Don't Be A (Passport) Waste
So I was in Starbucks one morning a few weeks ago when this guy came and sat beside me. We struck up a conversation and eventually, he asked where I was from, I told him I was Nigerian, and predictably, he said he would like to visit Nigeria some day and that he'd never left the United States.
It always fascinates me how so few Americans have ever left their country (and in some cases, their state or even their town/city). This man I was talking to told me he would like to travel but had never been able to go because he felt it was too expensive, he'll do it later, etc. He even mentioned how he was going on a trip across the states soon with United Coachline booked for the journey with his family, but that this was a rare thing for him.
It didn't make a lot of sense to me, because with enough planning anyone without dependents on a modest /decent income can travel maybe once or twice a year for a few weeks. I was especially annoyed because Americans have one of the most extensive and far reaching visa treaties (although most of them are totally unaware of this) meaning that while Nigerians have to suffer countless embassy indignities, Americans can literally just waltz in and out of damn near any country they please.
Most Americans that have passports usually hold one thin, anemic looking passport, but I have two bloated green passports held together by a rubber band that are nearly bursting / falling apart because of visa stamps and so much handling. A friend of mine even suggested I buy one those Bulk Passport Holders to keep my passport in to stop it from falling apart. I know Nigerians that have even more passports precariously linked, fat as a little green bible.
Walking back after this little chat, it dawned on me that every single person I was passing on the street (assuming they were all Americans) was entitled to a blue passport and it blew my mind because the vast majority of them will never even go to the next state much less go to another country.
Most of them don't even own that blue passport that they are entitled to, and all I could think was "what a fucking waste of blue passports!".
I felt like running up to people and shaking them and screaming "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH YOUR BLUE PASSPORT TODAY?!?"
I mean, I never really thought about it very much but now that I have, it drives me crazy. My university was full of Americans that didn't even have passports and had never even been to Canada.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why someone might not have been able to travel. A Canadian friend of mine was almost refused entry to the US once on the basis of his criminal record. The last time we spoke he told me that he was doing some research into Pardons in Canada in the hopes that getting a pardon could make crossing the border easier. The law surrounding getting a pardon sounds absolutely fascinating.
That being said, if I had the kind of travel freedom granted to Americans just by virtue of being born in the USA, I would be gallivanting from one country to another like nobody's business. Any seasoned traveler knows that even if tickets seem expensive on the surface, there are ways to get around that (buying cheaper off-season tickets) and so many great travel deals that make travel a lot cheaper if you look really hard.
This trip was the first time for me entering the United States from the Citizens/Residents line instead of the Foreign Visitors line and it was a bit surreal. To be on the shorter line for the first time ever after coming in all my life on the long, slow-moving foreigners line was great! (Although I was detained and seriously scolded by the immigration officer for forgetting my residents card - he was not smiling with me AT ALL). It seems like the immigration officers are becoming stricter with their enforcement of the rules. I've heard that you may need to fill in certain forms, like the i-751 to better your chances of even being allowed entry into the country. It's really strict now. I think its fair to say though that I never want to be scolded by an immigration officer again.
If you have a blue passport / red passport, how awesome is it to travel without needing visas?
If you have a green passport, do you feel like slapping people with blue/red passports not living up to their Passport Potential?