Why My New Passport Made Me Cry

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The other day, I got a text from a good friend…

“Urg getting my new passport made me so randomly emotional lol”.

Hearing this sparked something in me. It was extremely validating.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had to get a new passport… and it made me cry. And Leanne cried too, when her bag, passport included, was stolen from a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

The Mac Book? Replaceable. The iPhone? Replaceable. The camera? Replaceable. The photos? Thank god for the cloud.

The passport? Hmmmm. That’s when I realized something…

Those of us who travel are cut from the same (easy to pack, non-wrinkly) cloth.

We are like a band of nomadic gangsters…

alex-passportWith a shared sense of identity closely tied to our ferocious love of adventure. And those tiny inked stamps in a paper book? Yeah, those are our gang tattoos.

I remember when I had to go get my new passport at the passport office here in Vancouver…

The way that woman so callously took it out of my hand and tossed it on a pile of other passports, surely not nearly as valuable as mine. I couldn’t help but let my ego leak out a little…

What does this cubicle worker know about what it feels like to travel? To wake up in an unfamiliar place with no plans or purpose except to explore? To meet friends from all walks of life who are forever tied to you through unforgettable experiences? To see the sun rise over EVERY different ocean?

Yeah, what does she know.

Your life is all about filling up that little paper book, and her life is all about destroying it.

Cruel, cruel, cubical worker.

(Clearly, I’m kidding. I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. I’m fully aware she was just doing her job and likely has plenty of adventures under her belt. Ok, now where was I…)

Cruel, cruel, cubical worker.

And then I gave my head a shake…

Because while this passport had become such a massive token of my identity… it does not DEFINE ME.

After all, it is only paper.

Nothing but a horrible case of amnesia can replace the memories, the friends, the unforgettable experiences…

The midnight skinny dips, the mango daiquiris, the wet markets, the silky sand, the romantic flings, or even the simple things.

As a traveler, how many times have you flipped through your passport looking at each stamp fondly… counting the pages you have left until your passport is full?

Or experienced that feeling of pride when you’re due for a new one, not because the expiry date is approaching, but because you have less than 6 blank pages? Damn, that feels good.

That is, until you see that dreaded cubical worker 😉

But here’s something interesting…

As a Canadian, I was given the option of KEEPING my old passport, as a memento of my travels. Yet, there it sits, it’s corner cut off, in an old tin full of odds and ends that I never use.

I can’t remember the last time I looked at it. It just wasn’t the same.

It’s as if my passport is this living, breathing animal that is no good to me dead. I like to eat my prey alive.

Then there was my new passport… fresh, crisp, blank and valid for 10 full years. I resented that thing. I had worked so hard to fill up my first passport, that the new one just seemed like work. Of course, that feeling dissipated with the first stamp I got. The next adventure had started…

However, I can’t help but think that I’ll need to go through all of this again in 10 years. I knew there had to be another solution. So…

How do you get a passport that NEVER expires? You create your own. Here’s how…


1. Go to the bookstore and buy a journal. Or buy one on your travels. My journal is a beautiful hand-made leather bound book that I purchased in a Hutong in Beijing. Even the paper is hand-crafted.

2. Start recording EVERYTHING about your travels. While I highly recommend journaling about your trip, record more than just your thoughts. My journal became a snapshot of my daily life. I would record flight numbers and train times, hostel names and cafe recommendations. The numbers and names of tour guides, new friends, translated greetings or a quote from the book I was reading at the time. These are the things you don’t know you want to remember.

3. When you enter a new country and get your passport stamped, ask the immigration official to stamp your journal too. I’m not sure they will, but I’ve heard of it happening before. It’s definitely worth an ask!

Overtime, this journal will become far more valuable to you then a book full of nothing but stamps. BUT, it’s still important to remember that, alas, it too is paper and runs the risk of getting left behind in an internet cafe, dropped in a puddle, or stolen by an old man on a bus in Spain (don’t ask).

While you will always remember this special book does not define you, it is a way to fight the new passport blues.

To many more adventures,


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