Recently I started a new chapter in my life. It took me rather by surprise. There I was, happily researching flights to Bali to meet up with my little sister for a few days of blissful beach time, when I remembered to check the Indonesian visa regulations. ‘Passport must be valid for at least six months from date of entry,’ it read. I stopped typing. I had four months left on mine.
So when exactly did 10-year passports suddenly span just nine and a half years? Did I miss a memo? ‘This is a rite of passage,’ my friend called out from the sofa, between mouthfuls of crisps. ‘It’s happening to everyone this year.’ She herself had arrived at the airport before realising that two months on her passport wouldn’t get her into Thailand. Crying at the check-in lady hadn’t helped. Neither had begging on the floor.
Another friend was off to Cairo the same weekend and invited me to go there instead. Accommodation sorted, a shorter flight – why not? I thought. I checked the Egyptian visa requirements. ‘Passport must be valid for at least six months from date of entry,’ it taunted back at me. Until I sorted out the red tape, I realised, I was truly grounded. I felt like a naughty teen again.
My Thailand-bound friend wasn’t wrong about everyone being stalled by the six-month rule this year. I spot no less than three friends in line at the embassy renewing their passports, while another is stuck in the UK awaiting his fresh book of freedom. All are aged 28 or 29, having applied for their first 10-year passport at 18 or 19.
Yet despite the disappointment at collectively missing out on four holidays, we’re all overwhelmed at the idea of renewing our passport pictures. Forget feeling nostalgic about all those visa stamps and travelling memories: finally I can get rid of the photo of me taken during university freshers’ week while I had food poisoning. Now, in accordance with the new ‘no teeth’ regulation, I can replace it with one of me looking confused about not smiling in a photo booth. My friends look equally troubled in their new shots. Was this rule introduced to uphold the cliché that you must always be utterly embarrassed of your passport photo?
So we still have something to joke about in check-in queues? Because we all know we’ll be spending at least some of the next 10 years of our lives (or, rather, nine and a half) doing as much. And hopefully I’ll be spending some of mine in Bali – and Cairo.
Check www.worldtravelguide.net for passport requirements before travelling.