Australians love to collect stamps. Not just any stamps, but passport stamps. Antipodeans are notorious for being great travellers, and I won’t be the first to say that sometimes I think we do it merely to collect stamps.
I was one of those too. So many stamps! All those visas! I was devastated when my bag was stolen from a pub in Soho, along with my passport. That small purple visa for Turkey. Others for Korea and Hungary, although I don’t remember their colours. The stamps for Bosnia, Bulgaria, my first Calais crossing. All gone!
I replaced my lost passport almost immediately, but the damage was done. My new Australian passport has far fewer stamps – the world had already changed, and many of the visa restrictions which were in place when I first travelled had lifted. In fact the coolest thing about my new passport is that it was issued in the UK. Nationality: Australian. Place of issue: London. Not long ago I got my Croatian passport. Nationality: Croatian. Place of issue: Sydney.
I’ve just come back from a trip back home and both times checking in at the airport the customer service person told me that my passport expires soon, my Australian one that is. I use it so rarely now I hadn’t noticed. I gave up stamp collecting, and didn’t see time passing. Can it be ten years already since that world cup game, watching that game in Soho with friends I’d thought I’d have forever and now hardly hear from? That game when, in a moment of stupidity, I left my bag behind a chair – “it should be safe there” – and never saw it again?
I entered the UK this morning on my Croatian passport. No stamps, no questions, just “good morning”, a quick look into my tried eyes, and my passport back in my hands. Not even a landing card to fill in. I do miss stamp collecting, but there’s a lot to be said for the convenience of an EU passport, for being free of the burden of dealing with closed borders, slow bureaucracies and unfriendly border guards. Nice for some, I know. Nice for some.