RIGHT PASSAGE: A Peek Through the Beauty of the Passport

We travel to reach destinations. Our mobility has been greatly enhanced by advancements in technology over time and our ability to move around has also dramatically changed.  We cross bodies of water and climb peaks driven by our inner desire to discover new places, experience rich cultures, and create wonderful memories. 

In our recent article TOURIST TRUNK: A Journey Into The Art of Travel, we explored the reasons and motivations that prompt us to go distances.  We also revisited the brief history of travel fashion as we looked into the early prototypes of the things we use and bring when we travel.  While these material belongings characterize who we are when we are in another place, our true identity is contained in an all-important travel document without which, we would not even be able to pass through our point of entry. 

This document, as we now treasure it to be as valuable as our whole being when we travel, is the meek passport.  It is what accords us the right of passage and entry in a foreign land.  It identifies who we are and describes our features to the last mole.  It also classifies us based on its make and contents.

The Guardian Global Edition has published a 2006 article by Leo Benedictus entitled A Brief History of the Passport which shares the ancestors of this travel document.  From large folded pieces paper signed by kings to what it has become in recent history–a multi-page portable booklet that fits the palm of your hand, the passport has truly evolved in terms of its essence, value, and design. Keesing Platform has in fact released a 2018 article written by Tom Topol that dug deep into its evolution through A History of Passports and Their Design.  Quite interestingly, we see how its form, shape, material, and color have all come together to elevate the way a passport appears and performs.

A global-ranking platform, Passport Index is one of the few agencies that has actively pursued their purpose to carry out their missions.  Their website proclaims these three to be:

  • INFORM

“Showcase, educate, and inform the public on the power passports transcend on the holder’s identity, opportunity, mobility, and overall quality of life.  United by our identity, the passport is one of the most important documents we possess.”

  • ENGAGE

“Encourage discussions on visa policies, citizenship, country branding, global mobility, public security, philanthropy, and foreign policy.”

  • INSPIRE

“In today’s world, becoming a Global Citizen is more important than ever.  Having a second citizenship is a liberating and empowering privilege which comes with a responsibility to this world.”

Apart from being a provider of passport metrics, Passport Index also provides fascinating content such as their 2016 post by Iris Fisher on Why Passports Come in 4 Standard Colours based on the Insider article by Chloe Pantazi. While we may assume (and indeed it may be the common notion that each passport color is unique to every country), we [re]discover that this powerful document generally comes in either: RED, GREEN, BLUE, or BLACK.

Of course, each nation has always enjoyed the freedom to creatively express their cultural identity through the way the inner pages of a passport are designed–from the front and back inside covers to the crisp pages where records of their travel history are stamped on.  Also shared by Fisher in a post was Keith Blanchard’s article entitled The World’s Most Beautiful Passport Art as fully published by Travel + Leisure.  More than merely a form of cultural expression, the artwork inside passports have also served as a security measure to better forge the authenticity of the holder’s identity.

While technology has rapidly influenced the design (and usability) of a passport, it would primarily remain tactile.  We would continue to protect it in our hands as we carry it while in transit.  Undeniably, it will persist to exist as the principal identifier of who we truly are when we travel.

Cover image sourced from Pexels as captured by Louis

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