Sunday, February 26, 2012
Luckily Gene noticed, because I hadn't. In our various travels over the last eight years our passports had been collecting stamps and visas and the 24 pages supplied were nearly filled. It's interesting to note that the most space was taken by the smallest countries. The visas for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam each take a full page and look formidable, with lots of color and curlicues.
With only a page or two to go, I learned that some countries will turn you away if you have fewer than two empty pages left when you arrive at the frontier. The passports themselves had another two years to go before expiration; what to do?
The US Passport Service will add additional pages to your existing passport if you need them. All you have to do is fill out the form, send it and a check along with the passport to an office in Pennsylvania, and sit back to wait. The website will even tell you the amount of time it currently takes to complete the process and get the passport back. You can check the status of the application online. Easy.
But for some reason I was reluctant to send it away. I've had a passport in my possession for the last 40 years; it felt odd not to have one at hand, just in case. Yes, I'm sure there were times I'd had to send it off to be renewed, but I couldn't remember those clearly. I kept thinking, what if I need to go somewhere suddenly? Where, I had no idea. Nor could I recall a single instance when I had less than a few weeks notice of an overseas trip.
Nonetheless, I was really relieved when I got that little blue book back in my hot little hand less than three weeks later. It was noticeably fatter, having had 12 new pages stapled into the middle. Nice clean pages, just waiting for stamps. The next one's due at the end of March.