A guy boarded the S-Bahn in front of me during one of my days in Berlin and his backpack was covered about as much as it could be in flags from various countries across the world. This is the most common way I’ve seen of travelers collecting the places they visit. (Second up: stickers on guitar cases or hard-shell suitcases, although not many hostel-bound backpackers keep the latter.)

I shoot photos of places and that’s usually what my memento will amount to—various rolls of film, a small drive of digital photos taken from my phone.

The Seine

The Senie · Paris · May 2019

Then, of course, there’s the stamp. They’re not outward-facing, but I like that. It’s almost like a transition-specific diary, an inherently private booklet that is full of ideas one usually desires to express.

The passport is a unique kind of official document because its inherent value is pretty cool on top of being necessarily functional. There are multiple ways these visa stamps are enjoyed: on top of having a memory of a place, there’s the additional instant sigh of relief whenever a border guard stamps it and some abstract fear of detainment or deportation remains as just that.

Passport

Marks of Transition

Fast forward to around 5 PM on Wednesday and I’m moving through customs at Sea-Tac and the guard, who is friendly and outgoing enough, asks me where I was coming in from and if I’d brought anything of value. Berlin by way of Frankfurt, No, sir. He welcomes me home and hits the stamp… on to what amounts to a receipt.

Homeland Security crossing points are rows of cameras that print your photo, which is then stamped at the first guard and handed to the second guard. And you know what? I won’t even complain about that. I’m sure it serves some kind of function, even if that function exists somewhere between theatrical and dystopic.

No, what bums me out is I’ve been out of the country for over five months, the general thought of being back in America for any period of time makes me nervous, and the first thing that happens is I’ve got to give back my passport stamp, the one thing I was really looking forward to about dealing with coming back to America, on some cheap proof-of-entry carbon paper that will inevitably be tossed out to a customs guard that really couldn’t care less about any of it.

Regardless, I’ve returned Stateside and it’s been over five months and I’ve got plans for the next few so I’m adjusting some things online to parallel my shifting focus in real life. A couple new web-based projects are currently in the works, and for the foreseeable future this site will stay primarily as a blog.