Thou Shalt Not Passport

You seem to be a very well-traveled young man.  How do you feel about people that don’t have a valid passport in today’s day and age? It almost seems sad that someone would miss out on so much of the world just because they never took the time to apply for something so simple.  Don’t you feel this should almost be a requirement?

–       HR in Washington, DC

I’ll get to that answer in a minute, but I need to point out the fact that the reader referred to me as a “young man.”  This means that either our demographic skews way older than we thought it did, or the general assumption about the age of Tanktronic is surprisingly low.

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As for the passport issue and how it relates to international travel in general, I do think it is pretty unfortunate that any adult with a modest income would not have one, and use it at least once.   People do have their reasons, though, ranging from strictly financial to travel phobias and the like.

You are right, though – there are endless opportunities for learning and personal growth sitting outside our country’s borders.  It does seem almost tragic to spend a lifetime on this Earth and see so little of it before it’s time to move on. There is no better way to take a meaningful assessment of your values and priorities than to immerse yourself in a place where they are substantially different than yours.

I do believe there is a generational aspect in play  – when I would tell people that my parents’ trip to Paris in 2011 was their first time overseas, they would be surprised.  When you consider that trans-oceanic air travel was not affordable to the middle class until the 1980’s, however,  a time when many Baby Boomers were still raising young children, it wasn’t terribly surprising.  Their children, though, found travel to faraway lands to be almost a college-age rite of passage, and the general tone shifted from “wow, you’ve gone!” to “why haven’t you gone?”

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In partial defense of my fellow Americans though, as I alluded to previously, we do live in a country where one could find new and enriching experiences without crossing the borders.  From tagging along on a lobster boat in Maine, to sunning in South Beach, to celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans; from baseball in the heartland, to football in Texas, to cruising through icebergs in Alaska, we are blessed to live in a country that is staggeringly diverse in both populace and landscape.

As you mention the possibility of passports being a requirement, I honestly don’t understand why they can’t be issued at the same time a citizen registers to vote or files a tax return for the first time; of course, I don’t think the federal government has ever been a model of efficiency and convenience.   In time, the consistently decreasing cost of travel and increasing awareness of other cultures and places via social media will lead to nearly all traveling Americans holding a passport.


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