Before anyone gets concerned or teary eyed, this is one of those inanimate friends, so I promise it will be okay.
I don't know exactly when I got the travel bug. It wasn't something I always had. See, as a child I lived in the little town of Horse Creek, CA, WAAAAAAAAY down the Klamath River on HWY 96. Anyone who has ever driven that road knows the meaning of the word "curvaceous." (I was going to say "windy" but as that could be seen two ways I chose otherwise.) We lived about 35 miles from the nearest town, Yreka. Still not much of a town in case you're curious. That meant every time we needed something from the store and didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for it, we had quite a trip to make. My siblings actually got the joy of a bus ride down this incredible road twice a day during their high school years.
I love this drive now. It's a beautiful trip through the mountains along the river, dotted with wildlife and minimal traffic. I know every curve, and used to know the people living in many of the houses as well. As a child, however, it almost always made me queasy. If I looked out the front window, and didn't do anything crazy like trying to read, I could make it okay, but otherwise I was not a fan of the trek.
As time passed, however, I developed an insatiable desire to see more of the world. Perhaps it's precisely because I grew up in such an isolated place. I wanted to know more, to see more, to experience more.
In 1996 I had my first out of country experience. I've always enjoyed history, and been fascinated by all there is out there in the world to see. Traveling to Italy on a mission trip gave me a beautiful opportunity to meet new people, expand my horizons, and see some seriously old stuff. Let me just tell you that standing in the Collesium, and knowing it's the real thing, is awe inspiring.
I was only 17 back then, almost half a life time away, and I gave the camera a big grin that was slapped into a handy little passport. A couple of years later I wanted to put the thing to use once more, and I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Hong Kong for a summer. Wow. What more can I say. I entered into an entirely new world and felt so alive. Giving my life and love to the babies at the orphanage changed me completely. The first night I was there I knew that three months were not nearly enough time. However, passports acquired by minors are only good for five years, so when it came time to head back to Hong Kong after completing college, a new travel book was required.
I can still remember the day I drove down to Kinkos to get my passport photos taken. It was hot. Like seriously hot. Medford, Oregon can be that way. I was dripping by the time I got there, and my hair was short short short. I was a bit deflated from the heat, but I beamed in the photo, knowing that it would soon be my ticket to the world. I was hesitant to mail in my old passport, fearing that it might be lost or not returned, but I had no other options. Away it went and a few weeks later I was given a ten year pass.
Today, it's time is up. With a July 2011 expiration date, there are no more stamps to be had. Granted, they don't stamp passports as readily as they once did. I've visited a number of countries that didn't make their way visually into the book, but it has still become a dear friend. I have carried it literally around the world. There are visas to Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, and the Czech Republic inside, as well as stamps from Korea, Macau, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and perhaps one or two others from transit points as well. It even has a fat section of beautiful new pages I had to have added when I ran out of visa pages. The visa photos record varying lengths of hair and roundness of face. It's a map, a guide, a journal of sorts. And today it is on it's way to being replaced.
I'm feeling a little squirmy in my stomach thinking about it sitting in an envelope at the post office. I worry again that something might happen to slow its progress, shuffling it off in unknown directions. It has been a source of protection and identification. Without it, I'm stuck, grounded not just on this continent, but in this country. No longer can I even take a quick jaunt up to Canada. I feel as though my legs have been tied.
Despite my worry, I tell myself it will all be okay. The post office won't lose my precious passport. They'll deliver it safely along with the astronomical fee that has nearly doubled in the past ten years. It will arrive and be replaced with a new book with beautiful pages and a new fancy data collection card. And the old passport, now used up and seemingly useless, will have a hole punched through it to show that it is no longer valid for travel. I don't want it to be sad about this change in status, but to feel as though it is time for a well deserved break. It's seen me through a lot of transitions after all. The new photo will have updated hair, but the smile has been removed. For some reason we've also gone over to the somber photo group. Makes me sad really, but at least I don't have those ridiculous corn furrows on my head like I get every now and then.
So there you have it. The entire saga. Now I just have to wait a few long weeks until I have the lovely new little book in my hands and I'll be capable of transit once again.