New passport, same me

The average person has several coveted milestones in their life – the prom. The graduation. The first job. The wedding. The baby. For those who travel, there is also another important milestone – the first time that they must get a new passport.

Since I got my passport when I was 16 years old rather than 15, I narrowly missed the five-year-renewal mark, and instead, I got to keep my horrifying passport photo for an extra five years, leaving airport security to seriously question my identity when they saw a photographed face slightly similar to mine, only much more pimply, braced and skinny (thankfully).

However, upon my return from my trip to San Juan in early March, I knew it was time – with a bit more than six months left on my current passport, it was time to renew.

Although I was pretty psyched to get a new passport photo, I was also feeling nostalgic – I would miss my gnarled passport, stuffed full of stamps from my time backpacking and my time studying abroad, two trips that would probably always encompass the most time I would ever spend country-hopping in a short period of time.

~Courtesy of fcw.com

~Courtesy of fcw.com

After I sent in the mountain of paperwork and one of my most prized possessions – my dingy passport – I eagerly awaited the day my new one would arrive and, most importantly, my old one would be returned to me.

Surprisingly, the U.S. Department of State is remarkably efficient when it comes to passports, and they actually kept in touch with me on the status of its return via email (!) and I got it back within the designated amount of time. Although I was still sad to see that mark of an antique passport – a small hole drilled into its corner – I was surprised at how excited I was to see my new one, fresh and clean.

I realized, when I looked at my (still-unsatisfactory) passport photo and the mountain of unmarked pages, that a new passport didn’t mean all evidence of my former days of travel were over. Instead, my new passport suddenly meant much more.

Sitting before me on its blank pages was the promise of new travel – to unexplored territories and more foreign and mysterious destinations.

When it comes to travel, no one is ever done. There is always a new corner of the world to explore, even if it’s just a few blocks from your home. Contrary to popular belief, life is pretty long and the world is pretty big.

Don’t be afraid of those pages. Don’t be scared to reboot your traveling self. Instead, remember that your ancient passport – the one full of stamps, scratches and scribbles – once looked like the new one sitting before you.

And, your old one is still right inside your desk drawer.

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