It’s been way too long since the last Stamp This post. So I asked travelbloggers to share the story behind their favourite passport stamp or visa and this is what I got …
Beer Time With Wagner | Jordan
If I had to choose a favorite passport stamp, I would have to say my one to Bulgaria. I had spent over a year waiting for my acceptance to work at the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria and my subsequent security clearance. There was so much build-up and excitement leading up to the day I arrived in Bulgaria. However, I remember landing and driving through the capital city of Sofia thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into here?!” It was more due to culture shock and not understanding a word of Bulgarian or Cyrillic writing.
I spent three wonderful, unexpected, adventurous months in Bulgaria. After visiting over 30 countries in Europe, Bulgaria is my favorite country behind Germany (which will always be my second home). The scenery, the food, the people, the religion…I was in awe of everything. From the Balkan Mountains to Seven Rila Lakes and the Black Sea to the ancient cities of Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo (and capital city of Sofia!), there is something for everyone. Bulgaria’s beauty and culture are hidden European treasures and something I can’t wait to continue visiting in the years to come.
Globaloud | Anca
Passport stamps somehow always remind me of the border stories cause that's where the stamps are made. So here's the one.
Getting from Malaysia to Thailand, I chose not that frequent border – Satun. Mostly locals use it and there weren't any other foreigners at the time, except the two of us. Since it was a sea border, the boat threw us out in the middle of nowhere, literally. The border control started rushing us so they can close the office as soon as possible. That one taxi that was waiting in front of the port left pretty quickly.
Within 5 minutes, everything closed and everybody left the port. We were lost and started walking, but the road seemed endless and the night was falling down. We could only hear the monkey sounds, but really creepy ones that scared the hell out of us. It turned out that the city was miles away from that exact place.
I don't know how long we would walk if there weren't some nice people that passed and picked us up. They didn’t know any English, we didn’t know any Thai. They just realized we need to find a bus station and they did everything to drop us there.
House to Laos | Jenia & Sergey
Our favorite stamp is the one we received entering South Korea, after an overnight ferry ride from China. How cool is it to cross country borders on an overnight boat? We’ve done border crossings on a train, plane, motorcycle, foot, and bus – all multiple times. But, this was something special. A gigantic, multi-level boat – of cruise-ship proportions really. Complete with a movie theaters, spas, saunas, karaoke rooms, and even a fountain. In fact, it could probably be called a cruise ship, if it weren’t for the sleeping arrangements. You see we slept in bunk beds – stacked 3 rows high like on a Chinese train. Also, no free food and booze.
We were the only Western tourists on that boat; the vast majority of other passengers were part of Chinese organized tour to South Korea. This was our first exposure to being an attraction – and we were quite amused about being giggled at and asked to take pictures with. The evening we sailed from China, we sat on the deck writing in our travel journal, and as I turned around I realized that we had a very large crowd of onlookers who’ve gathered to watch us write in Latin alphabet. They were gleefully angling for better observation spots, poking each other, and taking pictures of us! “It’s all Chinese to me” expression turned on its head.
Another reason that we remember this stamp in particular, is that this was the only time we were stopped on the border to inspect our belongings. Apparently, South Korea is pretty strict about bringing food into the country. We had apples, oranges, and some other fruits from China. I also stupidly denied that I had brought in forbidden artifacts with me. Oops. We got off with a stern talk and promise not to do it again. Our first overnight ferry trip was a great success and we were on our way to explore Incheon, Korea with another adventure checked off in our passports.
The Midnight Blue Elephant | Annika
I used to live and work in South Africa and, therefore, had a visa in my old passport. A year and a half ago I moved back to Germany, one of the reasons being that I wanted to have the means to travel more. Travel I did and very quickly I ran out of pages in my passport. Last February I was due to return to Cape Town for the first time for a photo shoot I was producing. I ordered a new passport with extra pages and it arrived just in time two days before I was due to fly (nerves!).
