Why My Passport Never Leaves My Table

My nightstand is a lonely place. There isn’t much there. A simple alarm clock that blinks by miscalculated minutes. A small box to hold my watch and wallet at the end of the day. Atop the tiny box, out in the open, rests my passport. To lift the box lid, I must pick up my passport, withdraw or deposit contents into the box, shut the lid, and then place the passport back where it was. It has been this way for months.

Not long ago, as I was finishing a conversation with my mother, she turned to leave my room. As she walked out she spied my nightstand.

“Why don’t you put your passport away?”

The comment was meant to be harmless, but as her footsteps echoed down the steps I found myself sitting and staring at the little blue book. Why hadn’t I put the passport away? My room was not at want for drawers or shelves. Why did it sit out next to my bed as if on deck to be swept up at any second to catch some trans-hemisphere flight? Why burden myself with the tedious motions of repositioning the little book every time I used the small bedside box?

The answer was obvious.

To put my passport away. To stash it away in some drawer for safe keeping would mean the journey was over. The adventure at an end. Exploration and discovery had reached a finite conclusion.

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“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life.” -Paul Theroux

There are a thousand and one cliches that describe wanderlust and its incurable symptoms, but instead of striving to understand it I take solace in knowing I’m not the only one. There is a world full of wanderlusters just like me.

We’re a different breed. We aren’t tourists. We don’t go just for the exotic notch on our belts. We travel for the journey that gets us there, even though we never actually arrive. We tramp about every damn town, city, mountain and desert on this planet for the precious ounce of personal growth they deliver. We discover more about the world, about humanity and about ourselves in those fleeting moments. Tangible times when we gaze out at panoramas that catch our breathes and interactions with the people we pass that steal our humility and make us smile at the beauty of the human race. We do what it takes to grab these moments. We’ll do anything. We sleep in crowded rooms. We sleep on floors if we have to. We hitchhike. We get lost. We’ve been beaten up and stolen from. We get lonely. We get frustrated. It’s not a vacation. It’s our way of life.

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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

Nothing scares me more than the monotony. The thought that I’ll surrender to the expectations of my own culture.

I’m at a time in my life where I’m suffocated on all sides by new marriages, planned pregnancies, and new home ownership. I have to catch myself when the thoughts inevitably creep into my head. Is there something wrong with me? Am I immature? Maybe I should be doing all this, too?

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“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace

I think about falling into step. Swimming in bills, drowning in debt, turning off that simple alarm clock every morning to drag myself to my secure nine to five job. I’d do this day in and day out, crashing into that tired bed every night to watch those miscalculated minutes keep ticking away. Then expect my future wife and children to do the same? Is that the American dream? It isn’t mine.

That life. Those problems, aren’t for me. My mind is glued to problems that are beautifully simplistic. Will my backpack hold up? Are my boots worn out? Which direction should I go next? I never want to stop exploring. I never want to stop learning and growing, discovering new things in new places about new people. New experiences that make me proud to be me and be a part of all the things I’m lucky enough to see and do.

This is what I want to live for.

I want to be ready to go at a moments notice.

So until that unavoidable move into my pocket, it will stay on my nightstand.

Yes, my passport will stay right where it is.

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“You go away for a long time and return a different person–you never come all the way back.” Paul Theroux
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