I like security blanket. And hedging my bets against what ifs. It’s how I am wired. Escape hatches. Look for the escape hatches.
My family used to laugh at me when we went anywhere. My kids and Jeff. I can enter a crowded market in Istanbul or Hong Kong and find the fastest, most efficient way through, while shopping on the way. They just gotta keep up. My back is always to the wall of any table, in any restaurant. And, I will have already mentally measured the window height before we sit down. I like to know where the exits are. This might include the kitchen.
That’s weird you’re saying right about now. But, I like to think of it as prepared.
A few weeks ago, we sent our passports to the US Embassy in Madrid. They were coming up for renewal in March of next year. We have to renew our Spanish visas soon, and the combination of the visa renewal and the passports expiring put us in a bit of a pinch. So, if you remember, we sent them off. It has made me nervous that, after paying for tracking and signature required, the the tracking has not worked. They went into a black hole.
Not having a valid passport makes me twitchy. Well, technically, our old passports are still valid, but they were in that envelope we sent to Madrid. You can have more than one US passport at a time. Especially, if you travel a lot. Eventually, you run out of pages and need another one before the others expire. They don’t care.
I like having a passport easily accessible. But, for weeks, we have been in Spain without passports. It just felt weird. Checking into hotels, as foreigners, they always ask for our passports. Sure, we have our Spanish issued NIE cards (National Identification para Extranjeros) and we used those at the hotel reception, but the question just reminded me that we had no US government issued ID marking us a US citizens. Flying without a net.
If we had needed to leave the country, except within the Schengen countries, we couldn’t. Even flying back to the US. Nope. My mind worked through potential scenarios. How, if required, might we get to the US, in an emergency? What embassy we would go to from here, in which country, and what documents we would have to bring with us? Lisbon would be my preferred. Drivable and not so many US citizens living in Portugal that there would be a potential bottleneck getting an appointment for a one-time emergency temporary passport.
But, alas, none of this is necessary. A courier service just pulled up to the gate. No, it was not Correos using the pre-paid envelopes I enclosed before handing them to the 900 yr old postal lady in Melide. This was a van with a bit more security. I had to give a blood sample and show several forms of ID, my Kindergarten graduation certificate, to prove who I was. Because, well, the dude was holding my passports. Then, I signed for, and was ceremoniously handed the package with security envelopes inside. Each containing one document. And a separate one with my prepaid envelopes, which they failed to use. Ha! A little mocking, don’t you think?
Our new passports are the ‘Next-Generation version’. Sounds kind of Stat Trek-y. They started issuing them in foreign embassies in 2021. I don’t know about the roll out back in the US. They’re thick, like books. They have a carbon fiber data page. And a holographic strip surrounding your head. There are other new security features, too. We like to have the big passports (50 pages) so we don’t run out of visa space. Not that I have gone anywhere in more than 2 1/2 yrs. But, again, who knows what the next ten years holds. I like to be prepared. One thing I wish they didn’t do is change our passport numbers. I had the old ones memorized, for both of us. 🙄 You’d be surprised how many times you need to enter a passport number when living in another country. Government business forms, the bank, social security. In Spanish bureaucracy, this is going to take some getting used to.
But, we are now good to go for ten more years. Just one less thing. I’ll sleep better tonight knowing my escape hatch is in the house. But this whole passport thing as taught me one important lesson that I will not soon forget. That 900 yr old lady in the Correos office in Melide? Hello Kitty stamps or no, she’s still got it. 😉