Monday, January 24, 2011

Life without a passport

When you don't have a passport, you can't leave the country. This is hardly a newsflash and hardly matters to any of you. But when you are living in a foreign country, being without your passport is a distinctly uncomfortable feeling. A week and a half ago, I sent off my passport to the U.S. Embassy. It's still valid for another five years but I ran out of pages. The government was happy to tape in about 20 additional pages for just $84, and was anxious to get it taken care of since I have no immediate travel plans.

Nevertheless, I experienced a moment of panic as I handed the envelope over at the post office and began thinking of all the scenarios that would require me to immediately travel back to the U.S. I even imagined situations that might require me to spontaneously present my passport to the authorities. Which authorities? I couldn't really say. Aside from my annual trip to renew my residency permit, I have never been stopped or asked to show my passport by any authority anywhere in Europe. BUT, it could happen. Then Aaron had an unexpected day off work, giving us a 3-day weekend. I thought it would have been great to go to Amsterdam or Copenhagen but remembered that I probably shouldn't go traipsing about without any identification. I don't actually know what the rules are about this but it does seem unwise to cross international borders, even in these days of the open borders of the EU. We stayed home quite contentedly and I probably only felt like going somewhere because I couldn't.

Happily, the taping in of new pages only required my passport to go to Berlin and not all the way to the U.S., as passport renewals have to do. I was relieved when the doorbell rang and the postman handed me my self-addressed stamped envelope with my newly amended passport inside. I still have no plans to travel, but there is something comforting and freeing in knowing that I can!

1 comment:

cortina said...

I KNOW that feeling! My passport had to be sent away in order to renew my resident permit and I was SO UNCOMFORTABLE with that! I made Ben call the "authorities" to make sure that was the right procedure. Think, some Americans, like Sarah Palin, don't even have passports (ok, maybe she has one now but she didn't have one during the election!).