While some people enjoy collecting baseball cards or coins, attorney John Rheinberger, 61, prefers amassing stamps on his passport.
Of the 195 sovereignties scattered around the planet, Rheinberger has set foot in 192, leaving him three short of a pledge he made in 1974 to visit every country in the world at least once. Millions of miles, hundreds of thousands of dollars and scores of immunization and booster shots later, Rheinberger only needs passport stamps from Somalia, Libya and Cuba to realize his globetrotting dream.
A resident of Stillwater, Minn., Rheinberger has a knack for accomplishing things he puts his mind to, as one might expect of a man with seven higher-education degrees, including a bachelor’s in geography, a master’s in history and an MBA.
“I have four passports and they’re all full” of rubber stamps and visas, says Rheinberger, fresh from a Caribbean jaunt to Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados, territory he decided to revisit after a 20-year lapse.
“You know who has the prettiest visa?” Rheinberger asks suddenly. “The United States—of course, we never see it! The second prettiest is Iran.”
Iran also has the prettiest women, in the estimation of this lifelong bachelor. Australia has the nicest people and Brazil tops the list in terms of natural beauty, adds Rheinberger, who usually spends about three days in a country’s capital city.
Rudeness is ubiquitous in French Guiana, Rheinberger says, recounting the 10 irritating minutes he spent trying to buy a postage stamp from a vendor who he is convinced understood English.
A thirst for adventure
A seeker of adventure, if not necessarily cultural cross-pollination, Rheinberger typically stays in Western hotels while abroad and dines exclusively on Americanized fare such as burgers, fries and Pepsi. “I like to eat what I like,” he says unapologetically.
He comes by his yen for travel and education naturally. Both were emphasized by his late father—who was also a lawyer named John Rheinberger—and his mother, Marguerite, who holds bachelor’s degrees in anthropology, social work, psychology and sociology. She still travels regularly at 89.
Mom and Dad used to toss Rheinberger and his six siblings into a station wagon for cross-country treks that lasted up to three weeks. He hadn’t reached his first birthday before notching his first foreign sojourn, to Canada, while in the family car.
Taking trips abroad is something Rheinberger “absolutely loves,” says his sister Marguerite Rheinberger, 52, a political consultant who has visited 56 countries. “He just delights in seeing things. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, that’s a big deal for him,” she says.