A few years back, in preparation for our vacation in Europe, my wife and daughter applied for and received new passports.
Before we left, I held our three passports in my hand and noticed that the two new ones were missing the security indentations that were present on mine.
Later, it hit me that those weren’t security features, they were teeth marks. More specifically, they are my teeth marks.
My biggest worry when I travel is losing something. The place I know that I am most likely to leave something behind is in the airport. There is something special about the fact that I can lose everything else, but as long as I have my passport, I can get home. Conversely, there is something stressful about the fact that if I lose this document, advancing to my next destination becomes much more difficult. My passport and my daytimer are rarely far from me when I travel internationally. I even ran with my passport in my shirt pocket during my first half marathon in Scotland.
Going through security, I typically have 4 items coming through the scanner, including my computer bag, my computer, a jacket and in less civilized countries, my shoes. As the items emerge from the scanner, without realizing it, I first pick up my passport first and put it between my teeth. Then my jacket goes back on, the computer goes in the bag and the belt and shoes always go on last. Shoes always get tied after I clear security. I want to be well away from security in case someone gets bored and wants to play “Scan the American”. Once well clear of security, my passport is secured in only one of two places depending on if I will need it again for boarding.
Traveling is a lonely process for me, even when work colleagues are with me. I do get some enjoyment paging through my passport on a short flight, reminiscing about the places we have been together. I love seeing the stamps and remembering the stories associated with them. Each stamp is like an entry in a journal.
My favorite stamp came on my birthday in 2009 after vacationing in Europe for a month. I woke up in London and went to sleep in Chicago. With the time change, that was my longest birthday ever. After four days my wife and The Child joined me in Chicago for a night before we headed home. We made a quick run into Chicago and had some really good thick crust pizza. I can’t see that one US stamp without recalling those memories.
There are similar stories associated with stamps from Schipol Airport, the Paris Nord train station, Zürich airport and others. Without dragging this whole thing out, I will just close with this great picture I saw the other day: