Out with the Old, in with the New
My current Chinese visa expires on August 19, 2012. The visas I typically get are good for 12 months and allow me to stay in China for up to 60 days at a time (not that my wife would EVER allow me to stay for 60 days). If I tried to enter China today (June 20, 2012) my visa would expire within the 60 days. The Chinese government does not like this sort of thing so I need a new visa. Unfortunately, my passport that I have had since 2003 was due to expire in February 2013. This means that my passport would expire before my new Chinese visa would. Time to get a new passport.
I first tried to get a passport in 1992 prior to making a trip to the Caribbean. I was born in Canada as an American Citizen Born Abroad. That was 1971 and the documentation procedures weren’t as easy to follow as they are today. My Canadian birth certificate created much difficulty for the State Department when I first sent in my application. They wanted additional proof that I didn’t have that I was an American citizen (besides my Alabama driver’s license and Social Security card). I ended up giving up on the passport and traveling to the Caribbean several times prior to 9/11 on my driver’s license. I traveled a lot for work during that time but it was all domestic travel so I didn’t need a passport.
For Christmas 2002 my parents gave us all a family trip to Nevis in the Caribbean. After 9/11 it became much more difficult to enter and leave the US and a driver’s license no longer worked to visit the Caribbean. So, I dove back into the passport application process and, after pulling a few strings, provided all of the documentation that the State Department required and was finally issued a US passport in February 2003. Less than a month later I made my first trip using my new passport. Little did I know how much use it would see over the next 10 years.
Things were pretty quiet on the international travel front until 2005. I made a trip to Italy in July 2003 for a wedding and that was it. In 2005 I was hired as the Design Director for Griffin Technology in Nashville, TN. Within a month of starting that job I was making my first trip to Asia. That started a pattern where I would travel to Asia every few months for a couple of weeks, attend a trade show or two in one country or another, then travel around Southern China visiting current and prospective factories in support of our new product development activities. Sometimes I was in and out of multiple countries in the same day and rarely spent more than a couple of nights in the same hotel. During the three years I was at Griffin I made 8 trips to Asia and one to Paris which filled my passport up with stamps (though I did not receive any stamps in my passport for the France trip).
From 2008-2009 I went back to school full time and did not leave the country. In 2009 I started a new job as a Senior Product Manager with Techtronic Industries in Anderson, SC. TTI’s corporate headquarters is in Hong Kong so I quickly found myself back in the regular Asia travel routine. I even had to get extra pages added to my passport to make room for new visas and entry and exit stamps. In the 11 months I was at TTI I made two trips to Asia. One was a pretty epic 3+ week journey where I racked up 17 entry and exit stamps alone!
In the Fall of 2010 I joined ROBRADY design as Design Manager and the Asia travel continued. This time was a bit different. I was working on a project with a contract manufacturer in the Shanghai area. Instead of the typical country hopping I had grown accustomed to, I ended up spending more time in Shanghai. However, we soon started working with another partner in Taiwan so I quickly got back into the routine of regularly passing through immigration check points. I made 6 trips to Asia in 12 months while at ROBRADY.
In March I took a position with CAR-FRESHNER in Watertown, NY as Innovation Manager. My travel since then has shifted to mostly domestic short-haul trips (nearly 50 flight segments since February!). In April I took a trip to Taiwan and China to attend a couple of trade shows. While I do not have any future international travel plans booked yet, I fully expect to be back in Asia later this year and also starting some European travel this Fall as well. So, the time seemed right to go ahead and get a new passport. This time I ordered one with extra pages from the get go!
I am going to miss my old passport, though. It has developed a nice time-worn patina and a curvature that fits perfectly in my right rear pants pocket. There is no doubt with the TSA when I pull it out that I’m a seasoned traveler. The new one is very thick and stiff and WAY too new looking. Plus, I can’t thumb through it and reminisce about when I got all of those stamps. Oh, and to add insult to injury it even has a new number that I have to remember! Good grief!!