Meet The Stamp Collectors: David of Travelsewhere

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.

David of Travelsewhere is an avid traveler from Australia who's spent the last three years exploring as much of Europe as he can. He has a passion for trying to find the lesser-seen, quieter pockets of the world, fostering a love of photography along the way. From hiking to exploring medieval towns, his travels have taken him to some fascinating places well off-the-beaten-path in over 62 countries.

What was the 50th country you visited?

As I had set myself the goal of visiting 50 countries before I turned 30, it was a big milestone when I visited Greece, my 50th. I was still 27 at the time so I got in early. The trip was squeezed in before Christmas so it was a short visit, but it definitely was memorable, in part because of the milestone I had achieved. It was in Greece that I decided to try to then reach 75 countries by 30, but I'm bound to fall short of that goal.

What was the first country you visited? 

The first country I have a memory of visiting was Singapore as we traveled to Europe back when I was 7. However, I'm told I visited New Zealand when I was very young so I guess that's technically the first.

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

There's one book that I find inspirational and that perfectly encapsulates the adventure of travel–Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. Even though he never went to many of the places he wrote about, I just remember the joy for spontaneous travel that poured off the page. It’s hard to not be inspired by that.

Which country cemented your love for travel? 

Despite being fortunate enough as a child to live overseas twice, my true love for travel was forged during my first adult solo trip to Italy. It may be a bit cliché, but traveling in Italy was quite transformative, despite having visited at least a dozen countries beforehand. Across my month there, I ventured through the north of Italy and fell hard for the notion of getting to experience all these different places, from their history to their way of life and especially their food. Being on my own for the first time, I also learned a lot about adapting to circumstances and new places, which has served me well for years now. I came away from my Italy with an unquenchable thirst for exploring the world through travel.

Which was your favorite country for food? 

Vietnamese without a doubt. Although I didn't know much about Vietnamese food before going, I quickly fell in love with the food there and now seek it out every chance I get. While I do enjoy a good bowl of pho, my favorite Vietnamese dish is cao lau, a noodle dish with pork and crackers from the town of Hoi An.

Which was your favorite country for architecture? 

I’m a bit of a sucker for architecture so choosing a favorite for this is hard, but I’d have to say Belgium. Even though across the country the cities can have a similar look, there are some real architectural gems there to be found. For instance, there’s the Grand Place in Brussels with its elegant mix of Gothic and Baroque buildings or Ghent with its enchanting Gothic and Renaissance blend.

Which was your favorite country for nature? 

I honestly can’t think of a better place to explore nature than in Australia. In such a large country, there’s so much wilderness to explore and you don’t have to go far from most cities to find it. My visit to Tasmania a couple years back really reminded me of just how much nature and wildlife there is, that we Australians often take for granted.

Which was your favorite country for history? 

As a history buff, I can’t go past a good castle and I’ve learned that Czechia is truly blessed in that regard. From the huge castle complex that overlooks Prague to others scattered throughout the country, Czechia really does have a hidden talent for castles. My favorites would have to be Loket Castle and Karlstejn Castle, both tucked away in small bohemian towns and both staggeringly mighty.

Which country left a lasting impression on you? 

Given that it was somewhere I had always wanted to go, Morocco left me with quite a mixed impression. While I often love exploring cities and getting lost as I wander, the frenetic nature of most Moroccan cities, combined with the endless touts, wore on my nerves. On the flipside, I absolutely loved the time I spent in more isolated and natural places like the Erg Chebbi sand dunes and the Atlas Mountains. While I adored the landscapes, it was also in these places where I felt the strongest connection with the people I met.

Is there a country that changed the way you travel? 

Although it wasn’t my first trip traveling solo, my time in Vietnam felt like my first travel experience where I was truly on my own. Having recently quit my job, my time there forced me to rely on myself and travel a little less rigidly. Safe to say, it was Vietnam that lit the fuse on my decision to try to keep traveling to this day.

Which country exceeded your expectations, and why? 

For some reason, even though I knew it was a major European destination, I didn’t have high expectations of Spain before visiting. I just didn’t think about it the way I had with places like Italy or France. So when I first set foot in Madrid, safe to say my point of view quickly changed. What’s more, each time I return to Spain I realize just how much there is to see there and how diverse it can be. From Andalusia to the Basque Country to Galicia, the culture and look of each region have felt so strongly different, beyond anything I could have imagined. I never expected that depth in destinations and now can’t wait to keep learning about each and every pocket of the country.

Which country disappointed you, and why? 

If I had to pick anywhere that disappointed me, even a little, it would have to be Thailand. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a whole lot of the country but I never felt the same connection to the country as I did to other south-east Asian countries. I’ve stayed in a few different parts of Bangkok for example, and while I can see the appeal of the place, as a tourist it’s not for me. I guess it's also because I’m not a big beach person and so even when I’ve visited some striking beaches, they’ve been brief visits. I think it’s more about me than the destination.

Which country was completely different than what you expected? 

Even though I didn’t really expect much, Bulgaria may have been my biggest surprise. Beforehand, I’d thought it was just another ordinary Balkan nation, but what I found in Bulgaria was a truly overlooked European gem. Bulgaria has pristine beaches along the Black Sea, with towns like Nesebar and Sozopol oozing with character. Then there’s the wonderful historic spots like in Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, both of which are sorely underrated. Lastly, I really enjoyed getting out into the countryside in places like Dryanovo and Melnik, where you can have these unusual places all to yourself.

What country are you eager to get back to?

Despite spending only a few days there, or maybe because I wasn’t there long enough, I’m keen to return to Nicaragua. My travels through Central America took me to some fascinating places, but Nicaragua really stands out in my memory. Unfortunately, we only stopped in Granada and on the island of Ometepe, but in that time we got a chance to see volcanoes, lakes and watch a couple of sunsets. The promise of the country was easy to see and I’d love to get the chance to further explore there.

What is your all-time favorite country?

I hate to say, my all-time favorite country is the wild and remote, Iceland. While Reykjavik is perfectly nice, it was as soon as I started seeing the stark and spectacular landscapes that I fell in love with the place. There's a real sense that you're at the end of the earth and everywhere feels so raw and primal.

What keeps you motivated to continue traveling? 

I’d love to say something completely profound about why I travel, but I’m sadly at a loss. Travel has shown me how large the world really is and I get a real kick out of learning about places that I never knew even existed. After almost every country I visit, I come away with a list of places I need to see next time. I guess it’s that ever-expanding list that keeps me going and the idea that one of those places could blow my mind.

What is your top travel tip? 

If I was to give a piece of advice for traveling it’s that you should allow for the unexpected. If you travel with a super strict schedule or checklist of attractions to see, you never know what kind of opportunities you might miss. You often find your favorite places by just wandering and following your instincts, because they can lead you to the thing you never knew you even wanted to see.

What countries are on your bucket list?

Given how much of Europe and the Americas I've visited, much of my bucket list focuses on Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. In Africa, places like Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Namibia seem to each balance wildlife and nature with fascinating culture. As a history buff, I can't wait to visit Jordan and Iran for their long, long history. Lastly, I'd love to see some of the Indian Ocean in places like Sri Lanka and Mauritius.

Where are you headed next? 

While I've yet to plan or book anything, my hope is to visit the countries of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. I've only heard through word-of-mouth and they seem to be a truly fascinating pocket of the world. As for what I'm most keen to experience, Georgia is said to have some great local wine, while Armenia is meant to have some wonderful landscapes and churches, and in Azerbaijan, I'm most keen to explore the city of Baku.

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