That First Passport Stamp
Updated: Feb 5, 2021
15 years ago today I received the first stamp in my very first passport.
Malpensa (Milan) Airport, February 4, 2006.
Keep in mind, at the time, you didn't need a passport to enter Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, or most Caribbean islands, four places I'd already traveled to. It was a work trip, and my employer at the time (NBC) actually bought the passport for me. I was there to cover the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino (Turin), Italy. It was my first time 'across the pond', as they say.
For the length of the Olympics themselves, I basically lived and worked in Torino, but it was still a fascinating experience. I 'lived' in the media village, and either walked or took Olympics-provided transportation to our workspace. I worked the US "late shift", which in Italy was 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. I alternated spending the daylight hours sleeping and sightseeing, and by the end of the Olympics I had a favorite restaurant, wine bar, and gelato shop.
Since we'd worked so much overtime during the event, NBC allowed each of us a chance to have a week off of exploring before coming back stateside. I chose to hang out in Tuscany, finding a little B&B to rent about 30 miles outside of Florence. I took in the art of Florence, the wine of Tuscany, and the cheesy tourist vibe of Pisa before returning to the U.S. and getting my second passport stamp on March 5. After that? Sigh. Despite vowing to return to Italy to hike the Cinque Terre, there always seemed to be a sensible reason NOT to go. The time, the expense, or waiting to have someone to travel with. The only other stamps that passport saw was another work trip to Bermuda in 2011, the Canadian part of the West Coast Walkabout in 2013, and the Spain/Portugal trip in 2015.
I guess the point of all this is... if you look for a reason not to do something, you will find it. If travel is something you've always wanted to do, do it. There are credit cards that give you airline points, there are destinations where meals and accommodations are extremely affordable, and there are tour companies that will keep you from traveling alone (if that bothers you) and take care of the technical aspects of lodging and transportation. There are apps and websites and blogs that will help you find and use it all.
I renewed the passport in 2015, and have stamped it several times since then. I put aside a certain amount of money each week into an account specifically for travel, and thanks (or no thanks) to COVID-19, it's doing pretty well. Remember, even just $20/week will get you $1,040 in just one year. Travel isn't just a way to see amazing scenery or relax away from work (you can do that in the U.S.), it's a chance to explore other cultures, languages, traditions, flavors and perspectives. It's a chance at understanding. And if that's something you're interested in, it's worth every penny. 104 days to get that next stamp in Turkey. Hopefully.