Here’s the situation: Americans have some really great reasons not to travel abroad. It’s expensive, it’s scary, and it’s time consuming. And still, one of the most ubiquitous dreams we have is to travel abroad. But how many people do you know who actually got off their ass and did it?
My guess is, not many.
Why We Don’t Travel
I’m going to Jamaica this February. I invited three friends to go with me, and each one of them told me “no,” and each one of them cited their reason as “I don’t have a passport.” Now, I’m fully aware that even if they did have passports, they would have found some other excuse to avoid taking this risk. I know this because when a person really wants something, they’ll make it happen. An obstacle like the lack of a passport turns from a roadblock manned with machine-gun toting militants to a hurdle that can be vaulted.
I’m well known for challenging myself and my peers to do things that make them uncomfortable and to do something extraordinary. One of my biggest fears is waking up on my 54th birthday to realize that I’ve grown to resent everyone and everything that I love because I did what everyone expected and lived a perfectly normal life. That’s the entire purpose of this blog; to motivate myself and you alike to do what we want to do, and to do it today. Because if we don’t, we fucking won’t. So here’s what I challenge you to do: get your passport.
Start today. Start right the fuck now. A passport is one of the only real obstacles between you and the travel you dream of. When you get it, you’ll have other obstacles to negotiate, of course; but this is where we’re going to start. Here is how to get a passport, from start to finish:
1. Set an Appointment at the Post Office
Select “New Passport with Photo Services” from the dropdown menu. If you’re under 18, you’ll need to bring your parent or legal guardian. You’ll almost always be able to schedule your appointment for the next day, with the exception of the largest and busiest cities.
Find an appointment available in your location by searching with your ZIP code. Fill in your contact information and book the appointment. If you have problems with this, you can also book your appointment in person at your post office. NOTE: If your city has multiple post offices, be advised that not all post offices deal with passports. Make sure you go to the right one!
2. Fill Out the Forms
Here, you have two options: you can use the online form filler located here to safeguard against bad handwriting. Make sure you do this on a computer that’s connected to a printer. If you don’t have a printer, you can find one for free or low cost at your school or public library. You can also print out the form located here and fill it in manually. If you aren’t able to get access to a printer, your post office will have copies of these forms available for you. Make sure to ask for two in case you screw up on the first one. If you have any questions about any of the fields, make a note of it on a separate sheet of paper and take it with you on your appointment date.
3. Gather Required Documents
To get a passport, you’ll need $50 in cash or available on a credit/debit card, a $110 check for the government, your birth certificate, and one piece of government issued identification. Your driver’s license, state ID or military ID will do for this. If you’re active duty military, your military ID permits you to travel internationally; however, if you’re reserves or a dependent, you’ll still need a passport.
If you don’t have your birth certificate, you’ll need to get one from your birth state’s Vital Records Office. Visit this website to learn how to obtain a copy. This also applies if you were born out of the country or on a foreign military base.
Usually, you’ll also be able to get your birth certificate at the city/county building in the place of your birth, which can save you a lot of time. I got a copy of my birth certificate in less than ten minutes for a $5 fee this way.
Last, you’ll need to go to your bank and ask for a cashier’s check in the amount of $110 made out the the United States Department of State.
4. Go to Your Appointment
Head to the post office, jump in line and ask to speak to somebody about your passport appointment. If you had any questions about the forms, ask them now. Your clerk will review your documents, scan your driver’s license, and take your picture. They will seal up your documents, check and photo, including your original birth certificate, and mail it off to the department of state. They will bill you a $35 processing charge, as well as an additional $15 fee for your photo, bringing the total cost to $160.
4-6 weeks later, your passport will arrive by mail, and you’ll be good to go. That’s all it takes: your driver’s license, birth certificate, $160, a few hours over two days and a ballpoint pen. Just doing that automatically puts you above the 58% of Americans who still haven’t gotten their own passport.
Quit making excuses and make it happen, friend. You can do this. ❤️