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As travelers, we often collect “trip tokens” as a way of materializing our memories. But what if there were a way to give back to the world while compiling those keepsakes?

This idea was the seed that became Traveller Collective.

darryl mcivor

Founded in 2015 by Darryl McIvor of Vancouver, Traveller Collective offers a product that is simple — yet sentimental — in an effort to overcome the “massive inequalities” in our world. Handmade by McIvor and his team in Vancouver, the product is a leather keychain clip with washer-like rings that are engraved with a two- or three-letter code representing every country, U.S. state or Canadian province you’ve visited.

The clips — which come in brown, black and tan — cost $18.50 apiece, while the metal spacers range from $2 to $3.25 each. Up to 25 percent of every sale goes toward nonprofits and charitable causes around the globe.

We caught up with Darryl to chat about the creation of Traveller Collective, the impact it’s having on global communities and what’s coming next for the company.

Independent Traveler: Tell us a little bit about the Traveller Collective product. Why a keychain clip and spacers, rather than — let’s say — patches or pins?
Darryl McIvor:
I really wanted to create something based around travel and giving back. You know how you always see people with flag patches on their backpacks? I liked that idea — the concept of having a simple reminder of the places that you’ve been. But I didn’t really like the idea of patches. I always felt it was kind of loud, kind of in your face. I wanted something much more subtle, something much more personalized.

IT: Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind Traveller Collective?
We launched in the summer of 2015. Really for me — and for the business in general — the ability for us to travel the world and do that type of thing is so far off from what so many people in the world have the ability to do. … So for us, it was kind of a reminder of that, and showing gratitude. It was never about counting countries or seeing how many different countries you could get to. It was more of a reminder to go out, travel and really aspire to do more.

IT: What sorts of nonprofits, charities and projects has Traveller Collective funded so far?
Our First project was about clean water. … We partnered with a nonprofit in New York called charity: water. We did a project with them and raised $10,000 to build a well in Ethiopia.

There’s also a local nonprofit we’ve started working with called imagine1day. We raised $10,000 last year to build a school in Ethiopia. We also ran this big contest last October, where we had one of our customers and imagine1day come with us to Ethiopia. After being on the ground in Ethiopia and meeting the majority of the staff in imagine1day, I knew I wanted to work with them again. Just the things that they’re doing and the sustainability aspects that they’ve instilled in these projects is really important to us. We decided to do another project with them. We’re raising money for it now, and running another contest where we’re going to bring one of the customers in October [2017] to visit the school and meet the community.

traveller collective keychain

IT: People love collecting tokens from their travels. How does the Traveller Collective keychain add a special element to that concept?
For me, it’s just the meaning behind it. Whether you get a small ring that’s engraved with a country, or if you get a small trinket, it means something to everyone in their own certain aspect. Some rings for some people might be six months in a certain place; for some people it might only be a weekend. But it’s so individual that everyone has their own story behind it. My Australia ring would mean something so different from someone else’s Australia ring, and the stories behind each of those represents an entirely different trip at a different time. For me, it’s having all of these altogether in one spot and being able to glance at it from time to time; to go back over some of the memories, and to really inspire people to go out and make more.

IT: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned while traveling?
The things I enjoy most about my personality I attribute to traveling: my patience, my understanding, my gratitude. I don’t think I would have learned those things in the capacity I know them now unless I was traveling. That’s one of the reasons we want people to get out there and travel more; it changes them. I think we’re all better off if we have more gratitude, understanding and appreciation for the way other people live.

IT: Is there one spacer you can associate with your favorite travel memory or destination?
Anytime anyone asks me my favorite country, I always say — which might be a little cheesy — Canada. I love traveling, but I really enjoy coming back to Canada. Every time you come back from a new place it just provides different perspectives on what your home is and what your country is, and that’s really important to me.

IT: How many silver spacers do you have on your own keychain?
I just went to Belgium for the first time at the end of January, and I believe that was my 32nd country.

Check out the Traveller Collective website for info on upcoming projects, contests and products.

See more travel interviews!

Social Impact Travel: A Q&A with Michal Alter
Voluntourism: Does It Really Help?

— interview conducted by Christina Janansky

In early October, I embarked on a weeklong family vacation around the southwestern United States. This loaded itinerary promised hiking, rock climbing, swimming and a family reunion spread across five cities, three states and eight days. While I’m generally an efficient packer, I was having difficulty narrowing down my clothing options and keeping myself organized this time around.

ezpacking packing cubes

Normally, I’m skeptical of any packing cubes or aids. I’m a bare-bones traveler who has managed just fine with rolling, folding and cramming in the past. So when I was given the EzPacking Starter Set, a collection of four packing cubes in various sizes, I can’t say I expected much. If anything, I figured they’d complicate the packing process and add unnecessary bulk to my bag.

I was wrong. In fact, these little plastic cubes worked so well for me that I ordered another set shortly after this trip.

I used the large cube (which measures 16″ x 10.3″ x 4″) for casual wear, the medium (12″ x 10.3″ x 4″) for athletic clothes and running gear, the small bag (10.3″ x 6″ x 4″) for my bathing suits and intimates, and the extra-small bag (6″ x 6″ x 2.5″) for toiletries. When detouring to Page, Arizona for two days in the middle of the trip, I took the largest cube as an overnight duffel rather than lugging my full-size suitcase all over the Southwest.

Altogether these bags nestled nicely into my suitcase, maximized space and worked well with our multi-faceted and activity-intensive itinerary.

What We Liked: The EzPacking organizers are like the Mary Poppins bag of travel. These little things don’t look like much on the outside, but they can fit a lot. For instance, one of the larger bags comfortably held nine warm-weather outfits and a light jacket. (Disclaimer: I’m a petite, 5’0″ female.)

Beyond compactness, these bags are also lightweight and sturdy. They added very little extra weight to our luggage (20 ounces), and held their shape no matter how much stuff I crammed in around them. Unlike some other packing cubes, EzPacking organizers are transparent on four out of six sides, so it’s easy to see what you’ve packed where.

What We Didn’t Like: While the cubes are compact and convenient, they will take up the bulk of your bag. Because of this, I had difficulty squeezing in some last-minute souvenirs that were too delicate to fit elsewhere.

Another downside is that these cubes make it dangerously easy to overpack. I had to transfer several items from my suitcase to my carry-on just to keep my bag within the airline’s 50-pound limit.

Bottom Line: While a bit on the pricey side for a set of four (they retail for $48), the EzPacking organizers are a great asset for people with packing OCD, or travelers looking for extra organization.

EzPacking organizers can be ordered individually or purchased online in one of several bundles. They come in different colors and are TSA-approved (in fact, the smallest bag is perfect for TSA’s liquid and gel regulations). You can buy them on the EzPacking website or on Amazon.com.

Want a chance to win our gently used EzPacking Starter Set? We’re giving it away. Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. We’ll pick one winner at random to win the Starter Set. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time
11 Travel Essentials That Do Double Duty on the Road

— written by Christina Janansky