Ever since I was little, books have been an escape. An escape to a new world and a way to get away from the one I was living. I never realized that the most important book in my life was only twenty-eight pages and didn’t have an author. This navy blue book, with a golden eagle crest embracing its cover, is my ultimate escape.
Even in this short little book, stories of distant and different lands embrace the pages. This book allows endless possibilities for escape, for freedom. I could be swept off my feet by a prince one moment and in the next I might find myself sitting in meditation surrounded by monks’ content with a simple life. Holding this book in my hand there was a moment I wanted to return to a childhood dream, to paint in Paris but not speak the language and eat French toast and French fries, once my idea of French cuisine. I feel like losing myself in a daydream while drifting in a gondola and in the next moment be surrounded by the iron gates of Auschwitz that remind me of a past I never knew. I want to eat sushi in its place of origin and savor every last grain of rice. Anything is possible with this one book.
I obtained my first passport when I was a newborn. It took me to Japan where I lived for two and half years and remember nothing. Only pictures let me know of where I came from.
I applied for my second passport at the age of fifteen. It took me to Italy for a week-long vacation with my family. We saw one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the Coliseum. The enormous stone structure was being renovated to maintain its original beauty both inside and out. Hired actors stood outside dressed as gladiators, taking pictures with tourists ourselves included. We wandered through the Jewish ghetto, the nostalgia of war lingering in the air. We traveled down to the Amalfi Coast and saw the beauty of the homes in the hills; white stucco and terracotta color roofs, different colored flowers cascading out of windows. We swam in the Mediterranean and had to shower right after getting out to rid our skin of the excess salt in hopes of avoiding blisters. I experienced, to my surprise, what a “top optional” pool was, even the younger girls participated in removing their frilly bikini tops. I got sea-sick after countless boat rides to the Blue Grotto, the water a color of sapphire I will not soon forget. I left Italy with a validation of wanting adventure in my life.
My second passport also took me to Paris. I had just graduated high school and this trip was a gift from my grandmother. When she first told me that she would pay for me to go anywhere of my choice that summer, my first thought was to stay in the states. I was moving to Minnesota and preparing to start college. That was overload. I was encouraged to go somewhere else, somewhere exciting. Paris seemed like the right place to go. I wanted to live there as a child and in my later adolescence there were parts of Paris that I just really wanted to see.
I boarded the plane from Minneapolis on August 1, 2011 and switched planes multiple times before finally landing in the Charles De Gaulle airport late afternoon the next day. I remember in a daze of jet lag getting my passport stamped, grabbing luggage, and getting in the van to head to the hostel my group and I were staying in. Most of that “first day” seems to be a blur because we just didn’t stop. As soon as we arrived at the hostel we dropped all our stuff off and headed out on a walk to dinner, stopping for a few minutes at Notre Dame Cathedral. The only moment I felt a sense of peace and stillness was when I was standing in front of this old, gothic building. This monument had been in the forefront of my mind ever since I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame when I was about six-years-old. In that moment, standing in the cobblestone plaza, looking up at the clock towers, I hoped that I might just catch a glimpse of the hunchback I knew wasn’t there. Hundreds of thoughts raced through my head. Is this a dream? Is this where I really belong? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?
That was it. In that moment, I knew I wanted to travel as much as possible in my lifetime. Even though I was exhausted and dazed by time change, I finally knew my true purpose in life. My passport would allow me to travel as much as possible and knowing I wanted to write for a living, I would write about these places. I will take the beauty I see, transform it into words and share those words with the world. The rest of the trip just kept validating everything I felt in that moment. Reaching the top of the Eiffel Tower, watching the windmill turn on the Moulin Rouge, looking at the amazing paintings and artifacts in the Louvre, seeing locals live simply not rushing to get everything done. I was surrounded by beauty that I never thought or truly felt existed and a life that I hope to someday live myself.
My third passport is now in my hands, ready to set out on my next adventure. February 4, 2013 I will step onto the first of three planes that will take me to Berlin, Germany. This new, unknown city will be my home for four months while I continue my studies with an IES Abroad program. I will also get to travel to St. Petersburg and back to my place of validation, Paris. Maybe I’ll experience something even more beautiful, more mesmerizing on this journey, something to further my purpose.
I realize now, after traveling abroad, that having a passport is essential to my life. It’s what gave me purpose and a hope for a future career. Although there is no author stated on a passport cover, I know that this book is my work of art. I am the author.