How I Maxed out My First Mexican Passport

A few days ago I renewed my passport for the first time. Not because it had expired (it is still valid for another two years) but because I ran out of valid pages. Yes, all 32 of them were totally maxed out. Pretty neat, uh?

If you had asked me two years ago If I could ever be able to fill out my passport’s 32 pages I would have laughed and said “No frigging way. It’s impossible”. Today, I hold in my hands the proof that I was wrong.

How do you measure a year in a life?

Have you ever listened to the song “Seasons of Love”? It is about the different ways to measure a year, whether it is daylights, sunsets, cups of coffee, miles of travel and of course, love. My dear old passport has been a witness to some of my happiest moments, some of my biggest professional challenges, my first real heartbreak, my many runs with unfriendly (and sometimes even corrupt) immigration officers and much more.

My passport’s life started in 2009. I was just a regular university student in Monterrey, Northern Mexico and somehow managed to get accepted for an exchange semester in Montreal, Canada to improve my French (long story short: I ended up improving everything in my life EXCEPT for my French). I arrived to Montreal in August 2010 and studied there for four months, it was extremely cold and yet, I was extremely happy when I saw the snow for the first time in my life. Coming from a very hot country, nothing could prepare me for the joy of building my first snowman!

After my experience in Canada was over, I experienced the first of many goodbyes, if you have ever studied abroad or experienced the life of an expat, then I guess you can relate to the pain of saying farewell to the friends that you meet on your new city and that quickly become part of your life.

Having said that, other than the single page for my student visa and the page with the entry/exit stamps of Mexico and Canada, I pretty much figured out that my travel stories would end for good after Canada. Oh boy, was I wrong.

The Journey of a Lifetime

In terms of traveling, I remained completely inactive in 2011. “But wait, isn’t Monterrey near the border with McAllen, Texas? How come you never went there for the weekend?”.

Yes, it was extremely cheap and convenient to travel to the U.S.A. from Mexico for a weekend, however, I didn’t really have the motivation to go through the hassle of obtaining a visa only to…shop for cheap electronics? So instead I saved money and lived a frugal life in order to fulfill my objective of studying and traveling in Europe, the Old Continent.

Thanks to the support of my home university and my family, I was able to apply for a Masters program in France, the perfect base for all of my travels!  I arrived to Clermont-Ferrand, France in January 2012 and I set aside the goal of visiting at least one different country every month.

By the end of the year, I had visited over 20 of them. It might not make a lot of sense at first but trust me, having a base of operations (that is, an apartment/house/bench that you rent for at least one month) makes a lot of sense, financially, when traveling intensively in Europe.

Once my studies in France were over I had two options basically: Accept an internship at one of the top advertising firms in Paris and devote 80% of my monthly income to rent a small and crappy apartment or try my luck in a country famous for its inflation and bad economics but widely renowned for its creativity in terms of advertising.

Even if you’re not an avid follower of my articles, I’m pretty sure you can already guess which one I chose, right?

2013 was the year I started working in Buenos Aires, Argentina and had the opportunity of exploring South America, one of my favorite regions in the whole world. Work, save, travel. Repeat. That was my mantra and it surely worked since I was able to co-finance a trip with my mother to Asia before returning to Mexico this December.

No, I’m not rich, far from it actually. And yes, YOU can do it too.

Fun Fact: A random border agent at Mexico City’s International Airport (with a very epic moustache, I must add) was the first one to stamp my passport when I left for Canada in 2010 and the last one to stamp it upon my return from Asia in 2013.

Sure, I cannot be 100% certain that it was the same man but still, that would have been the most glorious ending to this story, right?

Get Inspired and start traveling too!

I guess it’s quite symbolic that I’m spending the first hours of my birthday writing about the life of my first passport. Yes, call me a hopeless romantic but it makes me quite sad to part ways with my old friend.

What a life we had together, right? On the brighter side of things, I’m eagerly looking forward to the new exciting adventures that me and my new passport are going to be experiencing this 2014. In the end, I wonder which country is going to be the one to put the first entry stamp in my brand new passport.

Suggestions, anyone?

Passport stamps

Passport stamps

27 Responses

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Thanks!!! Glad you enjoyed it! By the way, I’m curious, do you need to get stamped everytime you go from Ireland to Latvia? I’m asking this because the UK and Ireland are the only EU powers not to be part of Schengen.