Standing in line at immigration always makes me nervous (no nothing to declare, but still!) and this time was no different. My first South African stamp as a non-resident made me a bit sad and terribly excited to be back at the same time. Definitely a more emotional stamp than many others, coming to my home away from home. And, of course, the first stamp in a brand new passport – that's like the first page of a book: full of possibilities and stories yet to be told.
The Sunny Side of This| Isabel
My favorite passport stamp of this year was Belarus. In all honesty, I never thought I would ever visit this country and now it has become one of my favorites ever. Of course it probably isn't a must visit destination, but it's one of a kind landscapes and history won me over. The highest hill is only around 300 meters tall, and Minsk has been rebuilt from the ground up like 8 times. And don't fool yourself thinking that this little country is irrelevant. It is one of the most geopolitical strategic places in Europe, it basically connects Asia and Russia with the Western world. Seriously, I could go on and on! Despite the fact that we stayed almost 6 hours on the border and dealing with customs (on the way in and out of the country), it taught me to see the beauty in people and in countries despite their political situation. I hope I never stop seeing the world with different eyes each time."
TraveladdictUK | Natasha
This passport stamp still brings a smile to my face. It’s the Maldives, where we visited in 2012. We went to celebrate a special anniversary. And to us, it was the holiday of a lifetime. I have never laughed so much or had such an amazing time anywhere else. And this was just an island in the Indian Ocean that we could walk around in forty five minutes. It was such a magical place that I could never return as I would never want to change my memories of our time there. Everyone should visit the Maldives at least in their lifetime. I just love this place so much!
Thanks so much for sharing your stories.
What is your most precious passport stamp or visa?
I asked nine more bloggers to share the story behind their favourite passport stamp or visa.
I asked travel bloggers to share the story behind their favourite passport stamp or visa and this is what they wrote …
A Globe Well Travelled | Ashlea
Aside from the fact that when I open my passport I see my face from 9 years ago staring back at me, with it’s slightly chubbier cheeks, dyed red hair (what was I thinking!?) and impartial expression, I do get a kick out of flicking through the pages.
I’ve had it since 2006 and it’s been with me for every one of the 30 countries I’ve visited. Next year when I’m made to renew it, I may get a little sentimental and attempt to convert the former document into some sort of crazy piece of artwork so that I’m constantly reminded of what those heavily stamped pages look like.
Those are my favourite pages. The ones with multiple stamps, each one fighting to take up the largest amount of free space. This page in particular stands out as the two separate stamps I received for entry into USA just happened to be right next to one another. It’s as if the customs officials always turn to the exact same spot – no matter how many years apart you enter the country, and lazily place their stamp wherever it will fit rather than turning to a fresh page. It’s a shame that the stamp from the third time I entered USA was 3 pages further along. Wouldn’t that have been a nice coincidence?
Endlessly Exploring | Kelly
This passport stamp marks the day that I finished the Inca Trail and arrived at the spectacular Machu Picchu in Peru. Visiting this remarkable site had been on the top of my bucket list for a long time, and I was so pleased with myself that I was able to complete the 42km hike without too much difficulty. That final morning, we had woken up at 3am to make the final leg. When we arrived at the Sun Gate and caught our first glimpse of Machu Picchu, we were overjoyed with our accomplishment. It was an incredible moment and rewarding experience for everyone in our hiking group. Those four days were definitely the highlight of my South America adventure in 2014, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Flying The Nest | Stephen & Jess
Our favourite stamp would have to be from when we touched down in the Maldives and the immigration officer stamped “15 FEB 2014” onto the pages of our passport. We will admit that this once in a lifetime trip to this breathtaking location was way out of our budget (which we knew at the time) but we wanted to celebrate and splurge the end of 5 years of university studies. For us this stamp symbolised hours of working full time serving coffees whilst going home to finish writing assignments. The last 5 years had paid off and we were ready to start the next chapter in our life. We live by the quote “collect moments, not things” but our passport is our little exception as the stamps symbolise memories we are about to create.
