Tuesday, March 16, 2010

if passports could talk

yesterday, in the flickr group, kristine had a shot of her passport and used it to tell the story of how she was soon moving on to her next assignment. i didn't have any idea what i was going to do for my photo, so i did one of those tribute shots, as they're called when you blatantly copy what someone did and give them credit. i located my old passport and my current one and, as can often be the case with these daily photos, took a little trip down memory lane.

old on the left, current on the right
my passports are fatter than your usual passport. and that's because both of them have had pages added to them. twice. you'll also notice that my old passport was green. it was my first one and i didn't know that most americans have a blue one. i was "lucky" and got the green one during a very small window when they issued ben franklin commemorative passports. it's actually thanks to benjamin franklin that we all have passports at all, as it was his idea. the unusual green passport caused me no end of grief when i was traveling a lot in the balkans in the late 90s. border guards constantly questioned its authenticity and one guard at the turkish-greek border actually said, "green passport, very bad, very bad," and made a slicing motion across his neck. i was quite alarmed, but the conversation stopped there as that was apparently the extent of his english and my turkish was nonexistent. i've survived to tell the tale, so i guess it wasn't really very bad. and i never did ever meet anyone else with a green one.

as an american, you get stamped everywhere you go and you often need visas. the first passport filled up because the macedonian visa took a whole page every time and i had to have a new one if i popped down to thessaloniki for a weekend or up to belgrade for a coffee. it was early days after macedonia found themselves, rather to their surprise, with their own country, and it took them awhile to realize they could issue multiple-entry visas. i eventually got one of those, but not before they had used up ten pages of my passport.

a number of countries - china and india come to mind - think nothing of taking up an entire page of your passport for the visa. and the visas are elaborately colorful and often feature shiny holograms. i guess they want you to feel you got your money's worth. on the bright side, they're usually good for a least six months, so you don't need a new one should you be sent those places again.  i did use up two whole pages on indian visas, as i had to go there frequently enough that one expired and i needed another. (audible sigh.)

the bulk of my travel occurred during the bush administration and i clearly remember standing in lines at passport control, concealing my passport, as i felt a little sheepish about being american during those years. i happened to be in the philippines when obama was elected and i very clearly remember the sense of relief (tho' bush was still president) when i realized that i no longer had to hide my passport while i stood in line. on that occasion, people in line saw it and several actually smiled and gave me a thumbs up. with the incomprehensible debacle of health care reform (who would seriously not want to limit the influence of insurance companies on their personal health?) going on in the US right now, i'm not sure i wouldn't actually begin to conceal my passport again if i were queuing today.

many of the pages are covered in stamps that say "københavn" because i get stamped every time i come back into the country if it's not from scandinavia or the schengen countries. it tapered off because eventually, i knew all of the guys at passport control and convinced them to not to stamp me every time.

i've loved the travel opportunities i've had through my various jobs. the job i'm starting in april will not have so many travel opportunities, but i've been thinking about it and i'm really ok with that. looking at all of these stamps exhausts me a little bit. when i see the dates for the convoluted trip i took from copenhagen to singapore to heathrow to gatwick to budapest to constanza and back to copenhagen in one crazy week, it makes me tired. i hope companies today are using the possibilities afforded by electronic meeting software, rather than sending someone to give a 30 minute presentation in singapore on monday and the same one in romania on wednesday. i remember thinking it was all very exciting at the time (tho' having to switch from heathrow to gatwick was madness and an example of how bad the travel agent was). but today, i wouldn't even want to do it. and i would probably have the good sense to say no, but in those days (sounds like long ago, but it's not even three years ago), i actually quite liked it and of course, felt i had to do all of the things that were asked of me.

these stamps document for me how far i've come not just literally, but metaphorically as well. i think i've learned to say no to such madness today. and i hope that one good thing to come out of economic crisis is that employees aren't asked to do trips like that these days, because companies think twice before spending 40,000 ($7,300) kroner on such a ticket. i'm going to lose my gold status on both SAS and KLM here in the next couple of months. and tho' there was a time, not so long ago, when that would have panicked me, i'm resting quite easily in the knowledge. the world is changing and times are changing and it's no longer environmentally defensible to pop over to london for lunch or take a private plane back from newcastle like we did in the mid-noughties. i loved those times and am grateful for all the places i've been, but i'm quite ready to stay a bit closer to home for awhile. and besides, taking the train down through europe is quite romantic.


paris parfait said...

