I own two passports: one belongs to a developing European country, and one belongs to a highly developed member of the European Union. The first one I got by birth, as my defining identity. The second one I got by living in the country and contributing to its prosperity for many years.
There is much more to identity than what can fit a piece of paper, and I do not aim to talk about all of its complex aspects here. I want to look at the part of our identity that travels with us wherever we go.
My love for traveling has taken me to many places, distant and near, and my old passport has seen all of them. It has journeyed through the hands of many consular officials and is stamped with many visas. It has been inspected by border guards, scanned in their machines and during all that time it presented me the best way it could. There is hardly any page on it that is not full now. I held it in long lines at the border crossings, waiting to answer the typical question: What is the purpose of your visit? How long are you planning to stay?
Understandably, those questions are meant to screen the thousands of travelers and potentially uncover those with undesirable intentions. It’s nothing personal. But for each of the people waiting in the long lines, after countless hours of trying to “sit back and relax” in the never comfortable airplane seats, it becomes personal. “Why am I singled out? Why are they asking me all these questions? The girl who was sitting next to me just passed without being held at the desk so long. In what way is she better than me?”
In the past year I traveled with my new, European passport. It helped me cross the borders faster by using the automated border crossings, or the less crowded EU lines. It made my waiting shorter and the questions of the border officers magically disappeared. Sometimes, they would not even open the passport.
Instead of making me happy, this makes me angry. I am still the same person. Exactly the same. With the same name and surname, blood group and DNA. The same one that once delayed a whole bus full of passengers because they “needed to check something”. There was nothing to check really, it was just because it was a certain kind of passport.
I am still the same: in love with this planet and hoping to see as much of it as possible. But now, on paper, I am better. More “safe”. And just a bit angry at humanity.