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Passport: An Expat’s Diary

By Anna Robb

Soon it will be time to give up my passport and get a new one. No big deal, right?

Wrong. It’s a big deal for me. I know it’s only a small book with a lot of pages and stamps and my country of origin embossed on the front, but that small little book represents far more than a history of border crossings.

My passport is a representation of hours spent waiting in an airport, hours of loneliness and jet lag and distance from loved ones. It’s a gift-wrapped present of excitement and anticipation and a longing for long-awaited vacations to tropical countries, my feet in the warm sand and quality time with my husband and children. It’s my permission to stay in the house I call my home due to a valid visa sticker pasted amongst the pages. It’s an access pass to new found lands, places, people and cultures all mixed in with a slight anxiety of wondering if it’s safe to get into a taxi as a woman alone in a new place.

It is standing with my infant daughter draped over my shoulder rocking her to slumber miles above the Pacific Ocean while the rest of the plane sleeps. It’s giving up your normal sitting position to put your body weight solely on your right hip in the cramped economy seat so your six-year-old son can lie down.

It’s a sea of strange faces obliterated and made inconsequential by two beaming parents standing eagerly at the arrival gate. And the rush of love so intense that can only be felt at that level when distance and time have kept you apart from those most important to you.

It’s security lines and passport control and solo dinners at a diner with a beer at the wrong hour. It’s watching a sunrise from the sky and clicking on the flight tracker after you wake from a snooze to see if you managed to consume a good portion of flight time while you were unconscious. It’s shaking off pins n needles from sleeping in an unnatural position and doing all the in-flight yoga moves to get your circulation going. It’s swollen ankles and bathroom lines and “holding on” because you don’t want to wake your neighbour to free yourself from the window seat.

It’s staring at a work email at a departure lounge and working yourself up to enough motivation and clarity to respond thoroughly. It’s looking at pictures of your children to soothe your ache to embrace them. It’s wiping away tears so your neighbour in the seat next to you won’t see you weeping at the latest RomCom on the entertainment system. A movie you would never cry watching but the isolation and disconnection from the world while you are airborne tends to bring out the vulnerability in you.

It’s all the waiting. Waiting for the taxi. Waiting to check in. Waiting in the passport control line. Waiting in the security check line. Waiting to board the flight. Waiting to take off. Waiting for the flight to finish. Waiting for the plane to reach the gate. Waiting for others to disembark. Waiting for immigration. Waiting for your baggage.

This is what a passport represents. It’s a testament to your resilience and patience and desire to experience the world as vastly as you can, connecting you to people and places you love and adventures you endeavour to take despite the unpleasant moments and the hours of loneliness and separation and all that waiting.

A used passport is a hard-earned trophy and when they cut the corner off the weathered cover and hand you a new book with fresh pages and a clean slate, you can’t help but feel that a chapter of your life has closed.

10 years of adventure.

10 years of expat life.

Wonderful and painful at the same time. Just like life.

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