Passport to memories
My new passport has arrived. It’s stiff and clean and shiny. It’s my sixth passport, and suddenly I feel like I’ve never been anywhere before!
As I add my cancelled one to the pile of old ones, carefully tied together with ribbon and tucked away in a drawer, I realise that these little books with their worn and faded covers hold a big part of the story of my life. My first passport does not not, however, hold a record of my first international trip – from New Zealand to Norfolk Island – in the days when a passport was not needed to travel between New Zealand and Australia (Norfolk Island is administered by Australia).
The young woman in that first passport photo looks very young. I was 20, heading off to England for a two-year working holiday. That first-ever visa was a square of pink and blue, stamped and signed and opening up the world to me. The pages filled up with stamps as I travelled around Europe: France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Yugoslavia (a country that doesn’t exist any more!). Lots of stamps in and out of the UK at Heathrow and Dover. The observations page at the front of the the passport also records my change of name, when I got married in London. And then there are visas to the USA (for the honeymoon) and a resident’s visa for Canada (stamped “Husband’s” as my only right to live there was because my Australian bridegroom had a work permit).
In those days, a New Zealand passport was valid for 10 years. But I got a new one within that decade, a “temporary” two-year passport which would allow me to live and work (yes, courtesy of my husband’s job) in Saudi Arabia – to foil any questions arising from Israeli stamps in my original passport (souvenir of a three-month stint volunteering on a kibbutz during my single days). Things seemed to be easier back then, the passport office very accommodating!
As well as the exotic Saudi Arabian visas and stamps, that short-life passport (later extended to three years) also holds the record of some wonderful holidays: France, Holland, Cyprus, Spain, India, Nepal, the track of our three-month overland trip to London after leaving Saudi, and trips back to Australia and New Zealand (via, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok).
My third passport had an unhappy beginning. When it was issued – just days before I was to travel to New Zealand for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary celebrations – my short cropped hairstyle had obviously confused the passport officer. Sex: Male, it said. Phone calls, a quick trip to the Consulate and the mortifying mistake was fixed. I still don’t think the photo is THAT bad. But things got better. Using this third passport, I started my travel writing career with trips to Hong Kong and Macau, and Malaysia. My children were small…it’s the emptiest of all my passports!
Number 4 was a new-look passport. Smaller, with a strong nod to New Zealand’s Maori culture, giving it the dual name of Passport/Uruwhenua and traditional motifs throughout. It’s lovely. Where did I go in that decade? Back to Norfolk Island a couple of times for work, and to the US and Canada. I also began to discover Asia and the Pacific – Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Sri Lanka, Korea, China, Malaysia (with some “Borneo babes”), Singapore, and India. It records my (still) only trip to Africa (Kenya) and my first trip to South America (Peru and Chile). The stamps are jumbled all over the place, overlapping, a chaotic record of destinations deeply etched in my memory.
By the time I applied for passport #5 in 2008, New Zealand passports were for five years only (or four-and-a-half taking into account the requirement of validity for six months before entering some countries). By then passports also had been fitted with electronic chips allowing me to whizz in and out of Australia and New Zealand without the need for a stamp. But even so, it’s pretty full, with colourful full-page visas for Papua New Guinea (twice), China, Vietnam (twice), Laos, Cambodia and India taking up space. Another full-page stamp is one I’m not likely to get again – Isla Hornos, Chile, Lat 55 58 S Long 67 17 W – the proof that I’ve rounded Cape Horn and gone ashore there. I still pinch myself when I look at that one!
There are other memories too: Vanuatu, the Cook Islands (a fun stamp from One Foot Island, shaped like…you guessed it), Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia.
It’s the only passport without the top right-hand corner cut off and the word “cancelled” stamped in it. Technology means I didn’t even have to send it back when applying for the replacement.
