The old passports got dusted off yesterday because the UK visa application form asked for a list of countries I’d visited in the last 10 years. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t count the number of countries I’d been to — I just don’t want to feel, I said, like I’d turned my back on the rat race only to join the passport stamp race — but now I have a rough idea of the number because the application only lets you list 10. (I think. I didn’t count, but it looked like you could enter 10 before the “Add” button disappears.)
Anyway, this is from my first ever passport:
And then of course nostalgia set in, and I sought out the stamps from my very first trip out of the Philippines.
I’m not sure I can say I’ve been traveling since I was a kid. I’ve been hopping on planes since I was a kid, yeah — perks of having a father who fixes planes for a living — but they were mostly to visit family within the Philippines and although those trips introduced me to LRTs and rivers and pineapple fields, everything else was familiar. My first real I’m-not-in-Kansas-anymore moment was Hong Kong. And that was so long ago, they didn’t have a Disneyland yet.
I remember a lot of things from that trip. I remember walking out of the airport with my mother, father, and sister, and being greeted by a waft of cool air. We’d expected Hong Kong weather to be just like the Philippines’ and were totally unprepared for the much lower temps.
I remember staying in Booth Lodge, in a spacious family room that my father — the original fastidious travel planner — managed to find and book even in the toddler days of the internet in our country.
I remember being a brat for two days. hangs head in shame
I remember going to the Ladies Market and the Night Market and being most attracted to a street performance using traditional Chinese instruments. I do remember buying a fuzzy green sweater with multi-colored cuffs; I loved it and used it for years afterwards, and I think it’s still actually lying around the house somewhere.
I remember being pushed by people getting on and off trains.
I remember drinking my first real iced tea, with honey.
And I remember sharing all that with the people I love most in the world. That feeling, I think, more than anything, is my most precious souvenir from that trip. It’s something I especially cherish because now my parents are getting older and life has changed so much. That was a landmark trip for my family, an entirely new, different adventure, one that introduced us to the world outside our own, and it was my father’s treat for my mother, sister and me. Someday, I want to treat them, and bring them to a world they’ve never yet seen. Someday…