Trains in Europe are the best! Like you, I have fat passports with added pages, although I travel less by air these days. New job in April? Have guests in town at the moment; must catch up when they've gone. xo

Megan Raines said...

These pictures are fascinating! What an interesting life you live. My children have no appreciation for the fact that they have passports with actual visas inside. You should see the Chinese border officers when we walk up and hand them a stack of eleven! I loved your Bush/Obama comments..if that isn't the truth!

Elizabeth said...

Make sure you get on the right train!!!!

Anonymous said...

I spy a South African one in there...I was also very familiar with those until I managed to work the system s that I ended up with my very own RSA passport :)

Lisa-Marie said...

Your passport tells alot of stories!
My passport is new(I had to get a new one when I changed my name after getting married), so the only place I've used it to go is Poland. It doesn't even get stamped normally as it's in the EU, but my husband asked the nice man if he'd stamp mine anyway (as if I am 9 or something) and he did.

I've never been out of Europe! When we were little, all of our holidays were in the UK. I can at least say I know the country in which I live very well!

Liz Fulcher, The Fragrant Muse said...

As exciting as all those stamps are to the eye, they also give me a sense of anxiety and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's my grownup (read: old) view of the world as not-so-safe anymore.

Sarah said...

Oh how I love this. I love that your passports are filled with memories and that you appreciate them like this. Bravo! I'm grateful that you took the time to write about them, very enlightening and exciting to read!

I love that you share your thoughts the way you do (mostly because every time you write and share something I'm nodding my head or yelling "Yes!")

Thank you :)

Numinosity said...

I just love all of the stamps in passports, they kind of have that feel of a bygone era like suitcase stamps.
I had my last one filled twice and I'm on my second one now. I had to get an expedited one in Thailand after I had to bribe my way into Bali where they wouldn't let me in because I only had 5 months left on it instead of the required 6 months.


Anonymous said...

Charlotte and Lucy would be so envious of your passports. They hope for stamps every time they get on plane--even if it's just to California.

Sarah said...

Oh, how I love to travel, the excitement of the airport and such (tho' I HATE to fly, curious.) All those descriptions and lovely shots made me realize how much I miss the travel of youth.

Jill C. said...

That reminds me, I' got to renew my passport! Thanks!

Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

i love visiting your blog - there is a never ending stream of great posts and awesome photographs.

This is probably one of my absolute favorites. I too have saved my old passport, with my first US visa, and my first trip to Switzerland, and Sarah added to it when she was born. And now that I have a Swiss one I plan on keeping my Italian one, as well. I love that I always feel like my old passport tells a story. Or part of one, at least.

Hornbill said...

Your photos are excellent!

What camera or lens do you use?

I like to post your photos on my photo blog and give credits to " Julochka" as I do not know your name


If you like to contact me, drop a mail to hornbill2u@gmail.com

Keep up the good work !

Unknown said...

This post is one of my favourites from your blog!! I'm not sure why! Because I love passports and stamps? Because we get to know more about who you were and who you are now? Because of those funny and witty asides about Bush and America? I don't know but love it! :)

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said...

This is such an incredible tribute to one of my favorite things in the world!!! You've been around the world...I'm very impressed!

Gregory Finkelson said...

The pictures of your passport show that you like traveling a lot. I also love traveling around the world and my passp[ort also full of stamps but I like these very much and each stamp reminds me about the trip.
Gregory Finkelson