The picture you see here is *almost* the reason that I couldn’t accept this incredibly awesome gig in Thailand this week. My passport, you ask? Yes, my passport. And no, I hadn’t let it expire, I hadn’t lost it in the move, and I hadn’t accidentally taken Ryan’s to the airport instead.
Instead, I’d been invited to come and see a country that requires all passports to expire no less than six months AFTER the return date on the ticket, and my passport was set to expire in January. Despite feeling like the absolute worst travel writer in the entire world (I mean, what self-respecting travel writer isn’t up-to-date on the newest passport regulations?!), I was mortified that I’d been invited by the Thailand Tourism Authority and then called three days before the departure date and told that I’d either need to get my butt to the nearest regional passport agency (which may or may not have been in Tucson) or give up my spot to another writer.
As you might suspect, this furious traveler would not accept option #2. So on Monday morning (thank God for a graduate student schedule, right?), I set to work getting a brand-spanking-new passport overnighted to me in Tucson. Of course, the process wasn’t easy, and resulted in me having to figure out where the nearest regional passport agency was, make about a million phone calls, fill out about a million forms, get signatures, verifications, and status updates on my travel arrangements with the bureau, stand in a number of ridiculously long lines (shades of the Department of Motor Vehicles, anyone?), go get a new picture taken, and have a clearance interview to decide if I was worthy of going through all the trouble to get an overnight passport. Oh, yes, and all this while preparing to submit my Stage One materials for my comprehensive PhD exams.
This process, though, isn’t what I’m thinking about this morning. Thankfully, after the chaos of Monday morning, I drove back over on Wednesday, picked up my passport less than 24 hours before my flight was supposed to depart, and spent all of yesterday throwing things into and out of a suitcase. (If I’d mentioned I was the worst travel writer ever because I didn’t know the most up-to-date travel regulations, I am even a worse travel writer when it comes to packing….). Now, I’m sitting in the Los Angeles international airport terminal on this rainy Thursday morning with everything arranged, and instead I’m thinking about the passport I left at home. The one with the hole punch right in the middle of the cover.
This passport is now ten years old. It’s warped, crinkled, and smells like an old suitcase, a sandy beach, and old paper. It’s been all over the place, and it’s got an imprint from every place I’ve ever been outside of the walls of my own country. And I remember the day my mom and I went to the CVS pharmacy to get my passport photo taken, over Christmas break during my second year of college. My parents were giving me the most beautiful gift I could have ever received in my twenty years of life: a summer of study-abroad in Spain. Going to apply for a passport with my mom was one of the most nerve-wracking, exhilarating moments of that year for me. Knowing that I would be traveling outside of the country for the first time in my life–and entirely on my own–was not something I was used to feeling. But we applied for the passport, went out to lunch, talked about what it might be like in Spain, and soon got me packed to leave. When I got to Spain, the passport went right under the mattress of the bed in my dorm room, where it sat for two months and got acclimated to the beauty, chaos, and unparalleled experience of travel.
That day with my mom has never left me, and it feels more real now than ever. ‘m sitting here with a brand-new, untouched passport in my bag, and we don’t know each other at all. My old passport is snuggled in to the sweater drawer in my dresser, nicely wedged between a sweatshirt and a cardigan.
So in the spirit of new beginnings, let’s have introductions all around. Hello, passport, I’m Kristin. Hello, Kristin, I’m your new passport. Let’s have some fun together but never forget where we came from: me from a printer, and you from Roswell, Georgia.
Thailand, here we come!