      • Expat Eye

        No :( No stamps at all! I only get stamped when I go outside the EU and that’s been a while – although, every now and then, I lovingly look at my stamps from Oz, NZ, the US, Fiji… and wonder when I’ll get another one! I just get glared at when I come back to Latvia – no stamp ;)

  1. Every Day Adventures in Asia

    What fun! I’ve also run through an entire passport two years before expiry… Even had to swing a deal with the Canadian Consulate to let me continue to travel on my valid passport while processing my new one as two countries I was traveling would only ‘stamp’ and didn’t need a visa.

    The poor Thai immigration official was most distraught when she saw I only had one page left! Very concerned for my potential traveling plight sans space for more stamps…. Whereas the Singapore guy was completely blasé about stamping one of the last available corners. And on my return to India, all they cared about was seeing my accompanying Indian visa and asking how I acquired it (15 years validity).

    Enjoy your new adventures!!

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      People with an USA passport are so lucky in that aspect since they can actually request extra pages for their passports!!! I was very fortunate that the Cambodian border inspector was kind enough to stamp my visa-on-arrival on top of my unused Egyptian visa.

      • Every Day Adventures in Asia

        That’s hilarious! I’ve not had quite that experience but started to get very good at spotting potential spaces for the Indian entry / exit stamp with a little overlap with others… to achieve maximum stamps per page! Most of the immigration guys were quite nice about taking my suggestions.

  2. vickyinglis

    It’s not fair! As the holder of a passport from an EU country, we don’t get stamps in other EU countries, or for Schengen-zone countries outside the EU like Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. I’ve missed out on so many stamps that my passport feels naked.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I actually had a very strange experience in European airports during my flight from Glasgow to Mexico via London Heathrow. Long story short, I wasn’t stamped out of the UK since the Glasgow-London flight was a local one and I arrived directly to the transit area in Heathrow where I took my flight back to Mexico. I sure hope that I won’t have any trouble entering the UK again, this time with my brand-new passport.

  3. Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist

    I filled up my passport in 2005! Haven’t been able to repeat it since though – probably for the best! Actually, the beauty is that it’s getting harder to fill up my passport as new agreements take place allowing easier travel between countries. The best reason for not having a full passport yet!

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I completely agree with that! Yes, It would have been awesome to have a Japanese visa in my passport and yet, I am grateful that the agreements between my country and Japan allowed me to enter the country without needing it. Of my old passport’s 32 pages, 13 of them are filled with visas, and out of those, 1 was totally worthless since two weeks after acquiring it, my government made an agreement with Brazil and now we Mexicans can freely travel there.

  4. Anastasia Sofia | Gallivant Girl

    My passport is full too. I was so keen to fill it up, and had the best time doing so, but now I need to renew it before my next trip. I’m just putting it off and being lame because I don’t want a new one. I love mine too much :(

  5. Syd

    Filling up my passport is a HUGE goal of mine. Argentina and Chile are screwing me over by constantly stamping over top of each other. WHO DOES THAT. haha.

  6. Steph | Discovering Ice

    Fantastic story! How amazing to fill up your passport in such a short space of time! And I loved reading about your first contact with snow…I am still waiting to experience that with my Colombian boyfriend (I have naturally seen a lot of snow, coming from Ireland!) so I’m excited for that ‘adventure’. :)

    I really like your style of travel too. We always get a base and agree it’s definitely the easiest way to travel, maybe not the cheapest since you still have to pay rent while you’re away. Right now we’re planning to visit Argentina next month, as we’re based in Santiago, Chile. Exciting times ahead! :)

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      You’ll love Argentina, be sure to bring A LOT of USD in cash, you’ll have the life of Kings with a small budget if you exchange them in the right places ;)

      Ps. Looking forward to hear how you and your boyfriend Discover the Snow haha

  7. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy

    This is awesome and very inspiring! I’m renewing mine before I leave so it will unfortunately probably be a while before mine is full but you never know! And, Monterrey looks gorgeous!

  8. Bob R

    That does feel like quite the achievement, doesn’t it? :) I’m a dual national so have two passports: I’ve filled up my US twice –mostly due to frequent travel within Europe before Schengen– and will quite likely fill my Slovenia passport before it expires since that’s the one I primarily use.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Yeah, I can only imagine all the different European stamps back in the olden days, now we just cross borders without getting stamped, it’s kind of an odd feeling to be honest!

  9. Trisha Velarmino

    I didn’t know you’re Mexican! I’m heading there soon! Cheers! xx

  10. Pun

    Wow, This was the first article that popped up on google when i typed “How to fill my passport with stamps”. Awesome inspiring story. I am a Sri lankan living in USA, came here on a students visa and now looking forward to travel as much as i can. What i need is guidence. I signed up for your e-book. Hopefully i can get some good insight.

    Thanks again. Great post.