This past year I’ve traveled far and wide. I’ve been to Egypt and Paris, Brazil and Fiji. In prior years I’ve made trips to Germany, Canada, Russia, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Tallin and other ports of call. I can chart all these trips because I can reference my passport. It has been my companion, accompanying me for the past ten years on all these journeys.
This coming year I will continue my travels. My passport is good until next August but because the requirements with respect to passports and their expiration dates differ from country to country, I needed applied for a new passport. I’ve had five passports in my life. Always, when I applied for a new one, my old, expired passport was returned with the new. There were holes punched in the old indicating that it was void but I could still browse through the pages and recall past trips.
Today I received my new passport. Only my new passport. No old passport! I was so disappointed. It was as if an old friend had vanished without warning. Had I known they weren ‘t going to return it, I would have made copies! Why would they keep the old? What on earth do they want my expired passport for? If they’re just going to destroy it, why not void it, as they’ve done in the past, and return it to me.
I realize it’s just pieces of paper but it’s more than that. It’s official proof of my adventures. In the future if I’m asked to list my recent trips, I won’t have a clue! My China visa involved listing all trips for the past eight years – good luck getting that information out of me again. Without my passport it will be impossible for me to list all the countries I’ve visited.
I was shocked to learn that only 25% of Americans have passports. I think it should be mandatory as should at least one trip abroad in a lifetime. I recall there was one college my daughter and I visited which didn’t offer s study abroad program, they required it! They felt it was such a critical element in a person’s education that it was built into the curriculum. They got high marks from me for that policy.
Fortunately the lessons learned on my travels are not in the pages of the absent passport. They and the memories are firmly embedded in my mind. If you haven’t been out of the US, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Travel broadens the mind and the spirit. First step, get yourself a passport! Then you’ll be ready for adventure when the opportunity presents itself.