There’s a Passport with Your Name on It

Story by Milli Thornton. Photo Copyright © Milli Thornton.

Today, Saturday, September 17 is Passport Day in the USA 2011. How wonderful that there’s a day not only to commemorate it but also to expedite the process for people who’ve been meaning to get around to it.

I’ve had a passport since I was a little kid—or, rather, I was included on the family passport. I remember seeing a photo of all ten of us in my dad’s passport. Not sure they still do that (this was back in the 1960s) but suffice to say I was familiar with what a passport looked like when I was still a little tyke.

Then, at the ripe old age of 12, I became conscious of what they’re used for when we moved from Great Falls, Montana to Australia on the S.S. Orsova (we departed from Vancouver and landed in Sydney 21 days later).

Going a Whole Lifetime Without a Passport

Having experienced international travel so young, I’m saddened by the number of people who never attempt to get a passport or ever think about going beyond their known borders.

For instance, living here in Northern Ohio, we’re only a few hours drive from the Canadian border. As soon as we moved here Brian and I couldn’t wait to access Canada from our house, and our first foray was to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian Side.

We’ve also been to Georgian Bay, Big Chute, Toronto and the Twenty Valley in Ontario and the Montreal Jazz Fest in Québec—but we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface.

We’ve yet to meet anyone here in Youngstown who has been into Canada. Probably because they don’t have a passport.

(Brian likes to point out that we see very little of Canada on our news programs here in the U.S. What’s up with that? Maybe they’re afraid that if Americans find out how cool it is, they’ll want to move there en masse.)

You Just Never Know When You Might Need to Live Overseas

They say travel broadens the mind—but that’s an understatement for what it does when you actually change countries. It would take a book (or at least a lot of blog posts) to describe my own experience as an expat/repat (moving from the USA to Australia in 1972 and then back to the U.S. in 1997) but it changed me profoundly.

This was something I had no way to describe to Brian. But then, when he couldn’t get work where we lived and we couldn’t pay the mortgage, he worked in Russia for two months (see Sakhalin Road Trip). After that, he understood the way in which it adds dimensions to your very being to live in another country, even if only for a few months. And now he’s keen on the idea of working in other overseas countries, as well.

But such choices are not possible without a passport.

Even if you think you’ll never do something crazy like go work in Russia (parts of it were kind of crazy ), if you’ve never had a passport, please consider getting one. The intention that goes along with it just might change your life, even if it’s just so you can plan to someday see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side.

Apply for a U.S. passport

Professional passport photos from CVS
Pharmacy nationwide – $7.99 with coupon

P.S. Besides the massive flow of water, Niagara Falls is an incredible river of international peoples. You can’t stand in the crowd at the waterfall without feeling like a part of humanity, rather than just a citizen of whatever country you live in right now.

STORY UPDATE: A few hours after publishing this post, I was attending the local Fall Harvest Festival with a new friend and she talked about her trips into Canada. Yay!


Milli Thornton

Milli at Devi, Montreal

Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.



  1. I think applying for my passport was the most stressful part of preparing to go to New Zealand last year! I was using the application check service at the post office and everytime I got to the window I got sent sent back to fill out a new form, which meant traipsing back to college to get one of my tutors to fill out the referee section again. Five times this happened, totalling 3 and a half hours standing in post office queues!
    I was in tears by the time they finally approved it.

    But now if the opportunity comes up, I can dash back to New Zealand at a moments notice, and god forbid if I’m ever offered an international show, I can snap it up!
    Passports are awesome!

    • Jo ~ Getting a passport certainly can be an emotional experience, and not always for the more glamorous reasons associated with overseas travel. Glad you persevered and got yours!! I might never have met you if you didn’t. 🙂

  2. I, too, had a passport as a child! Dad was in the military and we moved to the Philippines in the 70s. It was SO cool! Then I married a military man and we moved to Sicily for 3 years. Again – cool! I’m glad I still have my passport….I can’t wait to see my daughter next year – she jus moved to London!

    BTW – My passport was the Bicentennial passport, so when I turned it in for renewal as an adult, they punched holes in it to show it was expired, but let me keep it!

    • Annie ~ It is cool that you’ve lived in the Philippines and Sicily. (I moved to Australia in 1972 so we were in the same hemisphere during the 70s. :))

      Fantastic that you’ll be able to see your daughter in London next year. 🙂 🙂

      I don’t have anything cool like an expired Bicentennial passport, but I do have all my old ones, even going back to childhood. (In fact, you can see them all scattered over an open page of Brian’s world atlas in the feature photo.) Looking at my many passport photos sure is a trip down memory lane.

  3. I have had a Passport since Mike joined the Air Force. We updated them in 07, for our cruise with friends. Turned out we didn’t need them, but now I have them for our next trip. One less thing to worry about!
    Great article, and advise Milli!

    • I reckon it’s always better to have your passport in hand, even if you don’t end up needing it. Brian’s away working in upper NY at the moment and he took his passport along – just in case some reason to cross into Canada pops up.

      Thanks for reading, Betsy 🙂

  4. I had no idea there was a passport day (which I have now missed). I’ve been to Canada twice, and didn’t need a passport. Is that just because way back in ancient times, they didn’t worry about that so much? You don’t need a passport for Mexico either… which is, sadly the extent of my international travel.

    I love your statement about the intention that goes along with getting a passport. I think that’s right. I’m going to do it.

    • j ~

      You don’t need a passport to get *into* Canada – only to get back into the States on your way home. Go figure.

      I was hoping my writing in this article might inspire someone to set the intention to get their passport. Didn’t know it would be you – but I’m so glad it is! 😀

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