I love the concept of passports.
A clear proof of citizenship, a gateway to the world, a reminder of all the places you’ve been and have yet to go to, and a repository of amazing memories abroad and less pleasant ones of going through customs — that little passport is essential to a traveler.
I got my first passport at the age of 15, a few months before I took my first trip out of the country to Ecuador. It was a very exciting time for me, as not only would it be my first time out of the country, it would be my first time traveling alone, and I was thrilled with the idea of so much independence.
Even though I think a lot of people thought my parents were crazy at the time, I am so glad they let me travel internationally and do customs by myself, and then spend a summer away from them in a foreign country, speaking a language I only knew in the classroom before that trip. (Of course, I stayed with family friends the whole time I was there; I wasn’t completely on my own.)
That summer proved to be the spark of all my travel love, as I discovered that even my young self could navigate a new place, and not just do it, but enjoy it. (And that was in a time long before I had a smartphone!) With the freedom to explore at will (and no parents around to have to ask about doing so) and a desire to learn the language and blend with the locals, I settled into my summer in Quito with gusto. Without that first somewhat intimidating but ultimately satisfying experience out of the country, I don’t know what my future with travel would have looked like, but that first experience gave me a confidence and appreciation for travel I might not have known otherwise. And I’ve been looking for ways to keep my passport in regular use ever since!