And so my brand-spanking-new never-been-anywhere passport sits on my desk. The face in it is much older now, and has seen a lot. There’s a bright new silver fern motif on the cover that none of the old ones have, along with the words “Uruwhenua Aotearoa”.
I’ll be using it soon to travel to New Zealand for two happy occasions: my niece’s wedding and my sister and brother-in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary. After that, there’s my first trip to Taiwan to look forward to. And who knows what adventures the future holds for me and my new passport?
24 Responses to “Passport to memories”
Ah Lee, when you look at it like that, a passport is far more a travel journal than a legal document isn’t it? Reading through the life of your passports I wondered if no. 4 was from the time of those great ASTW conferences in KL (how wonderful was Jan Morris!) and Bangkok. And whether the New Caledonia stamp was from the famil to Noumea? So many great memories within your little collection of “useless” passports. Thanks for sharing – I’m loving your blog. :-)
Sherridan, you are right on all counts. There were a couple of trips to Noumea – one of them was when I was elected president of the ASTW in 2001. That was memorable! And yes, Jan Morris was a fabulous speaker. I had a lovely time going through all the pages and remembering what they were for. Almost as good as looking at a photo album!
I also just received a new passport. My 2nd! I can’t wait to fill it! Looking forward to all the trips and adventures ahead.
It’s exciting, isn’t it? Hope you are planning something fun. Happy and safe travels to you!
Also – your adventures sound amazing. I wish you the best of travels!
Thank you! I’ve been very lucky…and once the bug bites, there’s no cure.
What a lovely, nostalgic piece.
Thank you Goddess. And of course, you’ve been along for more than one of them…and more to come!
An informative story. A wonderful dossier of your travels. You have travelled almost everywhere, but have you been to Mission Beach on a horse.
There are lots of place I haven’t been, Tommy. Lots. I have been to Mission Beach, but not on a horse. I have been other places on a horse. And I have been a few places on Shanks’ pony as well.
Bet you haven’t been to Molly Meldrums house.
No, Tommy, I have not…it’s not high on my wish list. But I bet you have.
Bon voyages – all of them!! :-)
Indeed…tres bon, most of them. Thanks!
I wish I had even a fraction of the stamps in my passport that you have in yours!
This is a touching and very engaging story Lee. You write so beautifully. There’s another book here.
Thanks Corina. Not so sure about a book though…but I’m having fun blogging…
I actually really like that picture :) Funny, I had the same feeling when I received my second (or third?) passport, it was so empty, while in the previous one I had visas, lots of stamps, etc… that new one is still quite empty, as we don’t get any more stamps during our travels in Europe – time to leave the continent! :D
You’re right, there are many places that don’t stamp passports any more. Everything’s going electronic! It’s a shame.
Yes what a pity, still I keep the old ones so once I can show them to my grandchildren :) “Look, mum has been to Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Russia, and even as far as the United States!” :)
I love this! Every time I was supposed to travel somewhere wonderful for work, I had just had a baby or somesuch. Wouldn’t trade my kids for the world, but we were not big travelers–we were paying bills, tuition, etc. Now, I hope to show them more of the world but my recent divorce has got me scrambling for financial security. I’ll live vicariously through you for awhile–and then will hopefully have some adventures of my own to share:)
I’ve been lucky – most of my travel has been paid for by someone else (either my ex-husband’s work, or mine as a travel writer). My early days of travelling were done very much “on the cheap”, and so is anything that I pay for myself these days. I’ve funded a few of my big trips in the past few years – but have chosen places where I’ve either got friends living or been able to get a great deal. The northern hemisphere is probably out of my financial reach at the moment! Luckily, there are so many great places in Asia and the Pacific to visit. I’ll look forward to reading about your travels one day soon!
This is a lovely posting, you’ve inspired me to dig out my old passports and do a little story on the ‘early days’. Your first passport picture was cute mine looked like a drug-addled hippy person – come to think of it . . .
Thanks Bev. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Look forward to reading your piece…and seeing that hippie girl!