I always wanted a passport.
On the rare occasion my dad would have to fly somewhere, the whole family would pile into the car for the 1+ hour drive to Washington National airport. That was back in the day when you still saw Hare Krishnas at the airport and many of the seats in the waiting area had pay TVs attached to them. I know you youngsters are thinking I lived in bizarro world. The reality was it was a different world.
Just being at the airport gave me butterflies in my stomach. Not the nervous kind. The excitement kind. Everybody was going somewhere and I couldn’t wait to be one of them. I dreamed of flying to exotic places like Minneapolis or Albuquerque. I hadn’t yet learned to dream big. California might as well have been the other side of the world.
But I changed all that. I grew up to be a travel agent, amongst other careers. And I learned a lot about the world of travel. More importantly, I took advantage of it. Which is why I’m having a hard time right now with my passport.
I finally got my passport in 1996. It was good for 10 years so it has since expired. It’s 2010 and I still haven’t renewed it. It makes me sad to think I haven’t needed it in all that time. I think it’s a good thing for everyone to have. You never know when you’ll have a fantastic travel opportunity or perhaps need to flee the country.
As I am getting ready to renew my passport, it makes me a little sad to give it up. It’s full of my 10 year travel story. Every stamp in that book was an important part of my life. And something I’d like to share before the slate gets wiped clean.
And so it began in 1996. In preparation for my first trip abroad to visit my brother, I got my passport. I always loved the picture even though it looked nothing like me. The black and white serious photo always made me feel a bit like a Russian spy. And now I’ll always remember that perm.
Immigration is always sloppy when they stamp your passport. So you end up with a non-chronological rendition of yoru journeys.
1996 – Frankfurt, Germany
I visited my brother in Germany and flew in and out of Frankfurt. This was a one week trip that took us through many countries (France, Sweden, Denmark). I learned that I don’t like German food.
1998 – Milan, Italy
I went with a college buddy to Malpensa (Milan). This was another whirlwind tour that took us to Turin, Venice, Florence, Pisa, and finally Rome. I ate my weight in pasta.
2004 – Berlin, Germany
I took my husband on this trip. We flew to Berlin for a conference. I worked. He played. I learned to love sausages and french fries with mayonnaise.
1996 – Trelleborg, Sweden
It was my brother’s idea to drive to the north coast of Germany and take an 8 hour ferry to Sweden and then drive another 4 hours to visit his friend. I ate pizza with eggs on it.
1997 – Charlotte, NC, USA
Okay, they don’t normally stamp your passport when you come back to the U.S. But I was hungry for stamps and I thought I should have one from my own country. Got this when I flew home from Cancun, Mexico.
1998 – Rome, Italy
We flew into Milan but made our way down to Rome to fly home. Even the airport name sounds Italian: Fiumicino. P.S. Rome is awesome.
1998 – Berlin, Germany
We flew into Berlin and they made us fly back out. Not before we visited the Berlin Zoo.
1999 – London, England
I arrived by train with my same college buddy through the Chunnel (Channel Tunnel). I was so proud of that one. I remember I had a stomachache on the train.
2000 – Nice, France
Get the jokes out the way now. Nice is nice. There. I said it. It is quite beautiful and I stayed in a hotel right on the Mediterranean. I was there for work, all expenses paid. Those were the days.
1997, 2001 – Cancun, Mexico
I am lucky enough to have visited Cancun twice. It is absolutely beautiful. And both times I stayed at an all-inclusive resort (food, drinks, more food, more drinks). In 2001, we traveled only 11 days after the World Trade Center bombings. It was the first Saturday that flight operation had resumed. Cancun was eerily uncrowded.
2005 – Shanghai, China
Same brother, different country. We took a family trip to Hangzhou to visit my brother, his wife, and their son. I drank beer with every meal and ate things that I never want to eat again (“come from inside pig”). You’ll see entrance and exit stamps as well as a required travel visa.
1998 – Bermuda
If Bermuda actually had any cities, they were lost on me. It’s a small island with expensive food and beautiful beaches. They also drive on the wrong side of the road.
2003 – London, England
This time I entered England properly, by aeroplane. The immigration officer asked if we were there for business or pleasure. We said both. He said, “who’s work?” I said mine. He looked at my husband and said “alright, mate!” Grumble.
This is perhaps the most important page. When I got married, I had the name on my passport changed. Apparently, they simply add a little flag to the back of your passport, type in a note with your name change, and then give it the seal of approval. It was amazing to me how many people never looked at this page even though the name in the front of my passport didn’t match my airplane tickets.
So while I am sad to leave these memories behind, I am happy that this page reminds me that I have someone to share all my new stamps with. My son is getting his passport too. I can’t wait to see what stamps lie ahead for all of us.