My passport expired eight years ago. How in the world did that happen?
It happened because of grad school and having $20 in my bank account for several years in a row and then meeting someone and being in love and even more broke, then having a baby and not being able to conceptualize how in the world to get us all somewhere anything other than a drivers license might be needed. These would have all horrified the 22-year old who applied for her first passport just in time to backpack across Europe with her best friend after college graduation. My passport was supposed to be a living, breathing document of all I was learning and doing and seeing on my own, all of my big and humbling experiences.
But then, I also swore my hostel card would be used many, many more times after that trip. I haven't since slept in one of those foldover sheets on a disgusting mattress in a room full of people I hope don't steal that passport off my body in my fitful sleep. I haven't ever again bought a beer from a vending machine in a hostel lobby or thanked goodness I was eligible for the under-26 places to stay.
My world, on that European trip, exploded. And when I went to graduate school, it got bigger still. And maybe when I met my ex-husband, it zeroed in on him. It shrunk for good reasons of happiness and faith and belief in the expansiveness of love. I wanted an enormous life. I just didn't see at the time how small I was making myself in it.
But that has changed. Last month, I asked my parents to dig out my old passport from my file. I was apprehensive to open it, remembering it hadn't actually been stamped in each country whose borders I crossed, and that I hated the picture, taken in haste to get the application downtown in time.
It was as bad as I thought. But now that I am 40 and will be dyeing my hair monthly until I am a fire-engine-redhead wheeling through the nursing home, I have a hard time judging that lady too harshly for the moussed up layered bob. And God help any of us who were hitting our stride in the early 90s -- please don't make your mind up about me based on that embroidered vest (with a tank top and most likely, an ankle-lenth wrap skirt with granny boots.
But the boozy look and Lucky Charms cheeks? Go right ahead and snicker at those. I did. Good lawd.
That year was 1994. And now, 18 years later, I've surrendered the whole passport for something new. It's time to cross into new territory.
This time, I am taking a trip with two girlfriends. This trip, we're celebrating being 40. Our tolerance is lower and there won't be hostels or late-night lingering with men with accents from those hostels. There won't be hiking across ancient cities and -- thank you, Jesus -- I will be rolling my suitcase instead of heaving it on my back.
No mix-tapes and Walkmen to make the transport there go more quickly. Nary a sleeping bag. No strategy about how to see the world on $50 a day.
This trip I am rushing off to will only involve settling into beach chairs in the sand and lingering over dinner, laughing hard about how happy we are to be where we are in our lives. Oh, and People Magazine. We will be laughing over whatever is in People Magazine.
You know what will be the same, though? My new passport pictures are terrible, too.
This time, I care even less. This time, I probably won't get stamped. This trip, I will probably come home sunburned and loaded down in cheapy souvenirs rather than inspired to change the world and tour every single castle in Ireland. No vests with tank tops, either. I promise.
I am just so ready to get back out there again. To show that girl that this way of traveling, all this time in between passports, isn't so tragic after all.