100 passport stamps

Posted: September 21, 2014 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, TRAVEL
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I love looking through my passport. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine- seeing the stamps and visas that I’ve collected, remembering all the boarder crossings that I’ve walked through, fruit/veg check points that I’ve lied my way past and random light-hearted (or bawling) conversations I’ve had with the customs officials.

I remember the time I was stuck at the Costa Rica boarder trying so hard to figure out what to do. The lack of signs made me think I had already gone through the line, only to be turned around at a random check point and told I had to walk back and get stamped in.

I cried a lot that day.

My Canadian work visa is a constant reminder of one of my biggest failures and hardest lessons of my life. I found a stamp for February 2008 and was transported back to leaving “short crunch” (90+hours a week) to go to NYC because my (step) grandma had died. I wasn’t so sad about her death as I was about my Grandpa. Widowed twice- both after 29 years of marriage- the first was my name-sake and I had never met her. I remember seeing him and having lunch at the deli right by his apartment. He and I didn’t have a great bond as I rarely got to spend time with just him- but sitting across from him, that day, I saw all of the familiar mannerisms that my dad uses: using humor to pass off his sadness or to try to not talk about difficult things by diverting the conversation to mundane topics like “how about dem Yankees?” . I tried so hard to have a deep and emotional with my Grandpa that day- to try to get to know him (what was he like? What did he think about? What was his favorite color? His favorite ice-cream flavor? What games did he play growing up?)

But nothing I tried worked- which just reminded me more of the big epic failure I had waiting for me back in Canada (my job).

Months of frustration and no sleep resulted in me getting fired from that job- which was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Years later, during my Grandpa’s shiva, I had this moment of clarity where I couldn’t be in that industry anymore- Working one last contract, I managed to save enough to set off on my travels.

The Vietnamese visa reminds me of trying to check into my flight in the glorious Singapore Airport for Ho Chi Minh City, only to realize that I had to pre-apply for a visa. (My hair had become more blonde during my trek through the middle of Australian Outback and the only defense I have is that it must have been a blonde moment thinking I was exempt from getting a Vietnamese visa before boarding the plane.) Luckily! I could apply online (with the expedited 50$ fee!) and receive my visa at HCMC’s airport.

The .35$ Saigon Greens made up for it in the end.

I have 3 “fake” stamps. One for the Galapagos, one for Machu Picchu and a shark stamp. The shark stamp I received at the Houston Aquarium when a little kid asked me for my passport. I have it to him and he stamped it with a shark stamp. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there was a special “shark stamp passport” that you could get that the curio shop and the stamps were to mark all the different sharks that existed in the Gulf.

Now, having a fake stamp is kinda illegal. If you meet a hard-ass-no-fun official he could decline you entry/exit and then you’re basically hosed. This fear came when I was at the Copenhagen Airport trying to leave for my flight to Dublin. He turned to the page with the shark, pointed and grunted. I sighed and started to explain the story of the little kid and the aquarium. He rolled his eyes in this “stupid Americans!” way, stamped that page and off I went!

I’ve never had another problem with it since then.

Then there was the time when the bus was told to not make any conversation with the custom officials at the Namibia boarder because they were notoriously skeptical of American foreigners and may hold up the whole group. The day before I had gone zip-lining in Vic falls and had sharpie marker symbols on my hand. The customs official asked me about it.

“Oh, I went zip-lining. They wrote this on my hand as proof of payment or something.”

“Was it fun?”

“Hell yea it was fun!”

“Weren’t you scared?”

“You know the feeling you get when you like a boy and you think he’s going to kiss you- but you aren’t sure. And then you do? You know that feeling in your stomach- we call it butterflies. That scared feeling and then the thrill of excitement? It’s like that.”

She just smiled, stamped my passport and let me go.

The rest of the bus, behind me, just shook their heads, in complete disbelief that I:
A) disobeyed orders by having an actual conversation with the official and
B) that I just compared zip-lining to kissing a boy.

I stand by my statement and regret nothing.

So, basically, my passport is my greatest souvenir that I could have. A constant reminder of how much money I’ve invested on travel and small memories of specific times in my life.

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Comments
  1. […] I don’t get stamps from America. How will you know if I’ve been back there or […]

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