Here’s something they don’t tell you when you’re a bright-eyed little American who’s selected to move to Sweden for the GROW program, and you’re so friggin’ excited about all of the European travel opportunities you’ll have over there that it’s all you can do to not lose your shit: You won’t be getting any new stamps in your passport.
Ok, sure…when you first arrive at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, you’ll stand in line forever at customs, and they’ll give you a gratis little stamp for your trouble, but it’s not much to speak of. It’s kind of a boring one. Oh, but! you will think to yourself as you lug your 14 suitcases to the cab, I have so many other trips planned while I’m here! I’ll be filling up these last few passport pages in no time! I can’t wait to see what all of the other stamps will look like!
Oh, you dumb American. You’ll be wrong, as usual, and the sooner you can let go of that stamp delusion, the better. The truth is you won’t be getting any more passport love or attention while you’re here, at all, ever. You are used to traveling around the Caribbean for work, with the MIA airport gestapo tracking your every move. But in Europe, the borders are wiiiiide open, and with neutral, lovable old Stockholm as your departure point for all of your side trips, people will care about you even less. I mean, look at you…you’re clearly no threat to airline security because you’re coming from SWEDEN. You might as well be coming from Switzerland or Neverland.
When you land in Latvia, there will be no customs agent grilling you about where you plan to stay, and when when you go to the Czech Republic, no one will check your passport at all – coming or going. You will be able to print out your boarding pass at a self-service kiosk without ever having to show an ID – even when passing through security, where the only thing they’ll actually look at is the crumpled up boarding pass you just found on the floor.
While I’m spilling travel secrets that will give TSA an aneurism back home, I might as well confirm that you won’t need to take off your shoes or put your liquids in a little baggie at security, either. You won’t realize this ahead of time and you’ll be the only one to take your boots off, and people will stare at you, but who knew?
And so after months of traveling, you’ll be left with fond memories of new places explored, but a burning existential question will linger, because you are a petty person: Without the stamps to prove it, did you actually go anywhere at all?