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an ode to my OLD, FAT, BEAT-UP passport 

I’m getting picked on over here.

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I’ve recently been the ass of jokes cracked by immigration inspectors in multiple countries. Apparently, they feel that my passport is a little more beat up than that of the average traveler.

I pulled the thing out in Sydney and the lady goes, “Whoah! What body part is that in the shape of?”

My butt …

Yeah, the thing is a little bent.

In Auckland the immigration inspector queried accusingly, “What have you been doing with this?” while dangling it between two pinched fingers as if it were something foul and disgusting.

“Traveling with it,” I responded pragmatically.

She then began scolding me:

“You know, you should take better care of this. It is an important travel document, you know.”

I didn’t bother trying to explain that I’ve been traveling with it just about every day since it was issued eight years ago, that I go to places where it’s a good idea to keep it on my at all times, that I’m a journalist and often need it to gain clearance into the sites that I visit.

While I have to admit that I’m not objective here, I like my old, fat, beat-up passport. Its corners have eroded away through use, it’s permanently bent in a curve, the gold lettering and eagle has pretty much worn off, it is stuffed full of extra pages — like 50 of them — and is getting to be almost as thick as my first passport, which had two installments of extra pages and basically had the girth of a piece of toast.

However, this will probably be the last old, fat, beat -up passport that I will have. New regulations now prohibit the insertion of additional pages into a US passport, so this means that once my next passport gets full of stamps and visas I will have to get another.

This pretty much means that I will probably need to get a new passport every two or three years, at my current rate of travel.

I can lament this fact, and go all nostalgic about the days of travels past, but I won’t: due to the girth of my passport the biometric chip cannot be read, so I often need to go over to a special desk to have it stamped each time I enter an “advanced” country.

This is a minor annoyance.

I suppose I’m just going to have to get used to being a skinny passport person.

That said, when we compare my current passport to my previous one it is clear that I still have a long way to go:

If the immigration officials in Australia and New Zealand saw this they probably would have skipped their jests and shipped me and my vile travel document straight to quarantine.


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Filed under: Travel Diary, Travel Documents

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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