PASSPORT, n. A document treacherously inflicted upon a citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.” Ambrose Bierce
I’m not that much different (I imagine) from other compulsive travellers who (I imagine, further) have little travel fetishes. What kinds of “fetishes”? Some like to put together short video clips from each country they visit, or a take a photo of their travel beard, day by day. One likes to dance in different places.
Me? Well, among other things (I have a few others I’ll be writing about), I’m tickled by passport stamps.
I’ve had only two passports in my life, being a late adopter of international travel. In my first, I have 49 stamps or visas from 22 different countries. In my current, I have 19 from 8 countries. Each one tells a story, reminds me of a feeling, and experience that’s now a part of me.
They’re also quite compelling as works of art, themselves telling a story, sometimes providing a bit of a hint as to the pysche of the country.
Vietnam. Mine was the first generation of kids to grow up and interact closely with the children of the Vietnamese boat people, in the late 1970s. Downtown Toronto had always been an ethnic melange, but (and I didn’t appreciate this at the time, for sure) this was different, and would result in such novelties as Pho in our time. I have a natural attraction to this country based on those early experiences. I love the little head-on view of the plane, too, and the no nonsense, business like presentation; so very like the people, unabashed capitalists that they be.
Republic of China (Taiwan). My first international trip, if you don’t count the US. Certainly my first long haul plane ride over the ocean, where I was able to watch four full length movies in one sitting. My entry into foreign travel was short, sharp, and not a little shocking. I had a six hour layover before heading to Thailand, and so four hours in the early evening with whichto roam downtown Taipei. Here are the things I remember from that four hours: crowds, smells, food, monks, smiles.
Morocco. From Morocco, I can tell you the story about how I left Morocco. I was in a crowded ferry terminal, waiting for passage to Barcelona. I struck up a conversation with a very tall, very athletic young guy. In French. The lineup was torturous, and after a while he asked me to watch his bags, for some reason I hadn’t understood. He came back (thankfully, since I was saved from having to explain whose bags these were) and told me to follow him. Around the crowd, through a barricade, and towards an empty desk where we were stamped out of the country. Seems he was a famous professional volleyball player, and someone had recognized him and motioned for him to bypass the crowds. He kindly took this Canadian traveller with him to the front of the line.
Finland. Another ferry ride, but one I almost missed. I’d had this grand plan to travel eastern Europe, Finland to Istanbul. But to continue, I had to make it from the Scandinavian peninsula to the European mainland, landfall Tallinn. And to do that, I had a half hour to walk a rather longer distance through Helsinki than I’d expected. And it’s hot, and I’m sweating. And I almost miss this ferry.
France. The very fast train (I’m serious, here, its called le train de grande vitesse, TGV) out of Paris and into London represented a major milestone for us; it was the end of our year long adventure around the world. The speed of this leg – 311 kmh – entirely echoed the pace with which the year had passed. Ten months earlier, we were in Greece. Christmas in Thailand, Elliotte’s birthday in Venice, spring in France… it all seemed like just yesterday.
And here we were racing towards our last destination at warp speed, our last few days before returning to real life.
What stories do your passport tell? Leave us a message.