At sixteen, I got my first passport for a mission trip to Haiti. Iguanas the size of small dogs ran across the landing strip. Ripe mangoes fell from trees on top of our tents.
But my love of travel didn’t start there.
During spring breaks, my dad drove our family station wagon from snowy Wisconsin to sunny Miami Beach. I vowed to live in Florida one day.
My second passport took me on backpacking tours through Europe with each of my children. And further journeys to Hong Kong, Thailand, and Cambodia.
My third passport brought me to Germany, Scandinavia, and Shanghai, China.
Now, my husband needed to go to Bangkok on business. I would tag along. Unfortunately, our passports were almost expired. We’d get new books and say goodbye to colorful stamps, foreign visas, and our younger looking photos. We had a seventeen-day window before our overseas flight. The website said 7-10 days. No problem. I gathered registration forms, birth certificates, and new photos. I paid expedited shipping fees.
That’s when I read the fine print on the government website—7-10 days for applications to be trackable online! Not returned.
My personal non-refundable ticket was in jeopardy. My husband’s trip was on the line. I called the passport office to inquire the whereabouts of our little blue books. “I’m not at liberty to say.” Yay for privacy.
There was nothing to do but wait.
Then I learned that one-day passports were possible if ours didn’t arrive. The only passport agency in Florida is in Miami, a four-hour drive from home. In desperation, I made an appointment. They warned me there would be no refund on the first renewal attempt, and we would incur additional expedited charges.
Not to mention the long drive.
I had a talk with myself. “Why do you insist on traveling for pleasure? Do you enjoy stress? Wasting money? Losing your mind? Where is the pleasure?”
During a nail biting session, and just days before the appointment, our passports miraculously arrived! Go U.S. Government!
Time to pack!
We boarded our first flight to Seattle. With passport woes behind me, I clicked my seatbelt, slipped off my shoes, and settled in with a good book.
Several chapters and an hour and a half later, we were still sitting on the tarmac in Orlando. A faulty fuel pump caused us to miss our flight to Seoul, Korea. We waited in Seattle for rerouting through Hong Kong. That flight was also late. We missed our connection to Bangkok. While rescheduling a later flight to Thailand, they only located two of our three suitcases. No worse than a few weeks before when a mysterious machine shredded the end of my bag.
It takes a certain kind of person (fool) to think lost and damaged luggage, missed flights, and traveling thirty-fours hours from door-to-door is fun.
At the customs counter in Bangkok, I smiled bleary-eyed as the officer gave my virgin passport a satisfying thud with his rubber stamp.
That night, my husband and I celebrated our found luggage and arrival in Bangkok. Like childbirth, excruciating passport pain was forgotten. We toasted with sparkling wine and plotted our next adventure.
Has travel caused you any panicky moments?