I just booked the last trip I will take with my current passport. While I am not normally a sentimental person, I am oddly attached to this little book. In the 10 years I’ve had this passport, we spent six of them living overseas: first in Italy, then Korea. It got a lot of use.
This passport is more than just a collection of stamps; it is a timeline and map of our military lives over the last decade.
It is fitting that the last stamp in this passport will be from Italy because that was the first stamp as well. I got a new passport in preparation for our move there and because my old one was still in my maiden name. My previous travels had taken me to Mexico (before you needed a passport to go there) and then to the Caribbean on our honeymoon. I was so excited and more than a little nervous to move to another country. This was the furthest I had ever been from “home” and by far the furthest I had ever been from my comfort zone.
Italy was the assignment where my love for travel really blossomed. It was also the assignment where I feel I grew up—both as an individual and a spouse. The first year we lived there, my husband was gone over half the time. Then he deployed. I could have chosen to stay home while he was gone, but I knew this was time I did not want to squander. So I kept traveling.
I am proud of the stamps I gained while he was away. They represent growth, independence, self-confidence, and even a degree of worldliness.
One of my favorite stamps during this time is from the trip I took to Croatia with some girlfriends. We spent a lovely weekend in Dubrovnik and were enjoying ourselves immensely until we tried to get our car out of the parking garage. A very shady attendant scammed us and would not let us out without paying an exorbitant fee. When I tried to protest, he cut me off by saying I made a lot of good points. For a woman.
At the time, I wanted to push him off the roof of the garage. Now it is one of my favorite travel stories to tell and one that the three of us still laugh over.
The stamps in my passport represent both happy and sad times.
There is the stamp to South Africa from the trip my husband and I took upon his return from deployment. This was the trip of a lifetime and the planning was a welcome distraction for both of us during his months away. There is also the stamp for the trip back to America to say goodbye and bury my beloved grandmother. Then there is the last stamp, exiting the EU and arriving back in the United States. This is a bittersweet stamp to be sure. It was good to be back among family and friends for a short time while we prepared to move to Korea, but hard to leave a country that we had grown to love so much.
Our assignment to Korea was not always an easy one. However, I am thankful for it because it allowed me to explore a corner of the globe I might not ever have otherwise. My husband and I were able to visit Australia and New Zealand and several Asian countries during our two years there.
I have many happy stamps from this time. There is the stamp to America to surprise my little brother at his Texas A&M Ring Day and another one to attend a dear friend’s wedding. There’s also a stamp to China (stamp being a euphemism because it takes up an entire page) for a trip I took with a friend. We still laugh at how two tall blonde girls were treated like celebrities. We took pictures with families, grandparents, and even groups of teenagers.
Since our move back to America, I have been able to do some traveling and have even added a few new stamps to my passport. However, life is very different now.
Traveling overseas from the U.S. is much more expensive and not as convenient. We also welcomed our son shortly after our move back. He is now a toddler which adds another layer of difficulty to overseas travel. Thankfully, as he gets older it will become easier to take longer trips again.
So after this trip to Italy, I will turn in this passport, so I can apply for a new one. I am hopeful they will void it and let me have it as a keepsake of sorts. I also plan to apply for a passport for my son. Travel is a gift and one I cannot wait to share with him. I look forward to sharing lots of new experiences and adventures with him.
I am not the same person I was when I got this passport 10 years ago. I have grown and changed in ways I never knew I would or could. To me, travel is the greatest perk of military life. If we let it, it opens our eyes, our minds, and our hearts.
In the words of the late Anthony Bourdain, “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts. It even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”