I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel by work and through my own means. The zeal for discovery began when I was about 7-8 years old and I started collecting stamps. Seeing stamps from many places that were so far away in distance and in reachability (pre- airline deregulation days!), created in me a desire to see those places myself. “Who was that guy on stamps marked Jugoslavia?” “Posta Romina is not about Rome?” “Where the heck is Suomi because it is in no map I have laid my hands on?!” I didn’t really believe I would get to see most of these places. Because of the times and the lack of financial means, I was not surrounded by a “traveling culture”.
I am not sure exactly when I started collecting stamps but the crucial moment was the summer of my 8th year when I spent a few weeks in Miami visiting my grandmother, uncle and aunt. My uncle had collected stamps as a kid for a little bit and I discovered his old and slightly battered stamp album from about 20 yrs before on the floor of his bedroom closet.
He gifted it to me and it was like the most awesome thing I had ever been given until that point in my life. I remember being so happy and they all enjoying seeing me so happy. I also benefited from my Mom’s sacrifice to give me “small” funds over the years to acquire some stamps (and this was a real sacrifice in a household with very limited means). Many relatives would save stamps for me (yes, those were the days when people STILL wrote to each other on paper!). Finally, my Dad, who worked at a data center Citibank had in Puerto Rico, would take me to the room where they received payments from people from all over the Caribbean basin (PR was the payment processing center) so that as the machine cut open the envelopes and pulled out the contents, I could go through the box where the envelopes would end up to start retrieving stamps! It was fascinating stuff (now you know what we kids did before all these fancy video systems, smartphones, etc.).
Well, many moons later, I contemplate the map of where I have been (in blue or red below; red means I have lived there, blue that I have visited, and green are places high on my priority list to visit!) and think of how that small seed planted at a young age has resulted in this awesome journey I have been on to see what this world!
I pay it forward by bringing coins or small bills from the places I travel and give to children of family and friends – because you never know what you may spark in a child by exposing them to the bigger world out there!
Check out my homage to stamps in my Twitter page wallpaper: https://twitter.com/ilivetotravel