The advice from the correspondent about stamp collecting is spot on. I was a very enthusiastic stamp collector when I was a boy, and I often wish that I had kept up with it. I was also, naturally, a map-lover. As a humanities and world history teacher today, I often advise the parents of pre-high school students to get their kids started on stamp collecting (and to put maps on their bedroom walls and globes in their rooms).
The reference to Tannu-Tuva reminded me of Richard Feynman's delightful book Tuva or Bust!, which I highly recommend. Feynman's Tuvan obsession started with stamps, of course. His work on that book helped lead to the international craze for Tuvan throat singing.
It is interesting that Tuva is practically the only pre-World War II independent nation that there has been no serious push towards reconstituting. Even Montenegro is back!