland and Israel, both very exciting!


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