I had to turn in my passport to the US embassy today. I am getting a new one early because then my school can renew my visa and transfer it to the new passport at the same time. I got my current passport in February of 2008. It was my second one, the first one having been used precisely three times. At the time I was living in a small and remote Alaskan village and was planning a trip to Ireland with my roommate. I was trying to get hired overseas and was in the middle of being rejected by virtually every school on the planet. Good times. Fun fact: teaching overseas is sort of a Catch-22 situation. Schools are very reluctant to hire you unless you are already working overseas and you can't work abroad without being hired. Getting in for the first time for me was 40% dumb luck, 40% living in Alaska, and 10% being willing to go anywhere. Thus Mongolia.
This passport has taken a beating. It is grubby from being handled for hours on end while I wait in lines, lines, and more lines. The outside battered due to my losing my favorite passport cover about a year ago. It holds my ten-year Mongolian visa which incidentally runs out in a couple of months. There are six pages dedicated to Ausbildungs from my time in Germany and even more for the innumerable Chinese VISAS that I have collected over the years. I have an unofficial stamp from my trip to Manchu Pichu and another from the Post Office in Lichtenstein. My Vietnamese VISA was accidentally printed sideways, and the Moroccan passport control would just turn to the last page and blindly stamp, so the last two pages are a dizzying pattern of Moroccan entry and exit stamps. Few were stamped with enough ink, and none of them are legible. In Zanzibar I paid 100$ for a guy to write in ballpoint pen in my passport ZANZIBAR VISA- PAID. It was three in the morning I was one of only a few tourist getting off the plane. I honestly thought he was kidding. He wasn't.
It doesn't hold all my travel secrets, of course. Many of my European travels were conveniently passport control free. I am still secretly disappointed that I don't have stamps from everywhere that I have been. In 2011, I ran out of pages and had to get more added. Apparently, you are not allowed to do this anymore and have to get a new passport instead. Because of the sections that I had added, I have four pages at what was once the last pages of my passport filled with regimented rows of green ger shaped entry stamps from Mongolia.
My pages have filled up. Given my life choices, they couldn't help it. I finally memorized the number. Almost ten years overseas, fifty-three countries, six continents, and one husband later this particular passport has come to the end of its journey. I wonder what the next one will bring.