The last time I renewed my passport, it was 2006 and just before a family trip to Japan (aka The Griswolds Take Japan). I clearly remember thinking, ‘ha, when I have to renew this bad boy, I’ll be 31.’ In fact I may have even said those words to my friend who was with me, with a sort of repulsed emphasis on ‘thirty‘. Oh my God that felt so far away. Who even turns 31? I had a whole decade stretching ahead of me, a decade of glowing, youthful skin to be flashed at airports all around the world. Thirty-one was light years away, so far away I couldn’t even imagine where I’d be (apart from dominating award ceremonies across multiple industries, because dreams are still without fences at 21). I clutched that brand new passport in my little hand, and put 2016 away on a very high shelf, in the far reaches of my nubile, elastic, world-is-my-oyster mind. There it sat as a marker for the closing of a huge window of time.
Fast forward to booking a trip to Singapore early 2016. 2016 is no longer light years away, indeed it is approximately 13 weeks away. Something kept niggling every time we discussed the dates, until I suddenly said, ‘Shit, I think I need a new passport in 2016.’ Suddenly the year 2016 fell from where it has been collecting dust on that very high shelf in the far reaches of my mind, and landed with a clunk at my aged and wizened feet. The decade of my passport, it seems, has come to an end, and I am staring down the barrel of an age I had little concept of ten years ago when I smirked youthfully at the local post office manager taking my picture against a wall.
Because being an Australian is an expensive endeavour, to renew one’s passport as an Aussie abroad (as of July 2015 … irritatingly) one must pay 224€. Oh, and actually go to the embassy in Berlin or Frankfurt. So throw in a tank of fuel, or a return Deutsche Bahn ticket. If you are particularly footloose and fancy free, like us, why not make a weekend of it, or stay a night in one of Germany’s raging metropolises? Have a nice dinner, enjoy a coffee or two. Add it all up, and you’re looking at something like 400€ to renew your bloody Australian passport.
But that’s fine. Road trips are always fun, although less so when the Autobahn shuts down because someone ten kilometres up ahead rear-ended someone else, and you have no choice but to release your child and let her crawl all over the road before she loses her shit in the car seat, while you gaze, both repelled and envious, at the endless line of men scampering into the forest to relieve themselves. (Mind you, they needn’t bother scampering anywhere, the intent to hide themselves seems non-existent.) And the Vietnamese dinner was delicious. And my appointment took 4 minutes, and they let me go in at 10 instead of the scheduled 11 (begging the question, Australian government, why must we show up at an embassy for a four minute appointment?) so we got a headstart on the trip home. And, even better, we don’t have to do it all again for another ten years.
In a few weeks, some post bearing two little navy blue books will arrive. The battered one I debuted in Japan has been filled with a collection of stamps (and one really unflattering visa) that draw a higgledy-piggledy path to 31. To enter Singapore in 14 weeks time, I will use the crisper one, the one identified by less-plump, less-youthful skin. It will open a new decade, and begin drawing a path to … 41.
Who even turns 41?