Meet The Stamp Collectors: Anika Redhed

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.

Anika Redhed is a travel vlogger that believes there's so much more to traveling than just the sights. As she says, "the Great Wall is, well, great, but the signs on the inside of a bathroom door can be just as interesting." Anika is from the Netherlands which is where she still lives today as she jet-sets around the globe. To date, she's explored 57 countries, usually with her husband, and has no intention to stop traveling any time soon–even if it's just to nearby cities in Holland! She is the author of "Peace and Porridge: eating and drinking around the world."

What was the 50th country you visited? 

Ukraine. I do count the countries I visit, and the capitals and the miles... but that is because I am a list fetishist. The 50th trip was not more or less memorable than the others. Some trips are more memorable than others, but that doesn't depend on their place on the list. 

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

Don't take anything personally. I learned that from a book that I got from somebody in Arkansas. I worked there as a volunteer and had many very interesting talks about life. Many of the people I met didn't just live, they lived consciously and tried to make the best of it which was much different from what I knew at home.

What is your favorite travel quote? 

"I haven't been everywhere, but it is on my list."Susan Sontag

Which country cemented your love for travel? 

Not one single country did. I've always been a fan of traveling. Hearing stories and seeing stories, taking pictures and seeing images from other countries and other cultures. I was born that way. My interest in human beings has to do with it. How do people in other countries live and think? Every country just added to the urge to travel. In every country, you discover there is so much more than your own little world. So much more to discover, good or bad!

Which was your favorite country for architecture? 

My favorite city for architecture is Riga, the capital of Latvia. I'm not very knowledgeable of architecture, but this city was beautiful. It had a big area with Nouveau. The diversity was very special, an Art Nouveau was next to a modern, steel and glass building, adjacent to an old wooden structure.

Which was your favorite country for nature? 

When it comes to underwater nature that would have to be The Maldives. When it comes to wild life it is Namibia, where we were met in the morning by two rhinos. When it comes to landscapes I am a big fan of deserts. The Monument Valley in the United States is the best.

Which country left a lasting impression on you?

Chicago left an everlasting impression on me because of the wonderful people I met and because of the terrible things I saw there, working with the homeless. Chicago will forever be a part of me.

Which country exceeded your expectations? 

The United States. Before I went I knew the country from TV and movies. That gives a weird impression of the US. Apart from that, the US doesn't have a good reputation in Europe, also because of its politics and because only the weird stories reach the newspapers. All the stories of wonderful, friendly, sweet, loving, caring people do not reach the papers. So, the country was much more normal and the people much nicer than expected. Now it is my favorite country and I wish I could live there!

Which country was completely different than what you expected?

It is really difficult for a country to surprise me because I am of the kind that reads endlessly before traveling. Latvia was much more modern and vibrant than I thought. I had expected to experience more communism there. I was surprised also when I was in Austria this summer. I was there several times when I was a child. I had expected it to have changed, but it hadn't. They used cell phones, but apart from that, it hadn't changed in 35 years!

What country are you eager to get back to? 

The United States. The nature is so wide and beautiful, cities so vibrant, and the people so lovingly. They all seem to care, are all warm, and friendly. In The Netherlands we tend to think: I might like you when you turn out to be nice. In the US most people approach you with the attitude that they like you. The entire atmosphere is so much more positive. I'm also a fan of Italy, the atmosphere, language, old buildings, and art.

Which country would you not go back to? 

China. I worked there as a teacher for 6 months and went back years later after I had forgotten how much I disliked it. There are many pretty and interesting sights and the culture is very interesting. I'm ever so happy to have seen it and lived it! But they way they treat each other, the way they communicate, push, shove, laugh at each other without helping is not my cup of tea. They have no respect for others. 

Have you had any responsible travel experience?

I have volunteered many times in the U.S., Romania, China, and The Philippines. Volunteering teaches you so much about others and about yourself. No regular travel experience can ever replace that. Volunteer traveling has become an industry and many options offered to have a negative effect on the local community. Don't volunteer unless it's for a longer period of time, for a big reputable organization, and after you've read at least 10 articles or books on the negative sides of volunteering abroad.

What keeps you motivated to continue traveling?

Every country has its interesting aspects. You can learn something new in every country such as a new kind of food, drink, habit, wisdom, or way of building houses. Apart from that, it's good to take some time away from home, the different perspective will get you a different perspective of your own life, usually, you value it more, or it initiates action to change it for the better.

What is your top travel tip? 

Don't bring too much stuff. Travel light and keep your eyes open. A funny road sign or a specific dish can be just as interesting as the Taj Mahal itself.

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

My way is not the only way. What you are brought up with and the habits you have in your country are not the standard. There is no standard. There are only perspectives on life, and there are many different ones. There are even Dutch habits I grew up with that I now perceive as odd. Although I try to hide that from my non-traveling friends. I try to learn the best from all worlds. 

What countries are on your bucket list? 

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which will be somewhere completely new for me. Belarus, as I'm fascinated by the communists and what they did to the country.  Seychelles for underwater life and Nicaragua as it's not very commonly traveled, yet.

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