Do you remember when you arrived almost ten years ago? I was so excited to see you… until I actually saw you. God, you were ugly. Not really all of you, but that photo! What on earth happened to the photo?! I sent in a perfectly decent photo and somehow you came back with a picture of an albino demon. It was so bad that even the immigration agent in Costa Rica laughed at you. Remember that border crossing, though? It was so scary, running across the janky old bridge and trying not to fall through the holes or get run over by a truck, that I was so happy to be alive I didn’t even mind the man’s ridicule.
Do you remember your first trip? It was our family vacation to Europe and your very first stamp was in England. Our whole family had new passports and we all squealed with delight when we got that first stamp. The border agent rolled his eyes and asked us, “What is it with Americans and their obsession with passport stamps?”
You traveled through six countries in Europe, but for some reason didn’t get stamps in every one. I think we were both pretty disappointed. But over the years and throughout the 26 countries you visited, you amassed your fair share of pretty little stamps. I always found it so annoying, though, when the agent placed the stamp in a corner, or sideways, or in the middle of two boxes. Why is it so hard to place a stamp within a box? I sometimes wondered if they were so bored with their jobs that they did it on purpose just for some sort of weird personal entertainment.
You tried to get lost a few times. Remember that time I stayed out all night partying in Panama, and when I stumbled into the cab for my 6am flight I got halfway to the airport before I realized I’d left you at the hostel? Thank goodness for that kind cab driver. He took me back to the hostel, let me use his cell phone to call my friend so she could bring it down, and then jovially continued to speak broken spanish with this slightly drunk girl all the way back to the airport. Once I got on the airplane, though, I was glad to not be entirely sober; we were flying over the jungle in a tiny, rumbling prop plane and I hadn’t quite conquered my flight anxiety yet. But I’ll never forget how incredible the view was.
You went on plenty of adventures over the years. You explored South America for three months on my first backpacking trip; you visited nearly every island in the Caribbean, and you were there when my dad got married on a tropical beach; you trekked through the jungles of Malaysia and avoided capture by pirates in Borneo; you were with me when I climbed an active volcano in Bali and finally found some emotional peace in Indonesia; and you’ve proudly worn a full page visa for the last two years I’ve lived in South Korea.
You’ve lived a full life, but the time has come for retirement. Your pages are full and your ten years are up, but you’ll always hold a special place in my heart. It’s time for a shiny new passport, hopefully this time with a photo in which I don’t look diseased. This passport will be bigger with extra pages because the next ten years are going to be filled with travel and adventures, but don’t worry, you’ll always be my first. You’re special because you introduced me to the world, and helped me build some of my most cherished memories. I’ll miss your tattered edges and comfortably bent pages.
Thanks for everything, passport.