By the time I was in fifth grade, I was a seasoned world traveler courtesy of Dad’s career in the U.S. Army.
It wasn’t unusual for an Army brat – even one still in elementary school – to have a passport filled with the stamped entry to numerous countries.
I was still in kindergarten when my globe-trotting began. After Korea, Dad was stationed on Okinawa. Mom, my sister and I traveled to the other side of the world to reunite our family.
After Okinawa came Ft. Knox, Ky.
In the summer between second and third grades, the Army packed us up lock, stock and barrel and shipped us to Germany for three years.
I was by then old enough to grasp the reality of border crossings as family vacations over three years frequently took us out of Germany.
We visited Switzerland, Italy, Luxemburg, Belgium, Holland, France and East Germany.
The latter wasn’t your typical border crossing since West Berlin, our destination, was in the middle of what was then East Germany and the only way to get there was by trains that only traveled at night.
Other than that trip, however, all border crossings were basically the same.
We would arrive at a border and often had to wait in a line of cars. When we reached the head of the line, the folks would hand over four passports which were then duly stamped, returned to the folks and the gate raised to grant us entry into another country.
A little time-consuming, but overall a smooth procedure.
Before we returned to the States, my folks bought a new car from a dealership in Brooklyn.
Dad decided to drive down the East Coast and then across the Southern states on the way to visit family in Texas and Oklahoma.
I remember looking at the map and thinking to myself, “Wow, that’s a lot of border crossings!”
I was very surprised there were no guards or gates when we passed from one state to another.
It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.
I recall that to gauge how much the country has changed between the mid-20th century and the year 2020.
It’s disconcerting that in these unique times some states will deny you entry based simply on the state where you live.
But it’s happening.
It’s disconcerting if you don’t have the right driver’s license, you need a passport to board a domestic flight or enter a federal building.
Crazy rules for the crazy times we live in, I guess.
Once-open international borders to our north and south aren’t so open anymore.
My advice: Save the passport for true international travel.
And sign up for a REAL ID. That’s what I’m doing.