Documents, Please.

2 05 2008

I once met a man whose passport was almost an inch thick. It was a most impressive document with its worn edges and bent corners, all held together with sticky tape and rubber bands to keep its contents from scattering across the floor of the aircraft cabin.  I was most jealous and hid my meagre little wafer-thin document in my jacket pocket feeling hopelessly inadequate and unworthy of his company.


The gentleman was from Suriname, a small country in South America. He travelled a great deal on business and explained that he required a visa for just about every country in the world. Whenever he needed a new passport, he always paid more for the one with extra pages but still inevitably had to get a new one well before its expiry date. He spent a fortune on passports and visas every year, he added, as if expecting pity.


An overflowing passport is the single best indicator of a genuine world traveller. Anyone can pinch old baggage tags from other people’s luggage when they’re not looking and attach them to their own to give them that worldly look. You can buy second-hand t-shirts on eBay that say “I went to Timbuctoo and all I got was this t-shirt and a nasty rash” – or you can just lie and say that you once lived in a Mongolian ger and herded yaks. But a passport can’t be faked, forged or fraudulently filled – unless you fancy a long stretch in the Big House.


I find that every time my passport begins to look respectably obese, it expires. Not through any coronary condition I should hasten to add, but simply because it took me too long to fill.


To remedy this, I now choose my destinations based not on silly things like sightseeing or national treasures, but on passport fill-ability. My favourite countries to visit are those that not only require a visa that’s printed on an enormous piece of rough-edged yellowing paper that’s glued down and has to be folded 12 times in order to fit within your passport – and thereby exponentially increasing its girth instantaneously – but also that stamp your passport upon entry and exit – and perhaps once more just for good luck.


Most passports today are high-tech gadgets with biometric data, magnetic strips, holograms and fancy watermarks. They are so sophisticated that for all I know the pages might be woven by highly trained, security-cleared silk worms toiling in secret underground chambers hidden inside mountains – and then laminated in bulletproof plastic, guaranteed to survive a nuclear holocaust or even a miso soup tsunami at an airport buffet.


But somehow, I just know that even when my passport carries a pop-up life-size hologram of myself that rotates on all axis and orally recites my life story, it will still not impress me half as much as my friend from Suriname’s bound with rubber bands and sticky tape.


Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008



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