I don't know how it popped into Tim's head but very recently, he checked the dates on our passports and found out that they need to be renewed before the middle of next month. Wow those ten years flew by!
So he went online and learned that we could, indeed, renew our existing passports quickly and easily right there on the computer, yay. Done and done. But apparently, we still needed to have new photos taken. Sigh. Cannot be done online. Ratz.
The next mission was to find a place to get new passport photos taken. It was trickier than it should have been. Naturally, I checked online. The first thing that popped up was a local UPS store. Ok that should be easy. I knew of two UPS stores very short drives from our home, and only just barely off island. The website said that I should call to make an appointment and provided the phone number, Handy-dandy, right there. I called the number and told the lady on the other end of the phone that I was calling to make appointments for passport photos. She said, "Oh hun, we don't do that here". I said, 'Hmm, interesting, it says that you do right on the website." "It does?" she marvelled. "Yes indeedy," says I, "Right here it gives your address (I read her the address) and your phone number (I read her the phone number which is clearly correct because I reached her after all)." I went on to explain that the website further says I should make an appointment for pass passphotos. "Ohhhh,' she says, " Passport photos. (as if I never said it at the beginning of the phone call) That's a different UPS store." "Which one is that?" I asked since this is brand new information completely different from what the website clearly says. "The one by the roundabout" she tells me, thanks me for calling and hangs up before I can ask for the phone number.
No worries, I have the mighty google and I am not afraid to use it! I called that number and a nice young man answered the phone. Yes they do passport photos. Yes they are open today until 4. And Yes we can come in anytime we like today, no appointment necessary. Rarely have I seen a website so mis-informed. But since it worked in our favour this time, off we went to get our mugshots taken.
I say mugshots because even my drivers license photo is better looking than my passport pictures and my drivers license picture is not good. The nice young man took two shots and then let me choose the one I liked best. I ended up choosing the least awful picture. Then Tim had his photo done and in very short order we left with that little strip of two identical photos of each of us, looking like criminals. Well the photos are just full face and not profile and we aren't holding those little boards with arrest information on it, but otherwise, yes, mugshots.
I am tempted to say that no country would allow us in once seeing our passport photos, except that our previous photos were no better and we actually have already done a very small amount of international travel already. So a precedent has been set.
I do not remember the year that we first got passports but maybe twenty years ago? The first time we traveled out of the United States was to Canada and we were disappointed to learn that we did not require passports (at least at that time, I have no idea if that is the case now). We enjoyed our visit to our neighbors to the north and actually it was very nice that they didn't care that we were foreigners from the US. Trust I guess was the overriding thought. No fuss, no muss, just over the bridge and taadaa there we were. It looked a great deal like the US even though I know it was a different country because the flag was different eh?
We didn't get to use our passports until we went on a trip to Cancun. That was exciting! Our first passport stamps! Our first time going through Customs. Our first time dealing with a language barrier and purportedly disease ridden water. A little scary but also very exciting. And it went just a smoothly as glass. We even got very brave one day and instead of just sticking to the tourist spots (which was HIGHLY recommended) we hopped aboard the locals bus and went to the real downtown, the one where the locals live and shop and eat and play! It was lovely! Everyone was very kind to us, we found our way around and even manged to get picked up by the right bus to return to our hotel at the end of the day. A great first introduction to passport life!
The second time was when we took a cruise. The ship stopped at Roatan, Belize, Honduras and a few different stops in Mexico. It was our first cruise, second passport use. I believe the ONLY time we used our passport was to get our boarding documentation and ID to get on (and off and back on, etc) the ship. Otherwise those passports were locked up tight in the safe of our room. We had a marvelous time on our cruise. We did a few cruise sanctioned excursions but did the others on our own and everything was fine. Despite all of the terrifying tourist as a target stories that one hears, we never once felt anything but welcomed and safe. It was a great time!
Our passports got another stamp when we went to Curacao. Curacao was the first place we ever visited where we truly felt as if we were in a foreign country and not just in a new section of a Disney Park. Clearly we did not do quite enough research because neither Tim nor I knew ahead of time that the language of Curacao is Dutch. Which neither of us speak. Or write. Or read. The read part is particularly key because all of the streets signage is in Dutch. Oh my. The good people of Curacao apparently speak Dutch first, then Spanish, then English. Multi lingual! I am very impressed. Except for the part that the vast majority of the people there refused to speak English with us. Oh dear. We managed. It was interesting. It was a very good lesson actually in how insulated we are as Americans. Humbling.
That's the sum total of our foreign travel. And we have, at this moment, no future trips out of the country on our docket. But it's still a good idea to keep the passports current. I have used mine as a second form of ID at banks more than once so for that reason alone it's a grand plan.
And then, well, one just never knows. I don't know if a passport is required to travel to other planets? Or just other countries. But life moves pretty fast and you gotta be ready. Anything can happen!
Like good little boyscouts (which neither of us ever were) we are prepared!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.