Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The strangely emotional ordeal of renewing a passport

There are less than six months left on my passport, so I know I need to get it renewed. Not least because there are destinations in the world where you need to have this amount of time still on it in order to travel. I wouldn't want to have to turn down a spontaneous trip over such a trivial matter. But there is a part of me that is putting it off.

I wonder if there isn't one last adventure left in this battered travel document? After all, my passport and I have had some good times in the last decade and I have the stamps to prove it. Somehow setting out with a shiny new passport, which is completely empty seems like a betrayal. I could be anyone with this new item - a novice who has never left the country before or even a spy!

Then there is the ordeal of sending it off. What if they don't send it back? It doesn't matter they might say, we'll send you a new one, they'll console. But this is my trusty companion and I have protected it from being stolen or misplaced in countries all across the world. Can I really trust the postal system and the passport office to keep it safe while out of my sight?

I love how the front cover has worn so that you can barely see the coat of arms and golden writing any more. Not because it has been treated badly - in fact it is still in pretty good condition considering the travelling life it has had - but through hours of sitting in a money belt and hidden in luggage.

Inside there are numerous stamps from passing through Costa Rican immigration; a robust visa featuring Cyrillic script for visiting Russia; and the entry stamp for getting into Turkey, which has recently been abolished. Each and every one of these items inside tells a story and evokes memories of border crossings and the excitement of arriving in a new country.

The official that welcomed me into Chile used a two-tone ink pad; the green stamp of Ukraine features a little train to show how I travelled; and I don't think you even get stamps for Croatia now that it is part of the European Union, though I have a few with the word Hrvatska on them.

It may seem overly sentimental to be so attached to a passport, but it is probably my most prized possession. I always know where it is - at home or away - and love leafing through its pages. But I must send it off and receive a replacement, retiring this document to the shelf along with my first ever passport, the corner cut off to show it is no longer in service.

Over time the pristine replacement will also become full, a bit worn and an old friend that shows the scars of adventure and who knows where it shall take me?

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