Meet The Stamp Collectors: Nic of The Roaming Renegades

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.

Nic of The Roaming Renegades is one half of the married duo who quit their 9-5 lives back in England to travel the world. She has a passion for adventure and local travel, seeking out unique experiences and crazy explorations in over 56. Originally from Manchester, Nic and her husband have been traveling full-time for over a year and are currently based in Melbourne, Australia.

What was the 50th country you visited?

My 50th country was Myanmar (Burma) and it really was a wonderful country to hit that landmark with. Such a rich and authentic culture that we were able to really explore when we stayed with locals in several villages while on treks. Then there is also the amazing temples of Bagan, just a magical place really.

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

It has to be Chuc Mung Nam Moi which means Happy New Year in Vietnamese!! It’s a bit random but having spent 7 weeks on motorbikes from one end of the country to the other, and at a time when the country was preparing for and celebrating Tet, or New Year, it was a great way for us to celebrate with the people and especially one night at a homestay on the way up to Sapa where we drank way too much rice wine whilst toasting with every member of the village!

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

Though not usually associated with travel for me the book that inspired me the most is 1984. It really opened my mind up to the idea that we often just go through our lives on someone else’s plan, believing we have to do certain things and be a certain way in the world. But instead, it really nurtured that side of me that wanted to rebel and create my own life and lifestyle, to see the world and all the truth about life that is out there.

What is your favorite travel quote?

"The world is a book and those who don't travel only read one page." - St. Augustine

Which country cemented your love for travel? 

It was back in 2006 when I visited Paris on a college trip. I was 19 and it was really the first time I really saw the potential of real travel. Before then we had just done family holidays, they were great but I would get bored around the pool or on the beach. We would visit the type of places where you would often be surrounded by British people and culture still so it really wasn’t very inspiring but I knew nothing else! Being given free rein to just explore Paris, get lost, use the metro, see this rich and intense culture. It was like I woke up to the world beyond what I knew!

Which was your favorite country for food?

That is tough, I’m not sure I could say just one but there are many standouts. Of course, Italy has to be on the list, such a fine cuisine and so fresh. Thailand was just amazing and so cheap too, for us vegetarians it was also so great. Malaysia with the unique Indian and Chinese influences was also amazing as was Myanmar for similar reasons. I feel once we visit India though that might take the lead!

Which was your favorite country for architecture?

Another tough one as there has been so many amazing examples of varied architecture. But I have to say that Vienna is a real stand out, it’s just so intricate, so artistic, and so perfect. It almost doesn’t feel real, just a stunning place. On the other hand I also really fell in love with the traditional architecture of Bali, the hand-carved temples and the houses full of shrines and statues.

Which was your favorite country for nature?

Switzerland has to be my first answer because it is just almost too beautiful to process. The jagged snow-capped mountains and the beautiful green fields below full of wildflowers, traditional wooden houses and grazing cows. It’s just perfection. But to add some more off the beaten track examples I would say Slovenia, Albania, and Romania. The color of the water in the gorges of Slovenia is like liquid emeralds and the mountains, lakes, and villages of Albania, and Romania is breathtaking and also so untouched by tourism.

Which was your favorite country for people?

For people it has to be Myanmar and Albania, ironically also two countries that are very much misunderstood. There are many places, most in fact, where we have found locals to be wonderfully friendly. But nothing quite compares to these two. There is just an honesty and real intrigue, in both countries they are just so eager to know where you're from and why you're visited their country. They are so proud and happy you are there. Albania was also ridiculously easy to hitch hike and stay with locals too as a result, we even got invited in for food of the street and also stayed in bamboo villages in Myanmar too, eating with the families.

Which country left a lasting impression on you?

So many have and in many ways, I would say they all have in their own way. But some of course stand out. But for me, it has to be America and specifically New York City. I got married there and really fell in love with the place, it just has everything and we both felt a real connection to the city.

Is there a country that changed the way you travel?

It was when we visited Poland that we really began to think we could go backpacking. Without really knowing it we were kind of doing a test run. We traveled light and cheap, stayed in a hostel for the first time, and took a night bus over to Ukraine. It was a crazy whirlwind adventure that might have put some people off but I just remember feeling so sad going home. Like it was just so easy to travel around this region and that I just wanted to go on the next place instead. It was after that trip we began to take the idea of backpacking and long term travel seriously.

Which country exceeded your expectations, and why?

In many ways they all have and they all haven’t. I am always excited and enthusiastic for each new country so I never really have low expectations. I suppose maybe there were many countries I didn’t know a whole lot about before hand. If I had to choose one I would say Macedonia. In Macedonia, we found such an amazingly interesting country, the politics, culture, people, landscape, and food!

Which country disappointed you, and why?

The Philippines, but that isn’t to say I didn’t love it over there. Often I think mindset and timing make a difference as well as where you stay too, to how you feel about a place. The Philippines was an insanely beautiful country, the water, and the beaches are just jaw dropping. But I was also so shocked by Manila and also it was so much tougher to move around due to the island nature of the country too.

Which country was completely different than what you expected?

Australia. It's so far away from home and I expected this huge culture shock, but really it's actually so much more similar to home than I expected especially with the architecture in the cities. There are obvious differences with many of the animals and some of the landscape, but when it comes to the places where most people actually live, it's so similar. I almost have a hard time placing myself, like I can't quite get my head around how far from home we are!

What country are you eager to get back to?

There are a few that stand out. A major one has to be Italy, there is so much to see over there and it’s a bigger country that it looks. I have been a few times and still not seen so many amazing places over there. Romania is another one, I would like to go and tour it on a bike to really get into the remote areas. There is also so much of China we need to see, mostly the western areas as it is just so big and Tibet really looks amazing.

What is your all-time favorite country?

This is the hardest of the lot, there are so many that I fell in love with, Myanmar, Slovenia, Albania, Vietnam, Romania, Macedonia, Poland. My heard lies in so many places. But if I was to pick it would be Malaysia. I just feel as a country it has it all, huge cities, and tiny remote villages, beaches, amazing wildlife, diverse culture and amazing food. 

What keeps you motivated to continue traveling?

For me, it is about discovery and experiences. I want to see what life is like on the other side of the world, in the middle of the jungle, in a remote village. I want to experience another person's reality and at the same time see past the misconceptions many people have of so many places around the world. I like that travel makes you so much more open to people too, it also makes you so much more able to trust your instincts and learn how to live in a different way. I enjoy that challenge but also knowing that it often just works out and you’ll get there in the end. Of course, there are so many beautiful, strange, and unbelievable places out there to see.

What is your top travel tip?

Pack as light as you can, it's so liberating to be able to pack everything into a bag and just go. It also works out so much cheaper. Most things you think you need are just pointless and everything else you can buy along the way often for a fraction of the price back home!

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

To keep an open mind and never allow fear to hold you back. The world is actually full of amazing people and opportunities if you keep your mind and heart open. Don’t put limits on yourself or where you can go!

What countries are on your bucket list?

What countries aren’t on the list? The top ones at the moment have to be India, Peru, and Iran. I just can’t wait to see things like the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu, but at the same time, I'm so looking forward to delving into the amazing cultures of these countries and with specific reference to Iran, dispelling the myths once again. Nepal is also a big one for the landscape and the culture.

Where are you headed next?

We are now in Australia to work and save up for the next big adventure as well as see the country properly. In terms of Australia, we will be hitting the Great Ocean Road in a camper in a month and that should be amazing. After Australia we'll be heading down to New Zealand which I'm so excited about, we are outdoors people so seeing the mountains, lake, and glaciers over there is just a dream!

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