by Elise Seyfried
Feeling somewhat Oreland-bound this afternoon…you know, the feeling that you are stuck in your little corner of America, making an endless loop of work, grocery store and home — with a trip to the mall a wild-and-crazy adventure. Been a while since I’ve left the greater Philly area. Been a while since I’ve had my passport stamped.
Our five children all own passports with multiple stamps. They have been to France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Hungary, Czech Republic, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Brazil, Uruguay, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Though these travels were completely self-funded, the kids know they are still lucky to have had these chances to see so much of the world at such young ages. They may hail from Oreland, just a few minutes from Chestnut Hill, but they have never been Oreland-bound.
Seyfried Passport Follies include several stories of loss. My son Sheridan used his passport as basic ID for years (he is still driver’s license-less) without incident. Now he has a photo ID, but a few months ago he lost that precious travel book. Luckily he discovered this early enough to re-apply before he and his wife Ya-Jhu were due to take off for their meet-the-relatives trip to Taiwan.
When daughter Rose spent a year in Thailand, she put her passport in a wooden box for safe keeping. MUCH to her dismay, when she opened the box, she discovered that the passport had been a snack for hungry Thai termites! My son Evan was on vacation in South America and left his passport in a taxicab in Montevideo. God and the taxi driver were good, however, and man and book were swiftly reunited.
PJ is eagerly anticipating his semester abroad next year in Marburg, Germany. Julie, my youngest child and a recent high school graduate, has spent many months working, saving and plotting a grand adventure for the fall. She hopes to go everywhere from Turkey to Finland, visiting international friends along the way. She’s planning to travel light, but she knows to hold onto that all-important passport for dear life.
I didn’t own a passport until I was 43. I’d seen a decent amount of my own country but none of others (except pre-passport Canada). When I was a child, I’d longed to see the world. An early career ambition of mine had been to become a foreign correspondent for a big city newspaper. But it was, it seemed, not meant to be. No flitting from Paris to Rome getting scoops for me! Instead, my life came to center around my big family, and “travel” became a constant parade of trips to the Acme.
Over time, I convinced myself that I didn’t care. My world was pretty small; what of it? After a while, I even started to become fearful of venturing far away from home. I focused on any disturbing news coming from overseas and mentally circled the wagons. Besides, even if I did go, I would be an easy target for the armies of pickpockets I imagined were everywhere; my every word and gesture would shriek “tourist!” Why take a chance? So there I was, mom the Stick-in-the-Mud, constantly waving goodbye as my children embarked on so many wonderful trips.
Ultimately, my curiosity trumped my qualms, and the passport was purchased. The travel ground was broken at last by my time in Jamaica in 2000 with daughter Rose and sister Carolyn. We were only there four days, but it whetted my appetite for more exotic excursions. Not long after that, I went on several mission trips to Central America. My worldview has expanded drastically. I’ve seen how other folks live, seen some incredible natural wonders and have been the recipient of warm hospitality wherever I’ve gone. Nary a pickpocket so far! I still would love to go to Europe, Asia and Africa…and now I dare to hope I will live to accomplish my goals.
My advice to the passport-less? Invest in one if you can! The world is out there to be experienced, and it is a crime to be forever Oreland-bound (or its equivalent). You truly never know what opportunities may open up for you to travel far, and it’s smart to be prepared. My husband Steve is applying for his first passport soon, and I think it’s a wonderful statement of optimism.
This late spring afternoon, I pull out my passport and dream of journeys yet to come, future stamps from Spain and Scotland, Tanzania and Vietnam. I feel hopeful and excited, and a whole lot less Oreland-bound. This afternoon, I wish you the same hope and excitement. Send me a postcard, if you think of it.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She is the author of a recently self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus. The book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com. (Also from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, although they add an extra charge.)