Sunday, September 19, 2010
Recently I posted something on FB about how I was giving up my very thick passport - 10 years of a lot of travel resulting in a weathered book with many extra pages - for a new sad, thin one. My passport is expiring so I had no choice. I had to get a new one so I can go on my honeymoon in October.
I did not realize how emotional it would make me to give up that little blue book. Thank the universe they allow you to keep it! If I had to turn it in, I swear to you I was going to photocopy every tattered page before I did so.
Anyway, a friend posted back saying she could empathize with me because when she got married and changed her name and had to get a new passport, traveling with it for the first time she was embarrassed that people would think she had never traveled before. I realized she hit the nail on the head for me. I had those same fears! I was giving up a piece of my identity. I have always been viewed as someone who is a frequent traveler - just look at the fat passport. But now I was going to look like someone who hasn't traveled. Nooooo!
It may sound weird to some, but this passport brings up powerful feelings and memories for me and it has been a huge symbol of my identity. This passport that I just gave up is a symbol of ME and certainly a big piece of My Scenic Byway. That little book represents TEN YEARS of my life and my travels. International travel has been important to me since I first traveled to Kenya at the age of 16 as an exchange student. That adventure changed my life and made me who I am. So did the last 13 years of a tremendous amount of travel for work. Each one of those visa stamps is a symbol of a time, place, people and events that were my life. Every single one intertwined together to bring me to the here and now.
I recall laying in hotel rooms thumbing through the pages, remembering the trips that were associated with various visa stamps. I remember feeling special when people would see my passport and comment appreciatively on how much I have traveled. I remember feeling a thrill when immigration officials would spend extra time checking out my passport and asking me questions because of all the travel I had done. "You certainly travel a lot. What is it you do? Why were you traveling so often to Sri Lanka?" For awhile there they used to stop me in Amsterdam every time before I would board the plane back to the US and always ask me about Sri Lanka. I found that fascinating.
This act of getting a new passport has been an interesting opportunity for me to reflect on all of this - the power and the symbolism of this little book. Think about if you could not have a passport - think about what it would do to limit your freedom. Many years ago on a business trip in the Philippines I had my purse stolen with all of my identification. It is so frightening to be in another country with no ID and no money. Thankfully I had a US business colleague with me who could vouch for my identity and thankfully this was long before 9/11 which made immigration issues much tougher. I was able to get a new passport in two days and it was a huge relief.
So...yes it has been emotional to let go of this book that has traveled with me for 10 years. This little book has been my passport to a lot of beautiful places and people, a lot of good times and a lot of not so good times either. And love. I met my fiance on a trip to Tbilisi, Georgia. You could say that passport led me to him and this new life I have now. Now I have this new passport and this new love and this new life and I am so incredibly excited for the next 10 years of filling and weathering those pages.