Monthly Archives: May 2010

Passport emergency

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The Dutch Acrobatic Festival– I have been hearing stories about this amazing annual gathering of European acrobats for years. I couldn’t help conjuring up the possibility that I might be getting in way over my head as I booked my airline ticket to Amsterdam. I had put in my vacation request at work in September (almost eight months earlier) to ensure I would streamline my energy and resources to make it happen. I was so excited as I packed and repacked my bags the week before the trip.
Then I discovered, less than forty-eight hours before I was scheduled to leave, that Americans are no-longer allowed to travel internationally if your passport will expire within six months of departure–within six months of your travel dates– or possibly within six months of the return date, no three months within the date of departure– this is to say it wasn’t really clear. I spent two arduous and unproductive hours searching online for an answer to this possible delay of my long anticipated adventure. The policy, is not yet published explicitly on any government site that I could find (yet); but the message was clear, the airlines definitely wouldn’t let me fly. I willed myself to go to sleep at 1:30am, setting my alarm for 7am, so I might be on the phone by the time the agencies of possible hope would be open.
Waking up with a sort of nausea hangover feeling at too-little sleep. I willed myself to be grateful for the day, this was the most stressful self-made emergency I had had in many, many years. I was going to be getting on a plane in a day and a half, or I wasn’t. But I was really hoping and counting that I was… Magically with the support of my mom, two special friends and my work colleagues I spent the day getting my passport renewed (travel.state.gov is pretty sweet and I owe some people some thank you letters).
The details of the crazy passport renewal day were the usual: people walking too slowly in front of me, un-helpful (or sometimes from my perspective rude) customer service reps on the phone, and flat out denial that what I was trying to accomplish was possible. I kept trying to be grateful for the day (this was not a life or death situation), trying to breathe and simply being completely, utterly and absolutely present. How much of the day, of this stress, of the myriad of emotions could I experience without any extra? Could I actually come out of this experience without blaming anyone else for it? As I was finally on a train to South Norwalk Connecticut from NYC to make my 1:30pm emergency passport appointment and the train stalled, stopped, and shut off unexpectedly, I sighed. I was going to make it, or I wasn’t. Worrying, angering, blaming, tensing my jaw– those were all choices. Someone else could be stressed about all this, but I wasn’t going to be anymore. And “Just keep breathing and noticing” became my mantra.
I made it to the appointment. By 4:07pm I had a fancy new legitimate passport in hand. Every single person who helped or supported me that day were unexpected, as I had set out to get it “done” myself. I wouldn’t have been on the plane the next day, if I hadn’t been open to asking for support, and being open to receive it and the truly beautiful people who were ready, able and willing to give it.
The trip hadn’t begun officially, but the adventure certainly had.