Born and lived in Dublin all my life. I started to think about travel, I guess, in my early teens while looking at maps. I soon developed a love of Geography.
It was when I started to collect British Commonwealth stamps in the early 1970s that I started to learn and have a fascination with all these countries and islands that issued their own stamps. In late 1976 Tuvalu started to issue their own stamps after becoming independent, as did the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati). So I started to collect these stamps. At that time you could send postal orders to the philatelic bureau in that country, and I was always very excited getting new issues in the post and in doing so learned all about the life of these small island countries.
As soon as I left school in 1977, I went to work and my first goal was to save enough money to visit these islands in the Pacific. So it was a great start and a wonderful first few countries to visit.
It was only in 2003 when I was reading “The Tea Time Islands” by Ben Foogle that I discovered the TCC. At that time I never thought about wanting to visit more remote places. But it struck a chord with me. I was collecting stamps from every Commonwealth country so I decided I would love to visit all these territories that existed.
I then made a list of TCC countries based on geographical area and mapped out a plan to visit those over a 15-year period. Believe it or not that is the list that I still have in my phone. I have mostly gone with that plan.
One of my big aims is to visit every postal administration in the world. It is so much fun visiting post offices, taking photos, finding postcards and sending them back. I don’t believe anyone has ever done this, though I do have to be careful. I did get detained briefly for taking photos of the post office in Nairobi. The police officer at first did not believe me when I said I visit every post office where I travel.
One of my first trips in 2005 was visiting BIOT. I was lucky enough to be able to join an official government approved trip to visit all the islands of the territory apart from Diego Garcia. This was after the tsunami in December 2004 and the British Government wanted to see if the islands had been affected. As such they had not. Travel for me is full of surprises. During my research I try not to look at too many photos so when I get to a country, what I see will be new to my eyes. I have a love of people and love to chat and learn about how they live or their thoughts and views. It is always good to get another point of view. I love Africa for that reason. For the most part it is the people that stand out in that continent.
Travel for me is a bit like an education and every trip I learn more about the world and respect different view points. Growing up in Dublin the conflict in Northern Ireland maybe only 60 miles up the road, but to us it was a million miles away. So when I hear that a country is “unsafe,” I tend to isolate the areas of concern in the country rather then the whole country. For example, I am off to Mali soon and I have a company advising me on where to go that is considered safe. There is still so much to see without saying Mali is off limits.
My advice to anyone travelling: Have a open mind where you travel. If possible talk to local people and sometimes that means you have to be the first to talk. People may look standoffish but when you start the conversation you often find they open up. People who know me are aware that talking to strangers is very easy to me. If you go about it in a fun and joyful way, you can make great friends and they are often the best experiences when you travel.
Finally most travelers that I meet have that passion and determination that one needs if you wish to visit a lot of countries and territories. I can really thank the TCC for getting me to discover places I would never go to and open up my eyes to a wonderful world. Most of all enjoy, smile, and laugh a lot. That’s been my plan and it has worked well for me.