The Unbearable Lightness of Having a Passport

I never really…

had big feelings about passports. They were just necessary pieces of document to travel across borders. When I started my travelling career – at 15 – Finland was already part of the European Union, a fact that made travelling more relaxed and in my case something not to worry about.

For my departures I did not get any stamps in my passport when crossing borders in Europe. It was as if I had not been anywhere. If you consider that a passport provides you the identity of who you are and where you have been, I have stayed invisible on many occasions. Therefore I purposefully started asking the passport inspectors to stamp my passport to have something interesting to show to my friends, some evidence-material so to speak.


The strangest thing…

with passports that I have experienced so far is proving my identity with a photo that looks very different than my physical appearance at the time of crossing a border. I have also experienced some problems with not having the same colour of hair or same kind of signature as in the passports. Often I was travelling with my second passport, which had an old photo in it.

Being a Finn I guess I hardly had any problems, even though my photo looked quite different than my physical appearance towards the end of the validity of my passport. The border inspectors would just smirk and look at me. Some doubtfully noticed, “Well you do look very different now”. I did not actually know what to say and whether I should have gotten offended or pleased. I thought I looked stunning on the photo.


Now I am having…

my third passport, which is valid for ten years. Despite not having an emotional connection towards it for a long time, the feeling of wistfulness got me when I had to give up my latest passport. It was not only the photo I liked, it was all the longed for visas, all the contested stamps it was displaying– For the first time I felt my passport was part of me. When I made my last journey with it, I felt like coming to a closure of a certain time period. I was 26-year-old and had finished my Master’s degree on sociology the previous autumn. The past year I had been working in my first career related job. I had transformed from a student into a serious working girl.



After my journey…

I got a brand new passport with new shiny pages. I also have one of those taken-in-a-rush photos in it. My friend says that I look like a scared deer on the photo. I think I just look a bit lame, with parted lips and eyes staring into eternity. Now I will have to live with this scared-deer-looking-passport picture the coming eight years. If my passport does not get lost or stolen, I will be 36 when I apply for a new one. 36 is a scary age for a 28-year-old wannabe teenager living her 30’s crisis. Change is frightening.

Recently, I have decided to leave my current position in the office and look for something else. I have a wild plan to go to study photography in a distant country. At 36 I will know what direction my career has taken and how I am going to look on the new passport picture. And hopefully I will need a visa for the country of destination… My passport seems to be desperate about filling the empty pages.



Photography by meereshund ©

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