You might have seen my travel collectables series the last few years. I am a collector and I love to have physical as well as mental and emotional memories from each place I go. Every country, disputed territory or significant region I visit, I try to adhere strictly to my own rules of collecting or doing, by sticking to my list. I have 10 Things I try to do in EVERY country I visit. And this rule even applies to smaller countries, disputed countries, significant regions and unknown states such as the Republic of Uzupis and Transnistria.
In short, from all of the 120 regions/countries/fake countries I’ve been to, I have tried to do all of these:
1. Keep at least one local banknote
I love the fact that currency brings with it culture, history and knowledge. Each banknote has significance to it. There are reasons why monuments and people’s faces are on the notes – ask about them. I try to keep at least one banknote from every country that issues them/that did issue them.
I detest the dreaded Euro currency with a passion. Germany was once great with its Deutsch marks, Portugal manned the Escudos, Spain dealt out the Pesetas and the Irish Republic bought pints with punts. Those countries succumbed to the opposite of nationalism, counter-nationalism. A dilution of ones culture and history. Thankfully I come from Northern Ireland, where you can still use a banknote with Geordie Best on it (but I’d keep it if I were you!).
2. Keep at least one local coin
Again coins are a fantastic souvenir to keep, all with significance. There are some countries that issue coins but no banknotes. Examples of this include Christiania (the LON) which makes an awesome souvenir.
3. Keep at least one local stamp
I post my brother a postcard from every country and while I’m in the Post Office getting the stamps, I try to keep at least one local stamp for myself as well. Cheap, colourful, meaningful and easy to transport.
4. Post at least one postcard (brother, girlfriend, parents)
My youngest brother Danny gets one postcard from everywhere I go. His collection must amount to over 150 by now and I still do it. I also send them to my Mum, Dad, girlfriend and other friends and family on occasion. Another good option is the company Race it Home.
5. Buy at least one fridge magnet (Mum)
My Mum has a fridge and when I started travelling I decided to get her one fridge magnet from every cool location I went, so she now has almost 200, and probably at some point will need another fridge!
6. Keep at least one beer label (some countries without alcohol, I keep a malt drink label)
I love trying new beers in every country/region and it’s one of the first things on my list especially if it’s after a long border crossing. I have become an expert at taking off the beer labels and sticking them in a book.
7. Keep at least one beer bottle cap (some countries without alcohol, I keep a malt drink top)
As with the beer labels, when I’m drinking bottled beer, I always try to keep a beer bottle top from each new beer I try. In alcohol free countries like Brunei and Iran, I try to take a malted soft drink top instead.
8. Get a passport stamp in my passport or on a piece of card
With the exception of places like Jordan, Israel and Nagorno Karabakh, I try to get a passport stamp everywhere I go. However, for the disputed countries I normally just ask them to stamp it on a separate page to solve the issue, something I covered before in my Jordan to Israel borders article. Some countries in the EU refuse to stamp passports, ask them nicely and they’ll normally do it. I have my favourite passport stamps on another article. And I never worry about the passports filling up – I love to fill them up. If it gets too full, I just buy another passport or use my dual nationality to my advantage.
9. Visit a football stadium
I’m sure somebody like Maradona, Pele or Messi will hold a record on who has visited the most football stadiums around the world, or been in the most countries visiting a stadium. But I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m coming in right behind them.
I’ve visited national football stadiums in over 90 of the countries I’ve been to, watching football live in over 30 of them and always trying to get a kickabout or visit a new stadium.
10. Visit a local religious building
Whether you like it or not, people are religious and religion has fascinatingly taken over our journeys around the world. Think of how Belfast has a peace line because of religion, how Americans don’t like backpacking in Iraq, how the British get questioned in Argentina, how a Malaysia stamp will have you being strip searched on entry to Israel. I love Mosques, Churches, Synagogues, Temples etc. and I always try to visit one per country. Almost every country in the world has some kind of religious building in it.