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.