When I was in high school, I dreamed that I would someday live in Paris, in a garret apartment (that looked just like Irma La Douce's), and I would drink wine and write and be fabulous and glamorous, and tres, tres francais. Accordion music would follow me wherever I went, and I would even have a poodle. But then, alas, I had the unfortunate experience of French class with Madame Boyar, aka "The Beak," and aka "une salope." (More about that later, for Accomplishment #43, "Learn a Foreign Language." Or, in my case, "Fail to Learn a Foreign Language Sophomore Year in High School.") I wouldn't say my dreams were dashed, but I really detested the verb "etre" and Madame Boyar, who admitted that if we thought she was mean, we should spend a week in Paris sometime and then we'd see what mean was. (She was from Lyon.) Way to intimidate impressionable teenagers, you old vache.
I really thought that this would be moi.
So needless to say, I did not join the French Club and go on a madcap, whirlwind trip to Paris as a plucky teen. And my parents weren't exactly the types to say, "Hmm, Karen, dahling, what you need is a trip to Europe!" Nor did I become a rock star on a world tour, washing my hair with Evian. With the exception of a day spent in Tijuana with Lisa Basso and her parents on a trip to San Diego, the closest I got to being a World Traveler was riding A Small World in Disneyland [TRAVESTY, BTW, TO BE UPDATING THAT] and eating at Affagatso's Family Italian Restaurant. (They had square pizza! Wow!)
I am ashamed to admit that I actually didn't get my passport until fairly recently, in the 21st century, even. Though I have always wanted to travel, I never had the kind of job where I could put money aside and save up to go off to distant lands, so I watched them on TV. Paris was just a dream where everyone looked like Audrey Hepburn or Marcel Marceau, accordion music followed one around, and poodles were everywhere, just running wild in the streets.
kindly lent by the magnifique Sunset Flame -- please check out her photostream! http://flickr.com/photos/13655806@N07/
Then I got a job in the travel business, and let me tell you -- working in travel is like being a diabetic who works in a bakery. Every day I look at guides for exotic destinations, and my coworkers jet off to places like Croatia and Tasmania, and, well, I blow money in bars with a tiki theme so I can at least pretend that I'm in the South Seas.
But one night, I ran into one of my best friends from high school, who had moved to Paris after GW's election. (She telecommutes. How fabulous is that?) She was home for the holidays and she said, "This year. This year you're coming to Paris." And I said, "Okay, this year, I'm coming to Paris" like I always did, but this time I meant it. (Even though I was drunk.)
I was thrilled. Finally! I was going to see all those wild poodles and mimes! So the first thing I did was go and get my passport. I went to a photo center, where I stood on the white line and looked into the camera. "STOP SMILING!" the guy said, sighing. "You have to look like you're going to look when you go through customs. Nobody is smiling like that."
"Um, I think I will be," I said. But I compromised and tried to close my mouth, but it kept twitching because I was so excited. I know Erma Bombek said, "When you look like your passport photo, it's time to go home," mine looks like "Total Dork Who is Just Super Excited To Even Be Going Through Customs." (And I will spare you the picture. It is really, really bad.)
But I was such a geek and so happy that my friends got happy for me. One of them even bought me a Tiffany blue passport holder, which makes me fancier than most. (And it's easier to find in a drawer.)
So... my trip was fabulous, blah blah blah. Yes I traveled, but having a passport means so much more than that. It's my tool -- I can go anywhere (that Americans can go, anyway), so the world is my oyster. I can be an ambassador of goodwill for America, showing other countries that we are not ALL weenies. That feeling is absolutely incredible. I could, potentially, fly anywhere I want tomorrow. I have freedom. And I am only part of the 27% of Americans who have their passports. Why is the other 73% depriving themselves? I hear people complain about it -- "Oh, it's too expensive." "You have to have a passport to go to Canada? That's ridiculous!" "It's the government's way of tracking you and following you." Yeah, well, it's your ticket to see the world. The world! How is that a bad thing???
And as it so happens, September is National Passport Month. Read about it here:
So do yourself a favor -- go get a passport if you don't already have one, or renew if it's expired. It will be one of the best gifts you can give yourself. And you can EVEN USE IT AS ID. Wow!!!!
Ten down, 87 to go.