I once read a quote that said, “The only two things you need in life are a corkscrew and a passport.” Believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t drink wine and even more who don’t own a passport.
I’m determined to convince the entire population of the United States to get one. A passport, that is. I’ll work on recruiting more wine drinkers later.
Fellow Baby Boomers who don’t have a passport: How on earth did you get to this point in your life without owning a passport? But don’t worry. You’re not alone. According to the Yale Center of the Study of Globalization, only 21 percent of Americans own a passport. The study also found that Americans travel less than their worldly counterparts. Why own a passport when you never leave the United States, right?
The Boomer generation may be just the group up to the job of changing those dynamics. If you have a passport, you already know why you should have one. If you don’t have a passport, there are more reasons than ever for you to consider getting one. Picture these scenarios: Your best friend wins a trip to Paris and wants you to go. You can’t. The fish are biting in Canada. You can’t go. Your son decides at the last minute to get married in Acapulco. You’re going to miss it. And so on.
What else can you do with a passport?
- Discover new cultures
- Learn a new language
- Make that pilgrimage
- Find your ancestors
- See a new ocean
- Discover architecture older than anything you’ll ever see in the U.S.
- Find out how the rest of the world lives
- Buy a treasure you can’t find at home
- Eat new foods
- Experience new music
- See rare animals and plants in their natural environment
- See very large mountains
- Learn new history
- Walk in ancient gardens
- Visit Roman ruins
- Find out how perfume is made
- Participate in a harvest
- Cruise on exotic rivers
- Visit the site of a famous battle
- Walk on distant shores
- Enjoy a festival
Perhaps you’d like to see all of the New Seven Wonders of the World.* (If you don’t know where, or what, they are, I’ll tell you in a moment.)
OK, now I have to warn you: If you put “get a passport” on your to-do list, your chances of getting it done are slim. Getting a passport is a three-step process and you will need to finish each step to get it done right. Ready? Here we go:
Step 1: Get your passport photo. You can do this at most drug stores these days. How about this: Next time you’re waiting to get your prescription filled, walk over and get your passport photos taken. Bam! Two birds with one stone.
Step 2: Find your original birth certificate. If you don’t have one, order it from the courthouse in the county where you were born.
Step 3: Pick up a passport application. You can do this at the post office, your county seat, or even where you had your passport photo taken. My local post office also holds passport events where they will walk you through the whole process from photo to submitting the application. Maybe your local post office does the same. Or you can go directly to the State Department’s website, and print out the needed forms. That site also does a great job of walking you through the necessary steps.
Yes, I’ve heard all the excuses for not getting a passport, including, “There are so many places I still have to see in the United States,” and “I don’t want the government to track where I go,” and “I will never need it,” and even “I can’t afford to go anywhere.” All valid in your own mind, but listen up: Times have changed. You won’t be able to go on a simple fishing trip to Canada without a passport. Passport = Freedom. Along with your birth certificate, driver’s license, and Social Security card, it is one of the most important documents you will ever own and your ticket to the rest of the world.
If you still aren’t convinced that you need a passport, here’s a little book I recommend: Don’t let the world pass you by! 52 reasons to get a passport, published by Lonely Planet.
*By the way — The New Seven Wonders of the World, according to the 2007 Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation, are: The Great Wall of China, The Coliseum in Rome, The Taj Mahal in India, The Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil, Petra in Jordan, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Chichen Itza in Mexico, and an honorary 8th place going to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.