Girl vs Globe | Sabina
Every single stamp in my passport means a lot more to me than just a puddle of ink on sturdy printed paper. Each and every one of them reminds me of how privileged I am to be travelling the world – as an EU citizen, it is much easier for me to gain entry into most places in the world.
But my Chinese visa was definitely hard won. I never even dreamed of visiting such a far flung destination before stumbling upon an email encouraging university students in the UK to apply for a cultural exchange programme in China. As I read on, I realised that if accepted the only thing I would need to fund was my airfare. Hmm, OK!
I immediately sent in my application and less than a week later I received an email telling me I’d been accepted. Suddenly the vague notion of visiting became reality as I sat in my cold dorm room in Moscow where I was doing my year abroad, booking a trip to Beijing with trembling hands. It was a surreal moment, which was then followed up by an even more surreal month of exploration and novelty.
Almost a year has passed since that visit and I dream of going back to Asia on a weekly basis. Fingers crossed that 2015 is the year I acquire more passport stamps from that region.
Love and London | Jess
This is my favorite stamp on my passport because it signifies an extremely huge obstacle that I overcame. You can’t see it in this photo but on the adjacent page there’s that same stamp with a huge X through it from exactly three months before. That was the time that I attempted to go to London to visit my then-boyfriend (now husband) and was detained, refused entry, sent back to New York and banned from entering the UK. Exactly three months later, after a beautiful little wedding in New York and an extremely stressful visa application process, I landed at Heathrow Airport, made it through immigration successfully, and was picked up by my husband. It was the day that our life together began!
Marie Away | Marie
In August of 2012, my passport was freshly stamped with ink from South Korea. It was my first trip abroad after graduating from university, and the beginning of my new life as an expat and serial traveller. In the months prior, I’d become confused and indecisive about where I was headed in life. Looking back, that stamp marks the beginning of a new life for me: one where I feel more confident in myself, in not feeling tied to any one path. Life in a straight line is pretty boring—I’ll take freedom above stability any day.
Samantha Angell | Samantha
My favorite stamp in my passport is the one I received in Amsterdam when my husband and I moved to Sweden. This stamp represents the beginning of my expat journey, and my husband and I’s life abroad. Since August 2, 2013 we have gotten married, lived in two cities in Sweden, traveled throughout Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic, France, Thailand, and the U.S. Because of moving to Sweden and all the travels we had planned, I was inspired to begin my blog and document my travels publicly! This stamp really marks the beginning of a new journey in life, and reflecting back I can see how much I have changed and grown since this day. I cannot imagine myself on a different path now, and look forward to the future stamps I will collect in my passport!
The Redhead Story | Julia
I’ve been here, I’ve lived there and thus I have a nice little collection of passport stamps. Too bad I got a new passport as my old one expired but this is reason enough to continue exploring what the globe has to offer. Amongst all those passport stamps, my favourite one – just judging by the visual appearance – is probably the one I got when I travelled to the Tunisian island Djerba almost exactly a year ago. As interesting as its culture is the passport stamp. It is such a shame that I cannot speak Arabic because if I could, I would actually be able to read what it says in my passport – and much more, such as digging deeper in the cultural habits and make real friends with the locals and, and, and. Of course we know that the name of the country is in it – logically. But see, that is what I mean: the script and thus the language are as striking as Tunisia’s (or particularly Djerba’s) history and culture. I have had the chance to learn a few chunks of Arabic – and there are so many dialects, which I wasn’t aware of at all – and it is such an amazing language. Maybe I should make this my lifelong task: learning to write in an Arabian dialect and being able to have a solid conversation. Djerba is indeed very rich in tradition. Because of all the things I am associating with this travel destination I like this passport stamp the best. For someone who does not have a good command of the Arabian language, this passport stamp is somewhat “mysterious” – as is this certain place on earth where I received it.
Thanks so much for sharing your stories.
What is your most precious passport stamp or visa?