Land of the free, home of the brave.
I don’t think I need to explain to anybody reading this post about what freedom means to Americans, frankly it’s difficult to talk about without cutting deep, but I hope to raise awareness about one freedom in particular that should be celebrated more often.
No, I’m not a gun lobbyist and no I don’t have a political agenda here, I’m talking about your passport. And since research suggests that only 35% of Americans over 18 currently have a valid passport, that means the vast majority of citizens DON’T have one! If you haven’t been sold yet on just how valuable this little blue book is please allow me the pleasure of breaking this down for you. An American passport is the 4th strongest passport in the world behind only Germany, Sweden, and a three-way tie between Finland, France, Italy, Spain and the UK. We are allowed to travel freely to 174 out of the 218 countries of the world, 160 of which can be visited without a visa. If life was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this would be your golden ticket! OK maybe now is not the best time in your life for a vacation, but seriously you can go anywhere you want, whenever you want, and all you need to do is buy a plane ticket. That may not seem like a revelation to you but it is a luxury that many people around the world wish they had. Which reminds me of a man we met outside of a restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa.
Jeffrey was a self-proclaimed parking lot attendant. For anybody who hasn’t been to South Africa before, one of the more popular “hustles” out there is for a man to guard cars in the parking lot of a restaurant (or place where tourists frequent) to prevent theft or break-ins. They do not charge a fee for this service but a tip is strongly encouraged, wink-wink. Jeffrey was a very personable and charismatic dude, as we were tipping him we struck up a conversation. He began to tell us one of the craziest stories we’ve ever heard. His dream has always been to travel the world, no place in particular, basically anywhere he hasn’t been was on his list. Unfortunately as a citizen of Northern Africa, he wasn’t able to leave the continent. Determined to travel, Jeffrey decided to hide out in the engine room of a cargo ship headed to Portugal. For over 2 weeks he was trapped in a tiny, dark room and the food he brought with started to spoil only halfway in the journey. Eventually the ship came to a halt and a confused Jeffrey carefully emerged to try to make it off the ship. He was apprehended almost immediately and taken to a prison in Portugal where he spent the next two months before being deported back to Africa.
All he had to say about the portuguese prison was that the people were nice and the food was really good; I think he genuinely enjoyed it!
Then his eyes lit up when he began to tell us that he would be able to travel soon because he was having a baby with a woman from South Africa which would mean he could acquire a South African passport and travel to other countries (legally) with that. Literally one of the best days in this guys’ life will be when he gets a South African passport.
Not every case is as extreme as Jeffreys, we have plenty of Costa Rican friends that can enter 130 different countries without a visa but the USA isn’t one of them. If our friends wish to visit us in the future they will need to apply for a visa which means a lot of paperwork and a payment of about $150 that is non-refundable if denied, which it usually is. Factors that can be used to determine whether a visa is granted or not can include proof of owning a property or business, job title, income, at least this is what most people tell me I don’t think anybody really knows, I’m not even sure the government knows it seems to change so much.
The morale of the story is you are born with the freedom to get on a plane and see pretty much the entire world, a luxury most of the world is not afforded, so why not take advantage of that? We occupy such a small place in this world and you’ll never realize just how small until you get out there and experience it for yourself. We’ve been on the road for almost 12 months now and we’ve lived more in these 12 months of travel then we had in the 5 years previous, we’ve made memories that we can never forget and we’ve met some of the best people the world has to offer. Get out there and LIVE people! Why? Because you can. One thing is for sure, you will appreciate all of the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted that much more.