When I first landed in Singapore in July 2007 I had an almost brand new 12 page passport in my right hand and a new set of suitcases spinning around on belt 37 of the Singapore Changi airport. I had never been so ready in my life! Ready for what I was’nt sure, but I knew I was ready to conquer Asia and to fill every page of this passport with new unique experiences that would fill my head and my soul with colours, scents, multicultural encounters and fabulous keepsakes. I had a two year expiry date on my work contract and 5 years on my passport, so not only was I ready but I had no time to waste.
18 months later I already needed a new passport, mine was full, very well filled with so many business and leisure trips that I could not spare one more inch of ink on it. At that point I also knew that two years was not going to be enough, that two years and 12 pages is not enough to really write this new chapter of my life and savour my time here. It felt like I had only done window shopping, that I had caressed the surface of things just enough to know I wanted more. So, when my employer told me that they would like to renew and extend my contract, I did not blink twice and signed another two years. I then went straight to the Canadian Consulate to apply for a new passport, but this time I was not going to get caught shorthanded, hence I ordered a 48 pager. With so many blank pages, I surely will not run out of space or adventures for the next five years.
Again I was wrong! After only three years, my fat passport was full! Again filled with stamps laid on top of one another as if they are competing for my attention to remind me of their meaning: the dinners in Bangkok with Ning or Geoff – the trek in the mountains of Australia with Pierre – the conferences in Kuala Lumpur or Sydney, the memorable evening with my friend Sue in Hong Kong, the business meetings on top of the world in Beijing, the running on the streets of Auckland, in high heels, to get All Black jerseys for Virginie and David before the store closes, negotiating a Buddha or a necklace in Katmandu, the smiles and noises of India, the underwater bubbles in Borneo, the paradisiac island of Lankayan, our wedding in Kapalai or the conversation with this lovely lady who accompanied me to the airport in Osaka after a keynote address in Japan. No matter what page I look at, a surge of feelings and souvenirs pops in my head and I hear the noise of the custom agent swinging the stamp with autorative power on one of the pages.
I can trace back my fascination for passports and travel since a very young age at the Montreal Expo 67. It is there that I learned the meaning of travel, it is there that I learned that every time I would visit a country pavilion, they would appose a precious stamp in my Expo passport, a trace that I had been there and seen something special. I clearly remember the devastation on the last day of our holiday when my Expo passport fell in the water at the Ste-Helene’s Yacht club; I was watching it float away as if my life was over, as if all my souvenirs were being washed away. I had a heavy heart until my brother Marc grabbed a perch and bravely dogged it out of the water. He was my Hero! That same night, I went to bed endlessly looking at the stamps until I fell asleep, thinking that the world had not ended and that my first young life catastrophe was avoided, thanks to Marc.
This month, I broke-in another brand new 48 page passport when I went to Malaysia and tonight a second stamp will be added when I land in Canada. It is still rigid and shinny with the gold Canadian crest standing out of the dark blue background, but I will make sure that it will not remain this way for long. A passport is like life, it has no meaning until it is filled to the brim with memories of how much we lived it.
For now I need to go buy a new set of suitcases, the ones I bought five years ago did not last the run and gave up way before I will ever. Funny enough, when it’s time to be protected by a life warranty, none of the things Samsonite and American Tourister write on their tags apply. They claim it is abuse, but I smile and claim IT IS LIVING my life to the fullest.
I have five years and 60 pages of passports behind me and I can only tell my brand new one: Let’s get dirty before going home!
I dedicate this post to Nicola Blanchette and Virginie Rouleau who are independently starting their own life journeys. Don’t spare an inch of empty space and enjoy every minute of it!
Update: Another blogger had the same view of what a passport represents and wrote this great bog: