So it turns out I’m one of “those girls” that your mom warned you about. Fast, impulsive and an addict. An ink addict to be specific. My addiction started innocently enough, just after college graduation with my first ink in Italy. Since then I haven’t been able to stop myself.
Italy, Switzerland and France eased me into it. From there it was New Zealand and Australia. But after that things spiraled out of control. Italy (again). Spain. France. Germany. Czech. Slovakia. Poland. Hungary. Austria. Morocco. Guatemala. Belize. Peru. Argentina. Uruguay. Turkey. Bulgaria. Macedonia. Albania. Italy (again). Vietnam. Lao. Thailand. A blur of sights, smells, sounds, sensations and emotions. A thousand moments; a thousand frozen images captured in perfect 4 x 6 dimensions in my mind. Each new country brought fresh new ink for my passport.
The problem soon becomes that I’m always looking for that next hit. That next heart-stopping moment that can never be scrubbed from my soul. The countries have to keep getting more intense to keep the payoffs coming. But like very addict, I have to come down eventually. I can’t perpetually chase new stamps. So I return home and pretend to be like everyone else. I go to work. I run. I bike. I read. I date. Repeat.
Eventually it calls to me. I tried hiding it under my socks. Then in a shoebox with my Italian boots. Then under all my travel-sized cosmetics. But it never works. The pull of my passport and the desire for another hit of ink gets to me. Every time. I congratulate myself on staying clean for so long–seven months in the country! More than double my last try of three months. That just means it has to be stronger this time. So the addiction gets fed. A plane ticket gets bought and I’m off to a strange new world. I contemplate ridiculous things like a day trip to Burma just for the stamp. I’ve done it before–that walk from Slovakia to Poland wasn’t for the fresh air. It was about the fresh ink in my passport.
Really it’s the most compact souvenir in the world. Better than those little bottles of homemade alcohol with insects in them that you can buy in Thailand. And Mexico. And TUrkey. And almost anywhere you find tourists. While that little bottle of scorpion infested moonshine will remind you of that street market where you were over charged for scorpion infested moonshine, that one little passport stamp can hold so many more stories. The line at immigration where you wondered why Americans pay $35 and the rest of the world pays $20. The first encounter with the county’s taxi drivers–usually the biggest rip off of the trip. Figuring out you were paying too much for a bunch of bananas at 3,000 dong or 2,000 kip. The long boat/bus/train/tuk tuk ride that never ended or ended too soon, forcing you to say good bye to new friends in different languages. The 2 am border crossing. In the snow. With disgruntled guards that laughed creepily and said “California” just like Arnold when they inspected your passport. You can’t buy these memories in a bottle. You couldn’t make this shit up if you tried. This is why I’m an addict.
Most addicts go through a 12-step process. First they have to admit they have a problem. Okay… My name is Tami and I am addicted to traveling. Then they have to make amends. Okay… I’m sorry for every single moment that I miss when I’m out of the country. I’m sorry for every time I say “this one time in _____.” I’m sorry for every time I admit to wishing to be somewhere else other than the USA. I’m know there are a couple more steps I’m missing, but let’s be honest: this is as far as I will ever get. I have no plans to actually complete rehab.