Don’t Be A (Passport) Waste

So I was in Starbucks one morning a few weeks ago when this guy came and sat beside me. We struck up a conversation and eventually, he asked where I was from, I told him I was Nigerian, and predictably, he said he would like to visit Nigeria some day and that he’d never left the United States.

It always fascinates me how so few Americans have ever left their country (and in some cases, their state or even their town/city). This man I was talking to told me he would like to travel but had never been able to go because he felt it was too expensive, he’ll do it later, etc. He even mentioned how he was going on a trip across the states soon with United Coachline booked for the journey with his family, but that this was a rare thing for him.

It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, because with enough planning anyone without dependents on a modest /decent income can travel maybe once or twice a year for a few weeks. I was especially annoyed because Americans have one of the most extensive and far reaching visa treaties (although most of them are totally unaware of this) meaning that while Nigerians have to suffer countless embassy indignities, Americans can literally just waltz in and out of damn near any country they please.

Most Americans that have passports usually hold one thin, anemic looking passport, but I have two bloated green passports held together by a rubber band that are nearly bursting / falling apart because of visa stamps and so much handling. A friend of mine even suggested I buy one those Bulk Passport Holders to keep my passport in to stop it from falling apart. I know Nigerians that have even more passports precariously linked, fat as a little green bible.

Walking back after this little chat, it dawned on me that every single person I was passing on the street (assuming they were all Americans) was entitled to a blue passport and it blew my mind because the vast majority of them will never even go to the next state much less go to another country.

Most of them don’t even own that blue passport that they are entitled to, and all I could think was “what a fucking waste of blue passports!”.

I felt like running up to people and shaking them and screaming “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH YOUR BLUE PASSPORT TODAY?!?”

I mean, I never really thought about it very much but now that I have, it drives me crazy. My university was full of Americans that didn’t even have passports and had never even been to Canada.

Of course, there are lots of reasons why someone might not have been able to travel. A Canadian friend of mine was almost refused entry to the US once on the basis of his criminal record. The last time we spoke he told me that he was doing some research into Pardons in Canada in the hopes that getting a pardon could make crossing the border easier. The law surrounding getting a pardon sounds absolutely fascinating.

That being said, if I had the kind of travel freedom granted to Americans just by virtue of being born in the USA, I would be gallivanting from one country to another like nobody’s business. Any seasoned traveler knows that even if tickets seem expensive on the surface, there are ways to get around that (buying cheaper off-season tickets) and so many great travel deals that make travel a lot cheaper if you look really hard.

This trip was the first time for me entering the United States from the Citizens/Residents line instead of the Foreign Visitors line and it was a bit surreal. To be on the shorter line for the first time ever after coming in all my life on the long, slow-moving foreigners line was great! (Although I was detained and seriously scolded by the immigration officer for forgetting my residents card – he was not smiling with me AT ALL). It seems like the immigration officers are becoming stricter with their enforcement of the rules. I’ve heard that you may need to fill in certain forms, like the i-751 to better your chances of even being allowed entry into the country. It’s really strict now. I think its fair to say though that I never want to be scolded by an immigration officer again.

If you have a blue passport / red passport, how awesome is it to travel without needing visas?

If you have a green passport, do you feel like slapping people with blue/red passports not living up to their Passport Potential?

There are 19 comments

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  1. Mamuje

    My brother has a red passport and Boy o boy, he has hardly been anywhere. I proudly own a Green passport, although I have 4 passports held together by a rubber bands, I try to travel with one. It can be annoying travelling with a ‘bible’.

  2. Sykik

    Kai… can be frustrating staying on the foreigners line …I spent over 3hrs at JFK on a queue and I was just wishing I had the blue passport…I would have just sauntered across like the true “son of the soil” …lol…it’s all good… proudly Nigerian sha

  3. kaura

    I went to high school (Canada), with some people who hadn’t left the town oh (population118,000) till graduation maybe they feel they don’t really need anything from other countries, like how Nigerians for instance,we look to the western countries for their better education system, medical care, and just the whole allure of haven been “overseas”. While in 2013 there are still so many out here thinking Africa is a country

  4. saratuwrites

    I still plan to see as many of the world’s 194 or so countries as i can, despite having multiple green passports tacked together as well. It drives me crazy that people for whom travel is more “accessible” dont value it. this is why people refer to a continent as a country or ask if you happen to know one random kenyan person they once met since you’re nigerian (wth?) or if you speak ‘nigerian’. foreign travel needs to be included in the curicullum of some schools.

  5. Ginger

    I think Brits on the whole probably travel more than Americans cause of that great tradition known as ‘summer holiday’

    Taxi drivers etc are always happy to share their holiday plans with you. I do feel quite envious. Been wanting to go to Europe but its so painful thinking of the stress of getting a 5day visa 🙁

  6. Mamuje

    I can’t really blame the Americas for thinking Africa is a country, when you live at the other end of the a country bigger or as big as some continents (and you’ve never been anywhere) you’d probably think the same.

    • sugabelly

      Maybe, but what I can’t get past is how they are so oblivious of the rest of the world even with access to high speed internet. There really is no excuse for their level of ignorance.

  7. abokishop

    i own one green slim passport….i have never been outside africa…..but i will travel to all the countries without a visa still using my one green passport…..

  8. Namee

    I always wonder why people bind their passports together. That’s traveling with old passports (expired passports with expired visas). Is it necessary?

    • Doch

      It’s so they wouldn’t judge u or regect ur visa application when they see u have been well travelled. Apparently people that have not travelled before are more likely to overstay their visit illegally. I lost 2 of my Nigerian passport and it has been really hard proving I am a non-immigrant since the last passport contained my unviolated student and a number of tourist visa. Also sometimes a valid visa can be on an expired passport.

  9. Adeola @ TheManeCaptain

    Travelling and being adventrous isn’t for everyone. A lot of people are content with what they have and where they are. Just like how you can’t understand why many americans or people in many oother rich countries have never left their country is the same way they can’t understand why travellers need to hop around so much. It’s true that many white americans and canadians have never seen someone from another race face to face even in 2013.
    I believe anyone with an income can save up to travel, but since many people in the western world like to accumulate “stuff” with credit cards, the truth is, many can’t really afford to travel.
    Nigerians in general are “curious” and most are looking to get the hell out the country. But if you happen to live in a country and city that you are so proud of, you may have no reason to leave!

  10. unyime-ivy king

    First time here. Interesting articles. The world is gradually becoming a global village and traveling is a vital part of one’s education. No matter the level of development in one’s country, there is always something new to learn when you travel. I think you just ‘settle’ and limit what would have been enriching life experiences, when you chose to stay put in your little corner, and ignore the rest of the world.

  11. Nitabrownsugah

    I owe a green passport and would really looove to travel the world but the restrictions that come with travelling with a green passport and applying for visas with no assurance you will get it, it’s no joke! I love travelling a lot! Maybe i could retire early in life after i’ve made a lot of money and just go round and round….LOL!

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