It’s here! The FlagMate arrived today, with my three starter flags attached. Regular readers of this blog may remember my earlier post, in which I described how I became involved in this Storyteller project:
Founder Bhav Patel set up Storyteller for three reasons: to create high quality travel accessories, to inspire travellers and most important of all, to do some good by supporting projects aimed at helping to fund education programmes for underprivileged kids around the world. I received this free sample in exchange for an honest review, so now it’s here, what do I think and should you order one for yourself?
First impressions are very favourable. The product is high quality, from the enamelled flags to the neatness of the stitching on the fob itself. Though it’s faux leather, the material is smooth to the touch and it has a pleasing sheen. As you can see from the photo above, it arrived in a tidy little box and would make a great gift or, if you’ll permit me to use the C-word in July, an ideal Christmas stocking filler. I opted for the fob style, which retails at £10.99, but there’s also one with a clip if that’s your preference for an extra pound. The keyring holds up to 29 flags, each available to purchase for £4.99. It’s not cheap, but I still think it’s suffiicently well made to be worth the price, especially if you view it as a charitable donation as well.
Each takes a bunting of flags – what a wonderful collective noun that is! I decided to narrow it down to just three as fitting 114 flags onto one keyring (one for each country I’ve visited) wasn’t going to work. I thought long and hard about which three flags I wanted to include and opted for a trio that had special significance for me. Now I’m sure you’ll be able to recognise the country from its flag, but in case you can’t, there’s an option to engrave their name – or any other special message, date or initials for that matter – onto the back. I opted for Austria, Peru and Iceland.
My love affair with Austria has a lot to do with deep rooted memories of happy family holidays in the Tyrol and Salzkammergut. My first holiday was to St Anton in May 1970. I was nine months old and remember absolutely nothing of the trip as a result. Mum recalls I helped calm down a nervous flyer on the plane – 21st century babies, take heed – and earned the nickname Little Mausli from the hotel staff on account of a white romper suit. I’ve been back to Austria many times since as an adult and even took the dog.
My first “proper” travel experience was to Peru in 1995 when I spent the entire school summer holidays in the company of a dear friend and his delightful family. I was enchanted with the place and have returned four times since. Its archaeological and historic attractions are of course a huge draw, but it’s the Peruvian zest for life and utterly bonkers attitude which keeps me returning.
I’d like to think I first went to Iceland before it was fashionable. By the time I returned to get married, word was out and Iceland was no longer the under the radar, scarily expensive destination it had once been. Nevertheless, it was April, early in the season, and summer’s crowds had yet to arrive. We shared our wedding photos with Skógafoss and a mere handful of hikers in brightly coloured waterproofs, sufficiently few in number to Photoshop out.
Would I buy FlagMate?
I’m looking forward to hitting the road this autumn and hopefully using my flags as a talking point to get to know fellow travellers. At £4.99 a go, buying additional flags isn’t going to break the bank, so perhaps I’ll add to my keyring story and help underprivileged kids as I do. It’s a great idea on so many levels, not least because I don’t ever need to sew any more badges on my day pack…
What do you think? If you’d like to create your own travel story and help support Storyteller’s work, you can buy your own FlagMate here:
Adverts can be a little irritating at times, but every once in a while one comes along that begs to be investigated. Last week, a feature on FlagMate popped up on my Facebook timeline. I was intrigued and contacted the man behind the idea, fellow Brit Bhavesh Patel, to find out a bit more about his company, Storyteller, and the concept of FlagMate.
Let’s face it, buying ourselves something that’s going to help someone else makes us feel good about our purchase. Storyteller offers the chance to do just that. Bhav told me that the company was founded around three main principles: to create high quality travel accessories, to inspire people to travel and to share some of its profits funding educational programmes in less privileged areas of the world.
At this early stage, Storyteller supports four charities – The Barefoot College (which currently operates in 93 countries), UNICEF Next Gen, London (worldwide), Global Citizen (worldwide) and The Hope Foundation (which is based in Kolkata, India). You see, education’s a top priority when it comes to giving those born into poverty a leg up. As a former teacher, I’m of course biased, but the more I travel, the more it’s obvious – adult illiteracy is still a huge constraint on progress in many parts of the world. Bhav agrees and told me about his experience in places like India and Peru:
“It was a repeat cycle – children could not obtain a quality education, and in time became illiterate adults. I wanted to make a change and so made a conscious decision to use Storyteller as a platform to help fund and run educational workshops in partnership with charities who shared my vision.”
Storyteller itself is not a charity, but one of a number of new start ups who are proving that getting a balance between profit and philanthropy can be beneficial to all those involved. It raises capital for causes it considers worthy by selling products aimed at the buoyant traveller market. FlagMate, part of Storyteller’s initial range, appeals to those keen on collectibles.
Years ago, when I first got the travel bug, I painstakingly sewed fabric patches onto my rucksack as a reminder of each of the countries I’d been to. Many, many pricked and sore fingers later, I had a bag covered in flags. People would stop and chat about the places they represented and my experiences there. It was a good icebreaker and often led to further conversation – and those meaningful interactions with people we meet on the road are, of course, why many of us travel.
FlagMate goes one better: faux leather, hand-painted flags which can be personalised and then attached to a keyring or clip for your bag. It’s a great souvenir of your last trip, but also, it’s a good talking point on your next one. Think of the flags, and the words you choose to engrave them with, as prompts for you to tell a story to someone you meet as you explore the world.
Right now, Storyteller is coming to the end of its Crowdfunding campaign, but there’s still time to support the cause if you so wish. You can find out more on their website:
Alternatively, why not visit their IndieGoGo page to find out how your purchase can help get this start-up off the ground. Find it here:
While I have no financial interest in Storyteller as a company, I am looking forward to receiving a FlagMate sample later this year in exchange for writing about the product. Keep an eye on this blog to find out what I think of it, which countries I’ll choose to wear on my keyring and why they make the cut.