I haven't quite finished transferring my content over to this new site but I have decided to post my first official post on my new Travel Website and Blog so I can test out a plug-in feature.
This entry is dedicated to that all important life line document when traveling abroad. Your Passport! For the last 10 years, well mainly the last 5 years I have worked very hard. Okay there was some fun involved. Okay, okay there was a lot of fun involved in filling up the pages of my once empty passport.
I first started really traveling regularly in 2005 when I went on a whirlwind group tour with my friend to England, France, Switzerland and Italy. And traveling to all those countries and numerous cities, I obtained a grand total of "1" stamp from Heathrow airport for my effort. Basically, on a group tour we travel by bus when crossing the borders and so they don't individually stamp our passports. Well, that can be disappointing to someone who loves to travel and who want to have something to show for it.
While in Lucerne, Switzerland a fellow tour mate told us that we could go to the local postoffice and they will stamp our passport showing that we were in Switzerland. I jumped at the chance. My friend forgot her passport in the hotel and didn't get her's stamped. You'll find out later how lucky she was that she forgot her passport. I felt pretty happy that I now have two passport stamps.
Now fast forward one year later when I did my first completely Solo Independent travel to the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. Remember when crossing the borders in 2005, I was used to just passing through with no regard or responsibility for getting my passport stamped. Catching a shuttle bus from the Czech Republic to Austria the driver collected our passports at the border and had them stamped by the border guards. How easy was that. Now I'm in Austria and I have a total of three stamps in my passport. I was so proud of myself.
Five days later I must travel from Salzburg Austria to Munich Germany. Everything seemed fine until I was stopped by the military police at the train station. The one guard asked for my passport which I obliged, whipping out from my neck security pouch.
The head guard reviews my passport and when he gets to the page with my very special Lucerne Switzerland stamp on there the guard throws a fit. He lectures me and asks me why I had this stamp there because it was not supposed to have this stamp. I shared my story of getting it stamped at the post office in Lucerne Switzerland and I didn't know that they weren't supposed to do that. He was not impressed. I apologized for the stamp, but he was not having any of my apologies. He lectured me again about how wrong it was and called up to a higher power…his supervisor. I tried not to panic , reminding myself that I didn't do anything wrong and to just stay calm and remain polite and respectful. One of the other guards looked towards me and sort of had a smile and by looking at his eyes, I could tell that he believed me. Within a few more minutes, the head guard returns my passport and told me I was free to go. I guess his higher power told him it was okay. As I walked off to catch a taxi to my hotel, I said a quick silent "thank you" to my higher power.
So I go to my hotel, check in and I decided then that I wasn't going to allow that episode to ruin my stay in Munich. Although I got off to a rocky start, I ended up having a really cool time in Munich and I would totally like to return one day in the future.
Fast forward to the airport as I depart. I get to the guard and he looks at my passport. He asks me why I didn't have a stamp entering Germany. I was speechless. I completely forgot to get my passport stamped because I was so thrown off by the stamp incident at the train station. This was the first time that getting my passport stamp was completely my responsibility. I'm not counting the Lucerne Post office stamp, of course.
I apologized and explained what happened with the guards at the train station and when they checked out my passport and told me I could go, I thought that they had taken care of it. Okay, so I really didn't know that they actually had, but hey it was a good line. He asked how I came to Munich and I said by train from Salzburg. He asked me if I had the train ticket for proof. I said yes I do but it is in my checked luggage! oops. After looking at me several more minutes and asking me about my itinerary, he stamps my passport and warns me that if I travel to Germany in the future, I must have my passport stamped. I apologize again and say thank you and off I went.
As strange as this may sound, I really wasn't that overly concerned during these moments of near disaster. I had faith that everything would work out because I knew that I haven't done anything wrong. The incident has made me a lot wiser traveler and has taught me some valuable lessons which will be useful now that I have my brand new blank passport. First, I learned how important it is to get my passport stamped when traveling from one country to the next. Second, it has made me vow to never visit the local post office to ask that they stamp my passport, no matter how much I want to add to it. And lastly, I vow to always keep all train ticket stubs in my carry on at all times.
And here's the culprit stamp from Lucerne, Switzerland that nearly got me in trouble while in Germany.
So, do you have any great big lessons learned while traveling abroad that you'd like to share?