Meet The Stamp Collectors: Lisa, Girl about the Globe

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.

Lisa is the voice behind Girl about The Globe and is a self-proclaimed travel addict with a passion for traveling solo. She was born in the UK but has since worked and volunteered abroad in Australia, the Channel Islands, Nepal, Mongolia, and Colombia. It was during her time working in Mongolia for a media company that she decided to start sharing her travels on Girl about The Globe while she was visiting nomads in the countryside. Her travels have taken her to 113 countries but Spain was the first foreign country she visited– today she lives in Barcelona! 

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

"Mama woo woo" in Chinese. I learned this when I trekked the Great Wall of China. I trekked the wall for a week with a group of great people. It’s such a cool word and it means "so-so," in the local language. It always made us laugh when we said it.

Is there a novel that has greatly influenced you as a traveler?

The book Eat Pray Love. The story of a woman who left her marriage was the catalyst to me leaving mine and getting back on the road to solo travel. This book has impacted so many women and is a great biography of Elizabeth Gilbert's travels through Italy, India, and Bali.

What is your favorite travel quote?

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" - Lao Tzu

Which country cemented your love for travel?

Australia. I had traveled through Southeast Asia with a friend and we split when we arrived in Oz. This was the first time that I had solo traveled and I had so many mini-adventures that it gave me a taste of solo travel. I was so shy when I was younger so Australia forced me to come out of my shell and talk to strangers. The whole country was easy to travel around and I ended up staying there and working. It gave me the confidence to then travel back through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos by myself, which I wouldn’t have done before. 

Which was your favorite country for food?

Spain. I love Mediterranean food and tapas dishes. Now living in Spain means that I can eat the most delicious olives, sun-dried tomatoes, ham croquettes, peppers, and bread with tomato which is simple yet so nice. I can’t forget paella either and fresh seafood.

Which was your favorite country for nature?

Bolivia is amazing for scenery. I spent 4 days on a 4x4 just cruising through the Salt Flats and past red colored lakes, flamingos, and the most amazing landscape I have ever seen. The Salt Flats are unbelievable, they're such a brilliant, dazzling white. I’ve never seen this anywhere else in the world.

Which was your favorite country for people?

Colombia, definitely. I love this country and the people are so friendly. I lived in Medellin which is a city in a mountain valley called 'City of the Eternal Spring.' It's always warm there. The city is really innovative, the metro has amazing views, and it has come a long way since the days of Pablo Escobar.

Which was your favorite country for architecture?

There are so many cities that I love for architecture. London is definitely up there for its historic buildings. I really love Paris too as the Sacre Coeur is just stunning. Then there’s the Louvre which is so unique. Barcelona is amazing too. Gaudi’s work is everywhere in the city. But my favorite country overall is Egypt. You simply can’t beat the Temples of Luxor or the pyramids.

Which country left a lasting impression on you?

Nowhere has touched me more on my European trip than the city of Sarajevo. The Bosnian capital has moved me in a way that no other city has. Before I came, I knew little of the Bosnian War, I knew little of the city's inhabitants who for three and a half years spent each day in this city facing death. Taking a walking tour through the tunnels showed me how people actually lived here during the Siege in the 1990’s.

Is there a country that changed the way you travel?

Nicaragua changed the way that I travel. I was on Little Corn Island and thought I was about to get sexually attacked for the first time. It happened during the day when I was walking to the beach across the island. It was really scary but luckily I was able to scream and run away. It made me realize that I didn’t know any self-defense and made me anxious about traveling solo for a long time afterward.

Which country exceeded your expectations, and why?

Cambodia was the first country that I traveled to which blew me away. I hadn’t heard of the Pol Pot regime and genocide until I was in the country. This took place in 1975 which was the year that I was born. Seeing the history of the country and visiting the Killing Fields and the S21 Prison was so sad. I couldn’t believe that 1 in 3 Cambodians had been killed. What surprised me the most was that each Cambodian child that I met seemed so happy. They would run out to me on the back of a moped and wave and shout “Hello.” It was such an eye-opener with how they can be so happy with hardly anything and especially after going through such dark history.

Which country disappointed you, and why?

Nepal disappointed me. People had told me how amazing it was so I had high expectations for the country. When I arrived in Katmandu I was shocked by the amount of pollution and the dirty, dusty streets. I couldn’t understand why people loved it so much until I went to Pokhara and hiked through some of the mountain terrains. Then I could see what the draw was to the country. It is a great country but you just need to be prepared for the pollution, the overcrowded buses, and the hair-raising bus journeys around sharp cliffs. I was scared to get on a bus.

Which country was completely different than what you expected?

Albania. This country is so amazing. I was a bit intrepid about visiting it as a solo woman but I needn’t have worried as it was one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken. I felt so comfortable here that I even hitchhiked for the first time in my life (the buses didn’t run frequently so hitchhiking is common). The people were so friendly and many spoke Italian! The nightlife was fantastic too. Having a love for electronic music I was so surprised by how modern the coast was. Such a different experience to what I had anticipated.

What country are you eager to get back to?

I am really eager to get back to Brazil. I spent a month here in total but it just wasn’t enough. I only managed to visit Manaus, the Amazon, Iguazu Falls, and Rio. I absolutely loved Rio and only spent 3 days here. It’s one of my favorite cities and I loved the vibe so much that I simply have to go back.

Which country would you not go back to?

Mongolia. As much as I enjoyed my time in the countryside with the nomads, being in the city was a completely different experience. There is a large alcohol problem there so you often find people stumbling around drunk or even laying on the floor. People drive like maniacs and the infrastructure is not great. I’m glad I experienced it once though.

What is your all-time favorite country?

Colombia, definitely. I think it was also because I had chosen to leave England on a one-way ticket at the time and was drawn to Latin America. Colombia just felt like home as soon as I landed. It has a really special place in my heart and I have to go back.

Have you had any responsible travel experience?

I always try to visit sustainable projects when I travel. When I was doing my Tango lesson in Buenos Aires, the proceeds of my tour were helping disabled children in the city. In Brazil, I also took part in a Samba lesson which helped children in the favelas.

What keeps you motivated to continue traveling?

What keeps me motivated to travel is showing others how to do it. In my twenties, solo travel forced me to gain confidence when I was ridiculously shy. In my thirties, it helped me when I came out of my marriage and now in my forties, I like to visit social impact projects and help local communities as I travel. Having a travel blog helps as I know that others follow my adventures and if I can help another woman travel solo then it keeps me motivated. Especially if they can learn from my mistakes and I can recommend local tour companies and accommodation.

What is your top travel tip?

To walk and act confident even if you don't feel it.

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

Travel always teaches me something new about myself. That’s what I love about solo travel. I’ve traveled with a boyfriend and friends but I love the self-development that solo travel brings. It’s taught me to gain confidence, to become independent, and to be respectful of people and cultures. I’ve also learned how to budget, how to problem solve, and to take one day at a time. Things can constantly not go according to plan when you’re on the road so surrendering and letting go of control is a huge lesson. Most importantly, it’s a constant lesson that you simply don’t get from a textbook.

What countries are on your bucket list?

I have seen so much of the world yet there are still so many countries on my bucket list. Papua New Guinea is up there with Japan, Taiwan, and Myanmar. I would love to explore Ethiopia and Madagascar as well as Oman which looks amazing as my favorite thing in the world is the desert.

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